Editor’s Note: This is where I need to start having video conversations moving forward. I feel like this conversation piece with Kitchener’s own Courage My Love simply isn’t going to do justice to how amazing this really was. They are three amazing people that could possibly be the most down to Earth people I have ever had the pleasure of having a conversation with. It seems like every topic under the sun is covered. Three awesome souls that are super genuine people that love and care about people! I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality! Without further delay, here is my conversation with Mercedes Arn-Horn, Phoenix Arn-Horn, and Brandon Lockwood, who make up Courage My Love. Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ilovecouragemylove and at their official website at www.ilovecouragemylove.com
M.T.C.: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with me. Tell me who you are and what you do in the band.
Mercedes: Thanks for having us! I’m Mercedes and I sing and play guitar.
Brandon: I’m Brandon and I play bass.
Phoenix: I’m Phoenix and I sing and play drums.
M.T.C.: What’s the best punk rock concert you’ve been to?
Phoenix: The Descendants!
Mercedes: Except this guy threw a full water bottle at his head! I felt like the whole crowd was going to come after him, but he carried on just fine like nothing happened.
M.T.C.: Craziest show for me was Norma Jean in Iowa City. Do you have moments where fans do anything crazy like hardcore dancing or whatnot?
Mercedes: They do! Sometimes it’s weird, our lightest songs they’ll do that or something, but whatever gets the crowd moving, I don’t really care! We’ve had mosh pits and circle pits, but it’s never when we ask for it, I never ask for it because I’m so scared of rejection, but when it does happen, it’s magical.
M.T.C.: In terms of fans, what’s one thing you appreciate about them and one thing that they do that creeps you out?
Phoenix: Obviously, there’s so many things to appreciate about our fans and the fact that people actually want to make an effort to come out to a show and spend money to come see you. It’s sick to think that people want to take time out of their day and spend money to see you, so that’s obviously something that we appreciate.
Mercedes: In Chicago, they came early to help us load in and there are fans that show up and they’re more like friends and they’ll come and buy you dinner and hang out with you. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that, just knowing that we have a connection with people, it feels like we have a friendship with them or like an extended family with them.
Brandon: We don’t have a lot of money! *laughs* We’re like super Canadian that we don’t like to take it, we’re like NO NO NO! *laughs*
Phoenix: The only time that’s weird is that fans will sometimes get possessive of you and won’t let you talk to other fans, that’s kind of weird. It’s kind of awkward.
Mercedes: It’s like, “no, I made a connection first, they’re mine, they’re my friends”. Sometimes that happens and it’s a little awkward.
M.T.C.: What’s the most stereotypical thing you find about Iowa and Midwest?
Mercedes: The fields! You drive through and there’s a lot of farmland and stuff! It’s like the Slipknot cover, it makes me think of Slipknot!
Brandon: I thought we were in Portland! *laughs*
Phoenix: It’s a pretty cool vibe! A lot of buildings, bars, and clubs a lot of that cool stuff around here. It does have an artsy vibe!
Mercedes: We pull into Des Moines, after being surrounded by fields, and we’re like, “oh, this is pretty cool”!
M.T.C.: What’s your view on music education?
Phoenix: I think it’s pretty important because if I wasn’t in piano lessons when I was young, I don’t think that I would appreciate music the way that I do now, and knowing how to write a song the way that I do now, and just chord structures, and that kind of thing.
Mercedes: Music therapy for us is really important. I know that for us, whenever I have a really rough period in my life, I always have music to fall back on. Writing a song, that’s my therapy session. It’s really important to have an outlet, whether you’re a kid, teenager, or young adult, it’s good to have a creative outlet, instead of a destructive path.
Brandon: It’s important for kids to get involved, whether it’s sports or music, something that you can dedicate yourself to. It shows you responsibility, it shows you team building, it’s really important for kids to go out and play sports, I’m a firm believer that kids should be doing something like that, whether it’s art or drama, you just learn team building, you learn how to interact with people, basically how to become an adult.
Mercedes: It helps with your self-esteem so much when you become good at something. It’s part of who you are.
M.T.C.: Growing up, or right now, is there any bands or artists that draw you in on a personal level to help you with music therapy?
Mercedes: Death Cab For Cutie always gets me right in the feels. They’re just one of those bands that I always find myself coming back to from when I was 13 to now. I still feel the same way when I listen to them now.
Phoenix: Ellie Goulding for me. I know that’s a weird choice, but when I’m in a bad mood, I’ll put on one of her songs and it always helps me out, and her lyrics are pretty great on some albums.
Brandon: Growing up, Nirvana and Alice In Chains, they’re not the best role models, but you can just kind of see what they went through. I would read their biographies growing up. It just kind of puts a perspective on life. Now that we are all in our 20’s, we can kind of understand what they were coming from at that time, you get a positive mindset out of a negative thing.
Phoenix: You can see that when someone suffers from an addiction or something like that, they can get through it and create music, that’s pretty cool.
M.T.C.: I think there’s a reverse psychology that kind of plays into that as well.
Mercedes: I think when you hear the lyrics when you’re in a really sad mood, the reason we create it is not because we want to be more sad, but it’s more like you’re not going through it alone. The artists in a way maybe understand what you’re going through at the time, even in reverse, when we are writing that music, we keep that in mind, we’re always writing about ourselves, but I like to think of it as bands that are listening to the songs, we try to identify with it.
M.T.C.: Going off with what you are all saying, the new album “Synesthesia”, take us through that album and kudos to you all for changing direction in your music!
Phoenix: Thanks! We’re not the kind of band that tries to make the same album over and over again, we just want to experiment and see what we can do as a band.
Mercedes: Exactly! The next album is probably not going to sound anything like “Synesthesia”, basically we wrote the album about going through the worst year in all of our lives, it was a really rough year. Lyrically, its pretty dark.
Brandon: 2016 sucked! *laughs* Bury it!
Phoenix: Basically, it was about the two years it took for us to write the album and just personal stuff that we went through. “Synethesia” is basically a disorder where one sense triggers another sense, for example, hearing something could conjure up a color, so that’s why we decide to create a more synthy/programmy type of stuff, just because that’s in our heads and it kind of made sense. For example, one thing triggers another thing, an event that happens in your life will trigger an emotion, or if you’re an artist, sometimes listening to music will conjure up a picture or a mental image. That’s why we chose that album title.
M.T.C.: Take us a day in the life of recording a Courage My Love song.
Mercedes: The writing process starts with Phoenix and I, and then Brandon will come in once we have the lyrical parts of the song down, and the three of us jam it out and we fine tune the parts. Once we have that, we will demo it and it’s all systematic. It starts with drums, then the bass, and then guitar, then the synths, then the vocals are usually the last thing to go on because for me at least, I find it really important to feel the vibe I go into the studio and sing. Because if I’m singing with something that is half-finished, I feel that it’s hard to get the final picture of it, and that’s pretty much it. It was a long process that almost took two years to complete.
M.T.C.: How did it change from before?
Mercedes: Before, we were just kind of going with whatever, it was like, “okay, I like that song, it’s going on the record”. With this one, we probably wrote 60 songs and we had to narrow it down to the cream of the crop. We felt like we were done so many times, we talked to our label, we talked to our producers, and we’ve come to realize that it’s not all done yet. That’s a big part of why it took so long to write and record, because we recorded half of it, and we took six months to write the rest and record the rest. It was really different, we have never done it that way before. I think it’s also kind of cool, I think that’s why it sounds like a story that we wrote. The first six songs that we wrote was when we were so depressed, so down in the dumps, and the last five songs we wrote, we were sort of getting over it and getting over that period, so it’s a stronger record for us personally.
M.T.C.: Do you have a studio in your collective houses or?
Brandon: Not really! We all have like a personal studio.
Mercedes: We all have our laptops that we use, when we recorded it, we did half of the recording in New Jersey with David Beckett, and we did the other half in Toronto with Chris Perry. He’s done a lot of our other work before.
M.T.C.: I really like the song and video for “Stereo”, I picture it as cruising around with friends on a roadtrip through the open road, is that the vibe that you’re portraying or?
Mercedes: I think the song means different things for different people. We wrote it about a family sort of falling out, my mom she has a bunch of sisters, so the first verse is talking about how they’re getting ready to go out to a dance or something like that, and they’re best friends getting drunk together like what sisters do, girls just hanging out together and having a good time, and then something along the way, they just fall out and they’re not best friends anymore, so we tried to capture that, we were really inspired by that. Phoenix and I are like super best friends, I don’t know what I would do without her, so it just kind of hit me when I saw my mom go through that. Then, for the video, there was a lot of thought that we put into it. If you watch the video, it’s all about a lack of communication, so there were a lot of props that we got, like old transistor radios, old phones, and stuff like that, basically really cool old technology that really doesn’t work anymore. All the old communication and technology that you can’t really use anymore, we also have it so the three of us that are in the video, for every shot, there’s only one person in the shot, we are never together. I’m singing in the room and two of them are on the TV trying to get up, but never actually together in the shot, so we’re trying to build that sort of sense of solitary of just loneliness and desperation of trying to reach out to them.
M.T.C.: It’s pretty much symbolic of what we go through as people today. You’ll see people hanging out together but they’re texting instead of talking with one another.
Mercedes: For sure! We’re all pretty guilty of that! *laughs* I think the three of us are at that stage to where we don’t have to always carry conversations with each other, we can just be quiet and share silence together, and it doesn’t feel weird. I do know what you’re saying, I feel like sometimes the art of the conversation and the art of being real is starting to get lost.
M.T.C.: I saw on the news where they’re creating texting lanes where if people are texting and walking they are in the texting lane.
Brandon: Oh shut up! *laughs*
Mercedes: That’s ridiculous!
Brandon: What kind of world is this? Just put your phone down!
Phoenix: It’s probably from Pokemon Go! players I’m guessing!
M.T.C.: Like that person in San Francisco that fell off a cliff while trying to catch a Pokemon!
Mercedes: Is that a real thing?
M.T.C.: Yep, somebody in California wasn’t paying attention while trying to catch a Pokemon and fell off a cliff. If it was Pikachu I understand.
Mercedes: I hope it was Mewtwo at least!
M.T.C.: Or my favorite, Psyduck!
Phoenix: Psyduck’s sick!
M.T.C.: I must ask, favorite Pokemon character.
Phoenix: I like Arcanine, he’s my favorite!
Mercedes: What is the name of the bird that turns into ice?
Brandon: It cannot be your favorite if you don’t know it’s f****** name!
M.T.C.: You guys are gonna be back on Warped Tour! What’s the one thing that you’re looking forward to the most!
Mercedes: Honestly, we love what we do so much! I love everything about being on tour! We all love to play, honestly when we aren’t playing, we get a little depressed because we don’t have that outlet until the next one! I love meeting all the fans, I love that they all come out to Warped Tour!
Brandon: What’s cool is just walking around and when people come up to you and you get to have a conversation with them and being a part of the community. It’s like being a part of this traveling circus.
Phoenix: Warped Tour is like it’s own little world for sure.
Brandon: To me, when you’re on tour with any band, when you’re on the road with them for a week, they become your best friends, you might only know them for a short period of time, but you always stay connected even after the tour. It’s kind of mindblowing how like it wasn’t just like meeting someone it feels like you’ve always known them.
Mercedes: It feels like that you’ve known them for years.
M.T.C.: I’ve only been to one Warped Tour, saw you guys, saw Anberlin, saw Air Dubai, pretty emotional seeing Anberlin, not gonna lie.
Phoenix: That was pretty emotional, they were amazing!
Mercedes: That was their last tour.
M.T.C.: Bad Rabbits was so good live!
Phoenix: Dude, you’re telling me!
Mercedes: I feel like I have the biggest crush on the whole band, especially the singer, they’re so talented, they are so good!
Brandon: They played at a barbecue for all the bands on Warped Tour, it was honestly one of the best moments of my life. I’m not even going to lie, I was almost in tears, everybody was holding each other and singing Bad Rabbits, everyone was drinking and having a great time. It was the most peaceful, good vibes show that I have ever been to.
M.T.C.: I almost think it’s a crime that they’re not playing arenas.
Phoenix: I know! They’re one of the best live bands I have ever seen!
M.T.C.: Prince himself even tweeted about them.
Phoenix: If Prince tweets about you, you put that on your resume!
M.T.C.: Give me two local bands from Kitchener we need to check out!
Phoenix: My boys in DOG BUS. They do trap, but they rap.
Mercedes: They’re kind of like The Beastie Boys. We have to do three because we all know so many people in Kitchener. I want to say Romancer, they’re like an ambient, emo, pop-punk, they are so diverse, but they’re very talented. They create it, they’re so nerdy about their music, but they can create amazing soundscape, we get lost in them when we listen to them. Check them out!
Brandon: Check out our boys in Amberwood! Those guys are awesome! We have a really good scene up there!
Phoenix: Honestly, just come to Canada, there are so many unknown and awesome bands up there!
M.T.C.: I remember singing Ray Charles with a couple of locals in Japan. I can’t remember the song, but Chris Farley sang it in Tommy Boy.
Phoenix: I feel like I should know that song!
Mercedes: The only thing I remember from the movie is “Tommy want wingy”
Brandon: Tommy want wingy! *laughs*
M.T.C.: I can quote that movie for days!
Mercedes: Any Chris Farley movie! He has a direct passage to my funny bone!
M.T.C.: Name me a stereotype that all drives you nuts. When us Americans stereotype Canadians?
Mercedes: Every time, I’m like, “thanks for coming out guys”, and everyone’s like, “oh you’re so cute!” Come on, it’s my accent! I don’t even hear it, that’s the thing! It might be a little bit Americanized, and every time we say, “really”, which isn’t a lot, I’ve said it once! *laughs*
Brandon: We don’t say “eh” all the time! *laughs*
Mercedes: I am very proud of certain stereotypes, there’s a stereotype that Canadians are super polite.
Phoenix: I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s a good stereotype!
Mercedes: It’s about us trying to prove that stereotype.
Brandon: What are sneakers? We call them shoes! *laughs*
Phoenix: So is it pop or soda? Is Coke soda and the rest pop?
M.T.C.: We call it pop here. Everything is pop.
M.T.C.: You have to tour with a band that you hate! Who would that be?
Brandon: What kind of question is that? *laughs* We love all bands, we’re very accepting.
Mercedes: Well, it’s a person. We met Gene Simmons once, but the impression that I got from him wasn’t the best impression. He asked me to sit on his lap, he was touchy feely. The icing on the cake was when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was playing, and he was like, “who are these guys, they’re good”, and we’re like “Nirvana” and he was like, “Oh, I should sign them”. I don’t know if he was serious, it seems like he would be a nightmare to tour with, especially with two girls in the band.
Brandon: Maybe just him as a solo act, as KISS, by all means! *laughs*
Phoenix: In all fairness, I feel like if he was out on tour, we wouldn’t even see him, he would be doing his own thing. He would be sequestered to the green room, we might not have to deal with him!
M.T.C.: I am the most happy when…
Mercedes: Oh, Mad Libs! I am the most happy when I’m on stage. I know that sounds so cheesy, out of anyone I love, boyfriend, mom, dad, surrounded by people that you love while you’re playing. If I believed in a heaven, that would be my idea of what heaven would be like.
Phoenix: I’d say I’m the most happy when I’m out on tour. I like touring a lot!
M.T.C.: To join Courage My Love, I need to…
Brandon: Kill me! *laughs*
Mercedes: You need to be a genuinely nice person, treat the fans well, treat everyone nice, that should be the basic requirements.
M.T.C.: For six months, you have to live with one of these two people, Snoop Dogg or Bob Marley, who do you pick?
Phoenix: That’s really hard, because I want to live with both of them! *laughs*
Brandon: That’s a good question, we haven’t gotten one like that!
Mercedes: Gotta be rational here! Bob Marley is dead. Snoop Dogg is alive and I don’t want to live with a dead person, so I’m going to have to pick Snoop! I know that you probably meant if they were alive, but to help me decide.
Phoenix: I’m going to pick an alive Bob Marley! Because I feel like it would be interesting to talk to him.
Brandon: I’m going to be good with either one, I’m just going to be too stoned to care! *laughs*
M.T.C.: Where can people find your band?
Mercedes: Google “Courage My Love”, the first thing that comes up is our Wikipedia page, but we’re on Twitter, we’re on Instagram, we’re on Snapchat, we’re on Facebook. We have a website. www.ilovecouragemylove.com . Go to YouTube to find our music videos!
M.T.C.: Thank you for your time!
Phoenix: Thank you, this was a good interview!
Mercedes: A lot of fun!
Brandon: Thanks for asking different questions, it was nice!
And there you have it! Check out the music video to “Stereo” by Courage My Love!