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The last time Welsh pop-punkers Neck Deep toured Australia, the world and their own band looked significantly different; social distancing wasn’t a familiar phrase, the Neck Deep lineup was different, and their 2020 fourth album All Distortions Are Intentional wasn’t yet out and about.
Fast forward to 2023 and the jubilant news for fans that the quartet will be heading down under this September for a headline run also coincides with new Neck Deep material continuously making its way out into the world. And while the impending tour is certainly not the band’s first down under rodeo, there will be some happy firsts for the Neck Deep family when the group reach our shores, as vocalist Ben Barlow recently shared with HysteriaMag.com.
“We’re stoked,” says Barlow, “not only because the shows will be great, but it is a great place to be as well. Like – it truly is one of my favourite places to tour. And it’s my brother Seb’s first time, he’s been playing bass for us since just before COVID.
“He was always kind of in the band, he was our producer for a long, long time, and he finally bit the bullet and joined. This will be his first time in Oz, so I’m stoked to show him the ropes and explore a little bit, and to see his face for the first time when he’s seeing all the beautiful stuff and all of the amazing places and amazing food.
“We love Oz. Oz is amazing, and it’s long overdue. Admittedly we could have come over a little sooner, but we wanted to wait for the right time. Now, we’ve got some new music on the way, and we’ve also got a few more shows under our belt since COVID. And we just feel as though now is a good time.
“We won’t leave it so long next time but hopefully another pandemic won’t get in the way!”
With their most recent album All Distortions Are Intentional dropping in the early months of the pandemic, Neck Deep actively evolved their creativity without sacrificing what made them a pop punk staple in the modern scene, with the likes of Kerrang! praising the album for its “impressive maturity”. And while the 2020 concept album, detailing various character’s journeys in an exaggerated version of reality, was well received, the band have refused to rest on their laurels, with a string of new singles released over the past 18 months. And, as Barlow reveals, the timeline of the band’s new material poses equal positives and negatives when constructing a 2023 Neck Deep setlist.
“It is tough,” says Barlow. “It is really tough, especially with Oz where we’ve not played anything from All Distortions Are Intentional at all. So, that will be hard. And even now we’re talking about it, you know, with new music on the way and a couple new singles already out.
“I think we should have a new single out by the time we get to Oz. It’s gonna be tough to choose, but we’ve already talked about it, like we’re gonna have to start cycling out some old favourites, some stuff that we play in nearly every show…we’re gonna have to start cycling some of them out. But with Oz, it’s like: we haven’t been in so long, do we play some of the classics, like maybe it’s a final little sendoff?
We’re excited to be playing some new stuff, but we might have to have a little refresher course when we get back to Oz. We might have to play some of the classics and remind people what it’s all about!
[ Ben Barlow, Neck Deep ]
“That’s kind of the mode that we’re in at the minute, maybe wrapping up or retiring a couple songs for a little bit just to make room for some new stuff, and some stuff of All Distortions Are Intentional, things like that too. It is tough, especially with a new record on the way because we feel like that’s so in line with some of our other stuff too, it’ll kind of fit seamlessly into a set.
“We’re excited to be playing some new stuff, but we might have to have a little refresher course when we get back to Oz. We might have to play some of the classics and remind people what it’s all about!”
Recently appearing at Download Festival in the UK and So What Fest in the States, as well as supporting Yungblud and touring with Real Friends, Neck Deep have had plenty of moments of late to properly celebrate their latest material in a live setting after a lengthy pause in the world of live events. And while the Wrexham-hailing quartet have ticked off tourinmg with everyone from blink-182 to Trophy Eyes over the years, their live show has only elevated in the two and a bit decades the group have been in existence; as has their heightened ability to balance their trademark sound with organic progression.
“The most recent stuff that we put both go off live,” says Barlow. “It’s actually really, really good to see certain things from ADAI going down well too, Lowlife goes down really well, and Sick Joke too, but they’re a different kind of vibe.
“But we’re noticing with the new songs that are a bit more pop punky, they’re definitely resonating with people. We get a nice big circle pit on the go for STFU, it’s sick. And honestly, some of these new songs that we’ve been writing do just fit so seamlessly into what we’ve been doing. They feel like new songs, but they don’t feel like “new” songs. They feel like they fit in really, really well. I think a song like STFU maybe goes down a little better just because there’s a lot of good crowd interaction moments in there. But they’ve both gone down really well, and I’m expecting more of the same. And I’m also hoping that it’s connecting out there too, which I think it has.”
Tracing their origins back to 2012, the Neck Deep adventure began with gusto when Barlow first met Neck Deep’s original lead guitarist Lloyd Roberts, resulting in the Neck Deep debut single What Did You Expect making waves in the Wrexham scene. Soon enough, the group had signed to Hopeless Records and threw themselves into their debut album Wishful Thinking which unleashed into the world in 2014. But despite the band’s lengthy tenure and the increasing volatility of the industry around them along the way, Neck Deep continue to hit their stride; and it’s a fact that is definitely not lost on the group themselves.
“We’ve been doing this a while now,” says Barlow, “and with Neck Deep, our entire development has been out on display. Everybody’s seen it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the amazing songs, some of the not so amazing songs – but some of those songs were written when we were 17, 18 years old. And to come along now and be pushing 30…I think we’re the most polished songwriters we can be, and I also think we’re in a very comfortable place as a band. We’ve carved out our own little space. There’s still room to grow, but the way we achieve that is just by doing what we’re good at.
“We don’t need to rock the boat. Well, we wanna “rock” the boat, you know what I mean? But we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, I guess is the phrase I’m looking for. The new stuff that we’ve been writing just feels like we’ve learned so much over the years writing songs and learned so much about ourselves. The new stuff is a good combination of the Neck Deep that everyone loves with the messaging and the sound, but just polished and perfected I think.
“Sometimes you’ve gotta try something new to set you back on course a little bit. And I think that’s kind of what we’ve done with the last record going into this one. But, you know – if you don’t try, you don’t know and you’ll never get it out of your system. So I think every album is what it’s meant to be. Regardless of what’s expected of a band, whatever they put out is what they wanna put out. And I think whatever comes out next will feel natural and organic to people.”
With more and more Neck Deep material imminent on the near horizon, fans are definitely in for a treat as 2023 marches on, including their long-awaited return down under. But ahead of the group returning to Australia, Barlow has a few core Aussie memories up his sleeve that he won’t be forgetting any time soon, including a moment forever immortalised at the end of a colourful music video.
“One of my favourite/funniest moments in Oz,” says Barlow, “it was a sick tour because we were on a world tour with State Champs, so we were like buddy buddy with them, it was just really good vibes throughout the tour.
“And during the tour, we shot a video in Melbourne for Kali Ma, we had to do a really last minute video because some of our other video ideas fell through or something like that. So we had to just shoot this last minute video, and we decided: oh fuck it, we’ll just fuck around in the hotel room and go cruise around Melbourne and just see what’s going on. We ended up doing this pillow fight or some dumb shit in a hotel room. And the hotel room got super fucking like almost knee height in feathers, which was a crazy cleanup where we had to steal a hoover from the cupboard that was out in the corridor, and just hoover it all up. But I ended up putting a hole in the wall with my fucking…it was either my knee or my head because I jumped between the beds, like did a flip between the beds just being a fucking child. And I just blew off the other side.
“I can’t remember if it was my head or my knee just making this enormous hole. You actually hear it at the end of the video, we cut it before you actually see what happens. But yeah, putting a hole in a hotel wall while shooting a video was kind of funny. And then the next morning our photographer Elliot, who shot the video, got up at like 6:00 AM and walked to a hardware store, got all the stuff to patch the thing, patch the wall up and we never heard anything about it after that. I mean, I definitely would’ve just left it and would’ve paid for it cause there’s no way I would’ve got up at 6:00 AM to go and do that. There’s no way. And then also, I don’t know, I probably would’ve just made it worse. So shout out to Elliot for being the DIY guy!
“It was a pretty aggressive pillow fight. And you can hear the moment when I hit the wall right at the end of the video, it’s just people gasping and going like: oh shit!”.
While there may not be pillow fight-induced music videos on the cards (yet) this September for Neck Deep in Australia, there’s still plenty of good times in store for fans and the band alike.
WITH SPECIAL GUEST YOURS TRULY
THE FORUM // MELBOURNE // TUESDAY 5 SEPTEMBER
ROUNDHOUSE // SYDNEY //THURSDAY 7 SEPTEMBER
THE TIVOLI // BRISBANE //FRIDAY 8 SEPTEMBER
HINDLEY ST MUSIC HALL // ADELAIDE //SATURDAY 9 SEPTEMBER
METROPOLIS FREMANTLE // FREMANTLE // MONDAY 11 SEPTEMBER