“We want to push the limits of what a band in our genre can do” - hmv.com talks to While She Sleeps
Sheffield noiseniks While She Sleeps are doing things for themselves.
Unsatisfied with the campaign for their second record Brainwashed and life on major label Sony, the band took matters into their own hands and launched not only their own label, but also built their own studio space in the steel city. Now they work at their own pace and on their own terms.
Their new album SO WHAT? is out now and available in hmv stores across the UK. Ahead of its arrival, we spoke to guitarist Mat Welsh about how it came together...
When did you start putting together the songs for SO WHAT? Did you take any time off after You Are We?
“I stopped for a little bit, but Sean (guitarist) didn’t. He’s basically addicted to writing, whereas I find recording exhausting and need to step away. Between the two of us, we gathered ideas and then last February we went into the warehouse with all of them. That’s when it came to life.”
Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do differently on this record?
“We never consciously have an idea of what we want to do and where we want to take things. You Are We gave us a positive vibe, it taught us that we can be true to ourselves and it works. That album went down really well and that was us doing whatever we wanted to do. That gave us a buzz and the impetus to make the boundaries even more invisible. We wanted to stretch ourselves and push the limits of what a band in our genre can do.”
You worked with Carl Bown again, did you ever think of getting in anybody else?
“We knew we could do it with Carl, he’s done so much with us and he really understands our dynamic. He trusts us, he doesn’t act like a third party in the studio, he just gets the best out of us.”
You’ve got your own studio, does that give you more freedom to experiment and try new things?
“Definitely. But it’s a massive double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s amazing and we’ve got this creative mecca where we can do what we like. But we also have to put our own deadlines in place. If we didn’t give ourselves hard deadlines to stick to, then I think we’d never stop working on it. You can keep adding and keep tweaking until you’re 55. You can never have enough time, it always needs to be in tomorrow.”
Is the space just for you, or do you let it out to other bands?
“No, we let it out. Neck Deep use it as their practise space, The Skins wrote their new record there, Frank Carter’s there at the moment. We want it to be a community space. It’s a hub by bands for bands, it’s not a posh studio.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme that unites it?
“It’s quite personal. Me, Lawrence and Sean write the lyrics and we use it as a diary to say what you think and how you feel, the chance to get out whatever’s eating you. It’s saying what you find it hard to say, but shouting it at the top of your lungs. I don’t want people to know what the songs are about, directly, but I want them to be able to take them and apply them to their own situations. Whether that’s politics or a relationship, it needs to work for every person who listens to it. It needs to be relevant to people’s lives.”
When did you decide that SO WHAT? was going to be the title?
“It’s been a very apparent phrase throughout the writing process. Mainly based on the idea that titling a year’s worth of work is impossible. A title can give people the wrong impression so easily. That’s it then. Are you best friends with your best friend because he or is she has a cool name? Or are they a great person? So this is us saying ‘It doesn’t matter what it’s called’. That attitude needs to be used a lot more. We want people to listen to the album, not just judge it by the name.”
Last time you did things yourselves, release-wise, this time you’re working with Spinefarm, which is part of Universal, why did you decide to do that?
“It’s worked out well so far. I handle a lot of the label business and doing it for You Are We, it was mentally crushing for me to do it all. To be so involved with both was very tiring. This time I wanted to offload some of the bits that didn’t need to be me, particularly with distribution and manufacturing.”
“We wanted a partner who would still make us feel independent. We met with quite a few people and we got on well with Spinefarm. They understood that Sleeps Brothers is a community project and they understand they’re there to help rather than turn it into their own thing.”
Were you nervous? You’ve been on a major label in the past…
“Oh god, yeah. But, at the same time, we have to try these things. I couldn’t repeat what we did on You Are We. We had big reservations about any major label and I might well find out that this isn’t the way we want to go. We’re still trying to find a way of releasing an album that works for us.”
How’s your touring schedule looking? Are you pretty booked up?
“This year is pretty full on. We’re out until the end of September. After that, we’re going to need a minute to breathe. It’s been full on since the writing started, we haven’t really stopped.”
How’s your set list coming together? You’ve got four records to pick from now…
“It’s fun actually. It’s nice to play You Are We tunes and have them get a great reaction. When you first release an album, only a portion of the audience have digested them, so now, they go down really well. That’s the reward of performing.”
Is the plan to keep working and get straight back in? Or will you need a break when you finish touring?
“I don’t know. We’re going to see how it feels. We’re self-employed. We need to make sure we don’t kill ourselves and do something for the sake of it. Either we’ll feel amazing and want to dive straight back in or we’ll want some time off. We’re honest enough with each other to talk it all through and make a decision about what’s best for the band.”
While She Sleeps’ new album SO WHAT? is out now in hmv stores.