I spoke with vocalist Ben Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans at the 4th of July date of the Vans Warped Tour and, well, fun fact about this interview: it took place in the bathroom that was connected to the press room since, at the time, the press room was getting crowded. Because of this, I was asked if I minded doing the interview in the bathroom. Apparently this was a thing bands had been wanting to do, so I said “why not?”. The fact that it was Ben and Fil’s idea to take the picture featured with this article should tell you all you need to know about the sense of fun they bring to their music. Neck Deep is also releasing a new album, “Life’s Not Out To Get You” on August 14 through Hopeless Records. They’re playing all dates of Warped Tour, which is scheduled to end its run on August 8.
So how have you guys been today?
Ben: Great, very well yeah. Enjoying 4th of July.
Fil: Playing a bit later as well, kinda gettin’ to get the cooler weather when we play. So that’s kinda nice.
‘Cause you guys mentioned that you’re not from here, are you from the U.K.?
So you feel this heat and humidity and you’re like “what is this? Why?”
B: Well, we’ve been to America a few times now. I think this is our fourth time on a tour. We spent a lot of time in Florida recording our last album. Florida was like the first place we came when we first came over here. So yeah, I think we’re kinda used to it. It’s still like [it’s hot].
F: We know how to deal with it.
B: We generally just tend to spend 10-15 minutes outside, run inside, spend 10-15 minutes outside, run inside.
[laughs] Sounds like every Floridian ever too.
B: Yeah exactly.
F [deadpan]: Yeah, we’re basically Floridian now, that’s how it goes.
Would you guys consider yourselves pop punk?
F: Yeah, I think so.
B: Yeah, I would say we pretty much fit into that mold. I know a lot of pop punk bands would try and avoid that and be like, “no, we’re not pop punk”, but yeah we pretty much are [smiles]. We’re not denying that.
F: We’ve definitely got influence and little bits from other genres and elements, but, you know, we are pop punk.
B: At the core it is. Yeah. [laughs]
How would you say the pop punk scene and music scene in general is different in the U.K. than it is here [in the U.S.]?
B: It’s definitely picking up. Obviously this is where it was kinda born. It came from punk rock in general, but you know, U.K.’s always been big on punk. We had the Sex Pistols, we had The Clash, we had a bunch of bands so it’s always been big and I think back when it was kicking off in the early 2000’s with bands like New Found and Blink and Sum 41, they were all still selling out arenas and playing huge venues over in the U.K. So I think the U.K.’s always got it and understood it and connected with it but no one ever really stood up and was like “let’s try to be successful with this”. Everyone was just happy being a listener and we wanted to be the – obviously there are U.K. pop punk bands. There’s a lot. There’s a scene for sure now. There’s a lot of young bands coming through.
F: There was just never one of the big boys. There was never a New Found or a Blink or a Green Day coming from the U.K.
B: One of the closest bands I’d say to being U.K. pop punk back in the day would be Hundred Reasons, but I wouldn’t even say they were pop punk.
F: Yeah, that was kinda different.
B: It was kinda rock slash pop and had a lot of different influences. That to me was kind of pop punk.
F: The scene now over there though-
B: It’s strong.
F: It’s very similar to how it is now. It’s not exactly the same. The shows tend to be a bit more crazy here and kids are down to go a bit harder and stage dive and kinda get into it a bit more. Like a British crowd, they’ll take a bit more.
B: The British crowd will sing a riff though.
B: They LOVE to sing a riff. And sometimes, if you catch ‘em on the right day, British kids will just go nuts. Same with European kids. If you catch ‘em on the right day, they’ll just lose their shit. I’d say the U.K. is pretty much on par with the U.S. maybe through imitation maybe? Just like seeing videos and like, “that was cool, so we’ll just do that too”. So I’d say the U.S. originated it, but the U.K. definitely brings it too. Same with Australia. It’s a cool scene too.
I just noticed your shirt [pictured, on Fil], did you just get that today, for the holiday?
F [sounding excited, smiles]: Yes.
It’s ‘cause it has that sticker that-
B: has “made in the USA”, yeah.
F: It’s Fourth of July, you know, gotta represent the home team.
[jokingly] Gotta make an effort for the American holiday.
F: We actually all got one.
B [sounding jokingly sad]: I don’t know if I got one. I don’t think they got me one.
F: There was five. They got five.
B: There was five, okay cool. Sweet.
You know, one of the guys from Baby Baby noticed you were in [the press room] and I was asking him “what’s a song people wouldn’t expect you to have?” And he was like “Oh I got that new Neck Deep album!”
B: Yeah, Baby Baby is sweet. They’re nice guys. They’re very experimental. Their set is cool. They have a keyboard player and they all just kinda jam and just vibe it, it’s cool. Good dudes. They’re another band on this tour that we probably never would have heard of, never would have looked into, but just because of Warped, we made friends with them so they’re cool.
Great thing about Warped.
B: There are a ton of bands that I’ve always looked up to and then a ton of bands I’ve never heard of but just as equally they can be equally as nice people. You know what I mean? You can get on with anyone, whether they’re in a band that’s completely different to yours or if they’re within your scene, so it’s great. Everyone tries- everyone is kinda friends with everyone I guess.
With your new album, where/what did you draw from when you wrote it?
B: What did I draw from? [pauses]
Like was it personal or just…?
B: Yeah, just personal experience. Really a mix of everything. I didn’t want us to write a sad record. I know a lot of bands write sad records and yeah, it’s cool to listen to sad music when I’ve been sad.
Kind of a pop punk trend.
B: Yeah, I’ve listened to sad music when I’ve been sad before and yeah it kinda helps because it’s someone that you can relate to, but at the same time, it’s kinda just keeping me in this sad state and just making me think too much.
B: And really, I don’t want to write sad songs. I don’t want to write songs that kids, like, especially with the epidemic that’s kinda – well, I wouldn’t say it’s an epidemic. I don’t know the word – this kind of a trend that’s going on now with kids self-harming now and I REALLY don’t want to be a band that kids self-harm to. I want to be a band that kids go “yo fuck that. I wanna be happy and I wanna listen to music and I wanna enjoy life”. And that’s kinda where, it’s called “Life’s Not Out To Get You” and it’s not. I want kids to realize that. I was drawing a lot from personal experience, past stuff that I’ve gone through but then how I got over it. Just kinda giving them a state of mind as to help them through things. You know, that’s kinda hidden with these sappy girl stories and all that kinda stuff and just generally some concepts and stuff I had for a really long time. There’s a chorus in one of the songs that’s based off a scene in an “Indiana Jones” movie.
Hah. That’s awesome. Which one?
B: It’s a song called “Kali Ma” [set to be track four off of “Life’s Not Out To Get You”], but the movie is from the “Temple of Doom”. It’s the scene where he gets his heart ripped out and sent down to hell. And, uh yeah. You’ll hear the song [laughs]. But um, there’s also a song that I wrote after playing a horror video game with Fil and Lloyd.
F [quietly]: Yesss.
B: We sat up all night playing this video game and we were all sorta freaked out and I wrote this weird, eerie, spooky kind of song to go with it. Sounds like self-titled Blink, it’s cool.
F: Yeah it does. It sounds very “Stockholm Syndrome”.
What influenced you to get into pop punk in general?
F: I think you kind of just discover it at some point and then.
B: I was shown it from quite a young age. I had it kinda given to me from older brothers and things like that. I remember being shown “Dookie” [by Green Day] for the first time as a kid. I remember being sat in front of Kerrang! and watching Kerrang!, which is our AP [“Alternative Press”], I guess. They have a TV station as well. They just show music videos and like a radio station too. But I would just sit in front of Kerrang! with my brother all day. Um, yeah, just listening to music and bands. I had a Talkboy like on “Home Alone” and we would just record songs I liked and we would just listen to them over and over again. Kinda just got passed down to me and then really connected with it. I think everyone’s different.
Name a song people would be surprised to find on your iPods.
B: I don’t really have any music on my phone because I like to keep the memory. I use Spotify so um…
As far as what you listen to then.
B: I don’t know what people might be surprised I have on my iPod, but my guilty pleasure is “Burn” by Usher.
B: That is my fucking jam, dude. I love that song.
That song is awesome. That voice though.
B: Yeah, Usher’s sick. That song, aw dude, when I was 14 and I broke up with this girl I was dating for two months and thought the world was going to end, I listened to “Burn” by Usher just to heal my broken heart and I loved it. So cool.
F: Niiice. All the ones that I think, I don’t think anyone would be surprised by that. Everyone would be like, “yeah that’s him”. Like, Katy Perry and stuff.
Someone actually said Katy Perry today so.
F: Yeah, I listen to a lot of that, I love it. I’m very vocal about my love for it so I don’t think it’d surprise anyone.
Mine is always rap. And my guilty pleasure is totally One Direction. I don’t usually tell that to people I don’t know.
B: My girlfriend has a One Direction sofa in her bedroom, but it’s for like a kid. It’s a kid’s sofa that folds out.
B: It’s so pointless. It just takes up space in her room and it’s so pointless. She doesn’t even like One Direction that much. Every time I go in there, like “please get rid of it” and she’s like “no”. My god. [laughs]
She would love this one guy that was in here. He was wearing a One Direction shirt. Had all their names.
B: Yeah, she probably would.
And he actually got it in the U.K. too.
B: Really? Oh wow.
Yeah, said he had to work to find it.
B: They’re flying the flag for us over there. Biggest pop sensation in the world right now.
F: Yeah, U.K. going strong. [laughs]
Anything else you want to add?
B: No, just thanks to anyone who checks us out, listens to our music, comes to a show.
F: Yeah, love it. Thank you.