Courage My Love has this internet/social media medium down pat. Nineteen year old twins Mercedes (lead guitar/vocals) and Phoenix Arn-Horn (drummer) along with new bassist Brandon Lockwood have already chalked up more than 3.5 million hits on their YouTube channel. To celebrate the release of their second EP, “Becoming”, the Kitchener, Ontario trio have released an online episodic video series, titled `The (un)real lives of Courage My Love and they also run a podcast series titled `Homeskool Detention – a play on words from their Homeskool Prom records label and the fact the twins were homeschooled.
Yes the twins could have recorded a debut album, the old fashioned way, sat back and waited for their record company to create the excitement but Mercedes Arn-Horn is fully aware that the music industry doesn’t work this way anymore. Fresh from a CD launch concert at Toronto’s famous Horseshoe Tavern, Arn-Horn admits that promoting new production via the internet is the way to do things these days.
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“I don’t know if there is a system anymore,” noted Mercedes Arn-Horn over the phone. “People from the industry are saying that everything is changing and that we either hang on to the way things used to be or embrace the changes and figure out how to roll with it. “In this day and age, there is so much music out there; it’s all free, so in order to stand apart, you can’t just rely on a record company.”
Mercedes noted that the band’s fans don’t care if they are on a record label or not. “They want to know who you are and not just about your music, but what your personality is like. So online, it’s a good way to reach your fans, even if they are far away.”
Ever since they were small kids, Mercedes and Phoenix have been writing music together. “I guess it was in our blood,” allowed Mercedes. “By the time we were 14, we started writing songs. We knew we needed to form a band; I started playing guitar which meant Phoenix had to learn to play drums. With a friend David Blake-Dickson lured in to play bass, the girls launched the band in 2010, coming up with the band’s name through their love of zombie movies. “Have courage my love” is a line from a 1930’s action zombie movie “Things To Come”, noted Mercedes. “When I heard that line, I thought, what a great name for a band!”
[quote]As it was, an EP was just right for us at the time; our motto was “All Killer, No Filler”.[/quote]Avowed fans of punk music, the twins and original bassist David Blake-Dickson initially just played around the Kitchener area for fun but after they won a local contest they started to weigh up their options. “When we got to 16 we started planning for university but we said to ourselves, `Let’s just keep doing the band for a little longer, none of us wanted to give it up” informed Mercedes. “Eventually, when people started to want to work with us, we realized, `hey, this could turn out to be a career. Who says we have to drop this and go to school. We are good at music, we want to keep going and there are people that want to help us with our career – so let’s go for it!
Chris Perry, who produced both EP’s and Nicole Hughes got involved in their management, attracted the attention of a number of industry contacts and eventually convinced Warner Music Canada to partner with their own Homeskool Prom label. Courage My Love then launched into the promotional grind which led to their debut EP including showcase gigs at both North By North East and Canadian Music Week. “Our philosophy is put on the best show you can, It doesn’t matter if there’s a thousand people out there or 100 people,” explained Mercedes. “There’s no such thing as a bad show. Even if there are only a few people in the audience, you are either going to be playing for new people or pleasing existing fans.”
Increased performances meant the band’s fans were clamouring for a record so Courage My Love released their debut EP “For Now” early last year. It was a natural first step, we were totally inexperienced but it proved to be a fun experience for us,” noted Mercedes. Again being social media savvy, Courage My Love chalked up millions of hits for videos of their two key tracks; `Bridges’ and `Anchors Have Good Shoes’, both shot by Warren Sonoda, earning them recognition on Much Music and opening spots on the Vans Warped tour date in Toronto and on 10 dates opening for Pretty Reckless.
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“All the punk bands we listened to only released EP’s so we felt that was the way to go,” explained Mercedes. “We didn’t have the pressure of releasing a full album but even with a seven-song EP, I had to write about 40 songs. If it was a full LP I’d probably have to write a hundred. As it was, an EP was just right for us at the time; our motto was “All Killer, No Filler”.
Courage My Love also attracted a foreign audience, especially Japan where the band was invited to perform in Tokyo November 12th, as part of the CIMA’s Music Mission resulting in an expanded version of their EP being released on Japan’s Grizz -Rhythms label. “That was a dream gig playing in Japan,” noted Mercedes. “Who knew we had so many fans out there. It proved to us the power of the internet. ”
The band returned to Canada to open for Vancouver’s Faber Drive on their Atlantic Canada tour but as it came time to record the band’s second EP, “Becoming”, they lost bassist Blake-Dickson who decided he couldn’t make the commitment of touring with the Courage My Love full time. “It was all very amicable,” allowed Mercedes. “We are looking for a full-time commitment, spending like six months on the road touring and David just couldn’t commit. He has a girlfriend and all that and we were about to start recording our second EP. So we mutually agreed to find another bassist. They didn’t have far to look. Brandon Lockwood was well known to the girls having hung out in the same Kitchener punk circles and performed in rival bands. “When we found out he was available, we snapped him up, no hesitation.”
[quote]“We don’t want people to think that just because we are young, all we can do is `In your face, rock songs’,”[/quote]Mercedes notes that all the experiences and excitement of the previous year gave her plenty of ammunition to write songs for the new EP. “I’m obviously more mature as a writer, just playing live and meeting other musicians helps the process,” explained Mercedes. “The songs on “Becoming” are a bit darker and more melodic; I can hear it in the arrangements.”
Of course, a new EP means more social network activity and the band has devised a fun way of communicating with their fans via a series of viral videos. Titled “The (Un) Real Lives of Courage My Love, the series supposedly depicts the band in a very bad reality show. “We wanted to do a studio diary but everybody does those, so we thought we’d try something different,” laughs Mercedes. “When we get back to our hotel rooms on tour, there’s always these bad reality shows on TV so we thought we’d spoof one – it’s all in good fun.”
The band also engages in a series of Podcasts called Homeskool Detention where they rant to their audience about current matters and items of interest. “The inside joke is that both Phoenix and I are home schooled so how can yet get detention for bad behaviour when you are already at home! – get sent to your room?,” cracks Mercedes. “All our fans are about our age so we have a lot in common and it’s great to be able to communicate with them one on one.”
As Courage My Love debuts the video for their first single, `You Don’t Know How’ off their second EP, they are heading out on a summer’s itinerary which has seen them performing at the Big Red Festival in Charlottetown and will have them back in Toronto July 5th to perform on The Vans Warped Stage again at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre.
“We don’t want people to think that just because we are young, all we can do is `In your face, rock songs’,” concludes Mercedes. “There’s a growing maturity in both our recording and live performances. Our styles are developing and we want to show both sides of the coin to our fans.”