From their debut album, Prophets, to their latest release, Nothing Left To Love, Counterparts have always been brazenly upfront with both their fans and critics. The group have seen lineup changes and wild nights together, but the one thing that’s remained consistent is their sound and goal as a collective unit.
Frontman Brendan Murphy chatted with AltPress to explain the group’s recording process for Nothing Left To Love as well as navigating the growth the band have made since their launch.
Nothing Left To Love came out in November, and this is the first album you’ve put out in over two years. What changed in both yourself and the band when you were writing and recording new material?
The biggest change was when we first started toying with the idea of like, “OK, we need to go back in the studio again,” and we got to do all this. So for You’re Not You Anymore, one of our original guitar players, Alex Re, came back. He’s back in the band now, but at the time, he just came into the studio with us. It was really cool to have him, so Alex was back but with the addition of our original guitar player Jesse Doreen. [Doreen] actually wrote three or four songs on the record. He was in the studio with us for even longer than Alex working on all of the other material.
It was everybody minus Adrian [Lee], like whoever had written a Counterparts song or riff or something. We were all together with Will [Putney] in the studio. It hadn’t happened in a long time. And when Jesse left the band, I didn’t think he would ever be interested in playing this type of music again. He moved into more indie and pop stuff. So in my mind, I thought he would probably never write a breakdown again.
I think this album is the most Counterparts record. When we heard “Wings Of Nightmares,” which was oddly enough written by our drummer Kyle [Brownlee], and when we heard the finished product of that, I was like, “This to me sounds like what Counterparts have always been.”
So now Alex and Kyle are permanently back with Counterparts.
Yes. So Adrian, our guitar player, left. The last tour we did, that was his last tour. He told us shortly before we went into the studio to do Nothing Left To Love that he was over it. He was like, “Yeah, I think I’m going [to] leave. I’ll finish up the year, and that’s it.” So while we were there recording, I was still thinking of other people that we could get. We had the conversation of like, “Do we get a member? Do we have a fucking guitar on a track and play a click now? Like, what are we doing?” And Alex was like, “Hey, just so you know, I’m actually interested. Like, if anyone ever leaves, I would be down to come back, so just keep me in mind.” And I was like, “Well funny enough, Adrian is literally leaving, and we need somebody. So if you’re serious about this and interested, the job is yours.” I would rather have him than some random person that I have to figure out whether I like or not.
Well, you already had an established friendship and relationship. I’m sure he understands the dynamic of the band and didn’t really need to play catch up.
We had a different guitar player before on our first demos and EPs before Prophets, so [Alex] wasn’t an original member. But Prophets was like the beginning of Counterparts, really. And he’s been around since then. So he’s been a major part of this and has been here for all of the major things. He was here for the first U.S. tour, the first Europe tour, and now he’s back. So it’s been really cool, and I’m glad that it’s him.
Absolutely. So when Alex rejoined the group, was it like going into the studio and catching up with old friends, or were there some growing pains that you had to go through to get back into the swing of things?
In all honesty, there were no growing pains at all. There was no awkwardness. When we went to the studio, Jesse and Alex came up, and it was crazy. It reminded me of recording The Difference Between Hell And Home. So having that again, but six years later, it just felt very normal.
It was so fun. We would stay up until six in the morning writing songs and partying every night. And we’d be like, “OK, it’s your turn to get the bottle today.” By the end of that week, we had like 15 songs. It was just very simple. It was like I was catching up with old friends because that’s basically what it was.
When you got to the studio and you were all having a great time, how was the writing and recording process? Aside from Alex rejoining Counterparts, how it different from your last album to this album?
I guess it wasn’t really. It was very much the Counterparts way of getting stuff done. We have a very, almost to a fault, work-at-our-own-pace type of vibe. But the process was very similar to what we did for You’re Not You Anymore. It’s like second nature doing an album with everyone and Will [Putney].
Don’t fix something if it’s not broken.
Exactly. That’s like our whole motto. That describes us pretty well. And, you know, when we put the record out and people were asking, “How is it different? Like, is it crazy? Anything wild?” I was just honest. I told them, “No. No, of course not. It sounds like a Counterparts record.” You know, it sounds like You’re Not You Anymore, but better. We just get better with every record. If we did something different, fans would just complain that it’s not the same. It is hard to navigate and deal with that kind of thing.
You’re doing what’s best for you and the band and what you want to do versus trying to make an album that wouldn’t necessarily resonate with your fans.
For sure. I think that’s the thing for a lot of bands. They feel like they’re stuck or they’ve hit their ceiling. I think every band on Earth have to hit that point where fans will get frustrated and the band get nervous, so they think they need to change. They’ll think, “We’ve got to do this weird shit, and we have to change stuff up.” Sometimes, it works and sometimes, it goes really well, and it’s like, “Oh yeah, your band are like twice as big now. Good for you.” But a lot of times, you end up putting out a record that is so different, and your whole collective fanbase just goes like, “What the fuck is this? I feel like I didn’t want this.” So I think for the most part, in true Counterparts fashion, we just want to get better at writing songs, specifically Counterparts songs.
Exactly. So Counterparts are more about growth versus change.
I think so. For me, anyway. I think if you take a listener of our band and you go from Prophets to Nothing Left To Love, you can see and hear the change. Even though it’s not stylistically too different, it’s like a before and after picture. That’s how it feels to me. That’s the impression I want to leave behind with the music. I want people to be like, “Every record they did, it just got a little bit better.”