Sheffield metal band While She Sleeps are made of heavy stuff, and they are proving it by taking on the industry on their own
Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor and his band admit they like to do things their own way. They don’t like being told what to do and they certainly won’t be pushed around by anyone as trivial as, say, a record label boss.
A decade in, the Sheffield metallic hardcore band, While She Sleeps, have proved you can get ahead if you stick to your guns – even if it doesn’t always make for an easy life.
“The main thing with While She Sleeps,” he says, “is that we’re digging our own path and the longer we keep working at it, the more people will realise we’re not going anywhere.
“We’re just going to keep on doing our own thing. And if we can explore new sounds and styles and still sound like us; if we can progress but still hold onto the While She Sleeps sound, then that’s great.”
Taking their queue from the likes of Slipknot, Foo Fighters, Underoath, Gallows and Alexisonfire their bass-heavy sound is characterised by a ‘yin and yang’ of screamed vocals and pounding drums but also more melodic moments.
Formed in 2006 as a band of schoolmates, intense periods of touring culminated in their 2010 debut The North Stands for Nothing and their full-length 2012 album This Is the Six. The same year they won the Kerrang! Best Newcomer award.
Having floated between labels, they have now settled on a more DIY approach, going totally independent.
A brave move, it reflects their belief that if you want something done right, do it yourself.
It has seen them self-fund their latest album You Are We, out this month, with the help of their fans through a PledgeMusic campaign, and the band setting up base in a converted warehouse in the south Yorkshire hometown, using their own money to kit it out with a multi-purpose studio.
“There’s always been a very DIY aspect to this band,” says Loz. “So going it alone a bit more now just reiterates that to everyone.”
The current base reflects their previous DIY venue – the Barn.
“The Barn was a very important place for us,” he goes on. “It’s where we grew as friends and it was where we hung out and could be creative, so the idea with this new space is that it gives us a lot more creative space.
“There’s a studio and live room, and we have space now to achieve what we want to achieve as a band.
“This place is going to house us for a good few years.”
Though, they admit, it has left a hole in the finances – a hazard of going it alone.
“We’ve all been skint for a while because of this place,” says guitarist Sean Long, “But we’re hoping that it comes into its own.
“It’s already becoming a space for other bands, too. They can use it as a pre-production space or store their gear here, and it’s constantly busy with people coming here and working. It’s a nice positive space where we can all get creative and be the band we want to be.”
And that invloves breaking down barriers between them and their fans.
As part of the new record’s PledgeMusic campaign, fans were able to head to the studio and join Loz, Sean and guitarist/ singer Mat Welsh, bassist Aaran McKenzie and drummer Adam Savage in a music video for their tune Hurricane.
“That was absolutely crazy,” beams Taylor. “I’m still aching from that! But the special thing is that every kid who came down for the video shoot actually helped make the album happen. And to that extent they made this warehouse capable of living.”
Sean agrees. “Now more than ever, our fans know that it’s them making all of this possible for us,” he says.
“The divide between artist and fan is ridiculous, because there are no fans without the artist and there’s no artist without the fans. They go hand in hand together as one absolute thing, and I really like that we can see that in play with what we’ve been doing.
“It’s very reassuring to see that support right in front of us.”
The band’s experiences of working with a major label is a salutory tale for all aspiring rock acts.
They’re quick to point out that it’s not been all bad, but that it’s not been all good either, and that it’s their fans who have propelled them through both the good times and the bad.
The same is true for their own personal struggles, especially when Taylor had to have surgery on his voice midway through making Brainwashed.
Anyone else might have packed up. But the band apply the same energy into recording and planning gigs and tours as they do into their terrifyingly powerful performances.
Not only loud, brutal even, their latest music also reveals a social conscience as fans will discover when they play the O2 Academy Oxford tonight.
“I feel like these are some of the most powerful and relatable songs that we’ve ever written,” says Loz.
“These songs look at the world as a whole, but it’s also very much about us. We’ve all been through a few ups and downs over the past few years, and I think it’s important for us to express that, because our music is our healing and our therapy.
“There’s a lot of heartfelt stuff in there from our own personal experiences, but there’s also much more of a global view, too.”
Sean says: “We’re never not going to be singing about worldly issues and politics, because that’s what we do without even trying.
“But, as Loz says, on this album it’s all housed within very personal ways of dealing with those things.
“We’re not just screaming about all the problems in the world, we’re screaming about how we feel about those things.
“I’ve never been more connected to moments in the studio when I’m writing music than I have with this record.”
This album is a statement of intent, and is full of the passion which has brought them this far, a decade on.
“My mum even likes it,” laughs Sean, “So I’m very happy.”
While She Sleeps play the O2 Academy Oxford in Cowley Road, tonight. Tickets available from ticketweb.co.uk