Music Interview: Courage My Love

Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Courage My Love have made quite the name for themselves. The alt-rock trio are by no means short of talent, earning a Juno nomination for their sophomore EP, Becoming. Following the rising success of their second-full length album, Synesthesia, I caught up with lead singer Mercedes Arn-Horne to talk about their new album, UK tour, and much more.

I ask how Mercedes would describe Courage My Love to those unfamiliar with the band. “We’re a three piece, it’s my sister and I and our friend (Brandon) Lockwood.” The band has “morphed over the years”, though, and is now taking on a more “alternative pop-rock” sound.

Courage My Love are anything but ordinary, but if you’re not too clued up on your H.G Wells, the band’s name might raise a few eyebrows. Taken from the film version of Things To Come (1936), I ask Mercedes what inspired the band to pick the name. “Phoenix [Mercedes’s twin sister and drummer of the band] and I were really inspired by the imagery and the overall themes of the movie” she tells me.

“You have to have an emotional connection to your fans”

Yet it wasn’t just a classic sci-fi film that brought Courage My Love to life; Mercedes explains the band wanted “to have a message of hope”. She acknowledges a lot of the band’s songs focus on a rough time but pushes forward a positive outlook; “as a band that is kind of our main message, we thought the name ‘Courage My Love’ was an embodiment of that; it’s sort of giving someone hope.”

While Wells proved there were definitely ‘things to come’ for the band, the way to the top wasn’t easy. As a Canadian band, it can be difficult to break into other music scenes, but Courage My Love has been building up quite the storm. Mercedes agrees “we spend a lot of time overseas and in the USA really trying to nurture our fan base over there.”

It’s clear fans are vital to Mercedes. “You have to have an emotional connection to your fans,” she says, highlighting the importance of fans that stick by the band’s side, before breaking into an anecdote of the band crashing at fan’s houses instead of staying in hotels during their first UK tour. “It’s totally different how we go about most of our tours, but that was a really great experience to get to know the people that are listening to our music and really connect with them on a personal level”.

Courage My Love has received attention for both their music and their influence. A female-fronted band in a predominantly male dominated music scene, and with an openly gay female drummer, the band breaks boundaries and offers a progressive model for future artists.

Curious to see how this has affected the band, I ask Mercedes if she’s ever worried about the band being viewed more as a socio-political statement over the band’s music. Her response is firm: “I think you can do both”. A fan base comes with a responsibility; “we have the opportunity where people will listen to what we have to say, and it’s important to not take that lightly, but, at the end of the day, our music is our art. We want to be defined by our music, but to say that music doesn’t have a message would be counterintuitive. So, I guess it’s both”.

With the band’s second-full length album, Synesthesia, now out, I’m interested to know choice behind picking such an abstract concept album. Mercedes loosely defines the condition as involving “having all your senses combine and morph”, and admits that “it’s kind of a confusing, but really beautiful imagery.”

It obvious the band put a lot of thought into creating the concept. Mercedes passionately talks about building up the idea: “if we were going to do that we would have to really go for it. I wanted the artwork to be a juxtaposition of [darkness] and explosions of colour. With the music, we use a load of old school transistor radio sounds jumping from one extreme to another” to recreate a sensory overload vibe.

From the new album to a new tour. Courage My Love are just finishing their third UK tour, so I ask Mercedes if she’s excited to see how Synesthesia is received here in the UK.

“Definitely! Our first time over here really was an inspiring time”, she tells me. “I never really tell anyone this, but the first time we came to the UK was while we were writing Synesthesia and we had most of it done, but we were in this this space of ‘is this going to work?’ and we weren’t really sure if people really cared about our music anymore, but then when we came to the UK everyone, especially the first time, everyone was so excited, it turned us around. It made us realise, ‘wow, okay people still do care and we can’t just give this up’. That was a real turning point for me. I’ll always think of the UK really fondly, and coming back for the third time is going to be great.”

I ask which song, from any album, is most enjoyable to perform live. “If I had to pick a favourite, right now, I really love performing ‘Two Headed Monster’ live, it’s really fun for me. I don’t know, it’s really hard because it changes all the time!” she admits laughing.

A little surprised by her choice, I tell her I expected her to pick the popular track, and my favourite song off the album, ‘Need Someone’. While she doesn’t change her mind, she tells about their last show in Paris. While the band performed ‘Need Someone’, “the whole crowd surprised us and made these signs that said, ‘I can be someone’ and I cried onstage. I was so emotional because I wasn’t expecting it and that song has a lot of emotional meaning for me. I guess, if I was going to say, if there was a song I was most proud of writing, I’d say that one”.

With the interview coming to an end, I ask when we can see Courage My Love back in the UK, and, hopefully, in Nottingham. “We already announced a European tour with As It Is in February 2018, so I know if we’re over there we’re going to want to visit the UK” she tells me. My not-so-subtle hint about Nottingham apparently pays off – “the long-winded answer is, yes! You can definitely expect us to come back and after knowing Nottingham has a sick scene, I’ll definitely put a word in, it’ll be cool.”

Zoya Raza-Sheikh

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