KYS Vs. While She Sleeps.
While She Sleeps are in Australia right now on a support slot for shows with Bring Me The Horizon and Hands Like Houses. On top of that, they will also be doing two headline shows this week in Sydney and Brisbane. While the quintet was down here in Melbourne recently, I was lucky enough to catch up with vocalist Lawerence "Loz" Taylor, bassist Aaran McKenzie, and guitarist Sean Long to talk about their new album 'You Are We', US and UK politics, the size and production of their own shows, and much more.
So, guys... how was last night?
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Loz (vocals): Amazing!
Aaran (bass): Really, really good.
Loz: We haven't been back to Australia in a while so it was great to come back and play some shows with Bring Me The Horizon. We got a great response and hopefully, tonight will be better. Hopefully, we'll be able to top it.
Fantastic! These are some big shows you're playing with Bring Me. Was there ever any concern or maybe worry coming in to play these big shows?
Aaran: Well, we did a similar sort of run with Bring Me the Horizon in November of last year and then something similar with In Flames the year before on the same touring circuit. I feel like we've found our feet a bit with three kinds of shows. You do have to keep on your toes a little bit to do your best. Though we did get really drunk the night before!
How do you go about translating the high octane energy metalcore songs you're known for that are mainly played in clubs and bars and put them into an arena setting?
Loz: I think we just give it our all no matter what size show. We always put in 110%. I just feel like if you go out and aim to give that in every live show that will always translate.
Aaran: We try and keepthe same energy we always have but we're not as fit as we used to be. We're getting old so it's getting tiring!
Do you guys ever see yourself headlining one of these arena shows?
Sean (guitar): Absolutely!
Loz: Oh, absolutely!
Aaran: We'll be doing it next year! [Laughs]
Loz: I mean, we want to do this as long as we can so that's really the idea.
I've always been curious when I see support bands on these big arena shows if you play your support slot then go and look at your social media and videos and see if there's an increase in engagement? Or do you not concern yourself with that?
Loz: Yeah, we do actually. The great thing about these types of shows is we get to introduce new people to our music. You get to play to all these people who haven't heard. It is one of the really important things. We've done tours with Bullet for My Valentine and In Flames and the great thing from those shows is people saying, "Hey, I'd never heard your band before but you were really good!" We've had quite a few people say that over the tours we've done that are those size. It's the aim: get new people to hear us!
So you've got Melbourne tonight and then Adelaide on Wednesday, and then some of your own headline shows. Did you reach out to Live Nation for that or did they reach out to you?
Loz: I think we sort of said that we'd like to do some shows while we were down here as it's been about four years since we were last here. I had throat surgery and it put us back a few years and we couldn't get out here as we were touring in Europe and the U.K. a lot. So whilst we were playing these shows with Bring Me we also wanted to play a small intimate show in a local bar or something where people can just come down and grab a ticket.
Aaran: There are about five or six major markets in Australia and we haven't played here in a few years so we wanted to hit as many places as we could. Plus, we're signed to Unified now so we'll hopefully be out here more often. I think we're coming back in July potentially. It'll be great!
While She Sleeps twice in one year? Nice. Do you take anything from these massive arena shows and let them inform your own headline shows?
Aaran: The thing is that with these bigger venues you've got more space to clear with the energy so I think that that energy just goes right back into the smaller rooms.
Loz: I think it's always weird from a frontman perspective trying to change up the show from a group of fans that are all enclosed into a smaller space that know all the songs to an arena size room with people who don't know you're songs. You've always gotta change it up and see what works... but we don't really change it up too much. We maybe heighten the energy a bit more as you've got a bigger space to fill but that's really what we're all about; the energy.
Aaran: Especially for us where we have next to no production so we go as hard as we can.
Well, is that something you'd be interested in, adding in the production of bigger lights and set pieces and what not?
Loz: Oh absolutely! Obviously, it can be hard for some bands to come over here with all their gear and equipment and crew and what not but yeah, that's definitely something we want to have a look at further down the line.
You guys not only have a bigger space to fill in terms of venue size but also support slot wise. Architects were originally the support band for these shows before it was postponed. Did that have any effect on nerves, having to fill those shoes?
Loz: I mean, Architects are an amazing band-
Aaran: -I didn't actually think about that until now. And now I'm thinking about it!
Loz: I think we feel very honoured to replace them in that way. You know, we've got to step up to them.
Aaran: Architects are an amazing band but we're different than that. There are similarities but we're still different. They're now this huge monster of a band and we're heading in to a different direction. They're off in the way of Gojira. They could support those bands and not be out of their element but yeah, I think we're both good enough for this tour.
I guess we better talk about this new album, 'You Are We' in some ways. I heard that you built your own studio for this one so my first question is, what for you was wrong with pre-built ones?
Loz: We had our own - not a studio but our own place when we were younger that was adjacent to our guitarist dad's property that we turned into like a punk squat. Not so much a squat but really just a place to party and hang out which was awesome. We had to move from there and we got a space that we paid for but it just wasn't as good a creative space as we needed to make the While She Sleeps engine run as it needs to. We do a lot of our own in-house designs and some of our merch is designed specifically by us so the idea behind this space [that we built] was that we needed a space where we could bring all that together.
Aaran: This other space was crowded and we just needed a space where we could stretch our legs a bit and not trip over each other. That made it a lot easier to work and flow than it has been before so that's why we set out on that DIY route. We learnt a lot of new skills along the way too like now I know how to insulate and even paint!
Cool! So you're looking at keeping this space for the next album whenever that comes around?
Loz: Yeah, I think so. We recorded a lot of the album there and we recorded a bit at another place, we had two studios running at once. But the thing with this space is that it can be used by our friend's bands if they come over and need somewhere to crash for the night, or park their van or bus and hang out or even just have something to eat.
That's awesome; creating a bit of a community and what not. Do you think you guys would've been able to create this same record without that new space? How much did this experience impact upon the record?
Sean: Absolutely. All the albums we've done have come from bedroom writing so to have this space was just a bonus and without it, it wouldn't have changed the creative output coming out in the normal way.
Aaran: Building it was also a challenge. We did most of it in winter so it was quite cold and it took up a lot of time. We finished a tour and went right into building this space. We should've been writing the album but we needed to build this space! That was a real challenge to get up at seven in the morning and work all day but it's been rewarding to just have this space as well where we can do things.
Loz: Yeah, I think we'd all agree on that. Visualising the end product was pretty daunting!
Aaran: And having a kitchen is lovely! We used to always be having George Forman toasties. Now we have an oven and we can just make awesome food!
[Laughs]. So, I've been listening to the singles a bit and I've got to say, I find them fairly sort of gloomy and depressing due to their themes and what not. Maybe I'm missing something or just not quite getting it but would you say there's a bit more hope to be found on the rest of the record?
Sean: ...Have you heard 'Hurricane'?
Sean: You didn't find that to be sort of hopeful? You mean they're sort of depressing in the lyrical content?
Yes, very much so.
Aaran: I think that in our lyrics we can often come across quite pissed off and what not. But I think there's also some hope in the album title of 'You Are We' in that we are unified within everything we do and everything that entails. So that's the broader message we're trying to set. But yeah, in our lyrics we do come across pissed off and that's because we are. How many years has it been since our first album where we talked a lot about political stuff and now it's just getting worse!
Sean: That's what inspires us really. And I think the lighter side of things comes through in the music side of it. So the lyrics sort of work with that so the song has a more positive charge to it.
Loz: Yeah, I think we have this sort of yin-yang of that going on. My part is being pissed off and being sort of angry whereas these guys step forward and it becomes this glimmer of hope in the music. Maybe not lyrically but from the sound of the guitars and the backing of it, that's where the positive side of things comes through. So, I'd have to disagree with you a bit there, I think, [Matty]. If you do put a lot of the lyrics straight down then yeah, they can be a bit depressing like if you look at the 'You Are We' single I can get where you're coming from but there is a hopeful side there.
Sean: Yeah, it's not all negative stuff.
That's totally fine! I love being disagreed with in interviews.
Aaran: Makes for some interesting discussion!
It sure does! So in that respect, you can say that when you're conceptualising these songs, it's both the music and the lyrics working together at the same times?
Loz: Yeah, and I think that does mirror both sides of what we do. There's obviously there's the heavy side to us but the thing always comes around to the melodic side of things.
Sean: Yeah we don't like to be heavy 24/7 and we like the lighter stuff as well.
Loz: And we also like a big mashup of music and styles.
Aaran: I think we can be a bit misunderstood a bit. People may think we're being angry but we're just trying to tell people to wake up. You know, "you are we, we are one, stop being a dick."
Loz: Yeah, a lot of our lyrics I feel are open to interpretation and that whatever you want to place on it, you can.
I think I may get that sort of depressing interpretation because I'm not living in a post-Brexit Britain or in Donald Trump's America.
Sean: Yeah, you're living in your little paradise over here! Watching everyone else fuck up.
[Laughs] Exactly so that might have something to do with it.
Sean: Potentially. But don't worry, I mean, there's different levels in the band as I'm not fully with all the politics. When I hear some of these lyrics that are quite political I give it my own meaning to make it fit with me and I think all members of the band have different interpretations.
Loz: With this new album, there's a lot more personal emotions flowing into it rather than just the anarchist political side of it.
Aaran: We were all sort of going through our own personal things that could be symbolic for the battles and everything that's going off in the world.
Sean: Those things can be reflected in what's going on in our country and the world.
One of the last things I want to ask you guys is if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or-
Sean: Fuck them. Fuck them all.
For sure but if them and say, Theresa May, which I'm pretty sure is the name of your new Prime Minister?
Aaran: Oh Theresa May! Wasn't even elected. David Cameron just crumbled under the Brexit pressure and went off to go and fuck pigs.
[Laugh] Now he gets to do that full time.
But if all these people who have caused and perpetuated the bullshit that's happening, were reading this interview, what would you say to them?
Sean: Go and fuck yourself and leave us alone.
Aaran: I don't know what I'd say as I'm just gobsmacked by the things that they've done to everybody in the first place.
Loz: If there was a way for things to run smooth then I think it has to be an ideal of sorts and I think it's hard for anyone to step forward and not make mistakes so there will always be people who say "fuck those guys".
Aaran: There's so much smoke and mirrors in the political world that I don't think anybody knows how to trust them. Whether there's hidden agendas and what not or if they're doing it for the good of the people like they say they are because they've got to say that or if it's just for money. So I think that's why people feel so left in the dark. Half the side of people get completely brainwashed and the other half are just sitting back.
Sean: Bottom line is you just don't know.
Aaran: Yeah that's it.
Loz: I think I would just want to sit them down and try and shed some light on what's happening.
Aaran: So many of them dance around the questions though and never answer any of them.
Sean: That's why I say fuck them!
So this is clearly something you're passionate about. Have any of you ever thought of going into politics or is that just a no go?
Sean: No, because I have no fucking idea.
Aaran: Yeah I don't think we have any idea. It's just that this is something that affects the entire of humanity and our world. Our earth is being destroyed with global warming and this is the level of insanity: the world's most powerful man, [Trump] is a climate change denier. That's the level of bullshit we're dealing with.
Do you think that's part of the problem? There's so much bullshit at the "top" that people on the "bottom" have no idea how to break into that?
Loz: People have been trying to break into it for years with riots and protests and whatnot.
Aaran: It's like the 99% versus the 1%. Most of these working class people are holding up the pyramid and it only takes all of us to go against them. Basically, a revolution is what it takes to bring the house of cards down. With all these few people who control the money, it's like a goddamn film.
It's like an episode of Black Mirror.
Aaran: Yeah! It's like The Dark Knight. Did you see the thing where Trump quoted Bane? "I'm giving the power back to you, the people', and it was exactly the same!
Yeah, I saw that. I like to think that his speech writer secretly is just setting him up to fail.
Loz: I think as much as you want to hate the one person, it really is the people behind them that do a lot of it.
Very true! Well, I think we might end things there. Thanks for the chat and for your time today.
Loz: No worries, thank you!
Sean: Yeah, cheers.
Aaran: Thanks, man!