British band Counterfeit released their debut record “Together We Are Stronger” on March 17th, and they are currently on a European tour with support from other two bands from the UK: Tigress and Decade. On the day of their first italian date, I had the chance to interview the band in Milan.
I’ve noticed that there’s not that much information about you guys as a band online so, can you talk about your early days? How you met each other, how the band was formed…
Jamie: The band is only going 18 months, the band’s being around for just a year, a year and a half maybe, but I met Tristan when I was 8, so it’s been 20 years. Roland…Roland I’ve never met before until today.
Jamie: He’s new, we needed a bass player today. He’s just some guy that’s been following us around and can play bass so, I guess we’ll find out (laughs). Roland…I’ve known for about 4 years, 5 years? I used to play in another band and Tristan played guitar. Sam’s our brother, my brother…
Everyone else: Our brother…
He’s everyone’s brother…
Jamie: And then Jimmy…Jimmy is an entity onto himself. Jimmy was a correctional officer in one of the prisons that I was in. No…Jimmy I’ve probably known for about 10 years. So how this came together was, I’ve been playing music since when I was 15, in very different bands and it started about when I was at school, to very different line-ups. Tristan came on board, play some shows. Roland then came on board, and we put that band to bed and decided enough was enough of that shit and started this new band. And then you know, Sam obviously, he’s a great guitarist, he’s my brother and gets it, and Jimmy. I know Jimmy’s brother George very well and George was like “When you get Jimmy to play?” and kinda just it all fit at the same time.
…and why did you call yourselves Counterfeit?
Jamie: There’s not that much of a story there if I’m being honest. I mean, a lot of people ask the question. We’re like, as a band, we’re big believers in doing things because they feel right you know, we’ve never really set out to do anything, to be anything, like in terms of our songwriting is not particularly like technical songwriting or whatever. Our songwriting comes from the heart and comes from who we are and we have to feel it. We threw around some names when we were starting this band but they were going way too deep and shit, and I was just walking down the street one day and this name came up and I called up Tristan, or Roland, I can’t remember and it was like..it just feels right, it feels like is representing who we are and our message, how the music sound. The music was kinda being written before there was even a band name, so the name just had to kinda fit and it did. Kinda boring but it’s the truth.
It makes sense though.
Jamie: It makes sense, right? I’d much rather be honest about who we are than lie to you.
Cause you know, “counterfeit”, not literally but still means “faking”
Jamie: Yeah it means faking, I think obviously you know, the word itself…we had to be aware of what meant and I think there’s a somewhat irony in that, of what we are. And I think there was so kind of a jab, like for what I’ve done in my previous or my other career you know, to come in and doing this, a lot of people could see this as fake or whatever, but it was never like to make a standpoint.
“We fake everything!”
Jamie: Yeah exactly! It was never about that.
When have you decided you wanted to be a musician?
Jimmy: From a very young age. I started playing drums when I was 10, and just like, played one show, and that was it, playing shows.
So there wasn’t like a particular experience at a concert that got you into that…
Jimmy: Not so much, I mean, that grows as you get older, the more you’re inspired by people you see and come across in your time, but I think just the idea of making music, especially with friends and hanging out, is what is all about.
Sam: I’ve been playing music pretty much since I can remember, I was just very drawn to things that make sound. I just wanted to make noise as a kid without really knowing what it was, I just loved it. And then putting it together and being with people who knows how to do it it’s amazing, it just makes sense, it felt like it fit.
Tristan: For me, I’ve always wanted, I’ve always loved being a musician but I was never a performer, that’s all I learned a lot more recently and that’s not something I actively was looking for…
It’s not the same thing
Tristan: Yeah it’s definitely not the same thing, I’ve always loved music and I was inspired by Jimmy Hendrix when I was growing up but the performance thing is very new.
Roland: I just fucking love playing music. I’ve been playing guitar since I was like 9 and I used to play in shit bands when I was younger, with my friends, every weekend. It was the one thing I was looking forward to, I couldn’t wait to get out and go straight into rehearsals and just play music. The songs were no good but I just loved it. I played my first gig when I was 12 with moms and dads, and it just kinda grew from there, I just love performing and playing you know, that’s what I’ve ever known really.
Jamie: You only have to look at Roland when he talks about it, to really know how much he loves it…
Yeah, he’s got shiny eyes!
Jamie: Yeah man
Roland: It’s all I’ve ever known though, it is! I used to love saturdays because it was band practice day. Good times…
Jimmy: There was never a question of what I was gonna do, it was always gonna be performance. I was never gonna be anything other than that, either on stage or in jail.
Well, you pretty much do every kind of performance now. Acting, playing music…
Jamie: Right, yeah. It’s just who I am, I think Jimmy kinda smashed it there, there was never a point where I saw an artist or whatever and I was like “I wanna be like that guy”, it was like “I felt connected to that person, because I felt that we share the same fucking mindset” you know, like “I get you, we get each other here” like “This is cool, I’m having a real experience here”. So, in terms of when did I first pick up an instrument…I started learning the violin when I was probably like 3 and I learned it by Suzuki method so it’s like trained with ear: you don’t read music, you’re ear trained. If I’ll have kids and they show any interest in music and wanna do shit, that’s how I’m gonna teach them. It’s such an incredible skill to be taught because there’s nothing else like it: when you can just hear it, it means you hear it, you feel it, you’re connected to it. And then with rock’n’roll, I wanted to play the drums and my mom and dad were like “We’re not paying for lessons for that, all the artists that we’ve ever known they were all self-taught” so I’ve put so much time and effort into drums, and guitar and rock’n’roll music. I would miss like hours of lessons at school.
I see no problem there…
Jamie: No, exactly! Well not on purpose! Like I go in there at 11 in the morning and come out at 5 o’clock in the evening and wonder why I was hungry and it’s like dark and I’m like “Oh shit I messed everything up”. It’s kinda just who we are, I think.
Well actually you needed that practice, look where you are now…
Talking about your debut record “Together We Are Stronger”, how would you describe this album in terms of sound and lyrics?
Jamie: Erratic, honest, punchy and glassy. What I love about the guitar is that is an instrument that for me, cries out to be throttled, it cries out to be like strangled and Jack White from the White Stripes said that “You should pick a fight with your guitar and you should win” and I think that that’s something when I write it’s always in the back of my mind, it’s always a quote that stuck with me. I wanted those guitars to sound like glass bottles being smashed on the floor. The honesty part comes from the lyrics. I’m not trying to hide anything behind much metaphor, it’s very open, it’s very honest, it’s a frank record if I’m being honest. Erratic because of the influences that we all have in terms of our personal influences. Means that the album itself is kind of undefinable within genre, which I really enjoy. We’ve been described as punk, we’ve been described as punk-rock, rock’n’roll…I’m cool with any of those, I’m down with whatever. If you wanna call it punk that’s fucking great, I love punk music. Rock’n’roll, great, I fucking love rock’n’roll music as well.
I would say that the sound is more rock, but your performance is a lot more punk…’cause is definitely insane!
Jamie: Great, cool! Cool, that’s great! Yeah I mean, it should be mad, it should be a crazy performance, I think that when you go and see a band, you should always leave and relive that experience and feel like…kinda ruined. Cause if you’re gonna go see a band and they’re just gonna stand on stage and not do a lot, be might as well stay home and listen to the record. It’s not boring but it’s like…static. It’s standard.
How did you choose the title for the record? Why that exact expression?
Jamie: The album title came when we started this band, we come from a place right now where I think we all feel fairly fractured, we feel fairly distant, fairly isolated in terms of both politically and also emotionally and personally. When we started this band it was our motto. It was just what we truly believed in, it’s truly what we believe in, so, when it came down to putting a title to the first record it was a no brainer for us because unity and acceptance it’s something that is so right within what we all believe personally. And the record may or may not touch on it in an obvious way, but I know that sharing those deeply personal negative experiences with other people, it’s made me a better person, and the people that I meet, that come and tell me things they’ve gone through as well, it’s like there’s something magical about that and I think the unity within that is so important.
Do you think this album has like a whole concept behind it, or every song has its own independent story?
Jamie: In my experience of concept records, there are stories where you start at point A and you end at point C with point B in the middle. A classic modern example of that would be The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, a phenomenal fucking concept record, but a concept record nonetheless. I think with this album the theme is one of hope. The writing process was a very dark period and coming out the other side of it there was this feeling of hope, and I think that that’s present if you listen to the album from beginning to end…but at the same time I think yes, each song can stand alone as its own entity.
Can you talk about some backstory of a couple of songs?
Jamie: Sure. “Enough” was a song that I worked on at home, and the attack happened on the Bataclan in Paris, and when we were younger the attacks of 9/11 happened, but for us as kids, when those attacks took place we weren’t able to emotionally grasp the magnitude of what that meant for us as a society. Our parents could, and people who are our age now then could, but we couldn’t. So obviously when those attacks happened most recently on the Bataclan, that idea of a malevolent presence and a threat became tangible, it became real, it became obvious. And I was left feeling incredibly confused. Frustrated. The song yes, has angry moments in it, but I think that ultimately the song is about asking, posing the question as to like: why? I don’t understand, I have friends who share completely different religious beliefs or completely different viewpoints to I do on various different things, but I still love them. I still respect them, I still get them as people, they’re still people and I think that the idea behind the song when it was written was the fact that I couldn’t and I still could not grasp why. Why somebody would want to do that to another person. And I think that, that is actually something that a lot of people our age feel. We’re a generation of love, that’s what we should be so, “Enough” came out of that. Other songs on the record that we could talk about, that I wanna talk about…”Letters To The Lost” I suppose. It’s a very personal song about suicide. It was kinda written as a love letter to my friend who passed away and there were many things I wish I could tell him now, had I known that he was feeling the way that he was feeling. You know, the whole that he would leave behind him will always be bigger than the hole that he felt within himself, and I know that from personal experience as well. I know that feeling of hopelessness, desperation, when you wake up in the morning and it’s like the world is coming down on you and you can’t do it, whether you’re too much or you’re not enough. That constant struggle of insecurity is present within anybody who I think is really in touch with who they are. And that’s where it came from. It’s a love letter to my friend.
Since we have time for one more question, let’s get political. Being a band from the UK, in which way you think Brexit is affecting or will affect your touring life?
Jamie: Logistically it will obviously have an effect on us coming into mainland Europe. We as a band or any new band starting up will find it hard because then they’d be: “I don’t know, because we’ve never been told”, and this is one of the most terrifying things, to just not fucking know what’s gonna happen, there’s too many unknowns. There may be Visas that you have to pay for. When you first start a band you’re struggling to get to the show, let alone pay for a Visa you know, you’re struggling to pay for the fuel, so it may have a really significant detrimental effect, on music coming out from the UK and coming into Europe. I truly truly believe that, and personally, I think is the dumbest fucking thing we’ve ever done.
And that’s how you properly end an interview! Thank you so much for your time guys.
Thank you, it was really nice to meet you!
We also had some shenanigans between questions, so here’s a bonus story called “Don’t eat the ginger”
Jamie: Roland are you okay? Want some water? Nuts? Ginger?
Roland: No thanks…
Jamie: Do You wanna eat some ginger? Don’t eat all that, don’t go there, that would make you sick. That would make you really sick! Sam’s friend in Berlin…we were playing a show in Berlin not on this tour, but like on January 2016. I was feeling pretty shit and his friend was like, “Just eat loads of ginger!” and I was like “Sounds great, sound cool”
God no…you have to make tea with that!
Jamie: I know! That’s what I’ve been doing and he was like “Nono you don’t need to make the tea, you just need to eat it!” …I fucking threw up, it was horrible.
Sam: 10 minutes later you were fine, it works man.
Jamie: 10 minutes later…after throwing up the four days previous food you were having!