By Alexander Sievers
Neck Deep are one of the biggest and fastest rising pop-punk bands doing the rounds at the moment. Like The Story So Far and The Wonder Years, who are already massively established names in the scene, this U.K. quintet are on the cusp of doing the very same, if they haven’t already. I had the pleasure of speaking to singer Ben Barlow while the band toured the States as apart of the Vans Warped Tour.
When I spoke with Barlow, it was at the end of yet another long day of Warped Tour, which saw the band being one of the final acts carrying the renowned tour into the later evening hours. One glance through their social media pages shows fan amassing for as far as the eye (or rather, photographer) can see. For what is only their second time on the legendary U.S. tour, Neck Deep are being received like seasoned veterans.
“There’s more hype this time. While last time was sick, and we played some great shows but this year, everything’s that little bit bigger. I feel like more people know who we are now, and not just fan wise, but band, crew and production wise. We’re starting to feel like the big boys”, the singer cheekily says.
There are a lot of bands that Barlow and the rest of the group look up to, from The Wonder Years, Major League, Knuckle Puck, hell, to even our very own Trophy Eyes are admired by the boys in Neck Deep. It’s no secret that Warped Tour was built on older punk bands, and with each aforementioned act listed, Barlow thinks that it’s bands like those and his own band that are leading the way in what punk rock has become.
“Bands in our vein are a bit more true to Warped Tour’s roots. You have a huge variation; metal bands, hardcore bands, pop-punk bands, dub-step, you’ll even get rappers. It’s a place for everyone. It’s diverse, but diverse for the alternative scene, and that’s really important I feel.”
While a lot of bands shift towards digital-only avenues, such as Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp etc. I think you really need to help incentivize physical purchases in different ways. Neck Deep are keeping on top of this with weekly pre-order variations of their new album, Life’s Not Out To Get You (which is out August 14th) while they’re on tour. These include different vinyl sleeves, unique artwork and so forth. This “collector” mindset is something that members of the band have in their own lives.
“We are all big collectors. For instance, West collects toys, Phil collects vinyl prints, and I collect random movie memorabilia. So we really wanted a really cool collectable vibe for it. We wanted five variations of the record, five variations of the artwork with its corresponding vinyl so you can’t swap it out, then there’s the actual album artwork sleeve too. We have a lot of fans whom collect each pressing, and we just wanted to give something really cool for our fans.” Barlow pauses briefly, and then adds, “Plus, it’s an incentive to buy it. It’s at Warped Tour, it’s limited as f*ck, and you aren’t going to get this anywhere else.”
While it is a great incentive, when asked about he’d feel if he saw these limited pressings go up on eBay for $300 or over, chuckles as answers. “If you’re paying $300 for anything Neck Deep, then you’re f*cking nuts!”
In the music video for the album’s lead single, Can’t Kick Up The Roots (found below) the room the band play is filled with old 90’s/2000’s paraphernalia, driving home that collector mindset. While that video has been promoting the album really well, fans got an extra kick right afterwards when a new Neck Deep song leaked recently. Except it wasn’t Neck Deep, it was the new song from a fellow band called Waster.
“Waster are actually really good friends of ours. Their vocalist, Sammy, is a good friend of mine, he was in band with my brother, years ago now. Their bassist, Alex, was the kid that I grew up. I did hear about that happening, it’s kind of funny honestly. I don’t think either of us cared about it, so long as it wasn’t actually our track being leaked then who gives a f*ck?”
Regarding the controversy of acoustic artist Front Porch Step (real name Jake McElfresh) performing at a recent Warped Tour date, I pushed Barlow for his opinion on the matter, which he was happy to supply me with, along with a final little nugget of knowledge that shouldn’t be taken for granted for any band or artist, regardless of genre.
“There are two sides to every story, but I’m not on the fence about, it’s f*cked up. He’s abused his position as a musician and he shouldn’t get the recognition of one. You shouldn’t be a musician to hook up with your fans; you should be a musician to give something to your fans to help get them through life.” He continues, “It sucks that nowadays the Internet can be used to shut someone down and completely ruin their lives, but that’s the risk you take when you f*ck a bunch of your fans. I know he went through a lot of shit because of it, and it would suck if he’d done something…drastic, but he has to live with the consequences. We’ve discussed it multiple times as a band, but we don’t need to add to his suffering or jump on the bandwagon. We’re not learning from his mistake, as we just always knew never to do that, but we see it as an example of what happens when you do that sort of shit”.
Amen brother! As long as Neck Deep keep doing what they’re doing, don’t get sexually/romantically involved with fans, and putting out consistent record, they should be solid for a long time.
Life’s Not Out To Get You is out 14 August via Hopeless Records/Unified.