Interview: While She Sleeps

As the saying goes: if you want something done right, just do it yourself. Last year Sheffield metalcore outfit While She Sleeps made the decision to step away from label backing and release You Are We, their third studio album, via a crowdfunding project. Ahead of their highly-anticipated homecoming show this month, Chris Lord spoke to guitarist Mat Welsh about why they believe it’s a risk that certainly paid off.

After ten years of While She Sleeps, why go DIY now?
When we started the band, this is how we worked. In the beginning, we loved doing everything ourselves, and when any good things came to the band, it kind of felt like we really deserved it. As with most musicians, there’s that dream of getting signed, and that the be all and end all is being on a major label. We did that, but then realised a couple of years later that it’s not really the main thing, and that this thing we cared about so much, and put our whole fucking lives into, we’d put into the hands of people who could be quite careless with it. To them, we’re just another number on a sheet. Or in our case, a very small fish in a very big pond. We thought pulling everything back to how we did it at the beginning, but on a bigger scale, would give us the full creative control to be able to release this record exactly how we want to.

Is it something you’ll do again?

I think so. We don’t want to go around telling people that being on a major label isn’t the be all and end all. We’re not saying that it’s wrong. It could be right for you, but we just want to encourage people that this is possible, that you can have just as successful releases doing things on your own. It’s your baby, essentially.

Considering the title, You Are We, how important is the band’s close relationship with its Sheffield fan base? Is that a reference to your local fans?
Yeah, but it’s also a reference to the way we made the record. We made the music, but the fans actually made the record possible [through PledgeMusic]. It’s been a collaborative effort getting it out there. There’s no we without you. It doesn’t happen unless everyone gets together, and that’s also a view we’d like to promote in a wider sense. We stand against discrimination between different races and religions, and we believe that if everyone worked together, and considered us one enormous race, we’d all be a lot better off.

What are the central themes on the new album?
The sense of detachment in society is a big one. We’ve got such a network to be able to connect with each other, and in ‘Civil Isolation’, we’re talking about how easy it is for people who use it to become completely isolated. Because of social media, you can have a million friends, but still be sat alone in your bedroom. We’ve actually created a civil isolation.

There’s a sense of progression and genuine maturity about the likes of ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Civil Isolation’. Is this album your finest work?
I’m confident in saying that it’s by far our best work. We felt free making it. It wasn’t about what genre it was, or what style it was, it was just about us collectively feeling good as musicians.

Some might argue that Oli Sykes’ guest vocal appearance on ‘Silence Speaks’ is an obvious choice. How did it come about?
They have a warehouse directly across the road from ours, and we’ve been friends with them for a while. When this campaign started, Oli was really interested in it, and he loved the new music we were putting out. So he reached out to us to ask if there was any way he could get involved, and we eventually invited him in to sing. We worked together on that bit, and we’re really happy with how it turned out

Which bands and artists influence the band the most these days?
To be honest, we often dig back to the original influences that got us excited about being musicians and inspired us to actually do this in the first place. We’re usually influenced by a band called Thrice. They’ve been a band that we’ve loved throughout our entire career. There’s a lot of punk stuff, too. I’m a huge Rancid fan, and a big Anti-Flag fan. I like bands who sing positive messages about making acts of change in the world. I think it’s important that, if you gain a large audience with a band, you use it to say something positive to people.

Could the upcoming tour be the last time we see Sleeps in club venues?
Maybe, but at the same time, I think we’ll always be a band who go back and play smaller venues, just because we love that sort of intimate atmosphere. And even when we play the bigger places, that gives us an urge to take it back and do something smaller.

What can fans expect from your hometown show this month?
Hopefully absolute chaos! And a fun party atmosphere. It should be great.

While She Sleeps play Plug Sheffield on April 21st. Tickets and more info from www.the-plug.com.

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