“We didn’t want to compromise anything this time…” - Bring Me The Horizon open up about the making of That’s The Spirit
When Bring Me The Horizon formed back in 2003 as five scrappy Sheffield metal fans, no one, not least themselves, would expect that 12 years they’d be about to release their fifth studio album That's The Spirit (which you can preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page) with a UK arena tour booked and expectations that the album will trouble the top end of the charts next Friday.
We sat down with frontman Oli Sykes and keyboardist Jordan Fish to find out all about producing the album themselves, why they feel like they’re leaving heavy music and the scene that spawned them behind and taking inspiration from Disclosure for their live shows...
That’s The Spirit is out today, how long have you had it ready for?
Oli: “We finished it July, the first week of July, so in terms of turning a record around it’s been really quick.”
Last time out you’d just gone through a line-up change (Guitarist Jona Weinhofen had left while Fish, formerly of electro-rockers Worship, had joined) and you had a new label to contend with, whereas this time it sounds like recording went very smoothly…
Jordan: “It’s been a painless process. I think we’ve all really enjoyed making the album.”
Oli: “We had a lot of control over it and the authority to do what we want. Things went on around the making of Sempiternal that convinced us to do things our way.”
Jordan: “Especially the leak, it leaked so early.”
Oli: “We wanted to have full control and we got it. The label have trusted us and I think everyone is just really excited about this record.”
It felt like after your headline show at Wembley Arena that not only did you go out on a high, but also with a clear plan…
Jordan: “I think that was what got us writing so quickly. We were buzzing after that show and we didn’t feel exhausted or strung out. We had four weeks off and then we all just said let’s get started.”
So when did you decide to head to beautiful Santorini (A small island off the coast of Greece) to record the album?
Jordan: “We’d been working for a few weeks and it was really miserable weather and we got the email telling us that we needed to start thinking about where to record.”
Oli: “We knew we were going to produce it ourselves and so we knew we had some money to find somewhere nice.”
Jordan: “We basically just went online and looked up all the mental studios we could find and our management came back and said that Santorini was do-able. I didn’t actually think it was a big deal, we were so busy writing.”
Did writing mainly consist of the two of you? Or do you write as a five?
Jordan: “We’re all present, but some of them start with Lee (Malia - guitarist), some with me, but Oli’s always involved in everything. It’s a mixture.”
Oli: “It can start with a lyric or an idea, a reference, a line from something, all kinds.”
Jordan: “Quite often we’ll hear two sounds and try and mix them together, combining elements. For ‘Happy Song’, Oli wanted to do a song with cheerleaders that sounded really upbeat and happy, but is actually really miserable, the song developed from there.”
You self-produced this time, when did you decide on that? It’s a big step…
Oli: “We kind of produced the last one, it didn’t feel that scary. Before Jordan came in I always co-produced our records, I’d always be sat in the control room, telling the producer what to do right up until it went off to get mixed.”
Jordan: “We did ‘Drown’ on our own and the two of us took that as our little project to see if we could do it. Between me and Oli we have the two sides of it, I bring the more technical elements and make sure everything fits, Oli has the overall vision and brings a lot of the structure.”
Oli: “It’s like being two halves of the brain, I’ve never learned how to write music, I don’t know about notes and chord progressions, in all kinds of ways that’s better because I don’t work to the same limits that Jordan might work to."
Jordan: “Quite a lot of the time he’ll have the idea and I end up translating it into sound. You’d have to watch it to understand it, it works for us.”
One of the main things bands look to producers for is discipline and someone to tell them when enough is enough, you didn’t need to go to a third party for that…
Jordan: “We’re a very driven and hard-working band. We don’t need someone to tell us what’s good enough, we’ll push ourselves harder than anyone ever could.”
Oli: “If a producer worked with us he’d be begging us to give up. Every day we wake up and we’d review what we had and we’d decide it wasn’t good enough.”
Jordan: “There was a point when we were working on ‘Doomed’, the opening track on the album, when I thought I was just going to cry, I went to bed convinced it was good and then woke up the next day and decided it wasn’t enough. I thought I was going to burst into tears. I think it really sets us apart from other bands in how hard we work, the engineer from the studio actually emailed me afterwards to say that we’re the most hard-working band he’s ever worked with.”
Were you able to be left alone out there?
Jordan: “A few people came over, but to be fair to Sony they pretty much left us alone. The last one leaked so early that we said ‘This time no one is getting anything’.”
Oli: “They trust us and I think we’ve proved our worth, when we go away we always come back with something good. It’s always worth the money and they’re always so stoked on what they hear.”
It seems a bit of a role reversal, when bands normally sign to major labels they complain about losing control, you guys seem to be getting more of it…
Jordan: “I think it’s a bit of a myth really. Maybe we’re lucky and I’m sure there’s lot of horror stories, but it’s certainly not been like that so far.”
Oli: “The label’s always going to want hits, but we got signed off the back of our heavier albums and Sony wanted a heavy band to represent them, they didn’t know what they were getting.”
Jordan: “They probably can’t believe their luck.”
How did you want this album to move on from Sempiternal?
Oli: “We felt like we’d improved as songwriters and as musicians. We didn’t want to compromise anything this time, after ‘Drown’ was received so well we didn’t worry about keeping people in the scene happy, we had the confidence to move away from what we used to be completely. We had a little freak out when we realised that there was nothing heavy on the record so we started writing this heavy song. We played it back and we all just said to each other ‘This is a step backwards’. It didn’t feel right.”
Jordan: “We’re following our gut instincts and I think we’ve got complete trust in that now, we don’t need to appease the old fans, they’re coming with us on the new material. What we did this time was whatever suited the song.”
Do you still listen to much heavy music?
Oli: “No. I don’t know any band who do it very well.”
Jordan: “Not really, the odd bit, but it’s so limiting, there are so many rules in that genre.”
Oli: “Most bands are just copying other bands, no one’s trying to do anything fresh. We’ve squeezed the genre for all it’s worth and we wanted to move on.”
Jordan: “There are influences and elements from our roots, but it’s way more varied and colourful.”
How does that factor into the bands you go on tour with? You used to go out with people like Parkway Drive and Architects…
Jordan: “That’s one of the most difficult things now, finding bands to tour with.”
Oli: “Bands we like wouldn’t be suited to our tour and probably wouldn’t want to do it."
Jordan: “We sit in between genres and there aren’t that many bands that do that. We’re lucky that a band like PVRIS exist because they’re dark and they’ve got electronic influences and they aren’t from a metal background, but they are from that scene.”
Oli: “Taking a good package out on tour is really important to us, we’ll never do a tour where it’s just music we like, it needs to be what the kids want to here. We’ll never take a band out that’s just metal, not again, we’re not just metal, so what’s the point? But we won’t take out a band that’s a weird indie, electronica band that only we like. Hopefully more bands will come up and be good in the next few years.”
Jordan last time out people were introduced to you, whereas this time you’re a key part of the band. Has that factored in to how the electronics are used? It feels like they’re more front and centre this time…
Jordan: “It’s just my massive ego. It’s pushed them to the front. I do think it’s a bit more unashamed and there are more elements that sound purely electronic, you can hear it’s coming from a keyboard, it’s less ambiance. I pick my moments more carefully, it’s cleaner, there’s less of a clusterf**k of songs.”
Oli: “Rock producers don’t respect keyboards, quite rightly in most cases because it’s mostly a mate who wants to join the band. Loads of bands kick keyboardists out, but hardly any get a keyboardist in 10 years in. Rock producers consider it as background and will always make it back the guitar. He jokes about it being ego, but it’s the opposite, there’s no ego on this album, it’s whatever serves the song, everyone flourishes, no one is trying to worm their way in.”
Jordan: “It’s a lot of fun putting these weird amalgamation of sounds. In ‘Throne’ the verse is a harp, drums, digital hi-hat, someone shouting down a guitar pick and a string quartet.”
How has it been bringing the new stuff to life live? Is it much harder?
Jordan: “Yeah it is. The new stuff is a lot harder for me, but so much more rewarding. It’s been a challenge bringing to life, but it’s going well so far.”
Last time you toured you focused on the material from Sempiternal, will you give the same treatment to That’s The Spirit?
Oli: “We go off what the fans want. Luckily for us the fans have been with us. ‘Throne’ was probably the best song at Reading and ‘Chelsea Smile’ might have been the weakest bit, we’re lucky we don’t have to play our first hit as a our closer. Sempiternal completely took over the last tour, but we’ve got a lot of material now.”
Are there any of your early songs you won’t play anymore?
Oli: “The whole first album, it doesn’t make sense anymore to play it. The classics from Suicide Season are still there but I just feel like we’ve taken them and done them better on later albums, to me ‘Antivist’ is a better version of ‘Chelsea Smile’. The songs from There Is A Hell were very experimental, but I just feel the ones we’ve got now are better versions of those. We’re just most excited by the new songs.”
What kind of productions will you bring this time? It looked like you had a lot of fun at Wembley on a bigger stage...
Jordan: “We’re trying something different. We’ve got all these cool LEDs for our first tours.”
Oli: “Sempiternal had all these grand images, but I think this one will be way more about the bare essentials. I like the dance and minimalist look you get with acts like Disclosure. You went away from Wembley overwhelmed, it was an onslaught, so much going on, I want there to be one image this time, the kind that you’ve stared at for ages and it’s burned into your brain, one concept that sticks with you when you go to sleep.”
Can you sum up the album lyrically?
Oli: “It’s making light out of the darkness. It’s the oldest tale in the world, dark versus the light, writing the album was a struggle and recording was a pay-off. Recovering from drug addiction and working through to the new record. That’s The Spirit sounds like an uplifting title, but you scratch the surface and there’s a lot more to it.”
Do you feel more confident you’ve ever felt before?
Jordan: “It’s my proudest achievement to date. This is the best album we could have written.”
Oli: “We’ve never worked harder on anything than we did on this album. We’re ready for anything.”
Bring Me The Horizon’s new album That’s The Spirit is out now.