Hunkered down in the Great White North, we grabbed a hold of Counterparts frontman Brendan Murphy to get the low-down on these Canuckian up-and-comers, including what it was like working with Northlane producer Will Putney, why Canadians are such a welcoming bunch, and just how much he’d pay to hold a koala (spoiler: lots!) Be sure to catch the hardcore quintet when they roll through town with our own In Hearts Wake, The Storm Picturesque, and Stories in June. Tour dates below!
So you’re about to head over here in support of In Hearts Wake. For the uninitiated, can you give us a little rundown of what Counterparts is about?
We’re a five-piece melodic hardcore band from Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and we’ve been a band since 2007. It’d be tough to kind of pinpoint exactly what we’re trying to do here, but for lack of a better explanation, we just write and play music that we actually care about. We’re about having fun, on and off stage. We put our actual music as a top priority, and the rest comes in time. If you’re coming to see us live, expect us to more than likely play on the floor, punch the air, and expect to feel very awkward in between songs.
What bands did you grow up on and how did they shape the music that you now make?
The kind of bands that helped shape the music we make are bands like Shai Hulud, Saints Never Surrender, It Prevails, Taken, A Textbook Tragedy, and so on. There was a while when at first we were kind of a wack mosh-metal band and when we discovered melodic hardcore, or metalcore, or whatever you want to call it, we realised that you can make both heavy music and music with actual substance. We got stoked on the idea that we can set our own limits with our music; we can have two full minutes of clean/effect driven guitar parts, and we can also write minute long thrash songs. Those bands helped us realise that putting a limit on your music sucks, and we’ve wanted to write for ourselves since day one. We can’t thank them enough.
Recently we’ve seen some Aussie bands such as Northlane going to Canada for some of their first intercontinental tours and saying how welcoming the people have been there. Is there something about the scene over there that makes you guys so receptive to foreign, up-and-coming bands?
I just think Canada is a very welcoming country in general. We’re just a little bit nicer than the United States [laughs]. I think kids in Canada, specifically in Ontario, are just always stoked on finding new bands. There’s a certain “coolness” in being the first one in your group of friends to be jamming to the new Northlane record, you know? Ontario is a great place to play. Since day one we’ve always been surprised at how many people actually care about us in our own province. It’s really cool. I will admit that the scene is not exactly as cool and progressive as it was when we started the band, but we do what we can and we’re thankful for it.
Having toured with the Northlane boys I’d imagine you would have heard a few things about Australia. What are you looking forward to doing on your upcoming Australian tour?
Holding a koala! I’ve wanted to do that since I was a little kid. I’m willing to pay any amount of money. Also, I can’t wait to basically quote the Australian Simpsons episode to the crowd every night. They’re gonna get real sick of me. Also, from what I’ve seen, Australia is a beautiful place and I can’t wait to go explore. But I’ve heard that food is terribly expensive, so if you want to give me a tip at the merch table, that’d be nice [laughs].
You’re currently finishing up the tracking on your new record with Will Putney. Could you talk us through the recording process of this album?
We spent a lot of time on this record. The last two were recorded in just over two weeks and this time we spent a month in the studio perfecting everything. We wanted to leave with zero regrets. On top of that, this is the first time we’ve really done pre-production and had a legit producer help us out with songs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Will told us what to do in any way, but there were definitely times where he helped us realise that what we were playing was stupid and to rework parts. It saved the record for sure.
Was it at all daunting approaching and working with someone like Will, especially when he’s such an established name in the heavy scene?
Working with Will was awesome. I mean, I guess he is more of a “heavy” producer/engineer, but at the same time he was worked with bands like The Banner and Reign Supreme. Those were the records we heard when we were recording our past records and went, ‘Man, we gotta go to this guy.’ Obviously with us being friends with bands like Structures, Stray From The Path, and Northlane, we heard only good things about Will. I’m glad we chose him; this record is gonna be awesome.
On your previous album, you seemed to draw a lot of lyrical inspiration from real-life experiences. Will the lyrical themes on The Difference Between Hell And Home follow a similar direction? If so, what experiences have you been drawing from?
The lyrics are definitely different on this record. Not to sound like a miserable person, but they are definitely the most honest, and subsequently the most depressing lyrics I have ever written. A lot of the lyrics still draw from real life experiences, whether it be falling in love, falling out of love, dealing with depression, dealing with Alzheimer’s in my family… But I think I took a more creative approach. Everything isn’t so black and white anymore, the lyrics are definitely more creative and metaphorical, and not so “I fucking hate myself” [laughs]. The music has matured and so has my writing. I’m excited to see how people react.
The Current Will Carry Us received widespread critical acclaim, with Exclaim! Magazine referring to Counterparts as a band that could “Wake up a genre that many people thought was on its last breath”. Do titles and acclamations like this bring with them a certain pressure?
They do and they don’t. Obviously, I would love for people to hold this record in high regard, similar to the last two. But at the same time, this record is so personal to us that if no one likes it, I will still be proud of what we created. Bands always strive to please their fans; it’s just a necessity in order to stay afloat and be relevant. But what sets us apart is that we just… don’t really care [laughs]. Not to sound egotistical, but if we cared what people thought, then we would have just put out “Prophets 2.0″ instead of The Current Will Carry Us, and “Prophets 3.0″ instead of this new record. We strive to make ourselves happy, and if we do that then we’ve done our jobs. That being said, if you like the record, please throw money at us when we play your town [laughs].
Wanna hear Brendan and the guys quote Simpsons references at you all night? Then check out Counterparts at one of the dates below.
In Hearts Wake / Counterparts Tour Dates
Thu Jun 13th – Crowbar, Brisbane (18+)
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories and The Lane Cover
Fri Jun 14th – Eagleby Hall, Brisbane
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories and Never Lose Sight
Sat Jun 15th – YAC, Byron Bay
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories and Bonestorm
Sun Jun 16th – Bald Faced Stag, Sydney
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories and Vices
Mon Jun 17th – The Vault, Newcastle
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories, Rivalries and Paradise Found
Wed Jun 19th – Amplifier Bar, Perth (18+)
with The Storm Picturesque and Stories
Thu Jun 20th – YMCA HQ, Perth
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories, Ruthless and We Run With Wolves
Fri Jun 21st – Fowlers Live, Adelaide
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories and Homeland
Sat Jun 22nd – Workers Club, Melbourne (18+)
with The Storm Picturesque and Stories
Sun Jun 23rd – Phoenix Youth Centre, Melbourne
with The Storm Picturesque, Stories and The Approach