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While She Sleeps’ Mat Welsh On ‘Sleeps Society’: “This Is How You Can Help Bands Exist”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 15 October 2020 at 18.00

"I want people to say, ‘I followed the Sleeps model and we made a career out of it’."

While She Sleeps
have just announced the details of Sleeps Society, a brand new band-to-fan community model that will bring the music industry crashing into the modern day. 

At a time when the world is changing everyday and nothing is certain, the band have set about creating a way that the people who care about them are closer than ever with no boundaries or bullshit in the way. Through exclusive perks, workshops and unbridled access, they are looking to set a new standard for how heavy music can be consumed and curated without the need for the middleman. 

All of this comes alongside a brand new album, also called 'Sleeps Society', which will be released on April 16 next year. 

We jumped on the phone with guitarist Mat Welsh to find out where this idea was born, what it means to them and why it's so important if people want their favourite bands to simply survive...

How has all of this come together then? It feels like it’s something you’ve been trying to put together for a long time…
“This is something that we had the initial idea of quite a few years ago. We’ve always been waiting to do it, but there were complications and situations that stopped us. There have been a couple of points where we have been faced with a ginormous amount of debt. The sort of financial issues where you should be considering whether you should throw the towel in basically. So for the last couple of years we’ve really been trying to overcome that in the hope that we can get on track and make the band a sustainable career. We’re so far down the rabbit hole we will refuse failure because we’ve put so much into it. This is our life.

“That’s when we said, ‘How do we craft this ourselves and make it work?’ We had this idea before where we wanted to change the model. All we kept coming round to was realising was how much the current model doesn’t work. The way we consume music has changed, but the model for releasing it has stayed the same. So how do we change it and make it work for the artist? We came to the conclusion that we have so much to offer inside of the band. We’ve got everyone’s collective knowledge of the last 15 years, so how do we share that and show people how to get where we are now but without the ups and down we’ve had to go through? By harnessing the power of the fans and explaining to everybody exactly how it is but then also providing something that actually feels worth it, you can show people that they can help the bands they love by directly supporting them.

“We’ve got such a crazy community and our fans know exactly how important they are to us. It’s a very inter-dependent relationship. So this was about making something cool but also making something that’s a little bit bigger than the music. We wanted to make it all about a whole method that we can then show other people how bands like us can change the way that they survive. I want people to say, ‘I followed the Sleeps model and we made a career out of it’."

In many ways, the core of what this is has existed within Sleeps from the very beginning. Even ten years ago people were looking at how you operated and saw how ahead of the curve you were for a heavy band. Then there’s what you did with ‘You Are We’. The only barrier to this not happening earlier is the old system...
“That’s what has been so weird really. We’ve always had the idea there. Though when we were in America at the start of the year on tour, we said that we were going to come home with a plan and how to actually do it. Even then we knew what we wanted to call it. It was always going to be ‘Sleeps Society’. We don’t fit into society and we never have. We’ve spent all of our lives trying to fit in and we don’t, so let’s make our own and hope that people feel the same. It becomes this counterculture.

“It was at the end of that tour when the world spiralled out of control. We had the end of the tour actually cancelled and we had to spend £10,000 to fly us all and our crew back home. It was a really scary ending. Then we were back we said, ‘Fuck, what do we do?’ So that’s when we decided to just channel all of our energy into this thing we wanted to make. If touring is stopping, then this is now falling into place because we now actually need to do this thing that we’ve been talking about forever.

“After that we had the realisation that, ‘Shit, none of this is coming back to normal as soon as we wanted it to’. It all aligned really quickly. At first it was about finding a new route to sustainability for bands and artists. Then all of a sudden if there’s no live music it was about filling a void. This relationship that bands and fans have together is dead in the water without live music, but the bands aren’t ready to stop. So how do fill that void and recreate that connection of the live show? How do we make our supporters feel like they’ve still got that connection that they usually get from shows alongside all of the other people who are at those shows? That’s the world that we all live for after all. It’s gone from sustainability to providing a home for this community now that we can’t go out and do it together.”

That’s the thing about the Sleeps community as well. Even when you’re not there, you’re still living on through them. What you’ve actually built doesn’t just go away…
“Totally, and they’re as ready as ever because they need something. They need this more than ever. The initial goal of this has developed every single week since we started the project. New things have become important and new things have become relevant. They have been saying that 47% of the younger generations are lowering their ambitions. Kids are giving up on their dream jobs because of the way that the world is. That’s everything that this band is about. All my teachers in school told me that this was a stupid career to have. I have proven to them that it wasn’t. Even when it comes to making something like this sustainable, the odds in this world are against you. But they don’t have to be.

“For Sleeps it’s not about every single person who likes this band signing up to this thing and we all become millionaires. It’s about the people who really care about it and feel like they just need it. It’s us saying, ‘If you really need us, then we really need you’. Unfortunately streaming our music simply isn’t enough anymore. This is how you can help bands exist. If you do that for two or three bands that you really love for the price of a few coffees a month, the effect is humongous.”

Another thing within the model that has changed is that the core incentive of being in a band has changed. It’s not about being a “rock star” anymore; it’s about so much more…
“Completely. If the music matters to people, then the most important thing to us is being able to make it. It matters to us being able to make it an awful lot. It’s our own therapy. We just want to secure the fact that none of us have to turn around in the next five to ten years and go, ‘I can’t do this because it’s stopping me live  a moderately normal life’. It’s just about making it enough so we can say, ‘This is what I live off and this is what I channel my energy into’. You shouldn’t have to say, ‘I need to get a part time job to keep this band alive’. That then waters down this thing that actually matters.”

There’s the musical aspect to all of this as well, and this new song you’ve put out alongside this model is almost like a theme song…
“Oh yeah, it’s an introduction. This is the foreword of the book. Sean [Long, guitarist] writes relentlessly. He is writing all the fucking time, whether we know there’s an album on the horizon or not. He needs it. If you took it all away from him and stopped him having a computer and an amp he would just go and find a new way to bank all of these thoughts. It’s his outlet. So he’s been writing since the day that ‘So What?’ came out and with this song there simply wasn’t any debate. We’ve been on the edge of this stuff a lot before. ‘You Are We’ is what it says on the tin. ‘This Is The Six’ is also in the same breath. We’ve always had this thing where we’ve wanted to say it. We just wanted to say 'Sleeps Society'. This is almost like a rebrand for us. It’s not ‘Sleeps Society’ by While She Sleeps. It’s all just in there. It’s just 'Sleeps Society' now.

“We’re also not the first band in the world to create a community like this, but it’s so much bigger than that to us. It’s not just, ‘The album is called this and here’s a subscription on the side’. The whole thing is together. The songs are about it. The songs are named after it. We’re talking about it all within the songs and explaining why it’s for you and why we feel this way. We almost didn’t have the conversation about what we release first because this is what it needed to be.”

Even back with ‘This Is The Six’, you knew what it was about and what you wanted it to represent, but being able to hone on that comes with the experience and growth since then. And not forgetting that was your debut…
“We were also so blinded by the deals that were being put in front of us back then as well. Those are the things we wanted at the time. We wanted to get signed and we wanted management. Then within the rollercoaster since then we’ve realised that nobody works as hard as you on your band and no-one ever will. So if you want it to be right, it’s got to come from the source. Also, if you want to have all of these things then they come at a huge cost. It takes you further away from that sustainability.

All you can do is try, and in a lot of ways it’s pretty insane that it’s taken this long for someone to actually stand up to it…
“And yeah, maybe somebody will come after us and do this better. But if we don’t do it, then we will be winging about this system for the rest of our lives. I learnt years ago that if I complain about something one too many times and don’t actually do it, then what am I doing? I’m no right to complain if I’m not willing to try.”

Even on the ‘So What?’ campaign, you were literally telling people how fucked the system is on your advertising…
“That’s exactly it. We were saying all of these things and we’re in no better a situation than we were. So now with the society, we’re just going to give every single bit of information we have away. I’ll tell you exactly how to self-manage a band and look after your brand. It’s all the things that you don’t think about when you first get into it. Sean is going to talk to you about songwriting and how you take your ideas and actually make them into tunes. Loz [Taylor, vocals] is going to tell you how to avoid throat surgeries when you’re screaming your head off everyday. All of these things are things that nobody tells you about when you’re a kid and you just want to go and play music. This is the reality of how the industry is now though.”

Ultimately, how does it feel to be pushing ‘GO’ on this?
“It’s terrifying when you’ve worked on something for so long and you’re about to put it live. There will be some people kicking off because it’s different and think that we’re being greedy or saying, ‘Oh I have to pay for this now’. That’s how the Internet is now. Your videos are free, your music is free to listen to. If that keeps on happening then more and more people won’t be able to do it, and this beautiful culture we’ve built will just trail off.”

When we’re looking back on this in five or ten years time, the whole point is for you to be able to say, ‘This is what we did”…
“We’re just happy that we’ve channelled the energy into something that we hoped would be positive, even if it’s 10% of the size that we wanted it to be. Those are the people that care. That’s what we did with ‘You Are We’ and we couldn’t believe how many people cared. If that happens again, so be it. We just have to do this for us. We hope that it feels the same level of necessary to the people who are listening.”

You can join the Sleeps Society right HERE

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