Interview: Courage My Love

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On their recent support slot for Simple Plan, we had a chance to talk with Mercedes Arn-Horn of Kitchener-based Rock band Courage My Love.

We’re here with Mercedes Arn-Horn from Courage My Love. So, how are you doing this lovely & sunny afternoon?

It’s been great! This was the show we were waiting for the most out of all. Toronto is like our home base, our hometown. Tonight is a sold-out show. It was the first show of the tour to sell out in advance, so we excited for that. The Danforth (Music Hall) is a great venue, and being with Simple Plan is awesome! We’re all looking forward to tonight.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Courage My Love, can you give us a quick rundown of the roots of the band? What would you compare your sound to?

We are a simply a three-piece. Myself, my twin sister & our best friend on the bass. Our sound is weird. It’s like an eclectic of sounds. We have a mix of Rock, Indie, Pop, Alternative mess of sounds. A little something for everybody, I guess.

Your band originated from Kitchener-Waterloo area. What’s the music scene like in the Tri-Cities? What local artists (if any) influence your early sound?

It’s so different from city to city. In Toronto, there is stuff happening all the time. In Kitchener, were we ended up moving and growing up, it’s different. We grew up in this Punk scene, this Hardcore sort of scene. Our music was very different from that, it didn’t really fit in to that genre of shows that was happening in our hometown. But, they still let us play & I feel like we learned a lot from those bands that taught us. I feel like that’s were we got our stage presence, and you can hear the punk influence in a lot of our stuff, even though it’s got some Pop in it too. I feel like everywhere we go, we pick up a little bit of whatever the vibe is in that city.

This weekend (Sept 15 & 16 2017) KOI Fest is happening in Kitchener. If you wouldn’t have been on this tour, is that something you’d have been involved in?

Probably. I mean, we’ve done it a few times in the past years. I’m really glad they’re bringing it back. I think if we can bring back the scene of music in the Tri-Cities, it would be great! And in Kitchener, a lot of people want to go out to shows, but in the past few years that has been slowing down. But now, even just this year, there has been a few new venues opening up and that’s certainly help the scene. We probably would have done KOI, or at least been open to the idea.

You’re currently on a support tour with Multi-Platinum Rock band Simple Plan on their 15th Anniversary of No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls. Is this your first-time touring with them? What led to this tour lineup?

We only played one-off shows with Simple Plan prior to this tour. We never had the opportunity to do a legit tour with them, so this is cool to get to do a tour with them and watch them every night. Leading up to this tour, I think we had our eye on them for a long time. I think we really wanted to open up for them, so our management was constantly email their management, and we were simply just waiting for the right tour to come around. The scheduling worked out, and it was great!

What has been the best experience touring thus far?

Honestly, a lot of the shows have sold out. It’s fun to play to such large crowds. The cool thing about Simple Plan fans is that they’re super open, they want to simply have a good time and party, especially since it’s the 15th anniversary tour. They’re all after that nostalgic feel good vibe. Even though most of them don’t know who we are before the show starts, they’re open-minded and down to dance to our stuff. I think all those huge sold out shows that have happened, its hard to pick what my favorite one was, but those have been my favorite moments of the tour.

You just recently ended another summer-long run on Vans Warped Tour. Many bands speak of the constant struggles with doing the 40+ dates tour in the summer heat. What was CML’s experience this summer? Was it easier this time around compared to 2014?

Oh yeah! It was night & day difference. I feel like this year, we just knew what to do. We kinda already had the experience of doing it in 2014, & this year all those little things that you typically don’t think about the first you do it, we already knew what to expect. The bands this year were just so amazing, we made a lot of great friends. It was just a good vibe altogether.

Did you feel like “veterans” of the tour?

Yeah! I mean, we’ve only done it twice the whole thing. But it was definitely much easier the 2nd time around.

Your major label full length debut album Synesthesia has been out for the better part of a year now. It’s still early in the album cycle, but what has been the overall vibes you’ve received for this full-length?

We’ve basically been on tour with that album since February, so it’s been non-stop. What I’ve loved to see is at first no one knowing the songs, and just listening to it for the first time. Now, people are learning the words, and have their favorite songs from the album. I’ve gotten to see that evolution of change, taking it to different parts of the world. I think this album vs other albums is very different. We definitely took risks sonically, with the production. When we first came out with it, our first single, I think it was a shock to a lot of our old school fans who wanted the heavy guitars and breakdown-ish Pop/Punk parts. We gave them a weird Pop/Rock mix. I think it was a divide of everyone, half of them liking it and half of them being unsure of it. I think now that it has been out for a while, people have acclimated to it, and it has reached a lot of new ears. We’ve gained new fans, and I think it has done much better than any of our previous releases. Most importantly, I’m super proud of it. It’s the kind of stuff that I want to write.

Do you have a particular song that you enjoy performing?

It’s so crazy, because every tour I have a new song that is my favorite. This tour, I love playing “Two-Headed Monster”. That’s my favorite one on this tour, because I really relate to these lyrics right now. I kinda just lose myself on stage with that one right now.

Synth programming is very prevalent in the album; why did you decide to go in such a different direction sonically?

We had a long wait period in between releases, and we were constantly writing. We were on tour a lot before that too. We hadn’t really mastered the whole writing while on tour at that point. Even now, it’s a struggle to have both going on at the same time. A lot of stuff happening in-between Becoming and Synesthesia, not only as a band but also in our personal lives. We all hit some pretty serious lows, and had to rebuild from there. I think you can hear that in the record. Our tastes changed a lot, but I think we were also just sick of doing the same thing over & over again. We didn’t want to simply just re-write the same record over again. We could have gone a bunch of different ways with it, but we just wanted to be outside of the box.

Do you feel there was a path you were looking at that would make your sound more mature & accessible?

Yeah! I’ve said it before, and I’ve gotten some flak for it, but in our first press release for the album I mentioned that I didn’t want us to be put in a “Female-fronted rock” category/label. I didn’t mean it to say I wasn’t proud to be a female in rock, but I meant it more that we are hitting all these ceilings and being written off for a certain type of sound before many would even check our music out. So, we really wanted to defy all of that. We were already listening to a lot more programmy stuff. Phoenix (drums) is an amazing synth/beat programmer. It happened naturally, but we also just wanted to try something new and stray as far away from that stereotype as possible.

Do you feel that the band’s dynamics differs by having two siblings in the band?

Definitely! I think it’s a good thing, because the two of us are on the same page all the time. If we ever have any differences about creative stuff, its so minor that we can tweak it and come to an agreement on it. I get to take a little piece of home with me on tour, which is great! I don’t feel as homesick because I have her with me at all times. We’re like best friends. I do feel bad for (Brandon) Lockwood (bass) sometimes, being the only guy and non-sibling in the band. He doesn’t have that twin connection. We have our friend connection, but he may feel like he’s being ganged up sometimes. To his credit, he plays along very well. We’ve been together so long, playing together every day, that we all have the same brain in that sense. We vibe together and sorta read each other. But, there is nothing that can beat that twin connection.

What’s the typical writing process for CML. Was it the same for Synesthesia as for previous albums?

Usually it’s Phoenix and I doing everything. In previous records, we would write as many songs as the album needed and then put it out. This time around, we wrote so many songs, 80 to 100 songs. It doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but when you think of demoing out all those songs, and having to pick just 13 of them for a record, it’s like whoa! In that sense, it was different than what we normally do, involving a lot more effort for songwriting, lyrics and melodies. I think you can probably hear it on the record. We really wanted the lyrics to be as honest, relatable to as many people as possible. It can be hard to do that if you’re writing about yourself, to be able to have fans relate to it. So, I think that was our main focus in terms of the writing.

I want to stretch your memory and take you back to your childhood. What’s the first song or artist that made an impact on you?

I feel like my whole life, it’s been Radiohead. Even now, they’re my favorite band. I love Radiohead, and every album they’ve put out is such a big inspiration for me. The melodies, performance, guitar tones, vibes, and everything like that. So yeah, I think they’ll always be my #1.

A lot of people don’t understand the hard work that goes into being in a band. Explain to us some of the setbacks that comes with being in a band that you wish others understood better.

I think the only real setback that we’ve found is that we’re very lucky in the sense that we get to meet amazing people all over the world, and make these unique connections that no one else can understand. On the road and on tour, it’s a bond that really hard to describe to people who necessarily don’t do it all the time. The only thing that sucks about that is that you have to leave people behind. You have to leave your family, your loved ones, your friends, etc. And honestly, it can be really tough to be in a healthy relationship and be a touring musician because you’re away so much. It’s just so many experiences that happen on every tour, and all you can do is come back with stories of it. It’s really hard to share that with someone. I guess it’s the price you pay for living such an exciting life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I think that’s the only downside I can see about the tour life. Its hard to keep those relationships strong when you’re gone all the time. You feel like the dad who’s abandoned his kids. You miss birthdays, you miss the big important milestones like graduations. If you were doing anything else, you’d probably be able to be there for those moments. But at the same time, you’re living your dream and getting to tour the world and see places you’ve only dreamed of seeing. It’s the price you pay, and you’ve just got to hope that you have people in your life who are able to understand that. It’s a sacrifice, and not for selfish reasons.

What does the future hold for CML? Anything exciting coming up in 2018?

We just announced that we have another UK tour happening in November, and then we have our overseas tour that we will be announcing soon that’ll be happening next year. Besides touring, we’ll just continue writing and hopefully release some more new music even if its just some teasers.

Awesome! That’s all the questions I’ve got! Thanks for doing this! Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

To anyone who knows who we are, thank you for checking out our music. If you don’t know who we are, give our newest album “Synesthesia” a listen on Spotify or Apple Music.

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