Interview by Seanzha Kemal / Photos by Daniel Hadfield. Hailing from the UK, Neck Deep is a band that exploded with 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 earlier this year, titled Wishful Thinking. We got to sit down with Ben Barlow and Fil Thorpe-Evans from the band on the Toronto stop of their spring tour, who talked to us about the new album, signing to Hopeless Records, poutine and more.
How excited are you guys to play in Toronto?
Fil: So excited.
Ben: Yeah, it’s gonna be cool, it’s the last day of our US tour, we’ve got this little Canadian bit at the end, so yeah, it’s cool to take a little dip into Canada and get a taste for it. I’m sure we’ll be back in doing real tour at some point, but yeah, it’s cool. It’s always good to play sold out shows.
It’s your first time playing here right?
Fil: Yeah! None of us have even been to Canada before!
Ben: It’s our first time in Canada, none of us have been to Canada, yeah.
Fil: It’s out first time in the US as well.
Ben: Before the US tour, the only time we’d ever come over here was to play in Florida.
Fil: We’ve been here as like, kids, on holiday and things like that, but we never – today’s our first ever day in Canada.
Ben: It’s good to be here.
Fil: Yeah, exciting!
How’s the tour so far?
Fil: It’s been amazing. Most of the days have been sold out, which is always a bonus. Yeah, the response has been awesome, all the kids have been amazing, just really-
Ben: Met some really cool people, made some friends-
Fil: It’s just been everyone having a great time.
Ben: Yeah, there hasn’t really been a bad show, so it’s been sick.
Any embarrassing memories so far?
Ben: [laughs] Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Fil: On stage, or like, in general?
Ben: In general – oh yeah, oh yeah.
Fil: [laughing] Oh no… you can’t say that.
Ben: Yeah, we can’t say that. [laughs]
Fil: Yeah, we can’t say that on TV.
Ben: Someone was late to the toilet. Let’s put it that way.
Fil: More than one person, more than one occasion.
Ben: Yeah, late to the toilet, so…
Fil: We’re pretty bad for that.
Ben: But nah, I mean, not really embarrassing moments, it’s been a lot just hanging out, really. Some funny stuff has happened but-
Fil: We’re all such fucking idiots around each other that we don’t really have embarrassing moments ‘cause it’s like – if something stupid happens, it’s just like “Oh yeah-’”
Ben: It’s just funny, because we don’t find it embarrassing.
Fil: Yeah, we can’t really get embarrassed between each other’s, it’s just like, stupid all the time. I don’t know, it’s been more funny moments.
Ben: Yeah, it’s been fun.
What’s a regular “day off” for you guys?
Fil: Depends really-
Ben: Depends where you are.
Fil: Yeah, depends where you are, that changes everything. ‘Cause if you’re in somewhere really crap and boring, we’d all just rather get a really good day’s sleep and stuff like that. Like, if we’re somewhere awesome, we’ll go and hang out, walk around, see the area. We like to look around.
Ben: We had a day off in Cali and we went to Hollywood-
Fil: All the touristy stuff.
Ben: Where else have we had days off?
Fil: Florida, went to Universal – no, that was on the show day-
Ben: What did we do on the Florida day off? Did we drive… so we didn’t go to Disney?
Fil: We went to Disney in California.
Ben: I can’t remember – most of the time, it’s just like a day off for us is mostly the same as just like, a day on tour except, I guess, probably more dicking around.
Have you guys gotten a chance to check around Toronto yet?
Fil: Not really, we only got here a couple of hours ago, we’ve just been sort of loading in and setting up, we haven’t really had a chance to sort of, groove around and see anything yet.
Ben: Yeah, I’m gonna go and check out Tim Hortons.
[comment] You guys should also check out Sneaky Dee’s, they have the best nachos!
Fil: Sneaky Dee’s, oh man, if it’s got nachos I’m down, let’s do it. You’re like, the first person who’s not told us to eat that ‘poutine’ stuff.
Ben: What is poutine?
[comment] It’s fries with cheese and gravy.
Ben: Yeah, we get that, but we just call it chips and gravy. But I’m gonna sample it and see what it’s like, see how it adds up.
You guys just released your debut album; what makes that album different from your previous EPs?
Ben: Well, Rain in July was pretty successful, people still really like that, we still play most of that live. Play all of it live, actually. It’s definitely stepped up a notch since then, and I think that we’ve definitely gained a lot of fans from that, and there are still our fans who have heard us from Wishful Thinking onwards, is always good. It’s just proved that we can do something different as well, and I mean, it’s just shown another area of our game.
Fil: I think it’s a bit more of a “professional” product, and it’s a bit more like, ”Ok, this is like a real band now, this is a real record that we’re gonna put out, it’s not like, an EP and all the tracks are gonna be like, different vibes, and a bit up in the air. Not that the others ones were that” but, it’s here’s us saying “Yeah, we’re doing this shit for real now. Here’s the fucking record, we’re fucking trying on this and meaning it.”
Ben: And then we’ll do the same next time, and we’ll come back and make another solid album. It’s just that, Wishful Thinking is literally a real start.
Fil: Yeah, Wishful Thinking is like us going, “Yeah, we’re gonna do this now, this is the starter course.”
Ben: Like, everything before that was like, obviously really good for us, and it did good things and people still loved what we did before Wishful Thinking, but yeah, Wishful Thinking is us going, “Right; this is us taking this seriously, and we’re gonna fucking, yeah, this is us being a real band.”
So what’s the recording process been like?
Fil: It was quite a weird one, really.
Ben: Yeah, it was quite weird.
Fil: ‘Cause both our, both EPs were recorded with Ben’s brother, just in his bedroom, and then when it came through to the full-length it was like, we really like the process we have with him-
Ben: Where we can write and, it’s a comfortable environment with him.
Fil: He doesn’t just record us like, he is part of our little writing team-thing that we have going on, and it was like, ‘Well, we don’t wanna like, break that ‘cause it’s kinda like who we are, sorta thing.” So we did a lot of the writing and pre-production and all the tracking with him, and then all the mixing and mastering, and re-amping and stuff; recorded the drums somewhere else.
Ben: But we still managed to keep it fairly similar to how we-
Fil: How we write, pretty much the same as the EPs for the writing process. Apart from stepping up the professionalism and things like that, instead of just mixing it ourselves and putting it out we’re gonna send it there for re-amps and send it there for mixing, there for mastering; when it’s all done and it’s like-
Ben: That writing process for us has always been what we’ve been used to, so we try to keep it as – this being our first album, we wanted to show what we could do, so yeah, I think it will probably always be done, at least the writing element, it will always be done in my bedroom – my brother’s bedroom.
How does it feel to be signed with Hopeless Records?
Ben: That was a big turning point.
Fil: It’s something that it’s like now, yeah, signed with Hopeless Records-
Ben: Yeah, that’s what we do now-
Fil: We’d already started the process of the full-length before labels even came in, and our plan with our manager from the start was always like, “We’re gonna do a full-length now, we’re not gonna worry about getting signed, we’re gonna do it ourselves – but if someone come knocking, we’ll see what happens, take it as it comes.” And then it came around to it, and there was a few offers on the table for us, and he spoke to us one day and was like, “We got a call from Hopeless”, and we were just like okay, yes. That was kinda like – we had even said before, that if there was dream label that we could get on for this, it would be Hopeless, and then it came to that, and we ended up Skyping with them to talk to them and introduce ourselves and there was a few backwards and forwards, a real natural kind of-
Ben: Yeah, it seemed like it fit, really.
Fil: Yeah, it just seemed like it fit. We spoke to them a lot and they told us what they’re doing and how they want to with us, and how they felt about us, and what they liked, and what they didn’t, and we said the same to them, and it was just like, it seems to feel really good.
Ben: It all coincided, and it’s great to just be a part of a label that is there for our best interests and wants to help us develop as a band, so yeah, it’s great. It made this tour possible, it made putting the record out possible, so it’s opened a lot of doors and we’re really happy with it.
Who are your musical influences?
Ben: Mine, I would straight up say, anyone would say this but legit, Blink-182, New Found Glory, but anything from that like, early 2000s-era pop-punk is when we all grew up and when we really started getting into music, so all of that is a big influence. Bands like Blink , New Found [Glory], Sum 41… who else, I’m slacking here… Jimmy Eat World-
Fil: Good Charlotte, Simple Plan; just all the classics. I mean, in terms of Neck Deep, it’s kinda like that, but all of us listen to all sorts of music outside there.
Ben: Yeah, you could ask each member who their favourite band is, and we would probably all say different ones.
Fil: Yeah, we all vary… like Dani, he doesn’t even like pop-punk, he actually hates it, it’s hilarious. [laughs]
Ben: Yeah, he’s a metalhead.
Fil: When we sit in the van we’ll like, put on New Found Glory and we’re all like [singing lyrics], he’s just like”…Who’s this, never heard of it.”
Ben: He’s getting into it, slowly.
Phil: “Is it Blink-182?” It’s like “Dude!” [shaking head]
Ben: There’s a couple of pop-punk things he’ll listen to, like he’ll get into himself.
Fil: He’s more into like, the new-wave things.
Ben: I don’t think he really got into it back then… we were all into the whole new-metal by then, like Slipknot, Papa Roach…
Fil: Oh yeah, Slipknot, Linkin Park…
Ben: That’s kind of where the heavy element comes from; we’re all into heavy music as well, but that’s where our heavy music tastes kind of started, so that’s more Dani’s area. West likes his heavy music, but West also like very fucking obscure bands as well, he’s a weirdo. Lloyd, one of his favourite bands is Funeral for a Friend… me and Fil are pretty similar, actually. Yeah, we’re all different, but I think that’s a good thing because when it comes to writing new stuff, we can all pitch in and have all these different elements going on in our music, which is always cool; it would suck if we all just said, “Oh yeah, let’s-we all listen to the same shit.” So then everything would always just sound the same and every idea that got thrown into the mix would just be the same idea.