Exclusive Interview with Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow as he talks about Life’s Not Out to Get You, Touring and Classic Cars
Hailing from the UK, the Welsh pop punk band Neck Deep gained popularity following their first release in 2012, Rain in July. Since then, the band has put out a second EP, A History of Bad Decisions, as well as their first full–length titled Wishful Thinking released in 2014 and their international chart–topping second record Life’s Not Out to Get You, which was released last year via Hopeless Records.
The band recently premiered two new versions of the hit track “December”, off of their 2015 album. The newly recorded tracks feature Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 and Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional, and are now available for purchase. Watch the two versions of “December” below:
Last year, the band released a music video for “Can’t Kick Up the Roots”. To hear the song and watch the video, click here.
The band is currently on the final stretch of a world tour with State Champs, of which the UK and US legs are completely sold out. Neck Deep has previously shared the stage with the likes of Blink–182, All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens, Bring Me The Horizon, Knuckle Puck and The Wonder Years. They performed on the main stage at the revered likes of Reading & Leeds and Slam Dunk festivals, as well as selling out every date of their recent UK headline run.
Composed of vocalist Ben Barlow, guitarists Matt West and Sam Bowden, bassist Fil Thorpe–Evans and drummer Dani Washington, the band has been featured on the covers of major music publications like Kerrang!, Rock Sound and Alternative Press Magazine. They were the recipients of the “Best British Newcomer” at the 2014 Kerrang! Awards and opened for pop-punk kings, Blink–182 at their sold out Brixton Academy show in London. Neck Deep was also chosen as one of Zane Lowe’s (Radio 1) “Future 15 of 2015”.
VroomVroomVroom’s Jayson Paor had the opportunity to talk to lead singer Ben Barlow about the band’s new single, touring, cars and his favourite snacks.
How has your musical and artistic vision changed since you guys started out as a band?
Well, it’s changed in the sense that this is now our life, our whole world revolves around it. When we first started it was just something to do for fun, a way of being creative and doing something cool with our formerly mundane way of life. It’s gone from being about having fun, to taking this all the way. If we have the opportunity in front of us to achieve our wildest dreams then we’re going to take that opportunity. However, the core elements of what makes up Neck Deep haven’t changed too much. We make music based on life and how we feel, we make genuine music that people can relate to. Whether it’s love, family, friends or life in general, we’ll write about it, and hopefully people relate. That way it’s always fresh because life changes and so do your thoughts and feelings, it’s hard to say where we’ll go next because we won’t know until we do some real solid writing sessions.
Tell us more about the songs “Serpents” and “Life’s Not Out to Get You”
“Serpents” was originally inspired by a free downloadable video game called “PT demo”. It was a teaser for the new Silent Hill game, which sadly isn’t getting released now. However, that originally sparked off the lyrics for the game. ‘A dark face in a corridor, deceptively beautiful, she’s watching you’ etc. But I eventually ended up tying that in with some of my own personal experience.
The album really is all just about personal experience and all the bad things I went through growing up, and eventually how I overcame them. I realised that by changing the way I thought about things for the better, I would gradually start to feel better. I realised life and the situations you find yourself in can be influenced massively just from your state of mind. I eventually realised that life wasn’t out to get me, and it was what I made of it.
How has your definition of success changed over the course of your ‘highs and lows’ in the music industry?
Yeah for sure, everyone always puts this on us, like we’ve made it already. We have by no means ‘made it’. We still have a very long way to go before all that. Sure we’re doing really well right now but with how music is these days that could be gone in a second. As long as we don’t slow down and keep writing consistently good records we’ll get there.
What’s your favourite song you’ve ever written?
Maybe “Gold Steps”. However, I love most of the songs we’ve written.
Do you still listen to your own music (or play your songs) when you travel?
Not really. We tend to jam our own music a lot when we have new songs. When we’ve written new material we tend to jam our own stuff until we get sick of it!
You guys travel and tour a lot. But can you share us your Top 3 favourite and most memorable travel destinations in the entire world and why?
Japan – We recently just went there as a band for the first time. Our guitarist, West has been three times before us and never stopped talking about it. When we got there we realised why! The culture is so different to any western culture, but in the best way. They have some ingenious ideas out there that we 100% should be using in our cultures. Plus, if you’re a collector you can find pretty much anything there. It’s great. So much to see and do, and it’s all super cool. Japan is amazing.
Australia – We’ve been to Australia three times now. Every time it just feels like a holiday. Its paradise out there, and with the people having roots in the UK we feel weirdly at home. The beaches are perfect, the food is amazing and the people are hilarious. It’s always a good time.
San Diego, CA, USA – Again, I’m a secret beach bum. The beaches and the general lifestyle in Southern California is amazing. If there’s anywhere in the states I could happily live it would probably be San Diego, or maybe somewhere nearby. Plus, Blink 182 are from there so you know it’s sick.
How easy (or difficult it is) to live and work on the road?
Sometimes it can be really easy, depending where you are, who you’re with. Other times it can be hell. Not having a way to contact loved ones can be stressful. Sometimes that temporarily long distance relationship can be tough. Sometimes you have no money and have to get by on handouts or however you can. Sometimes you don’t shower for days and feel gross. Sometimes you get sick and have to still play shows and that can be hell. Sometimes the stress of living amongst 25 other dudes every single day and living on a bus moving from place to place can get very exhausting and stressful, because it’s a 24/7 thing. I don’t get to go home and cuddle my dogs and sleep in my own bed and be with my girlfriend and do what I want every night. I have to be on tour 24/7 and living without those home comforts is something a lot of people take for granted, which is why when I get home I love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world though, this is still exactly where I want to be in life.
What are your favourite snacks to bring on the tour bus (or when travelling)?
To be honest I don’t have a lot of specific favourites. A solid bag of crisps/chips is good for me, cookies, maybe the odd bag of sweets. I’m not a massive snack guy! Whatever I fancy at the time is what I get.
Can you share your Top 3 favourite road trip songs (or albums) and why?
It’s hard to say! There are so many, generally ones I can sing along to or stare out of the window to are the best. Off the top of my head, in no particular order.
Bonobo – “Days to Come”/ “Black Sands”
The Starting Line – “Direction”
Blink–182 – Enema of the State
Do you like being out in nature? If yes, mountains or beaches?
I love it! I’m a complete nature junkie. I’m always up for an adventure, and being surrounded by beautiful scenery. Anything goes really, I love a good campfire in the forest but a day/evening at the beach I think is my favourite. There’s something about the ocean that I can’t ever quite explain, it makes me feel some kind of way. I usually just stare out at the waves and have a real good think about everything. I do that a lot.
What’s your ultimate travel must-have when travelling?
A passport! I’ve come to realize that when travelling if you just have the bare essentials – a passport, wallet, phone and some clothes. You’re all good, with those things you can make anything work. Just be prepared, think of the essentials and don’t overcomplicate things with stuff you don’t need.
Have you tried travelling alone? What has been the most recent “touristy” thing you ever done?
Yeah, I’ve recently been travelling with my girlfriend and some of my friends. I went to Barcelona with my girlfriend and Berlin with a couple of my friends. We were pretty touristy that whole time, just walked around seeing the city and indulging in the local cultures. I love travelling and seeing new places. In the past four years I’ve been to places I could’ve only ever imagined in my wildest dreams so I’m very lucky. I think when the band has some downtime I’d like to do some real travelling with some loved ones again and no have to play shows and do band shit 24/7!
Personally, can you tell us why you think travelling around the world is important and can be very valuable?
Travel broadens the mind. You grow such an appreciation for other people and cultures, you learn so much. I’ve learned that how no matter where you go, however far from home, you find that there is that basic human connection that we all share, no matter where you are you feel it. No matter how massively different cultures can be, when it comes down to it we’re all human and we all share this earth. We may do things differently but we also do things the same. Just having that general appreciation for other people and cultures is something I’ll always value and will always stay with me.
If you could have your dream car, would it be a classic, sport, muscle, cruise, SUV car – or all of the above?
I’m not sure. I would probably have a pimped out black VW Golf MK1 or 2, probably the cabriolet version with the soft top convertible roof. Either that or a nice VW Bus so all my friends and me could travel in! I’m not a super flashy guy I just like the classics!
What is your favourite car to drive around the city and during long travels?
We’re always in a van or a bus! I couldn’t tell you. (Though) I don’t think it matters as long as you’re with good people.
What recommendations would you make for those of us who are trying to maintain a balance between work, family, writing and performing, and personal time?
Keep all of that close to you. But, at the end of the day, do what makes you happy. That’s the bottom line with everything, what’s gonna make you happiest? Don’t be scared to chase your dreams ‘cuz one day you’ll be old and regretting not taking that chance in your youth. If it’s friends and loved ones you’re worried about, take them with you!
Finally, do you want to tease what’s coming up for the band at this point?
Festivals over the summer, writing over the summer. That’s all I’m saying! [ Smiles. ]
You can connect with Ben Barlow and his band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube; or visit the band’s official website at neckdeep.co to check out the band’s tour schedules, merchandise and latest news.
Photography: Joshua Halling