British metacore band While She Sleeps is turning the music industry upside down with its new member-based business model, going above and beyond fan-funded records.
We had a chat with lead vocalist Loz about the new “Sleeps Society” and their new album of the same name.
Tell me about the title Sleep Society?
With this record, the initial campaign was about us trying to let our fan base in on a few industry fractures, and just trying to say, look streaming now is not in 95% of all music, that’s sort of digested. That’s how we’re doing things now. We don’t really feel like the industry has taken that many steps to move with it. There are a lot of social media platforms, and a lot of things for bands to be doing. But these platforms aren’t really, especially streaming, paying back what they used to back in the day. Times have changed, and I think for us, we were just wanting to address our fan base and approach some of these different problems that we’re having, and just basically drop the smoke and mirrors and say, to our fan base, look, we feel like we have a new way of operating.
It’s going to be good for anyone that wants to get involved and will also work in favor of making our journey more sustainable, so that we can focus on what’s important.
Initially out of the gate, we had a press conference at the forefront, addressing a few of those things, and just basically saying look, let’s rally together and if we’re an important band for you, then you can support us in this new way that we’re trying to create with the Sleep Society. It’s going to help sustain us and keep us going for another 10 years, if it works. That was the initial thinking behind it.
So far, it’s been amazing. It’s proven to be really successful for us. I think the model that we’ve created with that, although Patreon is how we run it, isn’t necessarily anything new. I think a lot of people in the past have used Patreon like a side hustle, just for anyone that’s interested, they jump in there. We’ve pulled that to the forefront of our campaign and said, “Look, bands, like ours need to be thinking about using this as an engine to fuel the ongoing of the band and to keep them running because if you have people that care, there’s a place and a community that you can build that will help you make it more sustainable when at times it can be very, very difficult”. That’s what the thinking was behind it and that’s what we came out the gate with for this campaign.
It’s actually a very cool concept because I know some artists personally that have sold a million albums in the past and here they are with Spotify and their cheques are super tiny.
Yeah, it’s insane. I think that, if you’re like Justin Bieber and the numbers really work in your favor, you’re not really sweating it too much, but it seems like genres like Punk Rock, Metal, Hardcore and Post Hardcore are the lifeblood of a lot of countries and they need the boost.
They’re the soul of the underground scene and the demand is there, but it seems like those are the genres that are going to struggle with this balance of trying to find out how can we have this many listeners on the streaming platforms listening in, but on the other side of it doesn’t get reflected in that way. So I think bands are really starting to feel that pressure and starting to think outside the box as to how we can move within this industry to make it sustainable. The scary thing for us is, obviously, initially we’re thinking about ourselves, and how we can change our situation, but we want to be able to turn around to our children’s children that might be into new metal or rock or punk and be able to say, look, they were the best years of my life. I managed to sustain a career through it, we don’t want it to turn into a situation where, we’re trying to steer our youngsters who could be the next frickin Hendrix and steer them away from an industry that’s just turned to, not being able to work in.
We’ve already had a few people turn around and say that the model is working for them and they’ve tried to do what we’re doing. For us, it felt like we’re one of those bands that, the ethic behind the band is very punk rock and very DIY, and we’re not scared of sticking it in the elbow grease. So it just felt necessary to stick our neck out a little bit, address our fan base in this way and say, “Look, from now on, we’re going to try and move it this way”. And they answered. They were really, really positive about it. We’re lucky to have the fan base we have to be honest.
Was this created more out of a need during the pandemic? The entertainment business in general is dead right now.
Definitely not. I think what birthed this idea for us was our record “You Are We” which was two records previous to the new one. We released that through a pledge campaign and it was the first time we stepped out more independently than ever before. We were just in a situation where people will like working for our band and sticking their hand in the honey pot, so to speak. But there weren’t that many mistakes happening or things going wrong to come in and correct the mistakes. When that’s the situation you’re in, it’s crazy thinking that people are taking money from you.
The thinking behind that campaign was to reach out to our fan base initially and say, “Look, if you care about this band, we’re going to try and pledge the album”. At the time, it was a bit nail biting and we felt if this goes wrong, how the fuck are we going to release this record. But again, our fan base stood up, and people really got behind it and the thing is with the pledge campaign, if you don’t hit your target, then everyone gets refunded. And that’s it. But we tripled our target. Everyone was really behind this. It was a very successful record.
I think that for us, it sparked this whole journey, where we started thinking, if that worked so well, and previous records felt like they didn’t go that smoothly, then what are the pros and cons to doing it in both ways? And what are we gaining from this that we haven’t before? And I think it’s just that whole situation cuts out so many middlemen, you know we’re not saying that we can do it without anybody, because there’s definitely people that are really helping our band right now and they’re definitely important. But at the same time, if we want to create a product that’s made in house by us that go straight to the fan base, and I think when the fan base feels like they’re supporting you, and no one else, they really, really turn up and they really get it done. So I think that was the whole birth of this.
So you fast forward two years, and we’ve taken the elements of that and just really tried to think, where can we go with this? Obviously, for anyone outside of the Sleep Society, we’re not discouraging any of that, we’re very, very much appreciative of anyone, whether it’s listening on streaming platforms, turning up to a show, grabbing a shirt, keeping an eye on us and checking us out for when we come through your town – all of that is crucially important, and we love it. But for people who view us as their favorite band, they love it to the point of wanting to help us in this way, then that community i
s there. It’s helping us compartmentalize, how we approach our different audiences through social medias now through the Sleep Society, whether it’s just streaming YouTube, so it’s proven to be really good. And I think it was born from the “You Are We” record and doing things in that way, that stemmed to where we are now with the release of this record and the campaign.
Let’s talk about the music a little bit. What are some of the new elements you brought to this album? Are there new styles of instrumentation? Did you add any elements?
I think that, again, going back to the “You Are We” record, the album really gave us confidence in the fact that our fan base were really behind us and I think sometimes it’s quite easy to live inside the bubble of people blowing smoke up your ass telling you that you’re the best deal, and, you believe in that. We’ve been through a roller coaster of different things like dealing with throat surgeries and having to cancel tours – sometimes you just get sucked in and you’re in the smoke.
It almost sounds like it’s more than just a metal core project.
We all bring a lot of different genres to the table and like a lot of different styles of music. So we always wanted to branch away from just being a metal band. You’ve seen us experiment more now with vintage synth, at times sounding like Prodigy, it’s kind of crazy. Sean’s got into all this vintage synth sounds. I’m personally trying to do a lot of clean vocals as well as work on my screaming techniques. Because, again, I want to feel like I’m progressing. And I feel that because we have such a strong fan base, it’s letting us like do things that, if we were quite conservative in that way, we wouldn’t push ourselves and push outside the boundary. So we like a lot of different genres as people and we’re just trying to showcase that, trying to stay current and interesting. It keeps our fan base on its toes and not trying to rewrite the same record twice. Hopefully, that’s what our fan base is hearing and we’re just trying to push the boundary and keep growing as artists and musicians and keep trying to write songs that resonate with people and write lyrics that people connect with.
I think a really good example of the experimentation and kind of progress of the sound is right there, right off the start with the opening of Sleep Society, it’s a really cool synth, but it’s presented in an awesome way with effects and it just gives it some balls.
I think one thing that’s really special about our band is that when we set out, everyone has their influences, but we made a point of not wanting to sound like anyone else. My deal has always been, why would I want to sound like anyone else, I want to sound like me. So I think that’s something we’ve always had in our heads, let’s not try and sound like anybody else. I feel like, a lot of the time in metal core as a genre, it’s very easy to sound like a lot of other metal core bands. I feel like for a little while, metal core turned into a bit of a dirty word, how Emo did back in the day, it was cool for a bit, and then it changed up. But we’re very lucky the way that Sean Long plays guitar, and the way that we utilize our voices within the band means that no one else really sounds like us. Hopefully, in the future we can stand by that and that’s what makes a great band is the fact that, as soon as you hear them, you know that sound and you know what they sound like. So that’s something that we’re trying to polish.
There are three singles from the album out so far. We talked a little bit about Sleep Society. So let’s talk about two of the other ones – You Are All You Need.
“You Are All You Need”, for me feels like the perfect While She Sleeps song. It harnesses all the elements that to me make While She Sleeps who we are – and it’s heavy, it’s fast paced, it kicks in, but then it’s also very anemic and melodic. It has one of my favorite guitar licks on the album that melts my face every time I hear it. I think the one thing about Sean’s guitar playing is it’s not necessarily like showboating. It’s reserved on purpose. And the sounds that he produces is modest. But he’s always going for what sounds best, and so that specific section for me, when it kicks in there in “You Are All You Need” just always melts my face. I could listen to Shawn play it forever. The messages are there, we try to bring positivity to people, but in a metal and rock way. I think that song is very typical While She Sleeps, and for that reason, I think it’s really great.
The other one is Nervous.
Nervous just came out of nowhere in terms of the demo. Shawn was going through a lot at the time, and I think that’s what’s important about this song for us all, but initially, Sean sat down with his acoustic guitar when he was going through a really shitty part of his life. And it really felt like he needed to write that chorus, he felt very, very nervous and he was anxious. He might have been depressed at the time. I think it’s all part of trying to find balance in his life. That resonates with all of us. We’ve all gone through stuff at times, and I think that it’s quite easy to overlook, if you have some sort of issue or, when you’re feeling your lowest, it’s quite easy to just feel like you’re alone in that and not really know how to talk to anyone about it, or resolve that what you feel is the problem.
For us, especially now that the pandemic is a thing, and the demo was being written sort of pre-pandemic, but as the pandemic has gone on, people are more isolated. The message is hugely important and it’s even opened up conversations between our intimate family and our partners and close friends just by saying, look, we’re releasing this song that has this, mental well being side of things attached to it. It’s opening up conversations, it’s breaking down the stigmas and that’s what we wanted, really. If it can help a handful people in that way, then it’s done its job for us. It feels like it’s necessary at the moment and hopefully it can feel like an anthem of the time. I think people need to really let go and feel like they’re not alone right now, even though they are probably isolated and a lot of people feel very similarly to how others are feeling. That was important for us to make sure we pushed it out in the right way and that people understood the message, and we hoped it could do good things.
We’ve got Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro involved, which for us is amazing. Matt Welsh, our guitarist said the other day that they’re like the UK version of The Foo Fighters – they’ve done hugely successful things in the UK and Simon Neil’s an amazing front man with a great voice. It was amazing to have him on board with a song and he firmly stood by the message that we’re trying to deliver. It really brought some fresh vibes to the table with the song. We gave him the structure and the demo and just said kind of have a go at it, don’t feel restricted in any way, just enjoy it and see what comes back. We pretty much left everything that he worked on in the song because he did a great job of ad-libbing in between what we already had down as the structure. His voice really lends itself to the more anthemic side of While She Sleeps. We thought it merged nicely with what we had going on already in terms of the lyrics and the voices. He brought some really positive energy and he was a pleasure to work with. So it was really special.
I like the way you refer to While She Sleeps and Sleeps Society when you talk about it, you talk about it, like it’s a lifestyle, which it obviously is for you.
Definitely, definitely, I’ve been doing it so long and it’s not for any other reason other than, we’re passionate about it; we love doing it. We haven’t gotten to where we are now by wearing sunglasses inside. For us, it’s about being as real as possible, really bringing down the smoke and mirrors and not trying to put ourselves on any sort of pedestal. It’s literally about the sense of community. I feel like if I wasn’t in While She Sleeps, I’d still be a part of this community in some way. I would still put rock shows on in my local hometown when I can. I’m still a part of this scene and it’s been a part of that community that got me involved with it in the first place. It’s definitely something that we feel strongly about. It’s definitely a way of life. I feel when you’ve been a vocalist for this long, and you’ve been in bands for this long – going on 20 years – it’s in your blood. We really don’t take it for granted in any way.
If you would like to join the Sleep Society go to whileshesleeps.com