Credit: © Rankin
British modern punk band, COUNTERFEIT. came stomping back into our lives this summer with the bold, brash and beautiful new single, ‘It Gets Better’ and with a headline tour on the horizon, we thought we should get the lowdown on what’s happening in their camp.
Here, we speak to vocalist, guitarist and actor, Jamie Campbell Bower, about his growth within the band and what to expect from them in the year ahead.
Let’s start by talking about the new single, ‘It Gets Better’. It’s a pretty bold statement of a song to come back with, why did you choose to release it first?
I think the message is really important to us. It’s a message of self-help, uplift, hope, positivity and strength. I think that that’s something we’re very keen to push as people as we’ve grown. Sonically I think it’s very different as well and it’s fun, it’s a cool vibey kind of track. Everyone from the band and the label were like, “We love this track so much and we really want to work it, and we want to work it hard”, which for us was great because it’s a core part of our identity.
The lyrics are very upfront and straight to the point, but for you personally what does that song mean? What does it represent for you?
Oh my gosh. It represents a lot. Someone asked me the other day what the inspiration behind the track was and I was like, “Well with anything in music, it’s life, y’know? Life is always my biggest inspiration.” I wasn’t aware of the time though how much that I would need that song in my life. Upon playing it and sharing it with the world, and seeing how people are connecting with it, it’s taken on such a deeper meaning for me, because it encourages me to be myself at whatever cost that may be, to not forget that if I’m true and do not betray who I am, I will find happiness and I will be happy, and that’s what [the song] means for me.
It’s also about community and strength. I’m now four and a half years sober and upon getting sober one of the things that I found was just open, honest communication in sharing with other people, would be the thing that would bring me to strength and would bring me back to a healthy mental place. That’s what that song is all about and the video itself, getting people in a room and sharing our experiences as human beings, it was so emotional man, I’m getting emotional now just talking about it… It just means everything to me. It really does. It encourages me to go out there and to not be afraid, that’s what it does.
It’s a very special song, then.
It feels like it, yeah!
We were going to ask about the video, it’s very heart-warming to watch, who came up with the idea? Was it a band decision to get all your fans and friends together?
So, originally, I remember I called our manager and was like, “Okay, you guys love the song, we love the song, how much money have we got to play with?” and he said, “Well, how much do you need?” and I replied, “I need a million dollars.” He told me I was insane, but I wanted to get this whole parade thing going on. I was taking reference from Björk’s ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ and The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and I had these visions of us walking down the back lot of Paramount Studios and then at the end it just becomes this massive parade. So, he said, “Let me see what I can do” and he comes back to me like, “We ain’t gonna get a million dollars”, so I had to think a bit smaller.
It was always my intention though, to have those people that have always supported us and those people that know us best to be in the video and give thanks. One of the things I said when we came to the final treatment was, “I want you to capture everything, we’re not going to do setups, I want this to be the most organic thing that it can be in order to capture the reality of what it means to build community.” We managed to get that and I’m so, so grateful for that, because I remember watching the final cut and thinking, “This moves me and makes me feel like the things that I think and the things that I believe in are right, I’m not crazy, this is real”. We really had to fight for the idea, but I’m so glad that we did.
It certainly turned out pretty well! Is this song a good example of what’s to come?
There’s SO much, the record is so diverse. The next song that we’re dropping is much more aggressive and punky, but like, the drums still sound very shiny. Going into it one of the things I said was that I still want it to have the edge of COUNTERFEIT., but I wanted a very clean sound, as well as sounding raw I wanted it to sound tight. Sonically, the new record sounds very tight, but the next song is a big middle finger to everything that I see that pushes us down as individuals in society. I’m very, very stroppy on it.
We’ve got other songs that are slightly softer too, slightly more lullaby-like tracks, which was interesting for us. I had to talk Jimmy, our drummer, down from a ledge because he plays really hard and I was like, “Yo, Jim, for this track I need you to ease off. Come to me, fall into my bosom and let me nurse you and nurture you”. Overall though it does sound beautifully polished, as well as still being COUNTERFEIT. I feel like genre is kind of dead a little bit, whilst yes, we are obviously a guitar-driven band, I never set out to be a punk band, we just set out to be a bunch of guys with guitars playing honest music. The guitars are still there but we’ve introduced a lot of new stuff. It’s varied. It’s broad. I don’t know haha.
It sounds exciting whatever it is!
Exactly! Whatever it is you’ll like it… I hope.
Was the writing process for this record similar to that of the first, or did you do things differently this time around? How did you go about starting the process for this record?
We began the process for this one very similarly to the first actually. The last one I wrote in my flat, I wrote it in about three months and with this one, I again started it in my flat but then we moved into a house in Northamptonshire and we all lived together for six months. I had this crazy idea of being the Rolling Stones when they went into exile, I’ve always wanted to do that, so I was like, “Let’s rent a house!” So, we got this crazy farm house, lived there for six months, lost our minds and then Rowland and I went to America and did some writing there. Even up until the last week before we went into the studio we were still writing, so it’s definitely grown in the writing process, for sure, but we’ve definitely tried to maintain the sense of self within it.
We pushed ourselves further than we did on the last record, just sonically we’ve introduced so many new instruments and so many new sounds. It pushed me out of my comfort zone as well, which I love, I love learning, but it was a really intense experience. Writing is always an intense experience and with the first record I had like, 10 years of life to draw from, whereas with this one I had two years of life to draw from and two years of growth. I had to look at myself in a lot more of a present moment than perhaps I had to on the last one, it was like, what am I experiencing at this particular moment in time? I think that helped me as a lyricist and as a writer, and it allowed me to step out of my previous pain and enter into a world of positive present joy.
When you put out the first record, obviously things were very new and you were getting to learn the musical landscape and how the industry works, so what have you learnt since your debut album that has really influenced writing this new one?
Well one of the things that I’ve learnt as a person in this industry is that you are going to be your biggest supporter. There’s going to be so many people out there who are going to try and push their agenda onto you and you have to stand there and build this strength within you to be like, “Okay cool I understand what it is that you want, but that ain’t who I am. Who I am is this and this is what I believe in this is what it’s gonna be.” There’s this self-confidence that you have to build within this industry otherwise you’re gonna get swallowed up big time. Lady Gaga says this kinda stuff all the time and you read it and you’re like, “Yeah, whatever Gaga”, but then you experience it and you’re like, “F**k she’s right!” You’ve got to look at yourself and every day think, “You’ve got this”, because every day there’s going to be a problem, someone will throw you under the bus and you’ve got to stand up for yourself. I think that really helped us in the writing process, to just be yourself, always be yourself, whilst be kind and understanding and listen to things that you can learn, also have that identity, hold it and let it guide you because your gut is always right. If you do something that’s against your gut, you’re only gonna not like it later on down the line. Stick with what you know, always, that’s a really important thing and fight for what you believe in, and just don’t let the b******s get you down.
That feels like generally some very good life advice you’ve just given there! You’re out in Europe at the moment, have you been testing the new material live? How’s it all been going?
We played some intimate shows a few months back and I was really nervous for those, because we hadn’t played any of this new material and it’s pretty much an entire set of new songs, which is kinda scary, but with this one I’ve just kinda let myself go. That’s been really beautiful. To see the connection that’s happening, that’s gold. The first few shows have been great and I’m sure the rest will be, and then obviously we’re coming back home, so that’s going to be sick too.
What can the UK home crowds expect from those shows? What are you gonna bring?
Oh we’re gonna bring it ALL. Don’t worry. We’re gonna bring everything that we have. It’s still a riot, it’s still a raucous time and the thing we always want to encourage is that our shows are a space for anybody and everybody to cut loose, be themselves, be free. You’ll see that happening on stage with the band and that energy feeds into the crowd, we feed off them as much as they feed off us. We’re also doing a cover, which is different for us, we’ve never done a cover on stage before. You can expect a couple of old bangers, but just generally, a really f***in good time and a really loving, warm, kind and open atmosphere.
Sounds amazing! Finally, then, for your fans and anybody reading this, what would you like to tell them about the year ahead? What’s coming from COUNTERFEIT.?
Oh my god, EVERYTHING. You’ll be getting new music fairly regularly and then you’ll be getting a body of music… two bodies of music, actually! We’re gonna be doing more visuals and for me personally, I want to keep including our fanbase in our visuals, I want to keep being grateful for that, grateful for the support. I want to build a community, so strap in and come a long for the ride, because we want to give as much thanks as possible. Lots of exciting stuff is happening, so stay with us and we’ll keep you entertained!
You heard him, COUNTERFEIT.’s headline tour is going to be a riot, so don’t miss out:
O2 Academy Birmingham: Thursday 12 December Buy Tickets
Want to keep up to date with all our festival coverage, interviews and more? Why not sign up to our newsletter?