INTERVIEW: Counterfeit at Slam Dunk Festival 2017

Punk-rock newcomers Counterfeit have been making waves internationally since the release of their debut album Together We Are Stronger earlier this year. We caught up with the band at Slam Dunk North to chat all about touring, festivals, and how their music has evolved since their early days as The Darling Buds.

How was your show yesterday?

Jamie Campbell Bower: Amazing. It’s our first time at this festival. The first time at something kind of like this in terms of a travelling circus, as we call it.

The show was amazing and it was outside and you never know what to expect really when you come and play a festival. For us, being a relatively new band, it’s always a bit of a nerve-wracking experience. So to go out there and to have a crowd that was so keen was fucking wild, I’m stoked.

This is your first time playing the festival — did you know what to expect?

Tristan Marmont: From the type of bands that are here I think yes. It’s a vibe that we all very much connect with and we’re so excited. There are so many bands that we’d listened to when we’ve been growing up that are playing here. It’s just amazing to be playing this festival, it’s very cool.

Roland Johnson: I came last year so I kind of knew what to expect, what the vibe was like and last year there were some great bands, so it was good.

With regards to how the show went yesterday, we didn’t know how it would be but it turned out to be fucking amazing and people turned out and it was great. I was blown away by how great it was.

You’ve had an incredibly busy 2017. With all the press you’ve received for the band and for your debut Together We Are Stronger do you feel any pressure as we go into festival season?

JCB: I think there’s pressure no matter what show that we play really. For us, this means so much that going out there and doing it we feel an obligation to people, of course we do, and an obligation to ourselves as well.

So the pressure’s always going to be there of course like we said earlier, you’re going to come into a festival and being a relatively new band that fear is always going to be there but we thrive off that and I think we thrive on the challenge.

We need the pressure! I think if you become relaxed and you become complacent then you lose the drive.

So like you say you are a relatively new band — how have you found moving into this industry?

JCB: It’s been amazing. I mean, the shit that we’ve learned and the people that we’ve met have just been incredible for us.

It has been a real learning curve and it’s not one of those learning curves that happens gradually it’s like you start it, and then you’ve got all this shit to fucking deal with. There’s so much to do! But it’s great, you know, it keeps us from having idle hands.

TM: It keeps you fighting. There’s always a new obstacle to overcome.

JCB: But the industry and the scene, in general, has been incredibly accepting and very welcoming of us. It’s something that as a listener you feel in the fan sense and then you move into the other side of it and start to play and it’s still there you know and that community’s still there and that’s really important and really cool.

We’ve had a lot of help from people too. For instance, our van packed in one tour and our tech got on a Facebook thread with loads of other techs and people who rent vans and stuff like that and within an hour we had this guy coming from fucking Belgium to come and help us out like it’s amazing.

TM: We were in a different country and he came and picked us up!

How have you found the reaction from your fans, obviously music is an extremely close-knit community, how has that been?

JCB: It’s been amazing. I think ultimately for us the main thing that we want is to create a shared unified experience that is predominantly our message as artists.

From the chats that we have with people either before shows or after shows or when we meet people we know they connect with what we’ve done on records and that is above my wildest expectations really.  Even if it’s one person that comes up and is like ‘this meant something to me’ or` ‘this helped me in a certain way’ it’s mindblowing really.

Would you say that your music has a message?

JCB: I would say that ultimately the message is about, and it can sound kind of contrived I think, but the record’s very open and very honest in its portrayal of my flaws as a writer and as a person and human being and that exists from track one to track ten on the album.

But, the throughline that comes out of that is hope I think is the hope that tomorrow could be better or that there’s somebody out there who also feels that way, who is as screwed up and as fucking confused as we are, and our ultimate message is one of unity hence the album title.

Is it important to you that people understand what you’re saying, or is it more that people can take what they need to from it?

JCB: I think a lot of our songs come from a place of personal trauma and so in that sense, there is myself attached to it. But if somebody can take that and transfer it into their own life and identify with it then that’s equally as brilliant.

Do you feel festivals like Slam Dunk are an important platform for you to build a fanbase?

RJ: Massively! It’s an opportunity to get out and play in front of new people and spread our band. Whether they come because they’ve seen us in a magazine or they’ve stumbled by because they couldn’t get in to see another band, it’s an opportunity for us to get out there so we kind of go out knowing that it’s different to other kinds of shows.

It’s a challenge as well because we always want to better ourselves, we always want to push it forward, so ultimately it gives you drive to take it to the next level and step it up.

You’ve recently finished a UK headline tour, how did that go?

JCB: Amazing, yeah we did Europe, and then we came back here and did the UK and for us playing on home turf is an amazing opportunity. Any show is an incredible opportunity really.

So to be able to go up and down this amazing country and play some killer shows and connect with people and talk to people – this is where we live, this is our home, it means everything!

This was your first opportunity to showcase songs from your debut Together We Are Stronger, how did fans react?

JCB: Badly, everyone left! After track one there was no-one left in the room!

It was great! From playing before we had the album out to playing shows now the connection between band and audience is way stronger because people know it, and you’re not having to be like “Yo this is what we’re about, can you dig it?” People are coming and they dig it, and they’re into it, and there’s that interaction that’s just electric from the get-go.

RJ: It was mad to be able to turn up to new cities that we’ve never been to before and be able to have fans screaming the words back – that’s something that’s so great about having the record out – people can listen to it  and come down and they’re closer – we feel closer because they’ve already consumed it, they’ve already taken it in and learnt the words so that’s mad.

How do you feel your sound has evolved from when you were The Darling Buds?

JCB: I mean a lot of the stuff that we were playing before was written acoustically then transferred into a more electric environment. It was a lot more poppy and a lot nicer and I think that that was the nature of who we were as writers because we were younger and because you don’t develop as a writer until you start putting yourself out there. 

I think we got to a stage with the old band where we were playing more shows and stuff was sort of happening and it wasn’t a very true representation of who we were. There was a definite moment where it was like “Well we can continue with this, we absolutely could continue to play music with this style with this message”, but really a lot of the songs we were playing I’d written when I was 16, 17 years old – I’m 28! It was 11 years ago and you see bands develop over an 11 year period from here to there so it was time for us to really do what felt right.

So it was just a case of growing up?

RJ: Yeah – we’ve all played in other bands of all genres, we never went out like “We’re gonna be this genre, we’re gonna be that genre” we just write and whatever comes out and I think it’s a natural progression of where we were at.

It was just like “Let’s write songs and see what happens” and with the other band finishing off it was like “Right let’s knuckle down and put our hearts and souls into it” as we always do, but lets see what it creates and this band was born out of that.

We never said we were going to write this music, we were gonna write that, we were going to put this in the song. 

You’re playing a tonne of festivals this summer — which are you most looking forward to?

JCB: This! And tomorrow, and Reading and Leeds is going to be amazing. It’s insane that we’re able to play that stage. I’m kind of terrified but excited but it’ll be great, it’ll be fine.

If I’m not there it means I’ve run away like go find another artist – maybe steal Ben from Billy Talent y’know? Get him to learn the song!

Yeah and then we’ve got some amazing German festivals as well like Hurricane and Southside are going to be amazing. Pretty much every festival we’re playing this year, I look at the lineup and I think, Jesus, I want to go to that festival alone, and the fact that we get to play it is an added bonus.

So what’s your bucket list festival to play?

Sam Bower: Reading and Leeds I think.

RJ: Yeah, Reading and Leeds for me. I’ve always wanted to play it so it’s kind of like a dream come true to see the band’s name on the lineup.

TM: Yeah, I think bucket-list is probably headline that festival, isn’t it? Y’know, T in the Park, Glastonbury…

RJ: Rock Am Ring

T: Rock Am Ring! Yeah

RJ: Yeah, we’re doing a load of festivals this summer that will be good. We’ve recently been seeing what stages we’re on and what our stage times are because we didn’t know -it just kind of blows us away, it’s mad!

TM: Anything past like 11am on any stage I’m like “You’re joking, right?”

Are you a fan of Counterfeit? Let us know @CelebMix!

Written by Faith Ridler

Faith Ridler is a UK based student, music journalist, and twenty one pilots aficionado. Follow her on Twitter @FaithLRidler!