One of the biggest cliches in the world of music journalism is that rock dead. It’s such a cliche, in fact, that merely pointing out the fact that perhaps a genre broad enough to count Jimi Hendrix, Black Flag and Arcade Fire among its alums might still have a little life in it has become a cliche in itself. Yet the cliche persists, and no matter how many bands you care to list currently redefining and exploring the boundaries of rock music, it seems nothing can shake it.
Perhaps then, the best way to rid the music world of the cliche is to blast it away with some of that self-same rock music. Enter Counterfeit., London’s latest hardcore punk-inspired group set to tear the airwaves apart with their thoroughly modern take on rock music’s history. Fronted by model and actor Jamie Campbell Bower, the group’s profile has been rising since 2015 when they released their first single ‘Come Get Some’ (and also featured in Notion 70 for you committed readers) complete with a video shot and directed by Bower’s longtime friend Rankin. Since that first track, the group have gone on to release an EP, amass an army of fans and already have a tour or two under their belts.
Having been locked in the recording studio for the best part of last year, Counterfeit. are now ready to make their return with their debut album Together We Are Stronger out today on Xtra Mile. We caught up with Jamie to celebrate the album’s release, chat about the inspirations behind it, and find out why, despite all the noise, he doesn’t consider Counterfeit to be a punk band.
Hey Jamie, tell us about the album…
We’ve been sitting on it since December, which is the most stressful thing you can possibly imagine. The longer you sit on it, the more you start to question it and you have days where you think it’s the best thing ever and days where you’re like “what the fuck is this?” So, to finally get it out is great, I feel like I’m giving away a child. It’s a completely new experience, it’s terrifying but very exciting.
What are some of the themes that emerged when you were making the album?
Strength is probably the main theme on the album. A lot of it is very personal, that’s where I write from, I love a story in a song and a fictional story as well but for me, the way I was feeling and working it had to come from what I was going through. I wanted to use those bad experiences in the hope that it might help me, or help others. I know a lot of the record is quite dark and it’s about bad times. I hope that if there’s anyone who’s ever felt like that, like the darkness is all consuming, that they can take hold of it and it will help them in some way.
I [also] address issues like my fear; my fear of failure. I think there’s a lot of fear on the record. It feels kind of erratic, this album sounds like my brain, it doesn’t sound very calm. It’s not a calm album, I never wanted to make a calm record.
It’s certainly not a calm album; did you ever worry about alienating people with how heavy the record is?
I always wanted people to be weirded out by the album, I kind of embraced that. It’s not an easy listen, it’s not something you’d have on in the background. It’s one of those records you have to be like ‘let’s put this on and thrash’ you know? I was never concerned about alienating people, if anything I looked forward to it.
Do you think that relates to your acting, that desire to command people’s attention?
I think naturally, the person that I am, I’ve always been the kind of person that’s sought attention or made their voice heard. That’s not to say that I’m combative in any way shape or form, but I do enjoy pushing myself and seeing how far I can take things. I like that in my acting and in my music.
What drew you to that kind of modern, hardcore punk sound in the first place?
I didn’t really set out to make what would be considered a punk or a hardcore album. I just wanted to write something that sounded how I was feeling, and it just so happened that a lot of my influence from my early life were brought up in there.
Do you think you avoid labelling Counterfeit. as a punk band because of the potential backlash given your background?
I’m only doing what feels right and feels honest; it wouldn’t feel right to make an album about politics when I don’t necessarily know as much as I should about it. It would feel like we were making a political record just make a point. I don’t fucking know what’s going on; I don’t fucking get it. I just don’t get what’s going on in the world. I don’t have the facts and figures to understand what’s going on. I’m just confused. I’m a confused and scared individual, and I think that a lot of people we know feel like that.
I never tried to distance myself from the artists that influenced me; I’m just trying to do something that I love. Musically as well, I grew up on rock n roll, but I listened to everything; I loved classical music as well. There’s a lot of harmonies on the record which I suppose come from a more classical music background in terms of knowing how to make those work.
You’re off on tour next week…
Yeah, we are! It’s gonna be madness; it’s the biggest tour we’ve done to date. The debut album fucking tour! I feel like we should have called it the Together We Are Stronger Tour, but that would’ve been too much.
You’ve got a fairly international fan-base already do you have a favourite place to play?
Germany is always fun to play; I think any rock band will tell you that, the Germans just lap it up. Playing on home turf is always an honour for us as well. It’s something I was nervous about at the start of this band, the UK’s got such a vibrant and saturated music scene, in order be part of it, you have to be the fucking best.
Together We Are Stronger is out now.