“The Peace and The Panic” album from Neck Deep gave a chance for the band to re-discover themselves. While Ben Barlow (Vocals), Matt West (Guitar), Sam Bowden (Guitar), and Dani Washington (Drums) are touring throughout 2018, we caught up with Ben Barlow, the frontman of this UK’s pop-punk band to know more about their tour experience, their participation on recent album compilation, as well as Fil’s departure from the band. Ben Barlow didn’t hesitate in telling us about his lowest moment after the passing of his father, as well as gave an encouraging message for musicians out there who struggle with mental illness. If you have been following Neck Deep’s music for quite a while, you will fall in love deeper after reading this interview. Check it out!
The Display (TDP): Hey, how are you doing? We had a great time when you performed here last year! What was your greatest experience when you came here and how is the tour going on so far?
Ben Barlow: The show was wild! All of our shows across SE Asia truly blew us away. Hundreds, if not thousands of people showed up and got down with us, what made it cooler was that there was no barrier at any of the shows. Being so up close and personal with our fans and being able to interact so closely was a great experience. It’s hard to pin down just one great experience. Just being in the region was the greatest experience! We were blown away the second we landed!
TDP: Your fans from Indonesia would like to ask why this band is called Neck Deep? What is the philosophy behind it?
Ben Barlow: It’s from a song called ‘Boom, Roasted’ by Crucial Dudes. There’s a line in the song that says ‘neck deep in what you couldn’t be’. I was sat in class listening to music, not paying attention to my teacher (oops) when that line really jumped out at me. Then the more I thought about it the more I started to like it. It sounded and looked cool, and summed up how a lot of people feel at various points in their life when you’re ‘neck deep’ in your problems.
TDP: So you recently released acoustic versions for single “In Bloom”, first of all, why you picked this one for the acoustic treatment?
Ben Barlow: It’s one of our biggest songs and so to have it ‘recirculate’ was definitely an aim, but also because it’s such a diverse song, to have different versions was only natural. I had initially begun writing “In Bloom” on an acoustic anyway so it made sense to go back to its original form and strip it back. The song also has a very important meaning to me, it’s a song for my parents, an apology for the things I did as a teenager and the hell I sometimes put them through. So, with such meaning behind the song, to strip it back to just an acoustic brings out the meaning that little bit more.
TDP: How would you imagine the two versions of the acoustic version during its re-arrangement process? Did the addition of saxophone suddenly come to mind, since it is a rather odd instrument to be put on a pop-punk track?
Ben Barlow: Well, Dani, our drummer had been chatting to Tony (Saxl Rose) online and brought up the idea of him playing with us. We’ve always been into the idea of extra instrumentation on our songs, we heavily considered having horns and strings on the album at some point and so that idea finally became a reality. Once we had played live with Tony we immediately knew that we had to do a fully recorded version of the song, it just sounded so damn good! So really, we wanted something like this to happen, but only when it did happen did we decide to make it a full-blown reality.
TDP: How was working with saxophonist Saxl Rose on the album?
Ben Barlow: It was great. Tony (Saxl) is an amazing musician, not just with his sax but in all aspects, he really is a genius and I have no doubt he’ll go very far with his music career. It was a case of just getting him to record his part and send it over, it was that easy! He nailed it in one or two takes and what he sent over was perfect. So, working with him was as carefree and easy as his sax playing!
TDP: Now moving on to your latest release, “Torn” which is a remake version of 90’s hit from Natalie Imbruglia. Why did you choose this classic hit? Any particular reason behind it?
Ben Barlow: No particular reason. It’s just a great song. We heard it playing one day in a restaurant and as we were singing along realized ‘Hey, this would be perfect for us to cover!’. The song really lent itself to Neck Deep’s sound and so the process of actually covering it was super easy. As we were recording the song it started to take on more meaning for me and I really started to connect to the words. It’s all about being at a point in your life, whether it’s to do with love or another key point in life and being torn between what to do. Being lost and not knowing where to go is something everyone will go through and so that’s why I think it makes for a great addition to the “Songs That Saved My Life” compilation.
TDP: Besides “Torn”, what other songs that help you lift your spirit or rescue you from your lowest moment?
Ben Barlow: To name just a few-
John Mayer- ‘Waiting On The World To Change’ and ‘Gravity’
Oasis- ‘Champagne Supernova’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’
City and Colour – ‘Body In A Box’ and ‘Sleeping Sickness’
Less Than Jake – ‘The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out’
New Found Glory- ‘Sonny’
Blink 182 – ‘Dammit’ and ‘Untitled’
Joni Mitchell/ James Blake (cover)- A Case Of You
TDP: The profit for this cover goes to mental health foundation, what is your message to musicians out there who struggle with mental illness?
Ben Barlow: Music is one of the biggest outlets we have as humans to express and analyze our world. I know for a fact that without music, and being able to write music I would not be the same person. Being able to express myself and write lyrics that describe what I’m feeling allows me to understand myself better than I ever could’ve without it. If you’re struggling, write about it, if you don’t write lyrics, write a song that sounds how you feel. Music is how the soul sounds, so let your soul out and you’ll realize how good it feels. Ultimately, you’re talking about your feelings through music, so generally, the lesson is, talk about how you feel. Staying silent and bottling things up only leads to frustration and further deepens the problem.
Ultimately, you’re talking about your feelings through music, so generally, the lesson is, talk about how you feel. Staying silent and bottling things up only leads to frustration and further deepens the problem.
TDP: Neck Deep’s bassist, Fil, left the band recently. How has it affected you guys and the tour that is currently happening?
Ben Barlow: Ultimately, Fil left the Neck Deep for positive reasons. We knew he was unhappy and so did he, and so he took steps to improve his happiness. Fil had a life in LA that was calling out to him. He had friends and a girlfriend he wanted to be with, a career songwriting and various other talents he wanted to put to use more than he wanted to be away touring for months and months. As a band we have achieved so so much, anyone would be happy with what we have achieved and Fil had reached that point where he felt his passions and future were elsewhere. In the sense of how it’s affected the band, it’s sad. It’s definitely strange to not have him on the road or on stage with us but ultimately, he is happier, and it’s good for us now that everyone is focused on the band and wants to be on tour playing shows, were all on the same page now and it feels good to have the same collective goal once more. We wish him nothing but the best and hope he has all the success he can possibly have.
TDP: Your last album signifies a maturing process that is happening to you as a musician but also as people. Is there any particular influence you’d like to pinpoint?
Ben Barlow: The death of my Dad was a huge influence on this record. As we were writing I found myself gravitating towards songs about death and our purpose in life, as well as accepting that bad thing, like death, loss and change (though not necessarily bad change) will happen to all of us. Once I had written the term ‘The Peace and The Panic’ it gave me a real idea of what the album was to be about. It’s about the good and the bad in life coexisting. It’s about change and embracing the change. Seeing life as one big rollercoaster full of twists and turns that are both terrifying but exciting at the same time. We tried to represent that with the diversity of the record. Pop punk songs, heavy songs, pop songs, sad songs, the whole spectrum really, and that represented the ride that we go on throughout life. Ultimately, we left the door open for ourselves to be able to do what we wanted next and left Neck Deep as not just a pop-punk band, but a band that is truly open to whatever we want.
TDP: What’s your plan for the rest of this year and when will we see a new material?
Ben Barlow: We have a couple of weeks left on this US tour before we head out to Australia for a quick tour in December. Then in early 2019, we have a tour in the UK and Europe with Don Broco. After that, we have a lot of time off. We worked really hard writing, recording and touring ‘The Peace and The Panic’ and so a well-deserved rest is in order. But whilst we take that time to decompress, we’re going to be heavily focused on writing the next record. We really want to take our time with it in order to make sure it’s the best we can make it, and ensure that we continue to take steps forward rather than staying still or going backward. We might be inactive for a little while but it’s all for the right reasons, looking after ourselves and our personal lives, but also quietly putting together the next record that’s going to be the soundtrack for the next few years of your lives! So, in short, we don’t know when the next album we be ready, it’s likely going to be a while, but when it is ready, you better be!