Canadian hardcore heavyweights Comeback Kid released their anticipated seventh studio album, Heavy Steps last Friday via Nuclear Blast Records.
Featuring the riff-heavy first single No Easy Way Out the tone-setting dynamic title track with punishing bass lines, masterful drumming and an infectious singalong chorus and the no frills metallic hardcore banger Crossed, Heavy Steps embodies all the things that make Comeback Kid so revered in their genre. The record is fast, fun, beautifully crafted melodic hardcore and that sees the band returning to their roots both geographically and musically. Written and recorded in the band’s originating city of Winnipeg, Manitoba at Private Ear Recording Studio they once again enlisted the services of producer John Paul Peters (Cancer Bats, Propagandhi) who recorded the band’s debut album Turn It Around. In addition to co-production by Peters, on Heavy Steps, the band collaborated with prominent Grammy award-winning mixer and long-time fan of the band Will Putney (Knocked Loose, Every Time I Die). Featuring guest appearances by Gojira’s Joe Duplantier, Heavy Steps is no longer a prerequisite to realizing Comeback Kids influence on modern punk, but a delivery of pure anthemic chaos, sheer speed and force. It is a statement of intent.
In the days leading up to the release, Maniacs had a chat with vocalist and co-founder, Andrew Neufeld about all things heavy steps, hardcore and keeping the good times and stage-dives coming.
Comeback Kid have a brand new record Heavy Steps that came out on Friday over here, and it is wall-to-wall bangers. Did this shitstorm of a pandemic play any role in impacting or inspiring the contents?
"I didn’t touch too much on the pandemic, lyrically. I did go through a lot during it. When we started writing for this record, in 2020, the pandemic had just hit. We had all of these tours planned through South East Asia and we were going to play with Slipknot and do some shows in the Philippines, and then go to all of these other cool places. So we had a very busy year planned out and we were going to try and write the record in between those tours.
Writing the record gave us a sense of purpose during the pandemic and something to look forward to. Now we’ve had six months of touring, in the UK and the US and we’ve had the singles coming out during that time so it feels like it has been perfectly timed. I’m supposed to be in Germany right now, which shows that you need to pivot, be flexible and have some contingency plans."
For a band like Comeback Kid, which more or less lives on the road, the unexpected is probably something that you are a little bit more accustomed to handling than most ‘regular’ people?
"For sure, for sure. During the pandemic, I started driving cast and crew on some film sets and with that, you never know when you are working or how long your days are going to be, so that felt familiar like being on tour but without ever playing a show! "
Heavy Steps is a very different record to your last album Outsider in the sense that it sounds more like what we’d come to expect from Comeback Kid. Was that a deliberate choice to write a more straight-up, heavier Comeback Kid record?
"It was. Me and Jeremy, the guitar player who started the band with me, we’d never really felt that we’d achieved the heavy guitar tone that we wanted for Comeback Kid, so we really wanted to accomplish that guitar-wise. Having Will Putney do the mix, he always makes the drums sound massive and I’ve always felt we have pretty awesome bass tones. So it felt like we needed to turn it up a notch as far as the guitar tones go and beef it up a bit more. Vocally, I’m a really big fan of production, having vocals on the left and right, and down the middle and having fun with throws and delays and so we had fun with that stuff. I’m not afraid to access new production tricks while still making it sound real and still making sure you’re playing everything"
Well, it worked because the record sounds relentlessly but organically heavy. You can feel the energy of a Comeback Kid show, but with everything cutting through heavier and clearer. Do you think that is part of the reason why it is being so well-received in the hardcore community?
"That’s a funny thing, we sometimes intentionally lean into the nostalgic moments that people love Comeback Kid for and listen to Comeback Kid for. One common thread for Comeback Kid records is that we all know our role and know where we stand. We’ve started other bands to try out other styles of music, but we’ve never used Comeback Kid as a vehicle to put out anything that doesn’t sound like Comeback Kid.
You’ll always get a variety of types of songs on our records coz there are a few different songwriters, so you’ll have some melodic hardcore tracks and you’ll have some metallic hardcore songs.
When I’m thinking of tracks that are a “return to form”, I think of the anthemic moments and the faster, more energetic stuff. We brought back a double-kick on this record. We lean into some of those throwback moments and try to access some of the energy that got a lot of people into Comeback Kid in the first place in their, youth. Because music is time and place. But at the same time, we're trying to write like, new, great songs, and it feels fresh to me, and it feels good."
Isn’t that the ultimate test when you’re writing, do I like it?
"Totally. I do this just as much like for myself as anyone else. Music is what I do to release certain endorphins. We all have things in our lives that make us feel accomplished, so every record that I’ve done, has been the thing for me. I identify eras in my life from records, the same way someone would identify relationships as an era in their lives. They’re kind of my babies, even just now putting the record out the other day, people are saying ‘congratulations’ and it feels like, it’s my birthday!"
There’s a guest vocal on this record from Joe Duplantier of Gojira, who isn’t the first person I’d have thought of guesting on a Comeback Kid song, but it just works so fucking well, how did that come about and have you found that his guest vocal has lured over some new listeners from more traditional metal realms?
"It’s hard to tell right now because the song came out and that’s when COVID came back and stopped our touring, but I think so. We had Devin Townsend guest on our previous record and he was kind of the hook up to Gojira because I went out to one of his shows and he introduced me to a couple of the guys from Gojira. So it was a bit of a happy accident. It was unexpected, a lot of things that happen with us are quick on a whim like that, we just asked and you can hear what happened."
Comeback Kid have been a band for over 20 years now and one of the things that has always fascinated and impressed me is the way you were able to seamlessly step into the vocal role vacated by Scott Wade, in the aftermath of dropping an iconic, breakthrough record in Wake The Dead. Did you foresee it working out as well and enuring as well as it has?
"I was always a young hardcore kid trying to be in a cool hardcore band. I was going to shows in high school and romanticizing the idea of playing shows myself. I would see bands like Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, Misfits and they were probably older than I am now, at that time, so I’ve always had a couple of generations before me doing it and giving me a bit of inspiration to keep on going. Having said that I don’t think metal has ever been as old as it is now, I remember playing at a festival a few years ago in France with At The Gates, Into Eternity, Hatebreed, Integrity and I was looking around thinking “dude we’re the youngest band here”. So you know what, we’re right in the middle right now, there’s still dudes much older than us fucking rocking, so why not? It’s a fucking good time."
It’s a great time. Speaking of great times, outside of music, Andrew, what do you consider yourself a Maniac for?
"I love smoking weed and having sex! Honestly, I actually really love the business aspect of the band. I’ve learnt a lot, even with the visuals on this record, making the videos and collaborating with people that’s been really fun. I’m the type of person who makes things happen as they happen, I don’t go golfing, I like riding my bike but it is not my passion, so I do the band, I work for the band and then in my free time I like to hang out, smoke some dope and hang with my friends."
If you were a professional wrestler like many great Canadians are, what song would you like to play as your entrance theme whenever you walk into a room?
"Oh shit, that’s a good question. I would say something by the Canadian thrash band Razor. Maybe Shotgun Justice, no, actually, Violence Condoned by Razor which a song about them not getting paid at a show, and they’re saying “violence is condoned, cough up the dough” it’s amazing."
It would be so cool to have a song just blasting out of the speakers whenever you enter the room and have the crowd just pop, it’s something wrestlers get to experience that we probably never will, it is fun to think about though!
"I want to write music for wrestlers! I sometimes talk to Seth Rollins through DMs on socials coz he is big into Comeback Kid, he’s gotten me into some wrestling stuff and had a photo with us and stuff, and I just wish they’d pitch me a song some time. I think the best new wrestler from the hardcore scene is Brody King the singer from God’s Hate."
They’re fucking cool aren't they!
They’re so heavy!
The guy he is teamed up with right now, Malakai Black, is legit too.
"Yeah, that Aleister Black guy with a new name. The guys from Twitching Tongues and Nails just put together their new entrance theme. Metal punk and hardcore definitely have a place in wrestling."
We just need to get Comeback Kid a place in wrestling! Getting back on track now, what do you feel is the quintessential Comeback Kid song?
"Oh, that’s an easy one. The song is bigger than the band itself and it is called Wake The Dead. I feel like that song is bigger than our career, it has a life of its own. Not every band has the opportunity to have that one song that transcends your entire world and is bigger than your whole catalogue. But that one is easily the one for us. I'm not saying it's my favourite song, no actually it is my favourite because it's given us the most success and enables us to still be doing this now."
You also have the coolest fucking job in the world when it is time to play that song, you just yell "you said, you said, you said" and the room loses its head.
"That’s it. It is the perfect opportunity to put the mic out in the crowd and just revel in it a bit. Especially the last half a year I've been moshing and stage diving for a living so I have no complaints."
I was to ask you to give me your four pillars of hardcore who are the four most important acts in your listening history?
"I'll try to try to divide it into sectors so kind of give you a spectrum. So we'll just go we'll go all the way from like punk to hardcore so we go. Propagandhi on the punk side, Madball on the groove, New York's style side, 100 Demons on the heavy ass beat side which God’s Hate is kind of similar to I find. And then No Warning on the band that I kind of grew up thinking was just the coolest shit ever. And we just toured with them like last month. I’ll forever call them my favourite hardcore band."
No Warning seems to be a big band for Canadian hardcore kids, it kind of reminds me of how down here we have Mindsnare fill that role.
"Yeah, you have Mindsnare. I’m buzzing on Speed at the moment too! If you’re in Melbourne, our friends at Brick and Mortar are going to put out the tape version of Heavy Steps and it is a clothing store they’re gonna do some t-shirts and stuff like that, so that should be a cool little Aussie drop coming your way soon."
Now Andrew, if you had to tell a young person looking to do what you do for a living, how to do it, what would you say to them?
"Hang in there buddy, be able to be flexible, nothing is gonna come overnight. Take a lap if you get mad, take a lap and come back to it, don’t overreact to things."
Listen to Comeback Kid Heavy Steps now.