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Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow: “If We Stopped Being At Each Other’s Throats So Much We Might Be Better Off”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 26 May 2022 at 15.30

"We’re still here, and we’re still going and still got a lot to prove and lot to say"

It's business time for Neck Deep once again. 

They've not just released a brand new track, the sensationally snotty and deafeningly damning 'STFU', but they've also released it independently for the first time since their inception. And if that wasn't enough, they have a Summer full of shows pencilled in, including a huge celebratory headline slot at Slam Dunk Festival. 

To find out how they are feeling about all of it, we jump on the phone for a catch up with Ben Barlow, and he let us know how it feels to be right back at it again...

How does it feel to be back in the middle of it all again after what feels like a long time out?
"Yeah, it’s not hit me yet. Before I know it, I will be on a plane to America and then straight back for Slam Dunk and then back out again. It’s a bit crazy because I think we hadn’t toured through the Summer before the pandemic in a while. If we had, they were very light schedules. So the fact that we are fully on it again for the whole Summer is actually pretty sick."

And to kick all that off with ‘STFU’ feels appropriately exciting and a rather suitable sort of Neck Deep track following the expansion and experimentation of ‘All Distortions Are Intentional’. And to have it feel like a breakdown of everything going on since then feels incredibly welcome…
Yeah, we don’t want to be writing break up songs all the time anymore, either. I’m not 17 anymore. But also, we are in the mindset now as well where we want to be writing music that we are good at and enjoy rather than pushing it out too much. Not try too hard and do what comes naturally to us. And what comes naturally to us is ultimately what the Neck Deep sound is, so this track feels like a return to that. Stripping it back to its roots. 

And I don’t think the aim was to try and make anything too important either. We take each song as it comes and write about how I’m feeling at the time and hope that people get it and fuck with it. It’s fun more than anything, and that’s what this is all about."

Where did it come from then? Up until the tours at the end of last year and the start of this year, there was a lot of free time, so where does this song slot into that?
"Just after restrictions lifted for the first time, we all went and had a little writing trip to Wales. We went to Anglesey in the middle of nowhere, got a house and set up a little studio in there. So this is where the idea for the song came from. But it was actually recorded about six weeks ago, along with the video. It’s been in the works for a year, but it’s been a case of thinking when the right time to get it down would be. It was also figuring out the right time to start testing the waters for a whole new record as well."

And you’re releasing it independently, for the first time since you first uploaded the demos and ‘Rain In July’ all those years ago. How does that feel? 
"It feels like it’s another way that we are testing the waters. It’s been a long time since we have done things like this, and we are just seeing exactly how an independent release goes in 2022. We’re figuring out how to do all of this ourselves ultimately, and that’s both for the time being and for the foreseeable future. We’re using it all to our advantage and seeing it all as a fun little experiment. 

I would say that it’s more advantageous being an independent band now more than ever, but that’s not to say that having a label hasn’t helped out. There are pros and cons to every situation. This is a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of time, but we as a band feel like this is a real possibility for us. It’s the way to make sure everything stays within the band. We’re in a very strong position, and we’re enjoying every step."

So how did it feel to be able to get some feelings off your chest with ‘STFU’ as well? It feels like you’ve held a mirror up to modern life in a way that only you could whilst still having so much fun with it…
"I think that it’s more of a challenge these days to write lyrics because you want to be able to say something different. I don’t want to be saying the same things as everybody else, and I want there to be a certain level of expectation there as well. I think it was good to have such a long break from doing it, in general, to write a song that took shape over a long period of time. It didn’t just happen immediately, the chorus came before the verses and things like that, so it was fun watching it all take shape. 

"And much like with most Neck Deep lyrics, it’s taking my own experiences and making them palatable for everyone. So you can take these words in any direction you want. Telling the world to shut the fuck up, telling yourself to shut the fuck up, going on a rant and telling everybody else to shut the fuck up. It’s despair at the state of the world where people feel a bit hopeless and try to figure it all out in whatever way they can. Perhaps we are all talking a bit too much, and other times we aren’t talking enough. Then are we saying the right things? Ultimately, I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, so that’s why I’m saying shut the fuck up so much.

"I just hope people are entertained by what we say and find something they see themselves in or something they agree with. If so, that’s cool. And if I don’t hit the nail on the head, then tell me to shut the fuck up as well. That’s what it’s all about."

It’s a realisation from all angles. You’re not trying to tell people how they should be or what they should enjoy. It’s just letting them know how you feel about what’s been going on…
Exactly, I’m not trying to be the spokesperson in any of this. I can take the piss out of politicians and nod toward all of these different things, but we’re not trying to come across as high and mighty. I’m looking at myself in the song more than anything, and looking at how much of a fucking idiot within it all I am as well. That’s the tone of it too. There’s that snotty self-referential influence to it, like early Green Day, where it’s just punk music. We’re no better than anyone else, we’re dumbasses too, so we’re all in this together. Maybe if we stopped being at each other’s throats so much and stopped taking everything everyone says so critically, we might be better off. There are bigger things to think about right now."

And then there’s Slam Dunk, which you are, of course, headlining. How does that feel, a decade into this adventure?
"It’s wild. We have a lot to thank Slam Dunk for over the years. We have been through a lot as a band, good and bad, and I think that being a pop-punk band, that’s never at the forefront of everything. We have just been flying this flag on this strange patch of land that is alternative music, and it’s something that you either love or hate. To have something to show for all of that, to headline the biggest festival that serves that world, is a real achievement. It’s a scout’s badge and a fucking good one."

And to be at a point where you are figuring out this new chapter of the band it’s not a bad place to be jumping into the unknown from…
"That’s it. We’ve had our fair share of bullshit as a band over the years and have been taken for a spin in many different ways. And it feels pretty good to have a moment to be champions of all of that. We’re still here, and we’re still going and still got a lot to prove and lot to say. And as long as people give a shit about Neck Deep, we’re going to keep on going."

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