Interview: While She Sleeps [March 2015]

By Jess Kempner

In between loading kit out for a video shoot and searching central London for vegan pancakes, we managed to chat to all of the While She Sleeps boys about the new album, musical journeys and festivals.

So tell me, what have you been up to today?

We’ve been loading out kit from our video shoot before coming down to London and we filmed our new single in our old secondary school, ten minutes from all of our houses. We went into school, got on really well with the music department and the creatives, and they let us use it all for nothing. We’re going to go in and do some stuff in the school and talk to the kids and stuff, give it back. It was weird as there are lots of fans of ours that go to that school and word got around that we were going back to film it there and a few people got excited on Twitter, so when the video goes out I imagine they’re going to be saying things like “What, we have lessons in there”, it’s quite cool.

That’s cool, I wish Geri Halliwell came back to my school to film her videos! Anyway, the new video is for the new single from the new album: were there any good anecdotes from recording the album?

It took a while but it is the best thing we’ve ever done. It took a while for a few reasons. Our Loz has had some throat surgery, which is obviously quite a hurdle to overcome, but it was more of a waiting game. But that reflects lots of things in the While She Sleeps journey, lots of problems to overcome but that’s how we learn to grow strong and grow with each other. All the hurdles in the record making process brought us closer together as a group, and we’re all absolutely thrilled with what we have produced and can’t wait to get it out.

It sounds like an epic creative process. Do you get to the end and all have your favourite tracks?

Everyone has their own little bits about it. The good thing is the more you listen to it, you go through different stages with each track as they’ve all got so many different colours and dimensions. I’ve almost had a favourite with every track now. It’s just like “Oh you know what, my favourite at the moment is track 4” but someone else’s could be track 6 or 2 at that time. Every track is my favourite until the next one comes on.

From a lyrical perspective I think that there are definite tracks that are more personal for different reasons, the same as someone else might have their favourite for that moment. The album tells the story of us, and it really depends on what mood you’re in. The lyrics are personal to the listener too – it depends what mood I’m in as to how I take a certain song in a certain way.

We like to give our listeners something personal. For example, I asked Loz the other day what a lyric meant, and he told me one reason and I was like “Oh I think I like this interpretation of it”. If you like the way a line sounds then we would rather you take it that way so it means that much for you. A bit of creative freedom for the listener, we want them to listen to it with an open mind, being your own person and making up your own mind.

Your lyrics are quite honest and meaningful: does it make you feel vulnerable live?

I feel like if anything it helps live, it gets it off your chest and when there is a part that is really personal for you then you’ve got double the reason to push that part and give it your all. That’s something that Loz and myself have always been really strong on – we write the lyrics separately and then come together and question what we’re both talking about and what we mean in different parts so that we both know what we’re both saying inside out so that we can share the experience and then our listeners can share it. So that you’re not just listening to this guy whinge on and on about something that’s nothing to do with you, we’re talking about things to do with everyone.

We don’t want people to be shouting out our lyrics for our reasons, we always hope that people have their own reasons for singing it. For example when we sing “I” or “I’m” in a song when you say it they’ll be singing it back but we hope they’re talking about themselves, not about my girlfriend that I’ve split up with.

Do you think that’s what attracts people to your music?

A lot of people have got into heavy music as it’s like a release. It’s not an aggressive release, it’s a positive outlet. It lets people get rid of that little animal inside them, with a load of other people, that’s what puts them in this little crew, a sense of unity, and that’s what this whole music scene essentially started out as, which has got lost along the way. I mean everyone’s supposed to go to a show to have a great time together.

We went to a show the other day and this drunk guy started bullying this kid, that’s not what it’s about. It does make you think when you think about perceptions, people listen to us and think “Woah, that’s so aggressive”, “You’re evil” and then you look at the people that are out there causing shit – not to stereotype – but chavs, antisocial people, they listen to the least aggressive music, so it’s probably because they don’t have an outlet that they end up like that.

Did you go on a musical journey for the new album or did you have the sound planned in your head before you recorded?

We went on a journey. A big journey. A bit of both. Our sound is just regurgitated Sleeps sounds, based on our back catalogue and leftovers from previous albums. “What did we do before?” is how we start with the concepts, and with this one we started the creative process on Warped Tour and then when we got back we moved into the band studio where we worked on it for about a month, then recorded drums and then started recording guitar, then all that stuff happened with Loz and it was just like one crazy journey.

We could say it started earlier than that really. It just never ends. For example, this album isn’t out yet and we’ve already started thinking about the next one with the leftovers of what we didn’t put into this one, and it just never stops. Listening to five year old riffs from my old hard drive and from old songs has been great, being able to actually work them into new songs. And for this album we got the old vocalist from Sleeps to come in and record some guest vocals, so in that way it’s more of a cycle than a journey.

How did the journey start?

It was in May 2013 and we had a mid-point in between our houses where we met up for about a month, and we’d walk and meet and that was like the start of the journey. We didn’t know what we were going to make, and we didn’t have much planned and had no ideas, so we were just like “Let’s make stuff”. Loz had written lyrics and told them to me and then I rang him and was like, “What are those lyrics that you told me?” and then we’d try and piece it together.

The contact was really important though, because it’s so easy to get stuck behind a computer and send each other stuff so we try and go out into the woods and get rid of that, which is where the ‘Brainwashed’ title came from. All those different feelings of getting crushed in by all these different elements. It feels so simple when you’ve got no phone signal, and you’ve got fuck all around you except a forest, and your friends, a guitar and a fire. It strips it back and you see so much clearer and the conversation and creativity is on fire really. That was a huge influence on this record.

We went wild camping and squatting in the woods together when Loz had his surgery as we had the travel bug from touring but needed to do something that would be achievable and wouldn’t cost us and we ended up doing stuff like that that added to our creative journey for the album.

You started a lot of the process from the back of the bus on Warped: how was that?

It was a challenge, but awesome, as long as you take each day as it comes. It’s hot and long but every day is fun, and once you’re in the flow it’s easy. You get out of it what you put in. It’s the tour that teaches you that everything isn’t going to just come to you on a plate. You do hear about horror stories but the people that were having a bad time were the people that were sitting on the bus the whole time.

We met a dude who said that we literally saved his life and that was incredible. He was apparently days away from committing suicide and he heard one of our songs and he connected with it and it swung him 180, and I would have never have met that guy if I had just sat on the bus. You hear inspirational stories and meet inspirational people. We’re going back this year and feel like we’re prepared for it now, like we’ve finished year 7 and we’re going back as more confident year 8s.

Do you not ever get sick of each other’s company?

No, we bicker but it’s nothing that isn’t a slap and a tickle. If we do argue, we move on really quickly and we’re all quite good at saying sorry to each other – we’ve been in this group for nine years and we have learnt how to deal with each other, as well as push each other’s buttons. The only time we fall out is when we mistake sarcasm for truth or vice versa, but no, we’re brothers.

That’s lucky because April is bringing a UK co-headline tour with Cancer Bats. Are you looking forward to it? Have you spent a lot of time with them in the past?

Yeah, we’ve crossed paths with them loads, and chilled with them, they’re great dudes. It’s not a new thing for us to meet them, and we’ve been to the bar that they hang out in in Toronto – Stevie’s- with them, and we’ve always said we wanted to tour with them and we got chatting to their people and it finally happened. It will be amazing doing it as a headline, going and not being the opener, not being on someone else’s tour, which is something we have got quite used to, so it will be nice to be out and being the godfathers in a way, and it will be great doing it with them. We’re really looking forward to it.

We’ve talked about doing Warped this year. Festival season is my favourite season: have you got any other festivals lined up?

Yes, Warped, and yes more, Hit The Deck and some in Europe, but none that we can talk about now. There are some great ones that we have and we’re excited about. Wait, I think Reading and Leeds we can announce for when this interview comes out! We’re so excited! Loz runs his own festival too, in Sheffield, it’s on May 2nd.

Loz: I do! It was a way for me to have an outlet when I couldn’t do vocals and something for me to push some positive energy towards. It’s called Festivile and Trash Talk are there this year. I’ve always been in the promoting game – we’re from this area that doesn’t get a lot of bands so I feel like it’s nice to bring that influence to kids that wouldn’t usually be able to travel there. It’s important to give back to your scene too if you know what I mean.

While She Sleeps head out on tour in the UK and Europe in April and their album ‘Brainwashed’ is out March 23rd.


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]