After an afternoon of social distance biking, Matt West and Ben Barlow; along with the rest of Neck Deep hopped online to discuss their new album, how they have been spending quarantine, and what the future of music will look like.
Their newest album, All Distortions Are Intentional, out in July, is a release that will mark a difference in the band, showing growth and showing a maturity of sound.
Vocalist Ben Barlow says that it’s an album that is meant to be listened to as an entire consistent piece rather than a collection of singles.
“It’s really consistent, I feel like we have a little bit for everyone in there. I think whether you like Neck Deep’s poppier or brighter sound or whether you like slightly more moody and sad sort of sounds or the more upbeat pop-punk; I feel like we’ve managed to hit a good blend of all those things. There’s something for everyone and us trying new things too.”
Sam Bowden agrees that it’s meant to be listened to conceptually. “It follows a bit of a story. You couldn’t play the album on shuffle and have it make sense.”
The album centers around two main characters, Jett and Alice, living in this fictional world called Sonderland.
Ben walks through the album, “It’s all just metaphors and blankets for our real lives, but it’s an imaginary world where the story takes journeys through the characters figuring themselves out, through some pretty low points then coming to the grand realization at the end of it that life isn’t about making a huge impact on the world, being important, or standing out,” he trails off “…it’s… well, I’m not going to tell you, you have to listen to find out.”
Seb Barlow, bassist in the band says he thinks it’s different from other records, comparing it to Rain in July, where they didn’t put any pressure on themselves to write a specific thing or try too hard to think about what people expect from them.
“There’s always that fine line of pleasing your fans and realizing the music that got you to where you are while still having the freedom to play around and keep pushing. I think it’s the first time in a while we didn’t have the same stress and pressures of the type of thing we should be writing.”
According to Ben, the band was more open-minded with this record and went in with high expectations of writing a good record, but no expectations on what it was going to sound like.
“We went with what felt good. It happened so easily and organically. I think it’s the most well-rounded Neck Deep record, the best sounding with the mix and the production, but also with the songwriting too. I think we really perfected a good formula. We think it’s one of our favorite records. We had such a fun time creating it. I think if you’re just hearing about Neck Deep, this record will be something that’ll catch your ear.”
Because nobody can play shows, right now is an important time for artists to be releasing music.
“People need something. We are in a very fortunate position where we do have a full record ready to go whereas so many bands are in a position where they had been mid-tour cycle or had a bunch of tours booked. Ultimately, anyone who listens to music, the first priority is music. Anything after that is secondary. Live music is kind of tied into that number one spot,” says [Seb] Barlow.
This album gives the band a chance to connect with fans despite not being able to attend a show.
“We had things like pop-ups and plans for interacting in the UK and in the US to see fans as the music was being released. It’s good that we still have music to be released and to be able to do things online, it means we can still keep on going,” says guitarist Sam Bowden.
Everyone is scrambling for content at the moment, Neck Deep included, according to Ben.
“Before all of this happened we’ve been centered on the best piece of content you could ask for, a record. People are consuming more than they ever have, at least internet content. If you’re gonna put that in front of people, they’re gonna be more likely to listen to what is right in front of them.”
Seb Barlow: “Everyone is at home, everyone is wanting to consume. They want something to take in and enjoy.”
Ben Barlow: “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sitting home and watching Youtube every day. If one of my favorite bands had an album coming out I’m gonna go straight onto it.”
When it comes to Twitch and Livestream sessions, Ben says they are some of the most useful tools that bands, or any artist, has at this point.
“If anyone relies on an audience and a fanbase, livestreaming has brought out some really creative stuff and allows people to feel sort of attached to the things that they love. It’s not like all is lost. If we can jump on the internet and play games or listen to our old music or even interview people, it’s only a good thing. Plus, for us, it’s fun too.”
The band has been going on streaming services to listen to their older releases. It’s the first time a lot of the band has listened to those in years.
“Amongst all the madness, we’ve found something that we really enjoy doing. [Matt] West is really the brains behind all of the streaming stuff. We’ve all been on board but he was just sort of the conductor.”
He [West] says, “I think it’s just a good way to be in direct contact in real-time with fans. It’s the closest we can probably get to have a real conversation with them, for free. It’s just a way for us to do what we’d be doing anyway, just from home-which is playing videogames, nine times out of ten. We just get to do it in front of an audience.”
West says they have built a nice community from these Livestream sessions. Whenever they get ready to stream, they can name off at least five fans who they know will be in the chat before we even go live.
“It’s the closest we can probably get to speaking to them.”
Ben jumps in to say, “COVID or not, we should have been doing this for a long time, It’s brought us close to our fans, it’s brought fans closer to us. It brought both them and us a lot of enjoyment.”
Seb comments, “It’s also the super fans that come and join the stream every week. I like the aspect of it. It’s definitely not exclusive in any way at all, but it builds a community.”
West: “It’s nice seeing the same names pop up, all the time.”
When it comes to keeping busy during COVID times, the band joked that Dani Washington is the busiest one.
“I would basically lose my mind if I didn’t have something to do, I have to constantly be doing something.” Most of the time when not working on stuff for Neck Deep, he works on his clothing brand, The Rain Supply.
“I’ve been learning how to design my own stuff, and pretty much anything to keep creative. It keeps me level.”
Seb Barlow calls himself “producer by trade.” He’s been working on other people’s music day-to-day.
For West, the band stuff has kept him pretty busy. “We’ve been doing merch ranges to go up online, making graphics for the postings about Twitch events.”
The band does consume most of their time, especially with the record coming out.
“I’m so grateful I actually have something to do. I’ve been cooking a bunch, watching a bunch of movies, playing a bunch of videogames. Kind of just getting through it really.”
West also runs a tattoo studio, in which Ben also helps out with, but considering all things, that’s been put on pause too.
Sam has been doing the usual quarantine stuff like cooking, but he writes most days.
“Some things are just things I had, like loose ends of personal stuff, some stuff Neck Deep related, and I have been also working on stuff with a friend trying to help them write music for an upcoming, unannounced project.”
When it comes to what has been on recent playlists. The band has been listening to a lot of nothing, nowhere JUICE WRLD, Black Breath, The 1975, Charlie XCX, The Foo Fighters, and their own record start to finish, where Ben jumps in to say, “and I’m not just saying that I thoroughly enjoy it. Every time I listen to it I get something new out of it. ”
“I’ve been listening to heavy pop records lately, if it’s anything from our world it’s been mostly nostalgic. I keep going back to the same New Found Glory and Blink records,” comments Seb.
When it comes to the future and the new normal of concerts, the band is just as curious as fans are.
Seb comments, “We’ve had a few calls about it, trying to figure things out, but still, no one knows. It’s a bit of a terrifying outlook because a lot of people in the industry are saying two years before we can get anywhere near what normal is. I’m trying not to think about it, I’m just trying to come out on the other side.”
Ben: “I just want to see my mates again, it’ll be great when we can get in the same room to practice. It’s all mental at the minute. IT’s a strange one, I’m hoping sooner rather than later and everyone’s safe. I don’t want to go do something before it’s sensible to do so.”
Knowing that everyone is in the same boat, unknowing of the next steps is a positive for Seb Barlow,
According to Ben, it seems to have brought the best out of people in a lot of ways. “Most of the British public have been good about it really. It’s not all doom and gloom just yet. The sun is shining, we’re all alive and healthy. It’s a matter of time and things are going to ultimately be different.”
One final thing the band said about the record, despite living in crazy times, the more they have listened to it, the more they have realized it applies to the kind of situations going on around the world.
“The timing of the lyrical content will strike a chord with people.”
And for a message for their fans during this time, Ben says, “as grim as things are, just stay positive, good things are still happening in the world. And if you love Neck Deep, you’ve got the best Neck Deep record ever coming. Other than that, it’ll pass and things will get back to a new normal.”
Seb: “take one day at a time, and don’t think you have to be creative or you have to become the best version of yourself and you have to do all these things because you’ve got time. It’s a really stressful time and everyone is feeling the same. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”