In Conversation: Counterfeit.
Following a blistering string of US tour dates and raucous performances at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals last month, it is obvious that COUNTERFEIT. are back in the limelight.
And earlier this month the band released a unifying protest song called ‘It Gets Better’, a track that features a captivating spoken-word delivery from their enigmatic frontman Jamie Bower.
Clash met the progressive, re-inventive London based five-piece and spoke to Sam Bower, Roland Johnson and Jamie at Reading Festival, immediately after the band had given the most raw and energising set of the weekend over on the main stage.
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Well done on your Reading set! What was it like to be up there?
Jamie: Crazy! I’m trying to cultivate this constant idea and feeling of gratitude. It’s always interesting going into a space that’s your own with your fans and it’s a comfortable experience. But to go to play the main stage like that! I am just super-grateful, it was an amazing experience.
I’ve been stood in the crowds at festivals looking at the main stages thinking ‘one day that could be me’, and today it was us. Madness!
It must be fulfilling when you get such a huge response from the crowd?
Jamie: It’s overwhelming. It’s always important for us to have a spiritual and emotional connection with our audience, our crowd and to be in there with the people. You are on the main stage, and you get that feeling of intimacy whilst being on this huge stage. It’s the most rewarding experience you can possibly have. I just had a wicked time.
How does it feel to introduce new material?
Jamie: We played a set full of new songs that most people haven’t heard, so it’s slightly different. It’s that extra element, it’s satisfying because it’s new and raw. It makes it even closer and more intimate. Management and business people will say, ‘you are mental, you are crazy doing this’ but this is what it’s about. We are artists, and what we want to do is push out whatever we are feeling at that time. this is a whole new chapter for us.
When you make a record, it is catching a specific period of your life. It’s capturing a moment in time, you can live in whilst you are feeling it. But if you are having to force that out night after night and you are not in that space anymore then what’s the point? Nobody else is gonna believe or feel it.
However, if you are overjoying things and show that this is the biggest experience, then everyone is going to feel that. This band is about constant reality and trying to be present in the moment.
You have been working on a new album. What has it been like?
Sam: It’s been a long process. We moved into a house together, we did six months in the Midlands, we all lived together for the first time, which was interesting because normally we have only been living together on a bus, that’s it and everyone is spaced all over the place. But we got into a house, we wrote and lived together, wrote a lot of songs. We were really buzzing on it. It’s the first time we’ve done it, and we ended up doing a few tours and getting ready.
Jamie: We did the first American tour and stayed out in the states for a bit after, it was mental. We were in LA writing for the new record. It’s something I dreamt of as a kid, so it’s very surreal. We were out there, we started working with a few other writers.
Roland: There is that thing everyone talks about, ‘the difficult second album’. But for us it was about separating what was expected of us in a way, leaving that at one side because it’s easy to go in and be like ‘we can do this, we know how to do it, we can carry on’. But sometimes it’s more about doing whatever we feel, what we want to express at the time and leaving expectation at the door.
Jamie: The first record was very personal, it had its own feeling. It was like ‘I am angry, depressed or upset, and I am going to stay in that’.
This new one has elements of that, but it removes itself from the feeling, and it’s able to look at things from a different perspective. We worked with some cool people, who we have always wanted to work with. It was a really interesting experience.
How did things come together following the stage of recording? When will you be releasing it?
Jamie: It is all done, we finished it in April. We have Chris Lord-Alge mixing, who has done like Green Day and Billy Talent, and Rob Cavallo produced it. Rob also did Green Day and My Chemical Romance. We love them both. We are aiming for a Jan/Feb 2020 release, but I’m trying to pull it forward, I’m always ‘I just want to get it out’. We can be so impatient.
Do you get very involved in making the videos as well?
Jamie: You’ve got to as artists. We want to be as involved in every single aspect of whatever because otherwise it doesn’t become yours anymore, it becomes an amalgamation of other people, who work in the music industry’s ideas, as opposed to what you are. It’s about artists being artists and getting that out there.
We are talking to some directors trying to get that all sorted, then more concepts and videos. It’s all kicking off!
How do you see the music you make now, is it punk?
Jamie: We sing, jump around, have a good time. It’s never been about boxing our music in. Some people go out and do their thing, and that works for them. But for us being creative and progressive is about exploring our avenues and seeing how far we can take it. That’s how you grow, how you progress and evolve as a person.
It’s that personal journey that we all do on our own. The idea of doing whatever you want. We probably got labelled as a punk band because our earlier live shows were chaotic, but our influences are so varied.
We do listen to punk music, but on the way here today I was listening classical. Sam and I grew up in a household that was full of everything. We live in a time where genre is dead, and I am not sure that genre needs to exist anymore.
Do you feel you have an obligation or a role as musicians?
Jamie: The thing that’s most important for me is how the concept of this band was started in a place where I/we needed to support each other and be supported in the music community.
Music for me has always helped me in my darkest times and this band is like at the heart of who we are, that’s what it’s about. This new record is hopeful, it’s honest and it’s just an extension of that. It’s almost uncomfortable to talk about sometimes because it’s so real.
It is a very personal thing..
Jamie: It’s super-personal. We are British aren’t we? It’s hard for us to be like ‘I’m going through this, I need your help’, but that’s what this album is. We all have that, everybody has that. Now I am four years sober, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the support of my fellow band mates, the people that come to the shows and connect with our music.
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Words: Susan Hansen
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