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Comeback Kid Exposes The Power And Logistics Of Ambition

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

Let it never be said that punks aren’t industrious. Since forming in 2002, Winnipeg’s Comeback Kid has managed to break out of nowhere and position themselves among the top bands in the national hierarchy of “Bands That Matter” and, on the strength of just three albums along with an Ironman‘s touring schedule, won themselves a rabid global following. That in and of itself is impressive, but not content to rest on laurels, the band recently embarked upon a most ambitious tour across Canada; with twenty dates scheduled in just twenty-one days. That’s an impressive feat to say the least but amazingly, they‘ve managed to top themselves on this very jaunt. By Hiebert’s own admission, Comeback Kid spent most of 2007 paying dues as a support act for other bands but now the shoe is on the other foot; on this twenty-date tour, Comeback Kid is headlining and to ensure that they bring their best game every night, they’ve enlisted not one or two but six support acts to share the stage for the duration of the tour; inadvertently turning this road show into a sort of festival in its’ own right.

A six-band tour across the largest country on Earth is, for the uninitiated, certainly a massive undertaking, but in conversation with the guitarist, it becomes apparent that ambitious outings are Comeback Kid’s stock in trade. While the band has been offered more than a significant amount of fanfare since the appearance of Wake The Dead [Victory Records, 2005], the snowball has only grown as the band’s 2007’s Broadcasting album cracked the Billboard Top 200 albums list as well as charting in the Top Ten Independent Albums register. With that kind of reception, it only made sense to roll the dice and take a risk, so that’s exactly what the band has done with their recently-released DVD, Through The Noise.

The second day of the tour found guitarist Jeremy Hiebert already beginning to show signs of stress as he searched for a place to park the band’s van on the streets of Cologna, British Columbia. There’s a certain strained quality to his voice that betrays that misgiving – not that he’s worried Comeback Kid has bitten off more than they can chew, more hoping that the other bands will be able to keep up. 

Bill Adams vs. Jeremy Hiebert, guitarist of Comeback Kid

JH: Hello?

BA: Hello, Jeremy?

JH: Speaking.

BA: Hey Jeremy, it’s Bill Adams calling. How’re you doing?

JH: I’m good – How’re you?

BA: I’m not too bad. Where are you right now?

JH: I’m in Cologna, BC right now.

BA: Okay, so obviously you haven’t hit the stage yet, it’s too early out there.

JH: Right. Yeah, I think we’re hitting the stage in about two hours or so. So right now I’m just circling around Cologna trying to find parking; we were parked in front of the venue and apparently that’s not allowed, so now they’ve sent me on a wild goose chase to find somewhere to put the van. I’m good to do the interview though. If you hear a big crash, that just means I’m trying to nudge somebody out of my parking spot because it will be my spot if I see the opportunity.

BA: And on the other side of the coin, if I hear a big crash and a sort of rattle that sounds like you breathing your last, I’ve suddenly got the exclusive story.

JH: I guess that’s true.

BA: Wow, that’s cynical. So how’s the tour going? You can’t be too far in just yet….

JH: Yeah, we just started last night. We did the first show in Vancouver – which was awesome – and it was a nice surprise because I wasn’t quite sure how they’d have us, but it turned out really, really good. I think the last time we were there was probably about two years ago so I was a little surprised. We skipped it last time because we’ve been doing a lot of support tours and they just haven’t been going there so it was really good; we got the tour off to a good start.

BA: That’s cool, why were you surprised?

JH: Uhm, just because we have a very strong package with us; we really wanted to bring our friends’ bands out on this one and so there are six bands all together on this tour. That’s a pretty tough act to follow; following six bands that all know what they’re going, it’s not like taking a couple on tour and you might have a couple of locals opening, these are six touring bands and they’re all really strong so it’s always going to be a tough act to follow on this tour.

BA: Yeah, I can kind of understand why, you’ve got your own mini-Warped Tour out there with you.

JH: Yeah – it’s a little like a mini traveling festival [chuckling].

BA: Sounds like it. Now forgive me, but who’s out with you?

JH: Misery Signals, Bane, Shai Hulud, Outbreak and Gravemaker.

BA: Really! Shit you’ve got a pretty wide spread of sounds there.

JH: Yeah – I think everybody can at least trace a few roots back to hardcore, but we’ve metal, we’ve got punk rock – but I think the ‘Core is the tie that binds here so it’s a good mix. It’s a good mix of people too because we’ve got Canadians, Americans and people from all over, people that have been doing it for a long time and people that are just starting out. We’ve toured with most of these bands before though and, if we haven’t, we’ve been friends with them for a while so it’s a good mix.

BA: Sounds like it, now is everybody in for the long haul? Are there sporadic dates for some of the bands and one gets replaced with another?

JH: Nope, nope, I think it’s a twenty-one day tour and everybody’s going coast to coast with us so we’re pretty excited about it. Oh – just to give you a little update, I made it; somehow I managed to find a parking space with enough room for a van and a trailer without having to push anybody out [laughing].

BA: As soon as you said it, I was going to ask how the other guy’s car was….

JH: [laughing] They lucked out – they took the right spot.

BA: Nice – now how’s this working then? My understanding of it is that you’ve got a new DVD forthcoming….

JH: Yeah – the new DVD hits the same day we go to the polls: October 14th. That’s less than a week from now I think – I always lose track when I’m on tour….

BA: Yes it is, and from what I understand, everybody does. Bad Religion has solved the problem though, they don’t bother to reset their watches; they don’t bother, they just put their heads down get it done and sleep when they get there.

JH: Exactly! Wednesday? Sunday? I don’t know, it’s show day. There’s ‘night’ and ‘day.’

BA: That’s cool. So what are the sets looking like? Let’s begin at the beginning: You’ve got the DVD coming, is it a live document?

JH: Originally, I threw the idea past the guys that we just get our friend Jim – who makes documentary films – to come out with us to Europe and do a ‘Live In Europe’ tour doc or something so we did that and, after we came home we kept thinking about how we wanted to add this and add that to it and then, the next things we knew, we were talking about doing a ‘from beginning to current’ documentary so basically there’s stuff from our first show, stuff from us recording, interviews and just giving an idea of what we’re like on the road, and then there’s another section where we shot a live show with a six-camera crew in Germany; that turned out really well – a lot better than I thought it would because I always try to set the bar in my mind pretty low because I’d rather be surprised than not – and then we also included a second disc included which is all the audio from that show. It’s a good little package and if you see us live [impersonating a hot-blooded salesman] it’s only ten bucks! Seriously though, it’s done really well and I’m not just saying that because I’m in the band. The guy that shot it really went the extra mile to make it look good because record labels aren’t usually interested in putting a lot of money into DVDs because they don’t typically tend to sell very well.

BA: Don’t they?

JH: Oh, I don’t know – I think if Metallica sells a million records, they’ll probably sell 100, 000 copies of their DVD or something so, needless to say they tend to be smaller-budget things – especially for us because we are not a band like Metallica by any stretch of the imagination [laughing]

BA: Yeah, but by the same token, if somebody asks me if I want to see Comeback Kid and then somebody asks me if I want to see Metallica on the same night, I’ll take Comeback Kid. I’m not gonna lie. I mean seriously – it’s Metallica; people are over the moon for their new record right now but, really, it’s Metallica – it’s been done.

JH: I’m curious to hear it, people have given me all kinds of mixed opinions about it, but I’d like to hear it for myself.

BA: I’ve heard bits and pieces, and, honestly what I’ve heard sounds like a cross between The Black Album and an alt-metal shred record. But as I say, I’ve only heard a couple of tracks.

JH: Yeah, people have been saying that it sounds like their older thrashier stuff and that kind of piqued my interest. I’ll have to give it a fair listen on one of these long overnight drives.

BA: But I digress, let’s get back to your stuff; as you say, the DVD’s going to be out shortly, what are the set lists for this tour looking like? Reflective of it? Similar? Dump it all and do all-different stuff?

JH: We’ll never be the band that dumps all of their old material and plays all new stuff because the old stuff is very important to us and those kids that come out and have been there since the beginning want to hear it. That said, we always try to play a healthy balance of all three records that we have and that does get reflected in the set list on the DVD; in our live shows, we try to pick three, four, or five songs from each record that seem to make sense for the show.

BA: Okay, is it the same set list for the whole tour or are there variances in the pattern?

JH: We change it up a little, but there is a core to our set list that we play every night. There are a few songs like that, but then there are a couple of other songs that we change up every couple of days.

BA: And you said the tour is twenty-one dates?

JH: I think so, last night was the first show and then the twenty-seventh of the month is the last show and we have one day off in the whole thing. I think it works out to twenty shows in twenty-one days.

BA: Okay, so you’ve got to be doing the bob-and-weave across the border – there’s no way you’re doing all of Canada in twenty-one days with just one day off.

JH: No, no, no, there’s none of that. There’s no way we’re going into the States; I hate crossing the border. We’re doing an exclusively Canadian tour where we don’t have to worry about the ins and outs and all the other hassle we’ve had to deal with before.

BA: That’s pretty impressive routing.

JH: Oh, don’t get me wrong, there will be some serious overnight driving [laughing].

BA: What happens next? Are there plans to record in the near future?

JH: Right now we’re just really focussed on this DVD so we’re going to be doing this tour to support it, then we’re going to South America for the first time in November and, after we take December off, we’re heading to Australia and do a tour down there. That’s always a good time to go because it’s their summer and the Winnipeg winter isn’t very enjoyable you know? That’s the plan for now; we haven’t really talked about a new record yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to get in on that soon too and do some serious writing.


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