Sheffield’s While She Sleeps are the most exciting British metal band to follow right now, and have gathered a large and loyal following whilst preparing to release their debut full-length album. Last month, as part of my work experience at Sabotage Times, I wrote an article praising the underground metalcore heroes, detailing my excitement for their debut album ‘This Is The Six’ and their upcoming UK tour. I wasn’t expecting much to come from it, except maybe a few negative comments about the music and genre. But on the same Monday that the article was published, a Sony Music representative read it and asked if I could get down to London the following day, to interview the band.
Obviously I was distraught about having to miss a valuable day of school, but put all that behind me in order to take an excellent opportunity to meet some brilliant musicians and learn more about their career. So, a bus, two trains and a taxi later, I was at the offices of Sony Music, preparing to chat to guitarists Sean Long and Mat Welsh, the day after their new single ‘Seven Hills’ was played on mid-afternoon radio…
ST: First of all, congratulations on Seven Hills being on Radio 1. The first sentence of my article on you was “They’re not a band you’ll hear at lunchtime on Radio 1” and you’ve just gone and proved me wrong, how do you feel about that?
Sean Long: Awesome! We’ve been on at 11 as well, Fearne Cotton played us…
Mat Welsh: And then Scott Mills yesterday… for us, it’s massive, not because it’s our song…
Long: Just because it’s metal, man.
Welsh: Just because its heavy music and I’m quite confident in saying we are the heaviest thing on in the daytime.
Long: I don’t think there’s been anything heavier on at that time of day.
Welsh: That’s such an achievement for us.
Long: Just so sick. We’re just spreading the message, aren’t we? That’s what I want to do.
ST: Do you feel like you’re spearheading the movement to get heavy music played on the radio?
Long: I hope so, because the people who have played it haven’t just played it because it’s on their playlist and they have to. Nobody who’s played it has like, ripped it or anything. Fearne Cotton obviously likes it, she said she likes a track that splits the country in half, and that’s what it does.
Welsh: I think we owe Daniel P Carter a lot as well; he’s as much to do with the movement as we are. I mean, he played ‘Love At War’ twice on Zane Lowe’s show, once then again straight after, and he’s doing that because he wants to prove to everyone that it’s fine for that to happen.
Long: And it is, and I think it should, to be honest. It’s really good.
ST: As a metalcore band, in a genre that everyone has a different opinion on, what was it like to start out on a scene that really splits people?
Welsh: Fuck ‘em… they all need to wake up.
Long: Everyone needs to wake up and realise that there’s just as many people who like all that shit as they do anything else. Instead of cutting it off, pretending that it’s such a bad thing, they need to realise that its music and people make livings off it.
Welsh: People need to ditch these ideas on genres, because it’s just music; everything’s music. People are so quick to dislike something because of the genre it is, regardless of how the song makes them feel.
Long: It is just music, regardless of what it is.
Welsh: Whether it’s a pop song, or a classical song, or a death metal song, you can feel good about that sound. I want to erase those genre boundaries, because they’re just pointless.
ST: On the subject of starting out, what was your first gig like?
Welsh: Springbank Centre, 2006, April.
Long: (laughing) Was that our first gig?
Welsh: Yeah, that was our first gig as While She Sleeps; me and Sean had been playing together for nine years.
Long: I don’t know what it were like, can’t remember. I can remember seeing a picture of the gig, but I can’t…oh wait, I can remember the gig! I was wearing a fucking polo neck with collar up!
Welsh: I remember playing that song that was called like, Home Is In…something about four walls…
Long: If These Four Walls Could Speak, that was it.
Welsh: It was quite embarrassing, bit of a school hall, battle of the bands type of thing. We didn’t get through.
Long: About four people there…
Welsh: Loads of people told us we were good afterwards, but I think that was total sympathy.
ST: So who were your influences? What bands were you listening to when you were playing together, and when you were starting up While She Sleeps?
Long: Thrice, Rage Against The Machine, Rancid… all stuff like that.
Welsh: I had a really punk influence, Rancid and Bad Religion, I was really into all that, still am now. We all went through a massive Thrice thing.
Long: Thrice and Rage are probably the reasons I wanted to make music myself, after the feelings those bands gave me.
Welsh: Definitely on Thrice, and on Rage as well. Rage are the most inspirational band. You know the movement thing I was talking about, they were a band you saw and were just like “Fuck…I wanna join in that shit”. And last year, when it was like “Get their tune to Christmas number 1” it was so great to see everyone like “I’m on board with that”. That’s what I was saying about our movement, I want people to be like that.
Long: It shouldn’t be that much of a mission to get a track like that to number 1.
Welsh: Because everyone loves it, they play that track in a club and everyone goes off, everyone knows it wherever you are. You don’t need to hide it.
ST: If there was an album you wish you could have written, what would it be?
Welsh: Thrice – Artist in the Ambulance, or Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine, for me.
Long: Or ‘And Out Come The Wolves’ by Rancid.
ST: Over the next few weeks you’re going to be doing so much promotion for the new album, and then the tour after that. How do you stay sane on the road?
Long: Dude, we are not sane, we are so far from sane it’s untrue.
Welsh: At the moment we’re trying to start a new leaf, restore our sanity because it’s all…
Long: We’ve been going a little bit mental.
Welsh: It’s just been getting silly; we’ve all been battering it. Doing festivals every weekend, and our touring before that, it all becomes a bit of a blur.
Long: The last three months of my life have just gone so fast, because of how quick everything’s been happening.
Welsh: We’re about to go to Australia, we need to just…
Long: Chill the fuck out.
Welsh: Go into it with a fresh head, and like…when you get cramped up in a van with dudes you’ve known forever, we bicker about bullshit, you know what I mean? None of it’s serious, but it’s just mental. It’s a weird thing to be living so closely with your best mates.
ST: So once all the album promotion is over and you can finally relax, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?
Welsh: …probably carry on writing!
Long: (laughing) Nah, I need to go on holiday!
Welsh: I’d want a holiday as well, haven’t had a proper holiday in years. And after all the band stuff, it would be great to go somewhere nice and not have to play a gig. Not that I don’t like playing gigs…
Long: It’s just nice to travel without a business thing to do. I’m gonna try and go to Thailand with my bird, around Christmas.
ST: You said that the last three months have been a blur. You played a show with Axewound (a heavy metal supergroup involving members of Cancer Bats and Bullet for my Valentine), you did Download, which must have been huge for you. Does it feel like your career is being taken to the next level?
Long: I do feel like that, yeah, especially since we dropped the new tracks and stuff. People are finally saying “Yeah, I do like While She Sleeps, I think they are good” instead of just basing it on The North Stands For Nothing (the band’s 2010 mini-album).
Welsh: It’s nice that we’re giving people something that we’re more proud of, so I feel more like… if someone came and said “Oh my god oh my god I love your band” but they’d only heard The North…
Long: We would still be a bit like “Really? We’re your favourite… really?”, but now I’m more proud of the new tracks and I feel like we’ve locked in the fans a bit more, they can say “Yes, I do like While She Sleeps!”
Welsh: Because The North was so long ago, when we were recording it we had no idea what it was gonna do or anything. We wrote it really carefree, didn’t really think about it. We’re constantly progressing as a band, so it’s quite…stuff’s going to the next level, but we still have loads of shit where we fuck up all the time, you know? We’re constantly finding our feet, man.
Long: Been finding them for about nine years. Don’t think we’ll ever find them; we’ll be dead by that time.
ST: The North Stands For Nothing is a pretty short album. Did you intentionally set out to produce a brief, powerful statement?
Long: Originally, it was only gonna be an EP, just like another three-track demo. Then it turned out to be more tracks, somehow…
Welsh: Just because we were like “We can’t release it if it’s this, put a bit more in.”
Long: And then Small Town (the independent record label that released The North) said we could put it in the shops…
Welsh: If we called it a ‘mini-album’, and we didn’t want to like…clog it with shit. I’ve always been under the impression that you should go in there, short and sweet, rather be less than more. Leave them with some space, so they can go “Ahh, I wanna see them again” or something.
Long: And a lot of the stuff we got from The North Stands For Nothing was “Oh my god, I wish it was longer”, so at least they liked it and they do want more, so they’ll stick around for the next album.
ST: For ‘The North’, was there a point where you thought “We’ve got enough tracks now, we should cut this off and keep it brief”?
Long: Really it was just a mad rush, and they were the tracks we ended up with. We’d finished them, then cut it down to the ones that we’d really, like, bonded on.
Welsh: It was really an experience, because we’d moved into our barn for like, full-time living, and the plan was to write it and record it in six weeks. It ended up taking about four months, we just got fucked, got battered every night. Used to do a bit of writing, then our mates would come by at around five and we just thought “Ah yeah, let’s stop”. We had no management, no label on our back. We were just recording it ourselves, so there were no strict deadlines. It was really hard to motivate yourself.
Long: It worked out that we recorded 12 seconds a day, on average, for four months. That’s how long it took us, that’s how chilled out we were!
Welsh: Imagine putting a guitar round yourself, recording 12 seconds then just going “Yeah, that’s it for the day”.
ST: So on This Is The Six; do you feel like there was more of a focus during recording, like you’d stepped it up to a bit more than 12 seconds a day?
Long: Yeah, when that got in shops and did well and got us known, we had more chance to be like “Right, we’re going in the studio, this is going in shops, a lot more people are gonna be able to listen to this, this is our chance now”.
Welsh: We’ve earned like, a step to stand on and speak to people now.
Long: A lot more people are hearing it and they’re going to take us more seriously, so when we went in to write and record it, we were like “Let’s do this”.
Welsh: We need to be giving them something that’s like, exactly right, ‘cause we’ve earned this place to speak to all these people.
Long: If we did take the piss with this, then we’d be pissing everything we’d done straight up the wall, just wasting it.
Welsh: We were a lot more serious with management and labels, like we chose who we wanted to work with, we chose the studio, actually spent money on recording the album, so we were like “Let’s fucking do it”.
ST: On a musical level, what can your fans expect to hear on This Is The Six?
Long: The North Stands For Nothing, with more tracks and the contrast turned up. Everything we’ve released so far, but so much more intense.
Welsh: If The North Stands For Nothing were a pizza, this would have like, ten more toppings and a stuffed crust.
Long: And a, and a a thingy next to it…
Welsh: Yeah, you’d get a side; you’d get a choice of drinks…
Long: Free salad, one free can of Coke; everything’s just a bit extra.
Welsh: Ciggie for after…
Long: And the guys who you’d bought it off would let you smoke inside, as well.
(laughter from all)
Welsh: Just the experience… turned up a lot.
Long: Turned up to eleven… they’ll do you a deal on how much cheese you want, everything.
ST: So, The North Stands For Nothing– basic margherita. This Is The Six – best pizza you’ve ever had, in your life.
Long: With sides, everything. They’ll do you a deal, you get it cheaper…you’ll probably pull in the restaurant as well.
Welsh: You had a Tesco’s pizza on ‘The North’…
Welsh: And now you’ve got, just a fucking…
Long: No, you had a Tesco’s pizza on The North, and now you’ve opened your own franchise, in Spain. You’re your own boss.
Welsh: You can do whatever you want to do.
Long: So please pre-order it!
Welsh: (laughing) Please buy it, because if nobody does then I’m not gonna get to Thailand.
While She Sleeps’ debut album This Is The Six will be released on 13th August.
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