WORDS: James Weaver
Since 2007, COUNTERPARTS have been become established in the modern hardcore scene. On the back of last year’s critically acclaimed Tragedy Will Find Us, the band are smashing shows across Europe alongside STICK TO YOUR GUNS. Before a near sell out show in Manchester, we spoke to vocalist Brendan Murphy about the state of modern hardcore, channelling personal experiences into lyrics and letting a record bloom before writing a follow up.
So we are a couple of dates into the UK leg of the tour with STICK TO YOUR GUNS, how is it going so far?
Brendan: It’s going great so far! We are really excited to be back in the UK, our band seems to do better in the UK as opposed to mainland Europe. But all of those shows have been great too, so I have no complaints!
COUNTERPARTS seem to a part of this modern hardcore scene. Have you had a mixture of both old and new fans at your shows?
Brendan: For the most part yeah, especially because I feel that when we come to Europe we are supporting bigger bands, that aren’t necessarily in our realm. For example we’ve done a tour with AUGUST BURNS RED and BLESSTHEFALL and that isn’t entirely our crowd, but we still see at these shows at our shows in BLESSTHEFALL merch when they saw us. The same thing happened when we toured with ARCHITECTS, that was more of our realm. That tour every night we were playing to like 1000+ people who didn’t know who we were and you definitely see it paying off as our fanbase over here is growing. Of course we have the same kids who love COUNTERPARTS coming out too so I like to think there’s a decent mixture of new and old fans. It’s nice to know that we are still gaining traction with kids and it’s cool to know that there are people that will support us for years to come.
So how does the scene here compare to back home?
Brendan: It’s pretty much the same. I think the UK, especially, is more like the North American scene. I would think that Europe is the one that is kinda tricky, Europe is the one where certain bands used to be huge in America and Canada but they are smashing it in Europe. And vice-versa. But for the most part, the UK is trends, the things that are hot right now, compared to North America they are very similar.
Often for UK bands the main goal is to break North America. On your side, is it a massive challenge to break Europe?
Brendan: I think it is for sure. I think realisticly what it is getting into America is the hard part. We are a Canadian band so we are an hour from the US so in terms of touring America there isn’t that much work. You get your work visas and you just do it! Whereas coming over to do Europe, it’s so much harder as you have to fly here, rent gear and pay for a vehicle to get around in. So it is a little more difficult but I think for us, I feel like the UK has always been down for us. Which is a nice feeling. Europe is a little bit trickier, not by much, but it has taken us a while. As a band I feel like we have grown a lot here in the UK but in mainland Europe we are sort of stuck in this we aren’t really a headline band but we’re not really a opening band. We aren’t getting paid crazy but then we are getting paid.
I imagine the biggest difficulty is overcoming the language barriers?
Brendan: For sure, definitely. I think that it also depends on who is working for your band. We have a UK booking agent so I’m sure in his mind, he’s worrying about the UK as opposed to mainland Europe whereas if we were booked by Avocado let’s say then I bet you it would be the flip, we’d be doing crazy shows in Europe and not so well in the UK. But, we do pretty well in both parts, we just like coming over here. It’s fun every time and to put it into perspective we did a tour here four or five years ago before anyone in North America gave a shit about us. We aren’t bummed out, we will always be around.
So the band has been around since 2007 which is quite a long time, approaching ten years. How have you seen the hardcore scene develop?
Brendan: I feel like it will always go through its ups and downs. Like anything in the world, there will always be good and bad times. We were fortunate enough to be coming up, we were introduced to hardcore and metalcore when it was really popular, especially back in the early 2000s with the glory days of hardcore and metalcore. There’s definitely been a dip for a little while, where all the venues in cities were closing down, pretty much when we were getting serious in 2009/10. It was definitely hard for us to book tours but as of late it definitely is getting easier. I think that just happens, it is like a kettle boiling. It reaches the boiling point then stops for a little while and then it needs time to rebuild itself. We see the good and bad. The good shows and the bad shows where people are fighting each other, we just get used to it. We take anything with a grain of salt, there might be a lull in your career but you just have to push through it and hope it pays off. We have a stronger fanbase because of it.
Musically, you can be best described as a melodic hardcore band, there’s a lot of emotive force in terms of the lyrics. When it comes to writing the lyrics, do you draw from personal experience or do you look to outside influences?
Brendan: For lyrically it is all personal experiences, things that have happened to me. My first response is to write about them, especially with the last two records, those are direct response to a specific thing that happened. That’s the only way I can write, I can’t really put myself in someone else’s shoes, I know how I am feeling so I just write about what I know.
So do you believe that music is the best way to express yourself?
Brendan: Definitely, I think so. I’ve been lucky enough to have this platform to speak to people and actually get my message across. I have this way of coping and I think without music it would have been a lot harder for me to deal with all the sad, miserable shit that has happened in my life. It would have been a lot harder to have to break free of that. With playing music there is this emotional attachment to my work so I think I am definitely fortunate enough. I can write a song about wanting to die and play it live every night and it is a release for me. And someone might hear that, that band was really cool and buy a shirt and that lets me eat dinner. It’s a cool way to work.
Speaking of the latest record, it came out last year, been out for a while now. How are you finding the reception?
Brendan: It’s been great! I think with every release, it’s been our best record. We’ve not really had an album that hasn’t been well received, every record has done better than the one that came before it. With this one the response has been great, people seemingly really like it. From a numbers stand point, we’ve sold the most copies and now our band is a bigger band now than we were in 2013.
I know it is early days, but are you already looking ahead to the next album?
Brendan: We always have ideas flying around and I don’t know because it only came out last summer. We probably will record the next one this time next year and have something really special. We do have sometime off after our headliner in the spring so we have a good three or four months off. Whether we do a EP or write another full length, we definitely will start writing. I think an EP in my mind, an EP seems more realistic. Just a couple of songs to tide people over whilst we plan and try and come through with a better release. You want to let a record bloom, you don’t want to underplay the value of a record. You want to let it grow and grow on people.
So to close this off what else in store for fans for the rest of 2016?
Brendan: Like I said, after this we go home for like ten days and then we are going on our first North American headliner. Then we have a couple of months off, we did just confirm another North American tour after that. But yeah, just standard stuff. Then after that we will come back here and do something in the fall. It could be a co-headline scenario. Touring. That’s all we’re good at!
Well thanks for you taking the time to talk to me, thank you!
Brendan: No problem! Thank you!