When Winnipeg hardcore band Comeback Kid embarked on a 10-year anniversary tour for their first album, Turn It Around, featuring original singer Scott Wade, it quickly became apparent to current singer, principal songwriter and former live guitarist Andrew Neufeld that their next album would be a return to the heavier, faster approach of their earlier material.
Fast-forward to March 3 and the release of Die Knowing, the band's fifth album, which in fact does see Comeback Kid delivering a simpler, more immediate sound that Neufeld says was a definite goal during the writing process.
"When we did the 10-year anniversary tour last year I was playing guitar again, and just playing these old songs I was like, 'Wow, these are really fun to play live,'" Neufeld tells Exclaim! "So I've tried to come back to that approach, even with the last record [2010's Symptoms + Cures], but I tried even harder on this new one. It's something that I've been trying to get back to."
Released on Distort/Fontana North in Canada and Victory Records everywhere else, the album features shorter songs, faster tempos and more urgency than their past couple of albums.
"It's probably our heaviest record that we've ever done so far. The majority of it is pretty hard songs, and it ends on a brighter note, but the record is pretty heavy as compared to our previous stuff," says Neufeld. "I sometimes tend to overcomplicate things naturally, so I was just really trying to make it interesting and keep it a bit more simple and more to the point."
Producer Kyle Black (New Found Glory, Shai Hulud) was at the helm for the 12-song album, which features original singer Wade on one song ("Full Swing"). Neufeld, now the band's full-time live singer, still writes the band's songs, along with fellow original guitarist Jeremy Hiebert.
"Yeah, I'm still right in there. Jeremy and myself write the songs, and we usually write them separately. Especially with this record, it was a little bit more of coming up with the ideas on our own and teaching them to everyone else. But once we started jamming the songs it really flowed, so there wasn't a disconnect at all," says Neufeld.
A fast and heavy hardcore album through and through, fellow Winnipeg band Propagandhi's melodic, chaotic riffing creeps into tracks like "Didn't Even Mind" and "Lower the Line" ("It wouldn't be the first time," jokes Neufeld) during Die Knowing's dozen songs, most of which come in around the two-and-a-half-minute mark. But it's actually some decidedly non-hardcore riffs that Neufeld admits to "ripping off, just for fun" for the past couple of albums.
"We do that quite a bit," he says. "I'll straight up rip off songs that aren't hardcore songs and make them into new songs. On this new album I ripped off a My Bloody Valentine riff and made one of their vocal lines into a guitar line for my riff, and sped it up, and sang something total different over it, and it sounds totally different. I do stuff like that all of the time, because it's kind of fun and a cool way to do it sometimes. Other times a riff will come out of nowhere, or from your subconscious, or I'll straight-up rip something off and completely make it my own."
Neufeld admits that while he has no trouble writing the music for the band's songs, lyrics still tend to be the most difficult part of any doing any new album for him. He's very aware of not wanting the words to sound cliché, something that he's battled with on every album and is continuing to improve at.
"Yeah, it's still the hardest thing, writing lyrics," he says. "It's putting yourself out there with your words. For me, writing music has always come super natural to me, and writing lyrics is something that I've just been thrown into, where you're trying to express yourself with words, and I sometimes don't feel like I have the right words to say in normal life, let alone recite an anthem that you want everyone to scream along to. But it just comes down to doing your thing and it takes time to develop."
Lyrically, Die Knowing is still right in the Comeback Kid wheelhouse, tackling subjects like motivating yourself, following your own path in life and learning from your mistakes. Sprinkle in many more life experiences, personal triumphs and tragedies, and the inevitable process of aging, and you've still got the same band who formed in Winnipeg 14 years ago and released Turn It Around in 2003, although with a slightly different outlook.
"We're still the same band and the concept of what we're trying to do is still there, but we started this band when we were kids and we've grown up a lot, so definitely a different outlook on life. Starting a band in 2000 and now it's 2014 and I'm 32 now so I've got a different mindset now than a fresh little guy. But, still, hardcore for life, man!" he laughs.
And while Neufeld still keeps busy with his screamy emotional rock band Sights and Sounds (an EP entitled Silver Door came out last year on Pure Noise Records), his Winnipeg-based production work, and on-and-off festival appearances with his and guitarist Heibert's old band, Figure Four, he says 2014 will be a big year focused on Comeback Kid, including an Exclaim!-sponsored Canadian tour, whose dates you can see here.