Counterparts’ Brendan Murphy Talks Humble Beginnings In Canada’s Most Overlooked Scene
Brendan talks to us about how not giving a fuck anymore helps the process of writing a record.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.
Somewhere in Hamilton Ontario, the small sleepy city outside of Toronto mainly known for its industrial focus, lies Brendan Murphy. Murphy is the vocalist of the Canadian five piece metal hardcore band Counterparts, a band that's experienced exponential growth in their nine years of being active. From playing shows for 30 strangers in a small bar in Whitby to touring Europe with bands like Architects and Senses Fail, Counterparts have been catching the eyes and ears of a lot more people since their inception, thanks mostly to their unique idiosyncratic metalcore sound. After releasing their sophomore album The Current Will Carry Us through Victory Records in 2011, the band then followed the debut up with The Difference Between Hell and Home in 2013. Most recently they released Tragedy Will Find Us, in 2015 through Pure Noise Records and New Damage Records, being their biggest and most refined album yet that will shiver you straight to your bones. Despite their growth from humble beginnings, Counterparts are able to retain their signature sound which is best described as perfect blend between malleable and impenetrable.
With each project sounding more mature than the one before it, the band's most recent record, Tragedy Will Find Us, showcases the band’s ability to write dark critical music that also features shimmers of light used to keep the footing of each record. As a result, their sound of seamlessly blending brutal tones with spots of radiance emphasizes the importance of having both. In a genre that's sits on such a delicate teeter between chaos and melodies, Counterparts finds a perfect balance of the two. "Collapse" off their third album, Tragedy Will Find Us, starts off energetic and powerful, but by the end of it, the song quite literally collapses into itself with a hollowed out emotional ending. With Brendan's vulnerable lyrics and Jesse's incomprehensibly intricate rhythmic patterns, Counterparts have found their spot in the metalcore genre as their own.
When asking Brendan about the differences between Canadian and American crowds, he frustratingly explains the lack of enthusiasm he gets from some American bands to venture across their northern border because they believe it to be not as exciting or big as America. After actually playing Canada do they realize the potential that it has. "Now having American bands go 'Oh fuck! I don't want to go across the border, I don't wanna play Canada.' and then having them play Toronto and having their minds blown.” explains Brendan. He then goes on to express his belief for the Canadian crowds that he has been tirelessly playing to for almost over 10 years. “I just wish more people came and tried to venture into Canada more because people here definitely do care.”
We talk with Brendan Murphy about how the band came to be, the recording process and not caring what people think anymore.
Noisey: So how did Counterparts come to be?
Brendan Murphy: [Laughs] I remember randomly getting a message on MSN asking me if I wanted to be in a band and I said "Yeah, sure". It was a couple of friends and a couple of people I didn't know. Jesse, our guitarist, was one of the kids that I didn't know. I just got my dad to drive me there and that was the start of playing music. I would often go to Jesse's house and try to write songs and that was kind of the beginning. We couldn't find a drummer for a while, so we would write songs and jam with no drums. Then eventually I was sitting beside a girl in science class and she asked what I do and she introduced me to her cousin who plays drums and it was Ryan our original drummer, I remember messaging him on Myspace and asked if he wanted to jam. He walked his drums over in the winter. It was so stupid but he did it, and that was the start of Counterparts.
How do you guys write and record?
Jesse writes a lot of the music. He wrote all of Tragedy Will Find Us on his own, so a lot of it is just him writing songs. I would imagine that he would lay the guitars down first and then programs the drums and records bass on the backup bass we have at home. Then we would have this demo to go off of, a "home pre-pro", if you will. We would just start jamming to that and once we go into the studio, we do the preproduction with Will Putney. Sometimes I'll have lyrics, sometimes I won't. You go and you live in essentially a factory for a month in a shitty town in New Jersey.
So it's like theres nothing else to do but record right?
Yeah exactly, Theres like a liquor store and a taco bell and that's really it.
And that's all you need!
For the most part, yeah. Recording the last record, there was a straight up week where it was snowing and I didnt go outside. Like I didn't see sunlight for a week.
I know that you write a lot about your personal issues and you tend to be fairly open with your lyrics. Do you think your openness in writing has come easier to you now? After writing three?
Yeah, I remember writing for Currents Will Carry Us and wondering if people are gonna get bummed out cause my lyrics were positive then I realized that I can't lie and say something I don't mean, it just isn't right. Definitely over time, I kind of stopped caring what people think of what I say and just say it.
Now that you guys have been a band for a while do you think there was a version of Counterparts that people like the most?
I think that 90% of people gravitate towards us now and it's smart because why live in the past? However, I do think there are that there are that 10% of fans. When we got our first offer to tour California and back for $100 a night, am I supposed to say no because there are like 3 kids in Ajax that really want us to play at Johnny B's in Whitby? No. Doesn't matter what band you are, you have to live with people like that.
And do you think there's a difference between American and Canadian crowds?
There honestly isn't that much of a difference. Canadian shows were crazy and local shows were pretty good. I remember going to a show in Burlington and there would be 300 kids to see The Miles Between and On Broken Wings. Now having American bands go “Oh fuck! I don't want to go across the border, I don't wanna play Canada.” and then having them play Toronto and having their minds blown. I think that certain people have been really helping Canada out and things have definitely been better than they were 3 years ago. I just wish more people came and tried to venture into Canada more because people here definitely do care.
Byron Yan is a writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.