There’s a lot to be said about Counterfeit but we’ll get to that. First things thing, here’s the premiere of their stunning new track and electric video. Check out ‘Enough‘ below, exclusively on Upset.
“Josh Homme once said that he was the shepherd of the weird and I love that,” starts Counterfeit’s vocalist Jamie Campbell Bower before admitting, “but I feel like I’m the black sheep of his flock.”
It’s a fair self-assessment. Counterfeit are something of an anomaly. Fronted by the Hollywood & West End actor who spent his youth hanging out in the same London music haunts that nurtured Frank Turner, Laura Marling, The Libertines and Mumford & Sons, there was a lot of expected paths the group could have followed without causing much of a fuss or being met with any resistance. But what would be the point in that.
“The whole idea of being an artist or a musician is that it’s a really cathartic process. I want to get rid of things that I feel and I want to talk about those things on record. The brutal honesty of it all, that’s what people can connect with. I just have to tap in and stay true. If I’m not doing that, then I think everyone would be able to see. Everyone would be able to call bullshit.”
The band are well aware that eyes are firmly locked upon them, waiting for them to let their guard down so they can strike, but the no-nonsense three-pronged attack of debut EP ‘Come Get Some’ scared the wolves from the door. New single ‘Enough’ is bigger, nastier and a rallying cry to the masses. Turns out their guard’s always been down. This is Counterfeit in real life.
“There’s a slight trepidation,” continues Jamie. “I’ve always been afraid of releasing anything ever, whether it be music, film or a photograph. Once you do that, you leave yourself open to judgment. At the end of the day, I need to push that to one side.”
And there’s no going back now.
Generally, Jamie will roughly sketch out lyrics and craft the structure of songs at home by himself -“because that’s what takes the most time” – before taking them into the studio to finesse them. ‘Enough’ started life as something completely different, “A song about me and how weird I am.” One weekend in November, Jamie was playing with the track when news broke of the attacks on the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. Processing what was happening in the aftermath, he “sat back and realised ‘I have a position here as a musician to try and address a feeling of confusion and frustration.’ I couldn’t, not say anything really. All of a sudden, for a lot of people my age, when those attacks happened it became very real for us. We could have been at that show. It seemed very tangible and very frightening at the same time. I know people who know people who were there and that’s fucking scary. That’s really, really scary so I had to try and say something. Even though it’s about that specific instance, ‘Enough’ is about unnecessary aggression and unnecessary fighting.”
“A lot of the songs I write are very personal, they’re all about me and they’re all from my perspective. I was actually on stage at the time of writing this song, I was doing a show in the theatre and we had to sit down and have a big discussion about what could potentially happen and what to do in the event of something like that happening. There was this collective feeling of dread and that really sunk in. It really hit home all of a sudden. I needed to address it more than anything. It wasn’t a conscious thought; ‘I’m going to write a song for the people.’ I just needed to voice how my generation is feeling right now.”
While the B-side to ‘Enough’ is a much more intimate insight into Counterfeit, ‘Letter To The Lost’ is still borne from that sense of trying to figure things out through verse. “I very tragically lost a friend last year through suicide and upon losing him, I decided I wanted to start working with charities to bring to light the huge issue of male suicide within our country. The most likely cause of death for men under 45 in our country is suicide. That’s a fucking terrifying statistic. When all of us, our friends and family, lost our friend and son, it was obviously a devastating moment for us. It left us feeling empty, confused and angry and I wanted to talk about that.”
Counterfeit aren’t afraid of an imaginary line or dealing with heavy topics. The band reacts to the world around them and they want their music to be just as reactive. “I want that feeling when you’re standing in a nightclub or a room and you’ve got the music on full blast. Your chest is pounding, you can feel everything and you want to scream or laugh. I want that. I want our music to be like that for people every time they hear it. I want it to draw up emotion rather than it just being an easy listen or something you can have on in the background. That would be the last thing that I would want it to be. “
“As far as our message is concerned, it’s one of love and acceptance for all,” offers Jamie. “And also that it’s ok to be weird. It’s ok to be different. For a long time growing up I was fucking different and weird,” he continues before adding “and I still am. I didn’t feel like I was allowed to be different or weird. I felt like I had to conform and then, that left me feeling empty. Ultimately, if you’re not being who you’re meant to be, then you’re going to be projecting a false image of yourself and you’re not going to be able to connect with people on an actual spiritual level. What I really want is for people to feel that ‘oh, if this person feels like this then it’s ok for me to feel like this. The emotions I feel are fine and acceptable rather than having to hide them in any way, shape or form.’”
There’s an acceptance to Counterfeit. A belief in being who you are, even if you’re not entirely sure who that is just yet. “I’m definitely still figuring myself out,” admits Jamie. “The moment I do figure myself out is the moment I disappear. We’re constantly figuring out who we are and we‘re constantly changing. Our environment affects us in certain ways. Yeah I love what I do as an actor and as a musician but they are two different sides to me. There’s Jamie Campbell Bower, the actor who does movies and press tours and who lives – from an outside perspective – a relatively glamorous life and then there’s Jamie Bower, the musician who is as raw and as honest and as open as he possibly can be.” Being in a band isn’t glamorous and it isn’t easy but it’s an environment Jamie is used to, playing the likes of The Frog and Nambucca when he was younger. “That’s what life was like for me and then I was swept up into this majestic and glamorous world of film. It’s fantastic and it’s wonderful but you can occasionally lose touch with reality because it’s not real life a lot of the time.”
Despite his background, or perhaps because of it, Jamie feels he “absolutely” still has to prove himself as a musician. “Fuck yeah. There’s going to be a lot of people out there who are going to sit back and dismiss this as this kid who’s an actor who wants to be a musician and that’s to be expected. But that drives me. That really drives me to play better, to practice, to be better and I absolutely feel like I have to prove to myself. That’s scary but it’s beneficial for me and for the band. I like a challenge. At the end of the day, this has to be taken seriously. It would be very easy for someone in my position to go out and make a record covering jazz classics. Don’t get me wrong that’s really cool and I love me some jazz classics but that’s not why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
“For me it’s about connection and seeing people cut loose and get loose. The rest of the band, the people who come to the shows and I, we all carry a lot of unnecessary stress within out lives. To go to a show or listen to a record that’s an outlet is really beneficial, not only for the audience but for us as well.”
That release is captured in the video for ‘Enough’ because “this band is a live band more than anything. I wanted to really push what it’s like to come to a show and capture that feeling of being united. That feeling of being at one with, not only the band but everyone who’s around you.”
It’s a feeling that’s only going to grow as Counterfeit have an album that’s “pretty much done. We’ve got more tracks than we need, so we’ll be able to pick the best ones.” There’s also a summer of festivals and potentially a support slot with a big rock band that’ll make a fourteen-year-old Jamie very happy. The plan for the year is just to, “crack on. Do more touring, more writing – I’m writing all the time- and basically just try and get this to where it needs to be and where we want it to be.” But first, there’s a string of headline shows.
“We’re stoked to just be able to play in a band and be out on the road. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it, we’d be happy to be a support band, let alone play headline shows,so it’s a dream come true. I get quite nervous about it because there’s nowhere to hide. It’s just me up there with my mates, playing songs about things I’ve gone through. It can be emotionally draining and it’s definitely different to anything I’ve ever had to do before but I enjoy that. If I wasn’t feeling emotionally fatigued and I wasn’t feeling like I had given everything, there would be no point in doing this,” offers Jamie. “It wouldn’t be real.”
‘Enough’ is out this Friday (April 1st). To celebrate, the band will be heading out on tour. Dates as follows.
18 Rock City Basement, Nottingham
19 King Tuts, Glasgow
20 Deaf Institute, Manchester
21 O2 Temple, Birmingham
23 Electric Ballroom, London
24 Sugar Factory, Amsterdam
25 Strom, Munich
27 Orion, Rome
29 Fabrique, Milan
30 Dynamo, Zurich
03 Bikini, Barcelona
04 Caracol, Madrid
13 Proxima, Warsaw
14 Blue Note, Poznań
15 Alibi, Wrocław
17 Schlachthof, Wiesbaden
19 FZW, Dortmund
For more on Counterfeit, head here and to find out more about more about mental health charity CALM, Campaign Against Living Miserably, head here.