“People don’t view us in the way we view ourselves” – Bring Me The Horizon on new album, amo
It affects you deeply when you break up with someone, there was a lot of content to talk about.
It’s something of a tired rock ‘n’ roll marketing trope that almost every band feels obliged to declare that an upcoming album is their most experimental to date, but considering Bring Me the Horizon’s track record of creative double downs and stylistic mash-ups, when they say as much, you’d better believe them. Long gone are the days when controversy and wicked headlines often plagued the Sheffield quintet – the Bring Me the Horizon of today is a much more mature, singularly-focused outfit. Due for release later this month, amo – the band’s 6th album – is the closest thing to a concept album the Steel City stars have ever recorded. Portuguese for ‘I love’, amo is a raw, unfettered think piece on love’s trials and tribulations – inspired in no small part by Oli Sykes’ failed first marriage as well as his recent nuptials. Reluctant at first to delve into his wounded psyche for creative inspiration, Sykes eventually bore his soul and penned perhaps the most authentic lyrics of his career. After all – as BMTH’s de facto leader put it – everything boils down to love in the end.
Ahead of their European tour, I met the band at their Drop Dead Church HQ in Sheffield to get a feel for amo and some insight into life in Bring Me the Horizon in 2018.
How did the concept for amo materialise? Was writing the album a cathartic experience?
Oli Sykes: We needed to write another album! [laughs] Basically, I got divorced recently and I met someone else and got married. Between the last album and this one I’ve been through quite a lot in terms of relationships and love, so it was the topic that I had to talk about. I was a bit hesitant to talk about it at first, but after a while it became apparent that that’s really all I had to talk about. It affects you deeply when you break up with someone, especially if you’ve been married or you find out that stuff’s been happening, so there was a lot of content to talk about.
I think writing lyrics for me has always been therapeutic. More so over the last few years and the last few albums, but I definitely appreciate it as a device to overcome things and to deal with stuff. When you do actually go seek help for stuff like addictions or relationship problems, one of the things they say is that it helps to write letters, and even if you don’t send them or give them to anyone it gets something out. It’s very rewarding as well because not only does it help me deal with stuff, but then I get to see people sing it back to me when we play it live.
I saw an interview in NME where you said that love is the most powerful human emotion, so by default, does that make amo the most powerful Bring Me the Horizon album?
Jordan Fish: It depends what you’re looking for, but I guess it’s the most honest.
OS: I think because of the music we wrote there was a lot more freedom for me to say whatever I wanted. As weird as it sounds, on the last album there were lyrics that I didn’t feel like I could write because it didn’t seem to slot in with the music. If we were writing a big, rocking stadium song the choice of dialect actually felt out of place sometimes, whereas we’ve gone so much further out with the music this time that I felt like I could say anything, be jokey, funny, sarcastic or even just straight up gushing and not worry about it being a cliché lyric.
JF: Or even uncomfortable and awkward. We’ve not had that before.
To me, the lyrics for ‘Mantra’ [the album’s lead single] feel like a critique of the mainstream. Is that the case?
OS: It’s a bit of everything. It started off when I was watching this documentary called ‘Wild Wild Country’ while writing lyrics for the song, and throughout watching that I started making a connection between that and just starting a normal relationship. When someone has a great power over someone you get relationships where there’s one person in power and the other person doesn’t even realise how much they are being controlled. The mentality and the way it works and the way these people control hundreds, thousands of people is the very same way in which relationships work. You hand over all your trust, you’ve gotta trust this person and love them. Even someone like Donald Trump, there’s no amount of wrong that person can do. People are convinced that they love him, and that goes for people in music, film, everything.
You see it all over, so that’s kinda where it started off, but you are right in a way. It’s a critique of people, really. We all create our own version of reality and we really don’t like people telling us that that’s wrong, because we don’t wanna have to do something about it. That’s why people get their backs up when they talk about vegetarianism or social media or race. If people admit that they’re wrong they’re gonna have to reconfigure everything, so that’s what the main lyric is [‘before the truth will set you free, it’ll piss you off’]. The things you need to know are the things you don’t wanna know. Obviously for me, that was after realising my wife had an affair that there wasn’t really much hope in it. But on a bigger scale, a lot of people like to live in their own little world and not really face the truth, so it’s also about that.
This is the first time you’ve recorded in LA. Compared to recording That’s The Spirit in Greece, how did this setting inspire the new record?
Lee Malia: It can be as crazy as you want it to be, I guess! But we were based over the other side of the hills in Studio City where it’s quite laid back as its own little place.
JF: It’s hard to say how much [where you are] influences an album until afterwards. When you’re doing it you just feel like you’re getting on, but then sometimes you look back and think maybe being in that place did have some effect. I don’t know what the effect of being in LA has had on us all or whatever, but we quite enjoyed being somewhere that was a bit less isolated. We struggled for a bit to figure out where we were gonna go next because we’ve been to the most idyllic studio in the world, so we needed something a bit different. At first we weren’t sure about America, but it actually worked out really well for us.
For the second consecutive album, the band [Oli and Jordan] has taken care of production duties. Without an outside voice like Terry Date [producer of 2013’s Sempiternal], for example, does this allow for greater creative freedom?
JF: I think the band’s always had that creative freedom.
LM: We’ve had producers but to be fair they were never producing, they were just recording the album. Terry Date was a reyt nice bloke and that, but he didn’t produce or write anything.
OS: I hate to say it but we made that album despite him, he didn’t make it any easier for us. It was great to work with him obviously, but we kinda realised halfway through that we were on a different wavelength. I think sometimes we’d love some help, but at the same time it’s so hard to find someone that gets what you’re doing.
JF: The whole production thing wasn’t an ego trip for us, it was more that we just realised we were doing it anyway.
OS: I think sometimes producers come in and they wanna put their stamp on it. They’re not just doing it to make us look good, they’re doing it to further their own careers. So it’s like they almost have to add a crazy idea, like ‘go and run around the block so you’re really out of breath when you come back’, or ‘this song’s about being underwater, so why don’t we do in a pool?’ [laughs] There’s nothing pretty or glamorous about recording, you just stand there and do it until it’s good. We haven’t got time for that, it’s hard enough as it is mate!
The concept of ‘Wonderful Life’ [the album’s second single] is something that I think we can all relate to. In those moments away from touring where life can get tedious, is music still the best outlet?
OS: Yeah, I guess so. That or heroin! No. We’re all like thirty years old, so we love just being boring people, but at the same time as much as we think we are, other people think we’re something else. Even down to us being covered in tattoos and looking differently, people don’t view us in the way we view ourselves. I wouldn’t say it’s an identity crisis, but it’s like I want to be boring but I can’t be boring.
JF: I think that’s why the video just feels right for us. We’re at that age where things start to get weird and the only way to deal with it is just to find it funny. I don’t go out anymore, so Saturday night is just me at home with my wife while the baby’s in bed.
OS: When you listen to the song, that’s the thing. We made this big, heavy song that we might’ve written like five years ago because we still love it, but at the same time we’re not gonna do a video where it’s just strobe lights with us all rocking out.
JF: Exactly. It’s like stepping back and taking the piss out of it.
Your recent Reading and Leeds shows were explosive and triumphant to say the least. To me, it felt half homecoming/half audition for a headline slot next year.
JF: We’re not doing it next year.
OS: No, not really. We were talking to them about playing the festival properly but we just didn’t feel like we were ready. But we did wanna do something and we felt like that’d be a cool way to come back.
JF: We hadn’t played for a year and a half as well. When we started the last cycle we came straight in as main support on the main stage [in 2015] and it’s just not an easy way to start at all, not when you haven’t played for a year and you’ve got new material. So we felt like we’d do one where it’s just fun.
How do you see Bring Me the Horizon fitting into that canon of Sheffield musical royalty alongside the likes of Def Leppard, Arctic Monkeys and Pulp?
OS: I think we’d like to be, yeah. I know it’s a big thing. The Arctics have always been quite different and a bit defined. Even Def Leppard, the drummer’s got one arm! He’s defying the rules a bit!
JF: A lot of it’s a bit cocky and tongue-in-cheek, isn’t it? Jarvis Cocker and the Arctics have both got the same piss-take confidence.
Mat Nicholls: We’ve got a bit of that as well. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.
OS: I think that about England anyway. The big bands and artists here, they might sound similar to things from America but we always put our own twist on it. I think Sheffield’s got that as well, which is testament to the idea that maybe the bands of Sheffield do do it a bit differently.
Bring Me The Horizon’s sixth studio album, amo, is out on 25 January.
In association with www.sivtickets.com, the local box office.