Hamilton, ON’s alt-rock roots artists Bryce Clifford & Brother Superior come face to face with their “Worst Enemy” — the latest single off their forthcoming release, Rebounder.
With added influences of bluegrass, honky tonk, post-punk and old school soul woven in, the band’s newly minted third album sews in a bow the Hamilton, Ontario-based frontman’s storied 10-year sojourn to Austin, Texas and back — complete with love gained and lost.
“The story behind this album is a difficult one to talk about,” Clifford laments. “Not because of the hard feelings behind the breakup, but for the regrettably trite scenario…
“I seethe at the idea of being lumped in with lame ‘singer/songwriter seclusion’ stories,” he continues, half-groaning, half-laughing. “In all seriousness, though, I hope it isn’t filed under ‘pain makes art,’ but something more like ‘art as survival.’
“‘Worst Enemy’ was the first song I wrote for the album, and two things were going on: I was decimated by the betrayal of my girlfriend, and feeling as though the bottom had dropped out. I was also excited about giving myself the space to build a new collection of songs from scratch, so I packed up and drove north to Canada with no plan except to mine the circumstances for a collection of songs.”
Armed with experience, the 2,500-odd kilometre drive confirmed to Clifford two things: he had a record and he couldn’t let it get away. “Worst Enemy,” in particular, came to the songwriter at some point on the 1-70 E through Kansas.
“I was afraid the adrenaline would wear off, so I worked on those songs nonstop for the first several weeks. Like a common cold, I knew I’d get better so I had to chase the ideas while I was still on the bad side of symptoms.
“I set up recording gear in an unused RV my family had been storing on some empty farmland near London, Ontario. It was cold and this was self-imposed isolation before that was a thing, pre-pandemic; I was completely surrounded by snow-covered cornfields, and I shut off all social media for months, but it was perfect for silence and experimentation. It was very freeing to allow myself to be off the grid and off the hamster wheel.
“Honestly, it felt like my compass was pointing closer to the right direction.
“Based on the overwhelming feelings I had, and a racing mind, that goal was an antidote to a heart in free fall,” he continues. “This was neuron-firing creativity that had a way of absorbing the letdown, almost like a built-in defence mechanism.
“I relied on that.
“The beauty of going to such a small town was there was absolutely nothing going on, and everyone I’d known from there had moved on,” he says, recalling the time in Ingersoll. “In Austin, there had been too much going on and I’d been distracted for years. It was like a velvet coffin; at some point you realize you can have too good of a time playing the same places for the same people that you don’t notice you’re getting nowhere. By going to such a desolate spot, I tricked myself into doing the work.
“I needed to be pushed out of my comfortable rut.”
Before this year’s release, it had been ten years since Bryce Clifford & Brother Superior’s debut LP, Hail Tapes (2010), and another four since the sophomore EP, Whatever Coach (2016). The band has toured, performed and been featured extensively, including at or on NXNE, MTV, CBS, The Syfy Channel, Bravo Canada, The CW, and in the award-winning film, Here We Are.
For its part, Rebounder lands as a 12-track tome to a relationship that was, wasn’t and could be again. Its early pre-release success includes features at Austin’s DIY Conference, Toronto’s Indie Week and filming at YouTube’s headquarters; Bryce Clifford & Brother Superior are currently CD Baby Canada’s Artist of the Month for August.
“I think the songs do a good job of reflecting the mood swings in a person when the bottom drops out,” Clifford says of the release. “It documents a sort of manic confusion, and tangents from disbelief, to loss, to a ‘rock and roll’ defiance.
“The songs don’t wallow too deep for too long, either,” he adds. “They reach back in time for the bright moments, all with a narrator struggling to get the words right.
“Heartbreak is universal, and everyone gets their turn. I just feel lucky to have had a place to put it.”
“Worst Enemy” is available now.
Rebounder is available Autumn 2020.