“The guitars are bigger, the choruses are catchier, everything is so much better” - hmv.com talks to Neck Deep
Welsh pop punkers Neck Deep have been on the crest of a wave since they released their debut album Wishful Thinking only 20 short months ago. Now back already with a follow-up titled Life's Not Out To Get You (which you can purchase on the right-hand side of the page), we called frontman Ben Barlow while the band were busy tearing up the United States as part of the travelling punk circus that is Warped Tour and chatted about the making of the new album, working with A Day To Remember on the record and their never ending tour...
Your new album hits shelves today, how are you feeling? Nervous or confident?
“We’ve been sitting on it for six months now and we’re chomping at the bit to get it out. We’ve had a lot of time with it, but I can still listen to it now and be proud of the album. We’re really confident about it. We know we’ve written a good album and I just want people to love it.”
You’ve been on tour all summer, has it been frustrating not to be able to play more new songs?
“In a way, you really have to only play the one people have heard already, so that’s a bit frustrating. But we’re happy playing the older stuff, much as I do wish we could play more, we’ll be able to play them all soon.”
When did you start work on the record? Are you a band that’s always writing?
“Pretty much this time last year. We flew my brother out to come help us demo on the bus during Warped Tour, we had this makeshift studio set up and we got loads of ideas down. We went into the studio with about 20 songs and we’ve ended up with 12 on the album. We started recording in December and we were in the studio for about a month, so it was finished by January.”
How did it compare to making Wishful Thinking? Was it different writing as full-time musicians now?
“Definitely. We were in a much better place this time and I feel like we’ve really grown as musicians, all of us. We really worked on these songs, we took them apart and dissected them, we chopped and changed them endlessly, last time we just recorded what we had, this time was much more thorough and it shows because the songs are so much better. It was a much more thought out process.”
You worked on the album with Jeremy McKinnon, Andrew Wade and Tom Denney from A Day To Remember, how did that come about?
“We all like that band a lot. We were basically looking for a studio and we looked at their place, then we thought we might do a couple of sessions with Andrew Wade and Tom Denney, but then Jeremy (McKinnon) caught wind of it and sat us down and basically said ‘I’m the man to do this album, no one will give more of a f**k than I will and I think these songs have so much potential’. From there we got to work and shared a lot of very long nights.”
What was he like as a producer?
“He was awesome. If we were working away he’d chill and be hands off, but every so often he’d say ‘Wait, give me that guitar’, he’d change one chord and make it tonnes better. He’s full of ideas and so much energy, but he was never too forceful, we never butted heads.”
How did you want this album to move on from Wishful Thinking?
“We all knew this wasn’t the album to be experimenting, we didn’t want to change our sound, we like our sound, we wanted to write music that we would listen to, so if that was just really s*****y generic pop-punk then that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to write in the same vein as our favourite artists, to write good pop punk, to write generic pop punk, but not s**t generic pop punk. It’s Neck Deep, but better. Every element is better, some much more thought went into everything, the guitars are bigger, the choruses are catchier, everything is so much better.”
What kind of record is it lyrically? You’ve basically been on tour constantly, so is there a lot about missing people?
“I didn’t want to write a record about being on tour because no one can really relate to that. Plus, why would I complain about being on tour? For me, I try my best to live a positive life and see the bright side in everything, so that’s the message I want to spread, to tell people they can do something positive with their lives. A lot of kids are quite sad and I don’t want to add to that, to try and give people another perspective on life.”
Are there any lyricists you look to in particular?
“Dallas Green (City And Colour). Although his lyrics are much sadder than mine, his lyrics are so powerful they made me want to take much more care with my words. Equally there are plenty of Blink-182 songs with some really great and really clever lyrics as well as really dumb lyrics on other songs. That’s how I write, all across the board, sometimes it’s dumb, sometimes it’s a lot deeper.”
Do you think that’s a misconception about pop punk? That the lyrics are all about getting dumped and partying and there’s not much else going on?
“I actually think the lyrics in pop punk draw people in. The music is really energetic and fun, but I think what people connect with in pop punk is the lyrics and they want stuff to live by, there are a lot of really brilliant and creative lyricists in the genre and they’ve helped a lot of kids through some very dark times.”
What are your plans to take the record out live? You’ve not toured the UK for a while?
“Well we have Reading and Leeds and then we have some plans. But it’s going to be big and we’re really excited about it, it’s where we’ll do our biggest shows of the year.”
It seems like you’re always in America, you’ve pretty much been on tour there constantly...
“We worked it out the other day, last year we spent a cumulative six months in America, including this year, that be at least a year now. But it’s a big country and there’s a lot of ground to cover, we’d love to tour the UK six months out of the year, but we’d be going back to the same places a lot.”