We were waiting for Counterfeit to come to France for a long time but here they are, finally. The band was in Paris at the end of the year to expose their upcoming album. Let’s have a first look of the new songs we discovered on tour and what future holds with Roland Johnson, bassist of the band.
Update: new music videos have been added to this interview.
Hey Roland, welcome to Paris! How does it feel to be back onstage in France after such a long time? I hope you’re not too anxious…
Good, it feels so good! We’re gonna play some new songs tonight. The reason I’m doing what I’m doing is to write music, to exorcise my demons and play. This moment on stage with all these people, it’s really special. It ties everything together. In August, it was our first time back in Europe for ages, because we were recording a record and we finished it in April, the recording part. So, it was so cool to be back on the road. We had like 5 days in the studio and then it was over. We’re playing something like 15 shows during this tour and the reception we’ve got so far has been truly amazing. People coming to our shows give us such good vibes and we’re playing our new songs… I can’t ask for more, really. I couldn’t get any better. But it’s quite sad because today is our last day. Then, we fly back so quickly. We’ve got like 2 weeks off and then we go back to the UK for a few more shows. But I just wanna be on the road forever to be honest and never stop!
It’s surprising and extremely brave to tour with an unreleased album but you’re telling me that the reception of the new songs seems to be really good; It must be such a relief…
It’s overwhelming how kind everyone has been. It’s funny, you work on music during such a long time, isolated, trying to be freaking with the music, to push out boundaries doing things we’ve never made before and then, we reveal our songs and the reception is amazing. We basically wrote all these songs asking ourselves « how far could we go? ». I love it but it’s so scary. It’s important to push our boundaries and to scare myself because it’s how I’m gonna improve as a musician and be more creative. I always loved that. We have a new song called The New Insane and the first time we played it and saw everyone faces, people were literally « what the fuck is this? ». It’s so weird and freaky. So, I loved seeing every night we played it and see people’s face being like « wow » for the first 20secs. And then, it becomes something else. By the end of the song the whole audience explodes. It really has been a blast. We obviously released It Gets Better in August so we were perfectly planning that. Somebody asked me earlier « what’s your favorite song to play live? » and I said It Gets Better purely for the fact I imagined for a long time how it could be when we will play it live. I just love the feel and the message; to me, it’s a special song.
It just represents a good moment in my life. I imagined how it would be live, we played it and it exceeded my expectations. The way people are screaming the lyrics back so loud. It’s a crazy party, pure madness. And I’m really happy if this song can help people going through hard times. I remember how music helped me. That’s why I wrote it…
It’s an interesting approach of music, so I guess you like these kind of challenges?
Oh yes, I do love challenges. We always had an open mind, I feel like we can’t please everyone and we don’t wanna please everyone. The important thing for us is driving a strong message and creating a good environment, a place where everybody feels safe and empowered. Everyone’s welcome and everyone’s voice counts. We always try to do that. I mean the first record is called Together We Are Stronger, everything’s in the title, right? (Laugh). People already know the old stuff and are really receptive to the new songs. We’ve got a great feedback. It couldn’t be any better. It’s always a good moment when you play songs you never played before and you go like « okay this one is not what people would maybe expect » but at the same time, I think if you just do what people expect, you got stuck in a loop always doing the same thing. So it has been great to get out of there and put a smile on people’s face with our songs. I feel like we set a challenge and we’ve done a good job.
The vibe really changed but are we agreed to say that your message is still the same?
The sound is different but the message will always stay the same because it’s just who we are as people. It defines me, the things we stand up for, the things we believe. This is just how we act. This is just who I am. The music, it’s forever changing. Your musical horizon always changes, your influences… I feel like we’re Influenced by everything that’s going unwell from my personal relationship, to the political stands going on in the world… All of that and the fact that everyone’s scared. I feel like everyone is on the edge and nobody knows what’s going on… We went to writing sessions and we started writing songs together. The first record was fast and hard and the first few songs were fast and hard. With these songs we were like « f**k it sounds great! » but comparing to the first ones, it was exactly what people could expect. It’s a little similar. There’s nothing wrong with that, but « let’s see where we can push ourselves creatively. Let’s see what else we can do. » It’s just about going outside the comfort zone, you know; trying to do things we’ve never done before. That’s how we learn. I love failing. With every step, I learn more. We wrote so many aweful songs, then you learn the technique. After that, you’re so proud of your songs. So we didn’t plan to write our songs like that or to sound like that, we were just « Let’s get freaky! Let’s get weird! What can we do to make us feel unforgettable? Let’s shock people! Let’s shock ourselves!« . This gives me drive. I’ve always been a fan of people that view music out of the box. You can follow a structure, a melody… but that have been already done. I don’t wanna do that. I want us to be our own « thing ». In our new record there are definitely different sounds like Hip Hop, ballads, heavier sounds… We just blew the roof off. It’s all completely new. I feel like our feet are planting on the ground and our roots are going deeper. We also were able to work on songs in the studio, with samples and pads, what we never had before. We were used to just write with the guitar like « oh I like this riff. I like this drum beat, cool. » The production of this new album was really different. I always love bands who are freaky with the production. About this new album… Am I nervous? I’m not sure. It scares me a little of course because of how it’ll sound but, it’s a good thing. If I was sitting there like « yeah this is great. I know how it’s sound and what’s gonna happen. We have already done that before. » I couldn’t do that forever, that’s boring.
This year, you’re gonna release an EP and an album… Why did you choose to separate them and create these 2 different materials?
I think the most interesting it’s that it gave us the chance to release a lot of new music and get out of there and show people what we were working on. The way music is consumed these days is really interesting. Actually, it depends on of what the labels authorized or not but, I love to drop a single and then another one, and another one, then an Ep, videos… . This is how you’re testing things. This is exciting, to do some extra things like that and with the shows going. We had like 45 ideas and then we cut down and tracked 15 songs. We are still mixing the songs, we’re still finding out how they sound. The EP allowed us to stop and getting moving with the other songs we are writing. This album isn’t even out, we are already thinking about the next one. How it could sound, how we can make progress what we’re building…
Do we have to understand that the EP isn’t gonna be a part of this album? Will it be something totally different?
I think on depends on how the songs turn out and how we feel. But I know there’re a lot of songs we’re stuck about. I’m sure it’s gonna be like an EP and an album piecing together, maybe add a new single when the album comes out. They will all work together. This body of work is challenging us as writers, challenging us as musicians. This is us getting outside of our comfort zone and being stuck about the work we’ve done.
What are the different influences behind this new body of work?
Oh my God, there’re so many… I’m always on the spot when someone asks that. Every member of this band listens to different kind of music and so there’re so many different influences on this record. We all like bands like Biffy Clyro and rock bands like that. One artist who has always been an influence for me is Kanye West, in a way like, for example his album Yeezus is so special for me. It’s so minimalistic and heavy, so dark, I just love how simple and big it is. I just like the fact that, you know when everything’s is loud, nothing is loud, if everything’s heavy, nothing’s heavy. He influences me in the fact I love how he structures music. He can use his sound to create a picture but it’s different, it’s not like any Hip Hop tracks and all the commercial stuff coming out. Don’t get me wrong, I love Post Malone as well. We also love The Red Hot too. I also like an artist called Phoebe Bridgers, who is really gentle and sensitive. Love her record. It’s a roller coaster record. It’s not just like « Go!Go!Go!Go! ». She paints a nice picture. We’re just inspired by life, the political scene, what we’re experiencing… As artists, it’s our duty to speak about that and shout it from the way we can spread a message. I’m sure if you speak with every members of the band and ask them their influences behind this new album, everyone will give you a different answer.
And precisely, in your case, who inspired your bass sound?
Ferder amplifiers! (laugh) I love Flea. He has really beautiful bass moments. The Maccabees have really cool basslines too. I like The Who. Amazing, amazing blass player. But I’m also a guitar player. I’m playing almost everything. For me, it’s more the sound of a song as a writer. But I really love a heavy sound inspired by Pop Punk and Rock’n’Roll I listened when I was younger like the Offspring, Blink-182, Green Day… All these things going fast.
To people waiting for this mysterious album and who missed your tour, what could you tell them?
Get ready! It’s gonna be a wild ride. I’m really excited about how it sounds. I know we have progressed as musicians, writers. We also have progressed individually. It’s the most exciting record we ever made so we can’t wait to see the reception of this album.