While She Sleeps
Sean Long guitar | Mat Welsh guitar | Aaran McKenzie bass | Adam Savage drums | Lawrence Taylor vocals
While She Sleeps have chosen a fitting way to celebrate their tenth anniversary as a band – by becoming totally independent. It’s a bold, impressive and powerful move that both reflects the decade gone by and hints at what the future has to offer. More than that, it demonstrates that age-old cliché is still true in 2016 – if you want something done right, do it yourself. Not only did they fund their as yet untitled new album – the follow-up to 2015’s powerful and incendiary Brainwashed – but the band converted an empty warehouse in the heart of their native Sheffield into their own multi-purpose studio. It’s not the first time the band have had their own space – 2010’s debut EP The North Stands For Nothing was recorded at a home studio called The Barn – but with this new space, which was built with the band’s own money, they’ve taken things to the next level.
“There’s always been a very DIY aspect to this band,” explains vocalist Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor, “so going it alone a bit more now just reiterates that to everyone. The Barn was a very important place for us – it’s where we grew as friends and it was where we hung out and could be creative – so the idea with this new space is that it gives us a lot more creative space. There’s a studio and live room, and we have space now to achieve what we want to achieve as a band. This place is going to house us for a good few years.”
“We’ve all been skint for a while because of this place,” chuckles guitarist Sean Long, “but we’re hoping that it comes into its own. It’s already becoming a space for other bands, too. They can use it as a pre-production space or store their gear here, and it’s constantly busy with people coming here and working. It’s a nice positive space where we can all get creative and be the band we want to be.”
It’s also a place where the band – completed by guitarist/vocalist Mat Welsh, bassist Aaran McKenzie and drummer Adam Savage – aim to break down the barrier even more between themselves and their fan base. As part of the new record’s PledgeMusic campaign, fans were able to head to the studio and take part in the video for Hurricane.
“That was absolutely crazy,” beams Taylor. “I’m still aching from that! But the special thing is that every kid who came down for the video shoot actually helped make the album happen. And to that extend they made this warehouse capable of living.”
“Now more than ever,” adds Long, “our fans know that it’s them making all of this possible for us. The divide between artist and fan is ridiculous, because there are no fans without the artist and there’s no artist without the fans. They go hand in hand together as one absolute thing, and I really like that we can see that in play with what we’ve been doing. It’s very reassuring to see that support right in front of us.”
That’s all the more crucial because of the experiences While She Sleeps have had with the music industry in their decade of existence, not least with previously being on a major label. They’re quick to point out that it’s not been all bad, but that it’s not been all good either, and that it’s their fans who have propelled them through both the good times and the bad. The same is true for their own personal struggles, especially when Taylor had to have surgery on his voice midway through making Brainwashed. Lesser bands might have given up the fight, but While She Sleeps pushed on through, encouraged by the loyalty, love and devotion of their fans. As much as that’s been made visible thanks to the new warehouse space, it’s also audible on the band’s new record.
Made with Carl Bowen, who also produced Brainwashed, its songs are full of as much force, focus and determination as ever. The likes of Hurricane and first single Civil Isolation continue the band’s trajectory as one of the most inspiring, riotous and important voices in British music today, demonstrating both their continued musical evolution and their incisive social conscience. Yet while these are brutal anthems that paint a vivid picture of a post-Brexit Britain, they stand as both the most universal and most personal songs of the band’s career.
“I feel like these are some of the most powerful and relatable songs that we’ve ever written,” says Taylor. “These songs look at the world as a whole, but it’s also very much about us. We’ve all been through a few ups and downs over the past few years, and I think it’s important for us to express that, because our music is our healing and our therapy. There’s a lot of heartfelt stuff in there from our own personal experiences, but there’s also much more of a global view, too.”
“We’re never not going to be singing about worldly issues and politics,” says Long, “because that’s what we do without even trying. But, as Loz says, on this album it’s all housed within very personal ways of dealing with those things. We’re not just screaming about all the problems in the world, we’re screaming about how we feel about those things. I’ve never been more connected to moments in the studio when I’m writing music than I have with this record.”
To that extent, this album does more than bridge the divide between past and present. It establishes who While She Sleeps really are in unfiltered, grotesque and beautiful glory. It sets them up as their own driving force, as a band who operate on their own terms and conditions and write music the exact same way. It’s a record not just made in spite of the problems and pressures they’ve faced in the past, but one created out of them and brimming with the passion that has always propelled the band and clearly continues to do so a decade on.
“The main thing with While She Sleeps,” says Taylor, “is that we’re digging our own path and the longer we keep working at it, the more people will realise we’re not going anywhere. We’re just going to keep on doing our own thing. And if we can explore new sounds and styles and still sound like us, if we can progress but still hold onto the While She Sleeps sound, then that’s great.”
“My mum even likes it,” says Long, laughing, “so I’m very happy.”