INTERVIEW – While She Sleeps

"The sense of community that’s apparent to us is very much needed at the moment and it’s definitely something that’s reflected through the Sleeps Society"

INTERVIEW – While She Sleeps

By Ellie Odurny

Apr 15, 2021 12:38

With a new model of fan engagement already launched, and a corresponding album of the same name scheduled for release on 16th April, While She Sleeps are hoping to change the way the music industry works to improve the relationship between bands and their fans. The Sleeps Society aims to provide rewards to their supporters in exchange for a monthly membership fee, sharing the band's knowledge and skill in a way that surpasses the traditional format of music releases and live shows.

We sat down with vocalist Lawrence “Loz” Taylor to talk about the new album and community, streaming and the future of the music industry. ‘Sleeps Society’ is While She Sleeps’ fifth album, written primarily over the course of 2020 during the global pandemic. On writing an album when the world effectively shut down for live music opportunities, Taylor says, “We were scheduled to be off and writing during this time, so we’ve been very lucky with how that’s fallen into place for us”.  He talks about the isolation that naturally comes from writing and recording an album, describing the hard work it takes to be in the studio every day “…churning it out and getting it done. For rock and metal and punk bands that’s not an easy thing, especially for vocalists… that’s 6 hours of screaming every day for three weeks.” He goes on to describe how the downtime was a silver lining of sorts, explaining, “Usually we’re always juggling studio with touring… with this, we knew that there was no touring happening, so it did kind of take off one of the elements that usually makes it quite difficult to work around, and gave us a little bit more headspace to focus on the record”. For bands who were releasing records at the start of the pandemic, Taylor comments how tough it must have been for them to have to cancel tours, and expresses gratitude that the timings worked out well for While She Sleeps, not only for writing and recording the new record, but also for the launch of the Sleeps Society platform.

With the Sleeps Society, the band are aiming to address some of the things that they felt were failing artists within the industry. Taylor describes how launching the campaign has enabled the band to be more sustainable and allowed them to give the fans more insights, attention, behind-the-scenes content, music and extra unseen footage. He talks about how the fans have reacted to the launch in a positive way, which has enabled the band to “relax a bit more during this whole period of time and create the music that we’ve created”. On the changing face of the industry and the need for a more sustainable model, Taylor talks about how there’s added pressure on bands these days, “not only to be able to write good songs, you have to have tons of entrepreneurial ideas and different ways to reinvent yourself every record”. He describes the need to provide a sustainable industry to nurture up and coming artists, particularly for the punk, metal and rock bands who he describes as “the lifeblood of these underground genres that always seem to take the brunt of the big changes because the demand is 100% there, but they’re going to suffer through the streaming platforms not paying out in the right way to them”.

While She Sleeps have launched the Sleeps Society not only to support themselves and allow them to continue with their own DIY ethic for creating and putting out music, but also to pave the way for newer bands, to give more to their fanbase and to create a real sense of community. Taylor tells us about the importance of spreading a positive message about mental health and wellbeing, highlighted in their latest release, ‘Nervous’, with guest vocals from Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil. He mentions that within the Sleeps Society, there are sub-categories on Discord for members to talk about mental health, to find people to play online with, or just to chat about the new record. Reflecting on the past year, he says “This whole situation has made that sense of community even more important. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if so many people would’ve just dipped out of this industry altogether now because it’s been such a difficult time. The sense of community that’s apparent to us is very much needed at the moment and it’s definitely something that’s reflected through the Sleeps Society”.

One thing the entire community still can’t do at the moment is attend or play gigs. Taylor has hinted that While She Sleeps have been planning some sort of live streamed event, although he didn’t give much away, he did admit that theyre “definitely conspiring to do something”. Discussing the future of live streams, Taylor believes that they will continue to be relevant even once touring is up and running again. Commenting on logistics, he mentions how it doesn’t always make sense for bands to try and fly to a certain place to do a set of shows when it looks impossible with the schedule they already have pencilled in. “Maybe it’s something that will just continue now to be the way that bands reach these hard-to-get-to places.”

Along with live streams, another huge change in music consumption over the past decade has been the rise of streaming. With the distribution of streaming income remaining a contentious point within the industry, and something that the band have covered in their ‘press conference’ for the Sleeps Society, we talked instead about how it’s changed the perception of how music is released, both for bands and fans alike. Taylor talks about how some bands are choosing to focus on releasing EPs more frequently, rather than spending the time and money on creating a full album. He ponders, “does it make sense to hide away for that long when you could just write five songs and then get back out on the road to play to the people that want to hear your band, or get back to doing other things that generate money?” He concludes that it’s down to the individual making the choice “to take that time out to write a full album and have the full record as a piece of music or whether to focus on one song at a time and then it doesn’t matter as much about how they go together as a collective”.

Being that While She Sleeps have made the decision to release Sleeps Society as an album, we talk more about the last track – a 7 minute spoken word number known as “The End” but stylised with the Doncaster postcode DN3 3HT. Aside from conveniently spelling “The End” backwards, this also happens to be the postcode where Taylor quit his job to record his first EP with While She Sleeps back in 2009. Remembering that moment, he tells us “it actually has the reference attached to it which was where Mat (Welsh) the guitarist picked me up, I literally ripped my shirt off, tied it round my head, grabbed a beer and we drove to Sheffield to a run-down old barn where we started to write and work on our first EP and that’s the story”. Taylor explains how this track is meant to be a form of thanks, like you might previously have found within a CD booklet. “The way that we’ve done this with the last song on the record is literally like a bit of a time capsule really, and a gratitude to say thank you to anyone that’s been involved with the band and this record.”

When asked if he had any closing comments, Taylor told us “if anyone’s out there supporting the band, it doesn’t matter if you’re not in the Sleeps Society. If you’re getting our music and listening to the band and supporting the band then it’s appreciated. If you haven’t heard of our band and you’re open minded in terms of genre clashes or whether you like punk, metal or rock, there’s something on this record for everybody”.

ELLIE ODURNY

Sleeps Society’ is out on 16th April on Search & Destroy / Spinefarm