While She Sleeps Double Feature + Interview
I’ve seen While She Sleeps 3 times in the past week and every single one of those shows has been a different type of insanity. First off, their Rock City show was the beginning of the UK leg of the tour and the entire show from top to bottom was a perfect example of modern heavy music, from French metalcore newcomers LANDMVRKS, Trash Boat’s brand of heavy pop-punk, and Stray From The Path receiving a reception that any headline band would be proud of. However, it was Sleeps’ show, and they proved it, blasting through hits from all four of their albums, from debut ‘This is the Six’ all the way up to ‘SO WHAT?’, which garnered huge singalongs from the crowd – incredible considering that the album hadn’t even been released at the time of the show. The entire night was an excellent showcase of heavy music and Sleeps showed why they deserved to step up to Rock City after playing Rescue Rooms countless times.
However, the best While She Sleeps show I have ever seen was at the Roundhouse in London, where they played accompanied by a live choir and it completely blew my mind. Easily the best sounding show I have ever been to, there was no need to mosh, I simply stood at the back and listened to how huge everything sounded with the extra layers added by the choir – made doubly impressive by the fact that Sleeps had not altered their songs at all, simply added more to it. This was a set worthy of stadiums, and it was obvious how integral the choir was to the recording of ‘SO WHAT?’ with how much bigger everything sounded – however what was more surprising was how older songs – particularly “Seven Hills”, “Brainwashed” and “Four Walls” sounded like they had been designed for a live choir and yet still retained the brutality that made them so popular initially. This was arguably one of the best shows of my life, it was certainly the most innovative that I’ve ever been to, and proves why While She Sleeps are at the forefront of British metalcore.
The final show was at Blondies, a tiny dive bar in North London and was just pure insanity from start to finish. They only had a 30-minute set as the show was recorded for Kerrang, but there was non- stop action from the moment “Anti-Social” kicked in, and the entire venue had the vibe of a proper punk show, with the whole place moving – despite everyone being packed so tightly together. Frontman Loz Taylor certainly made the most of the intimacy, joining the crowd in the pit and even walking on the ceiling supported by most of the crowd at one point. Sleeps have certainly showed how they are the masters of the live show – from creating huge stadium style atmospheres at the Roundhouse to destroying the tiny venues that they began their careers in, this is a band that I will never stop going to see.
Before kicking off their UK tour at Nottingham’s Rock City I had the chance to speak to guitarist/vocalist Mat Welsh (and his dog Nelson who kept wanting to play) and he had this to say:
What is it like touring the album before it’s released?
It is weird, but the entire system of releasing music is changing quite dramatically. People are releasing so much stuff pre-release right now that after release everything quietens down, whereas the point between the first song coming out to the album release is a really exciting time. If you look at pop artists, they’re just releasing singles, and the growth of streaming now people just listen to the most popular songs – the system of ordering songs in an album is almost completely gone. We love the journey of records, but at the same time we never want to be stubborn to change even if we don’t agree with it. Touring before an albums release is probably going to become more normal in the future because it’s the most focused part of a campaign.
How come you didn’t crowdfund ‘SO WHAT?’
This time we’re in partnership with Spinefarm, and we loved crowdfunding last time round but we knew we’d constantly be comparing it if we did the same thing again, and we didn’t want it to feel repetitive to our fans and so we wanted this one to become slightly more normal. We also got to offload some of the areas that we disliked with self-releasing – it was insanely stressful because I do a lot of the business with the band and it’s good to work with people who do all of this for a living and be able to hand it off to people who do it better than us. I’m a firm believer in doing it yourself but there’s a guy who does it every day and he’s a pro at it so it makes sense.
What’s it like stepping up to do Rock City?
We’ve done Rescue Rooms a bunch of times and it is mental to be playing Rock City tonight. I’m so stoked that we’ve managed to sell 1600 tickets for tonight. I come to lots of shows at Rock City, and we know a lot of the guys in-house here. It’s a venue that’s had us since we played to 20 kids downstairs in the basement and now, we’re playing the main room and we’re slapping ourselves because it just feels mental.
How did the idea of the live choir for the Roundhouse come about?
We’re worked with Choir Noir on the record as well, and Kat (who orchestrates it) has done some amazing stuff with our songs. We absolutely love gang vocals – the feeling of everyone singing in unison is so nice, at a gig or at football or something. This time we thought it would be good if we could extend this from just the five of us into something bigger, and first time we heard a chorus I’d written being sung by someone else with harmonies and shit gave me complete chills, and the idea of us playing a show backed by a live choir is just going to be so special. The only time we’re practicing in person is on the day before the Roundhouse, and then to go from that to playing Blondies for Kerrang on Monday is such polar opposites I love it.
Are there any new influences on this album?
We’re letting in more of a broader spectrum of influences this time round. We’ve especially been digging back into music from when we were much younger, like stuff that was on in our houses and stuff from when we were kids. Sean’s been using loads of like 90s trance and those big hooks, and for me it’s just been lots of what got me into the music in the first place because we often forget to pay attention to those beginning bands.
Have you got anything different planned for your summer shows?
We basically haven’t looked any further than this tour – the world basically ends at Roundhouse for us, so we’ll think about that when we’ve recharged.
How did this bill of bands come together?
Just a really really long email chain really. We always make a dream bill of like 10 names for each slot and then reach out to them and then go back and forth about all the logistics, and this one came together pretty quickly. We were really happy with the response we got like “Oh my God Stray From the Path want to play with us.” The whole package is so good, all the bands are so friendly and the show flows really well and has that variation with styles to keep it all interesting.
Who’s your dream band to play with?
I’d love to support Foo Fighters or Slipknot, it would be incredible to step up into that world of sold-out stadiums.