I'll give 110% credit to Chris Roetter from Like Moths To Flames for making sure that I give Neck Deep an honest look - boy, am I glad I did. I can confidently say that Neck Deep is everything you'd want in a band - humble, hard working, not to mention they also make some really good music. I met up with vocalist Ben Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans to talk about the tour and more. Do not sleep on this band, you'll be hearing a lot more from them in the future, promise.
: Alex Gregory
First off, can you state who you are and what you do in Neck Deep?
Ben Barlow: My name is Ben, and I sing in Neck Deep
Fil Thorpe-Evans: My name is Fil, and I play bass.
First off, how's your Warped Tour experience been so far?
Fil: It's been amazing. We've had amazing crowds,
Ben: Met some cool people, generally just cool shit.
Fil: Shows, parties, sun and good bands.
How similar is Warped to something like Slam Dunk in the U.K.?
Fil: It's similar to Slam Dunk but on a much bigger scale.
Ben: I think it's similar to a lot of things. In the day, it's just a festival - you have your shitty food stands and that other shit, but then behind the scenes it's like no other festival.
Fil: It's much more outdoors, much bigger stages, bigger bands.
What bands have you guys really enjoyed watching on this tour?
Ben: I've got to see Real Friends and State Champs, but that's just because they're friends. Issues are pretty good, The Story So Far in their hometown in Mtn. View - that was gorgeous to see them play to all those people.
Fil: I've watched Mayday Parade a bunch of times, We Are The In Crowd, Front Porch Step over at the Acoustic Basement.
This isn't your first time here in the States this year, it's your second - you were just here recently with Knuckle Puck and Light Years. Have you noticed a change from the crowds then to now?
Ben: For a lot of the California dates a lot of the kids that went to the Pomona/LA dates, especially those who couldn't get tickets to the Chain Reaction date before, they had all this energy pent up, they went nuts! You come down to California and you're like "OK, these kids are pop-punk kids".
We Are Triumphant was a label that not a lot of people paid attention to, and then you signed with Hopeless Records. What led to that?
Fil: It was really organic, really. We were getting to the stages where we putting stuff together for our full length record, before any record label was involved, we were working on it. The plan with our management from the start was that we were going to self-release it unless someone comes along with something that we cant refuse, and a few people came along and one of the people that got in contact was Hopeless, and we spoke with them a few times...
Ben: We said before all that that Hopeless would be for us. We felt like even before they approached us that they'd be a good fit, and if we got anything from them we'd be very open to that. We sat down and talked with them and met [Eric] Tobin for the first time...that sounds weird even thinking about that...
Fil: We played U.K. Warped Tour in November and met Eric Tobin for the first time.
Ben: We talked to him for the first time and everything kinda seemed to fit, they saw what we were going for as a band. We knew we weren't going to get absolutely rinsed or overlooked, we knew that they would allow us to do what we wanted to do, within reason and back us to do bigger and better things.
Speaking of Warped U.K., that's not happening this year. What are your thoughts on that?
Fil: No, it's not...
Ben: It was pretty successful when we played it last year.
Fil: I know that we're on tour anyways, so we wouldn't be able to play it this year. It was a really cool event.
Ben: I dunno why they did that. I think the U.K. needs something like Warped Tour, but it almost kind of has that with Slam Dunk. I think maybe Slam Dunk could expand a bit, or something along those lines - it feels like an all day event, as opposed to a festival. If it was set up on a bigger scale in a field, then maybe it would feel a bit more like Warped, but it's always indoors.
You put out your Hopeless Records debut, Wishful Thinking back in January. What was the hardest part about writing and recording this album?
Ben: I wasn't hard doing it, probably inspiration sometimes was a little hard, only because I was super happy writing this album. Rain In July and Bad Decisions I had some shit going on that I needed to get off my chest and write about and I felt like writing it was really organic. Where as this, I had to actually sit down a bit more, thinking "I've got to write 12 songs, and I don't know what about" And I think that was kinda the good part about it, it made me actually think and work a lot harder than I have done in the past, rather than it all come to me - I had to sit and think and really write the lyrics. Because I was in a good place, I was pretty happy. It's always harder to draw inspiration from a happy place because when you're happy you don't tend to think, you kinda just accept things the way they are; when you're in a bad place, you can fucking write for days, because all you do is think about that shit.
Sebastian Barlow - he's your brother? Cousin?
Ben: Yeah, he's my older brother.
How does the relation influence how you guys work together?
Ben: Lloyd, Fil and West were in a hardcore band called Spires and they always recorded with my brother in the top room in my house, and that's how I met those guys. But Seb's always been the dude who records music. But I ended up making friends with the Spires guys, and it ended up being almost their home too. So yeah, he was the one who would record us, but he has a massive say in the writing as well because he's always there for the pre-production, so he'll sit there while we're writing the songs and he'll have an input here or there - not on every song, but he's just an extra head there and maybe even an outside head which you need sometimes while writing to say "Ooh, try this." And yeah, he's just a good creative force, and he still does quite a bit with the band. He runs our U.K. merch store, so my garage at home is filled with merch, which he processes and sends off.
"Crushing Grief" is the first single off the record, and it's all about getting happy and putting off what makes you upset. What kind of things make you guys happy?
Ben: This makes me happy. Having close friends, family and girlfriend at home is good to have, because that's when it sucks to be alive when you have no one. Doing this as a job is a dream come true.
Fil: We get to fucking do this fun shit for a job...
Ben: I think I'm just generally happy anyways, even I sit back and I'm thinking "Fuck, I'm having a shit day..." You said it exactly when you sat there and you're like "It could be a worse...it could be a fuckload worse!".
Fil: Yeah, I think we're all optimistic as people, realizing that this is the best thing for us and we're all super happy...
Ben: And I think that's what got us here as well, is that we're optimistic and we always wanted and chased it, and made decisions how to push this further, because this is our fucking dream. When Hopeless came knocking, we could've easily been fucking dicks and been like "No, we don't want a fucking label to look after us...", but instead we're like "Nah fuck this, they're going to help us achieve so much shit - they're going to help us see the world and experience so much..."
Fil: It's kind of a horrible thing to say, but you could die tomorrow man, you want to go out and do as much as you can and enjoy what you're doing. We've all been in shit jobs and stuff before this...
Ben: Shit bands...
Fil: I've fucking done the touring years for years, where nobody cares and you fucking slave away and you spend all your money doing it and then at the end of it you sold one t-shirt over a month and then you go back to working at your shitty job and it's like "Fuck!" That's when you start to lose inspiration doing it. Doing it like this is the best thing in the world. Everyone's got friends and family at home, and you miss them at times, but they're not that far away and you're always back with them...
Ben: So the time that you do have them is always often a good amount of time. When you get back it doesn't feel like you've been gone for ages.
Fil: I'd much rather be on tour and miss them for awhile instead of just being there the whole time, because that just loses the point.
Ben: Absence makes the heart grow fonder...I would love to bring all my friends and family out on tour...
Fil: I can't wait to be at the stage where you can just be "Yeah, bring out this dude for a week...", "Bring out my girlfriend for a week..."
Ben: At this point, it's whatever, it's kind of good. I'd hate to be in a position where I don't really know what I'm going to do with my life - I'm still don't really know what I'm going to do, but I know what I'm going to do for the next couple of years. Like I know this is going somewhere, so at least for the foreseeable future...who knows what kind of doors will open. I would hate to be sitting at home everyday with my friends in the same position as they are and not fucking knowing..."Oh, I'll just go to Uni, just because that's the next logical step..." or "I'll just get a job and then not really know where I want to take it from there" and then be in that boat of "What the fuck am I doing with my life? I still think half the time "Fucking hell, where am I going with all this shit?" You're going to think about it no matter what position you're in, but I think it's a lot easier for us because we have this - this is basically like having a sick job, like "Sweet, I'm set for the next little bit."
Fil: Who knows where it'll go, but if we can keep this going for...
Ben: I'll keep it going for 10, 15, 20 years...if Neck Deep goes on to be one of those bands that lasts for 30 years, I'd be stoked on that.
Is it hard to reflect on where you might be in a few years because you guys are on the move? You're always playing shows, at the merch tent...
Ben: I imagine we'll be doing the same shit, touring and writing records.
Fil: You can plan and hope...
Ben: In the next couple years, I'd like to be able to say "Fuck yeah, I saw a lot of the world, I played a shit lot of shows, met a shit lot of people, got a shit load of tats..." Just being able to say I experienced something is all I really care about.
My favorite song off the record is "Blank Pages", I really like the guitar on that one. What inspired that song in particular?
Ben: Again like I was saying before, being frustrated with writing and really come to draw inspiration. It's easy to talk about shit that annoys you or gets you down, and at that time not being able to write shit was one of the only things that was annoying me. It's just about being stuck in a creative block.
What song do you guys really look forward to playing and why?
Ben: I like "Crushing Grief" and "Tables Turned", mainly because they're fun to sing and they're pretty energetic songs and people get into them. There's a few big bits in there that people enjoy.
Fil: I like "Losing Teeth", because it's fun to play for me. "Tables Turned" is another fun one..."Crushing Grief"...
Ben: I don't think there's any songs in our set really anymore that we don't like playing, not in this set anyways.
Fil: Really we like anything that has a singalong and or is nice and bouncy.
Ben: Yeah, we have a few songs that we don't like playing, but every band has those songs.
If you had time to add one more song to your set, which one would it be and why?
Ben: We do that occasionally if we start early. We're pro at setting our gear up, nice and quick - sometimes we'll have a little extra time to throw a song in there. Like normally we'll throw "Kick It" in there as an intro, but honestly we can fuck around with a few different songs if we really wanted to..."Damsel In Distress", "Up In Smoke", we could throw a bunch of shit in there.
Fil: If I were to add a song it'd be "Damsel" or "Head In The Ground".
What are some U.K. bands that fans need to know about here in the States? We've got Lower Than Atlantis, Don Broco, and Deaf Havana, but who else?
Fil: You've pretty much taken them all away from us there, there's not many left after that.
Ben: Roam, they're from Brighton.
Fil: Me vs Hero, they're pretty cool - they've got a new record out coming out. You Me At Six, just a small band that no one's heard of before - free promotion for the boys there, they really need it. Bring Me The Horizon...
Ben: Yeah, Bring Me...they do alright.
You guys are often compared to The Story So Far - is that a fair comparison or not? Why?
Fil: I think it's fair in that we both play Pop-Punk, that's kinda fair. Other than that it depends on how much you're talkin' - if you're go "Oh yeah, they're like this and this..."
Ben: That's fair, to use it as a reference to say "Oh yeah..."
Fil: Yeah, we listen to that stuff and we play that stuff, it's that kind of music. It's like New Found Glory...it's not Blink-182 - it's pop-punk, it is that genre.
Ben: Yeah, it's all in the same fucking bundle. It doesn't really annoy us so much really - at the start, it was kind of annoying I guess because it was like "Oh, you guys are stupid", obviously look into the music a bit more. It doesn't really happen anymore, we've gotten to the point where we have people who definitely don't like us, and people who definitely do like us. All these people who don't like us can fuck off and we won't pay attention to you, because we never will and we will definitely pay attention to those who do like us, because it's fucking stupid to pay attention to people who don't like you. You might as well show love to the people who love you - why the fuck would we pay attention to the people who hate us?
Fil: If you don't like it, fair enough, not everybody likes everything.
Ben: I don't like Justin Bieber, but I'm not going "Justin Bieber is the biggest shithead in the world" on the internet.
Fil: We never planned what kind of genre we wanted to be in "Oh we want it to sound like this..."
But you guys didn't expect people to be like "Play 'Quicksand'!" in the middle of your set...
Fil: It was never anything like that. At the start, it was a very small period of time where the name was first getting out and people were kinda hearing about it, they were like "Oh yeah, they just sound like this" and I think all the kids who said that have never heard of another fucking pop-punk band in their life.
Ben: All those kids have slowly fucked off...
Fil: We don't claim to be original. We not sitting here saying "Fuck that man, we're so original!" We don't give a fuck, we just play pop-punk because it's fun. We don't give a fuck what it sounds like.
Ben: Stop arguing over what's what.
Fil: If you like the song, what fucking difference does it make? You could listen to Neck Deep and be like "I fucking love this, is this death metal? I love death metal." If we branded ourselves as a death metal band, we'd be the worst death metal in the world, but it doesn't matter, cause the music is the music.
Ben: The way I see it, again, the people who like us and love our band are the people who matter, nothing else really should.
What are you guys up to in the fall? Are you guys coming back here, or this is for 2014?
Ben: Ooooooh...we can't say anything. We're coming back here - can't say when or who with.
Fil: I think it's announced a few weeks after we get back...
Are you guys doing anything in the U.K.?
Ben: Not anything until Reading and Leeds festival, that's when we get home. Then we have some U.K. stuff early next year.
Anything else you'd like to say or mention before we wrap up here?
Ben: Thanks for checking us out, I guess!
Fil: Stay cool, dawgs!