While She Sleeps
“We’ve let our hair down and we’ve got our bollocks out. I’m not fucking about. I’m not cutting corners. I’ve been writing like this will be my last album.”
Some bands play it safe when it comes to taking their next steps. But then, While She Sleeps have never been “some band”. The Sheffield quintet have made a career out of confounding expectations, be it through their dizzying blend of crushing metal, guttural hardcore and arena-worthy hooks, or the way they’ve carried themselves over an explosive, 13-year career. Their last album, 2017’s ‘You Are We,’ was a testament to the power of self-belief and determination; crowdfunded and released on the band’s own Sleeps Brothers label, it earned them award nominations from the likes of Metal Hammer and a Best Album win at the Heavy Music Awards, as well as landing them in the top ten of the UK album charts. Now, they look to build on that success with the release of fourth studio album: ‘SO WHAT?’
“You Are We got us to this special position, and it’s given us a platform,” continues guitarist Sean Long. “For us, it’s like, ‘What can we do to really stick this in people’s faces? What can we put out there that we’re buzzing off?’ I don’t want to be following everyone else; I want people to follow us.”
“You Are We was us learning how to really listen to ourselves,” adds fellow axeman Mat Welsh. “This record is us knowing how to exercise that. You Are We was basically a demo for this record.”
With the ‘You Are We’ cycle wrapped up, the band decamped to their self-built Sleeps Audio studio complex in Sheffield, where they’d spend five months recording their next chapter. Putting all their energy into making the best album they could, Sleeps decided that when it came to naming album four, typically, they weren’t going to play along with the usual music stereotypes.
“‘SO WHAT?’ is about how easily we all judge everything before we actually know anything about it,” explains Mat. “If we put a really elaborate title on a record with a really elaborate cover, that could give you the option of deciding what you think of it before you’ve listened to anything on it. The one thing we’re putting every bit of our creative juice into is the music.”
Recorded with producer Carl Bown, ‘SO WHAT?’ promises to be another defiant step forwards. “It’s going to blow your mind!” promises Mat, and if first single ‘Anti-Social’ is anything to go by, he isn’t kidding. An explosive, relentless four-minute anthem, it takes everything you know and love about While She Sleeps – clattering riffs, bruising breakdowns, snarling lyrics and big-ass singalongs – and sticks them in a blender. It’s punk, it’s heavy metal, it couldn’t be any other band but them, and yet it sounds unlike anything you’ve heard from them before. It’s the sound of While She Sleeps reborn. “It’s still very different – as much as it still sounds like While She Sleeps,” agrees Sean. “You get a taste of this new area that we’re flowing into. Even though it’s still really heavy, you get this twinge of what’s to come.”
“We felt excited about Anti-Social,” notes Mat. “It’s such a heavy tune, but it’s a different way of heavy than we’ve been before. It feels like you want to be out and drunk, throwing beer over your mates while it’s on. In a world where everyone expects you to be softening up or getting more generic, I think it’s fun to just throw out a song that’s just, like, ‘Nope! We’re not doing that!’”
Set for release on Sleeps Brothers in collaboration with metal mega-label Spinefarm, ‘SO WHAT?’ sees While She Sleeps working with a major label again for the first time since 2015’s ‘Brainwashed’, and the band are at pains to point out that this won’t mean there’ll be any compromise in their vision. “We got approached immediately by a bunch of labels, but we turned around to all of them and said, ‘The only way we’re going to do anything is if you let us release it on Sleeps Brothers, but you house that on your train, and we make the decisions behind everything,” Mat explains. “I fucking loved releasing You Are We ourselves, but at the same time, I played more on my laptop than I did on my guitar for the whole campaign. This release is a partnership between Sleeps Brothers and Spinefarm, but no one is breathing down our necks about the record we’re making or the singles we’re putting out.”
With a bigger platform to get their music into the world and a firestorm of a first single released, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of While She Sleeps. For a band that have spent over a decade redefining modern metal, it seems the best is yet to come.