Life seems pretty good for Jamie Campbell Bower. The electric frontman for British rockers Counterfeit. should be chilling out and confident. His band have arrived in Toronto, and they’re ready to throw it down with the same kind of fury found on their 2017 debut, Together We Are Stronger.
Counterfeit. have also released a new single, “It Gets Better,” which is one-part self-help anthem and one-part middle-finger-raised punk affirmation. So with all this forward motion going on—and the appearance of a lot of bravado—AP is a little bit shocked when the singer describes himself as “feeling good, but feeling nervous.”
“It’s a huge day! The single came out. We’ve got the first show here in Canada. It’s the North American run. It’s a lot. I feel like I’m naked and exposed to the world,” he says before breaking into laughter. “But I’m happy.
“I can be a very anxious individual,” he continues. “It takes a severe amount of preparation within myself spiritually to get to where I feel comfortable to perform. One of the things that I’m very keen to do as a performer and a person is to present the most honest version of myself, and I have to tend to myself to be able to get that over. Is that bravado? Probably ego masking fear. Let’s call it that.”
Starting in 2015, Counterfeit.—Bower, guitarists Tristan Marmont and Sam Bower, bassist Roland Johnson and drummer Jimmy Craig—have routinely brought the power to the U.K. rock scene. On Together We Are Stronger, they delivered a brashness that’s not quite metal, but far more exciting than most of the stuff that passes for rock on the FM dial over here.
But with their new single, “It Gets Better,” they’ve toned down the decibels but not the message. Bower gets real and philosophical, dropping both f-bombs and positivity that sound pretty great on a playlist flanked by acts such as SWMRS, YUNGBLUD and the Dirty Nil. You won’t get punched in the face in the pit when they play it. But you’ll probably hang your arm around your bestie’s neck in solidarity.
“Sonically, I think we’ve taken a turn,” Bower says. “We still maintain that element of anger that existed on the first record with a few tracks in particular. Making that last record, I was left with a lot of anger and emotion I didn’t know how to process. I think that record was an emotional trash can for that.
“‘It Gets Better’ is definitely a signpost for things to come, but that’s not to say there aren’t elements of the old Counterfeit. [on] the new record,” he elaborates. “We’re just embracing that sensitivity a lot more. I think all of us have sensitivity and spirituality. I think those are things that exist inside all of us. It’s not something we really tap into in a modern society where capitalism is so prevalent and fucking over the next person is seemingly the most important thing. My goal as an artist—particularly when I am onstage—is to bring that level of connectivity and reality to people. I know that we can go through our lives and have interactions that don’t mean anything. I want every interaction I have to mean something. We’re losing that connection to one another, spirituality, to the environment and the world in which we live.”
Bower’s attitude about his art and his band and how they reflect in his worldview are much more refreshing than most people in his position. And toward that, he’s found the need to change up Counterfeit. in many ways. Once stark in their presentation, the band have changed their aesthetic, embracing more colors and even a mascot, Hyper, to give listeners another experience in their realm.
“Going back to personal connection to self, one of my goals as a human being is to try and connect with my inner child, the child we all have inside of us,” he reveals. “While our experience and our environment changes around us, things we’ve felt as children still remain—we all go through pain, fear and suffering, happiness and joy.
“When I was looking at this new album from afar and focusing on the aesthetic, I wanted to inject a personal level into this. So we created this character called Hyper who is loosely based on a teddy bear I had when I was growing up—who I still travel with now—and is an extension of myself when I start to lose my centeredness, and I can go off and be crazy. He’s like a mascot for the band.
“For so long, I felt like I had to bring the image of the tough guy,” he admits. “Being this hard person where nothing affects me, fuck the world and all this kind of stuff. And that’s not necessarily who I am. I’m a gentle soul who, yes, does get angry, but is still a kid and still feels love, and I want to inject elements of love and beauty into that. It’s a new era for us as people and for us as a band.”
From an outsider’s point of view, Bower doesn’t have to participate in the circus of keeping a rock band active and moving on the road. He has a stellar career as an actor with roles in successful film franchises (Twilight, Harry Potter) and will be appearing in the impending Game Of Thrones prequel series. (When asked if film and TV projects inhibit Counterfeit.’s schedule, he says “I’ve subconsciously steered myself away from projects that would keep me inoperable for a long period of time.”) But Bower’s idea of success is a lot more developed and manageable than most people in his position.
“I would define success as continuing to have a meaningful impact on those who are consuming, listening or experiencing your art,” he resigns. “How important it is for me to be successful in America is as important as it is for the rest of the world. America is a vast country that has a lot of people in it. If in that there are large, small or medium-sized pockets of people who would be impacted and empowered by the music and the message we carry, that to me is the level of success. Once we start to quantify and commodify the human experience, we lose the meaning of life.”
He pauses. “But I do love America!” he says, breaking into yet another laugh. “It’s a crazy place!”
Check out “It Gets Better” below and if you like it, pour a little out of your Venmo for it here.