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Counterparts’ Brendan Murphy Interview

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Counterparts (Brendan Murphy, Centre)

Hamilton hardcore outfit Counterparts just finished up touring through the states to promote their new album The Difference between Hell and Home. I had a chance to talk with singer Brendan Murphy before their headlining show in Ottawa at Mavericks.

The new album that they’re currently promoting is the culmination of over a year’s effort.

“Recording took just over a year. We are all constantly writing. It definitely took longer than the other ones. We had the record done, then we go into a studio and do preproduction and you have a whole other new set of ears that you have to impress and get on board with the songs,” explained Murphy.

Perhaps a fresh take compared to many bands, Counterparts’ songwriting is a totally collaborative process, for which the lyrics come last.

“Jesse will write a song on his computer and record it in his bedroom. He’ll send it to everyone, Alex will make some changes, Eric will write the bass, Kelly will change the drums.”

“Once we have a basic structure for how the song is going to sound and how long its going to be I’ll use that structure to write lyrics to it. Then we’ll start jamming to it. We’ll play it live and hopefully it makes it to the recording process,” Murphy said.

When it comes to lyrics, Counterparts is known for darker content. They deal with depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings of isolation.

“I don’t think about what I’m writing too much. When I start to write a song I think about how I feel right now. I think ‘OK, well I want to die’ so I’ll write a song about that. What about right now? I’m cool with everything, everything is OK today. I’ll write about that. It varies.”

“There are times I’ll look back on shit I wrote and be like ‘Man, what the hell is wrong with me?’ For the most part I write it and its cool because I can pinpoint the day I wrote it. That’s cool to me,” he added.

The lyrics and heavy emotional weight of Murphy’s writing are what draw a lot of fans to the band. It is powerful and incredibly personal.

“I like that depression is more talked about now. Its awful to go through but a few years ago you would never go and tell someone ‘I’m not happy, ever. I feel like crap everyday.’ You would never do that. I think with hardcore, and some of the other bands out there writing about it right now… It gives kids courage because it lets kids know they aren’t weird for feeling this way.”

“It could get them talking, it will get them to be more open about it. And that will lead to help. Kids will one day have it click, and they will think ‘I need to really figure this out’ and that’s the end goal for anybody,” he said.

Murphy urges fans to not let mental illness define them and to learn to manage it.

“It makes people feel like they are not alone, it opens them up to get help. That is the end goal of this whole thing. Figure it out. Figure out why you feel like this and try to your best to change it.”

Counterparts has built a strong sense of community through an active social network presence. This is part of their desire to connect and fight feelings of isolation.

“Tumblr is good for people asking you questions. You get some cool ones. Whether they are funny or stuff people might actually want to know the answer to,” Murphy said.

“It is mind boggling to me how it works. People will get a band’s logo and put it over a picture of a mountain and 100,000 people have reblogged it or liked it, and they now know that band. I don’t know if it’s amazing or if I hate it more than anything in the world.”

“Overall, I think social networking is pretty cool. I think we are a band that actually answers when kids asks us things. Whether its dumb and we aren’t serious most of the time, 98% of the time unless I don’t see it, if a kid has an actual question, we do our best to answer them. We don’t want to leave them in the dark. That is part of the reason people get stoked about us. ‘Oh I follow Counterparts on twitter, they are hilarious’ We aren’t the same old stale, ‘Hey, we are playing a show here, come hang out here, tickets are this much.’ We are like ‘Yo find and take a screenshot of the most embarrassing twitter bio or send us pictures of your dog,’” he pointed.

But the social networking isn’t just for the fans. It helps Brendan and the rest of the guys stay amused through a gruelling tour schedule.

“Oh my god, I’m so bored [on tour]. On this tour, luckily enough we are with Exalt and A Sight For Sewn Eyes and they are like legitimately my best friends. Exalt are my best friends, we hang out all the time when we are home. Sight For Sewn Eyes we did our first headlining tour with, and we’ve been great friends with them for years. We don’t need to do anything extravagant. I’m in the room with 15 or 10 people that I really, truly enjoy being around. When we tour with bands and there is nothing to do I stay on my phone. I do the Twitter thing. I just try my best to piss people off on that.”

“I watch a lot of The Simpsons. I have all the seasons on my iPod,” mused Murphy.

For Murphy, The Simpsons holds more substance than just something to pass the time on tour.

“One of my earliest TV memories was me and my dad everyday at 5 o’clock. If I was doing something, if I was outside or whatever my dad would get me and tell me ‘Hey its 5 o’clock, Simpsons are on.’ Every single day at 5 o’clock we’d watch The Simpsons. That is why I can quote every line from every episode in seasons 3-9. It sounds lame but its a big part of my life.”

Counterparts even printed a shirt based off the Kirk Van Houten ‘Can I Borrow A Feel Tape.’

“It took us so long to sell those fuckers. Kids didn’t get. They were like ‘Oh that’s a nice Milhouse shirt.’ ‘Well first its a Kirk Van Houten shirt and he’s going through a rough divorce.’ Not a lot of people get it, they just see it and think ‘Oh cool Simpsons shirt, let me get the one with the word fuck on it or the one with “I hate god”’. That shirt was wicked. I want to bring it back but I just don’t think kids will be into it.”

Murphy and the rest of Counterparts will return to Ottawa to play Ritual with hardcore giants Terror on October 20th. To tide you over check out their new record and ask them things on Tumblr.

Written by Joe Ryan

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