Interview with BEN BARLOW of NECK DEEP
To say Neck Deep have burst onto the punk scene is an understatement. With the release of Wishful Thinking in 2014 followed up by Life’s Not Out To Get You in 2015, the UK lads have cemented themselves as one of the hottest punk bands of this decade. They have just announced they will be coming back to Australia on a tour packed with talent; along with headliners All Time Low and alternative rockers The Maine, they will play shows at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Fremantle.
It is not the first time Neck Deep and All Time Low have toured together. In this interview with Dani Brown, Ben Barlow (lead vocalist) talks about just how mischievous the bands can be, his favourite things to do in Australia, and how the passing of his father has impacted his musical life.
Hey Ben, it’s Dani from AMNplify! Keeping busy by the sounds of things?
Yeah, well, haven’t been busy for a few months but very busy over the past couple of days! It feels good to be back on the road after a little rest.
I hear you’re going to keep being pretty busy with a big announcement that was made on Australia Day about a little old tour that’s coming our way.
Yep, very excited! I’m sure – well, I hope – everybody’s heard about it, it seems like the word’s getting around pretty quick. I’ve seen people have been pretty stoked.
How do you feel about touring with All Time Low and The Maine?
It’s going to be our third tour or our third concert with All Time Low, so we know those guys pretty well and we know how they tour and we kinda get their sense of humour. We kind of have a very similar sense of humour, I think we both have a very juvenile, immature sense of humour, so that was good from the off. And I’m a big fan of The Maine, too, and I have been for a while – probably since Can’t Stop Won’t Stop years ago, that’s probably one of my little 15 or 16 year old little park jams that I used to be into so yeah, I’m pretty stoked. Obviously just being in Australia is always a laugh.
So we should brace ourselves for some mischief then, should we?
Ummmm, a little bit of mischief, we’ll see! We’ll see how mischievous everyone’s feeling when we get there. We’ll get to Australia and we’ll see how mischievous we’re all feeling. All Time Low are usually feeling pretty mischievous so you might expect some of that… Who knows? It’s a long way away – well, it seems like a long way away – but it’s probably gonna roll around pretty quickly, but we’ll see. We’d better start planning now actually.
Start warming up!
Definitely, get some ideas down, see how we can shake it up a little bit… get some tour pranks, get some of them down.
I’m a bit nervous about that.
All Time Low should be nervous.
We’ll be sure to warn them. So, performing with such big names, do you feel any pressure about reaching the bar they’ll probably be setting, or should they be worried about your performances?
Ooooh, fightin’ talk! Well, I know for a fact that Alex is an insane singer, so I know that he’s going to show me up every single day of the week, so I’ve stopped trying with that. But I think we’ll all have our own individual flair to put on it; we could be the ones to get people moshing if people want a little mosh, maybe people can let that out during our set. It’ll be a nice little mix, actually. I don’t think we’ll be competing too much. But I’m probably just saying that because I know that I’m not as good looking as either front-man and I’m probably not as good a singer as either front man either, so I guess we’ll just have to bring energy, that’s all we can do. If I just fling myself around like a fucking lunatic, hopefully that’ll make up for something.
Well, music’s subjective, right?
Yeah, exactly, maybe if you’re mental enough to like our music then you might actually enjoy it.
How did this lineup come about? You said it’s a little bit of a mixture, are you all pretty good friends or..?
We don’t really know The Maine guys too well, like we’ve done Warped tour and seen each other around and been like “Oh, yeah, what’s up?” but we don’t know them personally too well, so that will be cool. It’s always good to make new friends. But we know the All Time Low guys pretty well, you know, we know what to expect of them, and I think that they know that generally we’re pretty down to tour with them. They’ve got a big draw around the world, and I think they enjoy touring with us and we enjoy touring with them. It’s always a great opportunity for us, they’ve always been really kind to us and we respect them, it’s not just them taking us out on tour looking for a support, but like, they’re doing us a favour, they’re letting us play to all their fans, a lot of which will be listening to us with fresh ears, hearing us for the first time. So yeah, I’m very excited. I think I’m very grateful to All Time Low for thinking of us. And to us, they’re playing way bigger venues than we ever have in Australia so, you know, it’s kind of a chance to expand while we’re out there, it’s cool. But I think All Time Low just generally know that we’re good dudes to tour with, we’re easy to tour with, and I guess they like our band too, maybe. I’d have a pretty good guess that they like our band.
So you’ve played with them a few times now, is there a song that they perform that you’re always keen to see, that gets everyone up and about, that you like seeing live?
As a singer, All Time Low’s very different, so mine’s probably Dear Maria. It’s a classic, it’s an oldie but a goodie I think, and crowds fucking love it. There’s some stuff off their new record that go down really, really well too. We did the tour with them when they just released Future Hearts and even then that record went number one. People go off to every All Time Low song, it’s almost like there’s not one part of the set that’s bigger, people love it. It’s all just mental. If you’re a fan of All Time Low, then you are a fucking fan of All Time Low, you know? But my personal favourite would probably be Dear Maria. Everyone fucking knows that song, it’s a hit.
You’ve played in Australia a few times now, so you must like it here then?
Oh yeah, for sure. What is there to complain about? The surroundings are pretty much kind of nice. The people… you know, it’s the closest that we’ve come to having Brits on tour, you know what I mean? Like, it’s almost like as if we went to the UK but everybody actually had a fucking shred of happiness. So we go out there and it’s like, “Oh sick, people that understand our culture, they understand our sense of humour, and they don’t fucking hate everything, they actually enjoy life”. It’s good to go out there. We’ve got a good bunch of mates out there – our tour manager’s from Australia. So it’s always good to be out there with our mates, it’s always good to be out in the sun, and the scene’s always been really good out there. We’ve never had a bad time out there, always had good shows, always had a great response, always enjoyed meeting our fans and stuff, so there’s really not much to complain about, there’s only things to look forward to really. So yeah, we definitely really love Australia. We try and come pretty much as often as we can, so very lucky to get this tour with All Time Low. It was about time there was something in the pipeline and now it’s coming out.
What is the difference between playing a show in the UK compared to Australia?
Ooh. I think our shows in the UK are a little bit bigger, but obviously we’re from there. I think generally pop punk – I’ve learnt this – worldwide, across the globe… it’s pretty much the same, wherever you go. Lots of crowdsurfing, some moshing, lots of fucking angry finger pointing, and all that. So yeah, as long as we just rock up and do our thing it should be smooth sailing.
Is there something you want to try or do here that you haven’t been able to do the last few times you’ve been here?
I’d like to maybe explore a little bit more, you know? We’ve been to all the major cities and stuff, and we’ve managed to do a few things, but I’d maybe like to explore a little bit more. Maybe get into the rural areas of Australia a little bit more. But I know if you get too rural then it just all turns into a mess of desert, so I’m not too sure how rural we wanna get. I like being out in some nature. Last time we went out to Wattamolla Beach, there’s like a jump rock there and stuff. If we can do any more of that shit, if there’s some high things to jump into water, that is me fucking all over. I’d do that all day if I could.
Well, I live an hour from Adelaide and we live on probably the best part of the coastline in Australia, and we’ve got big jumping cliffs and things like that, and there’s a cave that goes under the cliffs that you can kayak into, so I might have to show you around.
Holy shit. That is me all over. Yeah, I might take you up on that.
Sounds good! So, the biggest challenge for you while you’re in Australia … What do you find that to be, besides jetlag obviously?
Um, biggest challenge… Staying un-burnt is definitely a challenge for our pale, pasty skin. I’ve been tattooed in Australia before and the tattooist was like, [puts on Australian accent] “Fark, you’re fuckin’, that English skin bro, fuckin’ beautiful to tattoo man”, fucking awful accent I know that, but yeah, apparently the skin is good for tattooing but doesn’t react very well to the ol’ sun. So definitely trying to not being burnt. And trying to not get bitten by any fucking spiders or snakes, which thankfully, so far we’ve done pretty well at.
That sounds like a decent plan to me.
Yeah, basically, don’t get burnt, don’t get bitten. Pretty simple really. Other than that, all good.
They’re the biggest two dangers in Australia so good luck with that. So, at the moment you’re on tour with A Day to Remember, New Found Glory, Moose Blood… they all have the honour of being on the same bill as you, so that’s pretty cool. What have those shows been like so far?
Awesome, yeah. We’re playing fucking massive arenas and the response has been pretty insane so far. Like, it’s kind of blown my expectations out of the water. Obviously A Day to Remember, we know Jeremy pretty well, and New Found Glory are like, truly in my top three favourite bands of all time so that’s a dream come true for me. And Moose Blood are obviously killing it at the minute, you know, they’re another UK band just getting a lot of success at the moment and very much deserved. I think they make some absolute bangers, they’re killing it to. So all round there’s not one bad set, it’s a very, very fucking strong lineup. A Day to Remember generally tend to do very well with their lineups and I think they have done again.
You mentioned before you had a bit of a break, it was a pretty sad time for you and the guys last year with your dad Terry passing away. It seems like there’s been an outpouring of support… I saw the fundraiser you guys did with the shirts. Having that support from your fanbase, what’s that mean to you guys?
Yeah, it’s insane really, like obviously this kind of thing happens to people all the time, all over the world, but you know, me and Fil (Thorpe-Evans) both lost our dads this year. It’s a big thing as a band, especially for two dudes in the same year to lose their dads. It’s tough, and you know, my dad was semi-part of Neck Deep in a roundabout way. As you say, “Fuck Neck Deep mate, Ben’s dad owns a record label”, you know, he was directly kind of linked with us. Obviously with him passing away, that’s sad, not just for me but for fans generally , for them to think, “Oh shit, like, I fucking love that joke, that’s a great joke and that guy must be a legend”, and he’s not with us. So to have so much support was insane, like it’s cliche, people say cliche shit all the time, but truly it helped. It’s just like, my dad would be so stoked to know that thousands of people have been paying their respects, or that a T-shirt with his name on it fucking sold out instantly, you know? And if I didn’t have this band and all of our fans to kind of rely on, I can imagine it being way, way, way, way tougher than it was. But obviously me and Fil have kind of had each other to confide in in tough times too, so I’m very, very thankful for all the support that I’ve had, very tough time. I’ve got a good head on about it as well, so I know that death is part of life, something that you can never ever escape, it’s the only thing that’s absolutely guaranteed in life. The best thing that I can do is to just carry on and make him proud. It’s emotional fuel for lyrics and what-not, so yeah, can see the positive side but our fans and the band have definitely helped with that, for sure. If you’re reading this, it would pay to respect them – thank you very much.
So, having that break and now coming back to touring, have you found that playing those shows have helped you sort of move forward?
Um, a little bit, yeah. Because obviously it happened when I was on tour, and so maybe for a little bit I had this fucking thing in my head of like, “Oh, I don’t want to go back on tour because I’ve now got this horrible negative attachment to it”. But after a while it kicked back in again and once things started to slowly get back to normal, the tour kicked in, all I wanted to do was be on tour and now I think that even more so I’ve got more drive to be out here and do everything that I can with it, almost because it kinda flowed like that, in the sense of he would want me to, you know? He wouldn’t want me to give up all of this, or to stop loving doing what I’m doing. If anything, being back out on tour, it’s almost like it’s started there but now it kind of puts it to rest by getting back out there and kind of almost facing that little fear and getting back into the swing of things. It’s quite strange, the range of emotions that you feel when you experience the loss of someone so close to you. It’s weird. Luckily now I’m in a place where being out on tour is good for me.
Oh, that’s good to hear. Did you put a brake on working on your third album or has that sort of been getting you through?
No, if anything I kind of got home and immediately started writing stuff, kind of working a lot harder on it. There were definitely times when I didn’t wanna write anything at all but there were times when I all I wanted to do was write. I think it’s good – I don’t wanna write a song and it be super obvious and blatantly about death, you know, the passing of my dad or whatever, like I don’t wanna write a fucking album straight up about that. There’s more to life than that, but it’ll definitely be an emotional point to draw from. When you lose someone like that, you don’t just think about losing that person, you start to question concepts like life and death, and what happens when we die. Like I said, you’ll think and feel shit you’ve never felt before. It’s definitely opened my mind up creatively, it’s gonna be a little ball of inspiration that I can kind of pick at, I guess. If I can pay some respect to him through my music and our music then that’s the best thing I can do for him.
It’s the best tribute. So, what else is in the pipeline for you guys this year?
Well, other than the album, just run out this tour and you know, we had that break for a little while and now we’re just straight back at it again. We’re gonna go and record this record, you’ll be hearing a lot more about that, and then around about that time that the record is getting ready and we’re hyping it up, that’s when it’s all gonna kick off again. If you thought that Life’s Not Out to Get You was hectic, it’s about to happen all over again.