Obey The Brave: Living And Learning
No strangers to recruiting their fair share of talent, renowned punk label Epitaph struck gold when they made room for Canada’s Obey The Brave mid last year, and as for the band’s guitarist Jon Campbell? Well, he’s positively chuffed to have his band be a part of such a tight-knit community and looks forward to the “many years of pure fucking destruction together”. Almost a year on from their debut release, Young Blood, we checked in with Campbell to suss out Obey The Brave’s bread-like rise to fame and their strong DIY ethic as they gear up for their first trip here this August with Boris The Blade and The Storm Picturesque.
As this is your first trip to Australia, can you give us a brief history of Obey The Brave?
We just had our one-year anniversary of the band this past January, so we’re probably up to a year and a half now. Alex [Erian, ex-Despised Icon], myself and Miguel [Lepage, ex-Blind Witness], we talked about throwing a band together and when we decided we wanted to be serious about it, we connected with Stevie [Morotti] and Greg [Wood] and kind of decided that we wanted to take a crack at making a band from some music I’d made on the go. I guess one thing led to another, we ended up with some tracks we were pretty proud of, so we decided to pursue it. It feels like no time at all has gone by and here we are. It happened much faster than any of us expected it would. The last year-and-a-half has been a blur to be honest with you. We’ve been on tour for the better half of that time, and when we’re not on tour we’re in writing mode, studio mode, trying to pump out videos, all sorts of stuff. It’s been a busy year-and-a-half but a pretty productive one I think.
For you personally, was there any sort of moment or even a band that made you think, “Yes! This is what I want to do with my life”?
That would’ve been when I was really, really young. Actually [laughs], I’ve got an Australian reference, I was a huge AC/DC fan when I was a kid, that’s definitely the band that got me into it from when I was really, really young. And from there I was obsessed with that band and decided that that’s what I wanted to do. I guess as I got older I got into heavy metal, punk and all that kind of stuff and I honed in more exactly on what it was I wanted to do, but I guess the thing that started it all was definitely the obsession with AC/DC when I was a kid.
I feel like a lot of heavy listeners these days are spoilt for choice when it comes to bands. With the internet you can find anything, and I almost feel like a lot of hardcore bands vanish as quickly as they appear. Do you think it’s more difficult to have staying power in the modern scene compared to decades past?
Yes and no. You just have to kind of… it’s hard to explain. The internet is harmful to the music industry in a lot of ways, but at the same time, if you’re smart about it and you play your cards right, it’s a great tool at your disposal that you can use to reach out to a lot of people. It’s a lot easier than it would’ve been years ago before that. It has its pros and cons, but I know what you mean, the market is so saturated nowadays so you really have to be a cut above to stand out and survive in the industry in the shape that it’s in now. In the same way, I feel like there wasn’t as many bands and not as much competition back in the day, so there wasn’t really the need to compete as heavily as you have to now.
Did you have any apprehension about forming a band in what is such a saturated market? Does that sort of thing weigh on your mind at all?
It definitely plays into it, but I think if anything, it just helps you make smart decisions when marketing or writing music or anything like that. It’s always in the back of your head, if you’re going to do it, make it your own and make it worthwhile. Don’t just add to the heap of bands that already exist, try and do your own thing. That’s not to say that we’re inventing a style of music, but just try and think outside the box, do your own thing and make it clear that you’re trying to do that. It’s definitely something you think about when you’re coming up with a band name, writing music or figuring out a way to market your band, it does make it a little harder, but it’s not discouraging. If anything it just makes you think and work a little harder on the creative end so that you stand out.
A lot of the songs on your debut are quite aggressive, what drives that aggression? Do you find that you and the guys are influenced by what’s going on in the world when it comes to sitting down and writing tracks?
No not really, I don’t think any of the songs really have much to do with what’s going on as far as the world’s concerned. From a lyrical standpoint, I don’t write the lyrics, they’d have a lot to do with whatever is going on in Alex’s head but, from a musical standpoint, obviously you’re influenced by what’s going on in your life, that definitely has a few things to do with it, but for the most part I just try and write music that I think sounds good and would be something I’d listen to. I kind of think about something that’s happening, kind of reflect on it and then write a song about it, I just write whatever feels good.
Now that it’s been out for almost a year, how do you look back on your debut Young Blood? Now that you’ve got the gift of hindsight, are you pleased with how it turned out or are there things you want to change?
I’m sure if you ask any artist the answer will always be the same [laughs], you nitpick your own work in your own area. Whether it’s an artwork, a painting, a song or a drawing, there’s always things you would’ve done differently. But on the whole I’m pleased with it. We worked hard on it, and whether people like it or don’t like it, it’s something that I’m personally proud of. Yeah, there’s a few things I would’ve done differently, but on the whole it’s something I’m proud of, it’s a good first effort and I’m sure, like you said, being able to get feedback and everything will make the writing process for the coming record much easier. Now that we have a good idea of what we like about ourselves in terms of sound, style and all that stuff. Obviously listener feedback plays into that as well.
Where are you sitting with new material, have you been writing much in the touring cycle?
We’ve actually got a good chunk of writing done right now; we’re just slowly piecing things together as we can. We had some time off this summer so we were able to get a little bit of work done on that end. We always write on the road, not necessarily 10 songs at a time, but little bits and pieces that we can put together and work on as we go. It’s coming along nicely though, I’m pleased with what we have so far, it’s definitely where it needs to be for a second record.
They always say that the second record is the make or break album, does that put any pressure on you guys going into it, especially with the success of your debut?
I think you can feel like you’re pressed into it if you overthink it, but if you’re doing the right things then it’ll just fall into place I think. If you’re at the level where it’s meant to be, then it’ll be great and it’ll fall into place. If you have any doubts about yourself, then… [laughs] that’s not a good place for me to be I guess, for me that says that you’re probably not ready. If you’re there, you’re there and the music you write, the way the band sounds and the form, they’re all gained from experience so if it’s there, it’s there, you know?
Being signed to the Epitaph label as well, does that hold any special meaning to you since they’re such an iconic punk and, more nowadays, hardcore label?
Absolutely. Everybody in the band is a fan of a good chunk of the bands on Epitaph. Growing up listening to those bands has a big influence on, I guess, some of the more punk rock or hardcore aspects of the band. It’s kind of neat being a part of the family that in some way got you going.
So you’re touring here this month, it’s your first time here, and when we spoke to Brendan from Counterparts, all he wanted to do when he got here was hold a koala. What are you guys looking forward to doing or seeing while you’re here?
Definitely holding a koala [laughs]. I’m just looking forward to being able to break the ice over in Australia, meet some new faces and friends, hang out and have some fun playing shows. That’s what we love to do: just travel, make friends and try to have a good time. We’re just looking forward to being able to play. Canada to Australia is a pretty long trip [laughs], so it’s just really cool for us to be able to play and have fun that far from home, it’s a cool experience, we’re looking forward to that for sure. I guess by breaking the ice we have the opportunity to come back again in the future.
Is it strange playing to crowds on the other side of the world when you don’t really know how they’re going to react to you?
Yes and no. Sometimes with any performance, if you’re unsure of the fans or anything like that and you’ve never been there before, sometimes you’re not sure how the shows are going to go, but at the end of the day you’re like, “You know what? Fuck it, I’m in Australia, I don’t care if a few people are going to hate us, we’re still in Australia!” But so far so good, we’ve been pleasantly surprised everywhere we’ve been for the first time, everyone’s been more than welcoming, and it’s been a lot of fun. Some of the most enjoyable shows we’ve played have been in crazy places on the other side of the world. I think it’ll be great; I’m looking forward to it!
Catch Obey The Brave on their first trip Down Under!
Obey The Brave / Boris The Blade / The Storm Picturesque Tour Dates
Sun Aug 18th – Metal & Hardcore Fest, Mordialloc (AA)
Tue Aug 20th – Pot Belly, Canberra (18+)
Wed Aug 21st – Sohier Park Hall, Ourimbah (AA)
Thu Aug 22nd – Hot Damn!, Sydney (18+)
Tickets: Available at the door
Fri Aug 23rd – Studio Six, Sutherland (AA)
Sat Aug 24th – Thriller, Brisbane (18+)
Tickets: Available at the door
Sunday 25 August – Tall Poppy Studios, Brisbane (AA)