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Fresh off their SOLD OUT Australian tour, UK-rock band Neck Deep have announced their upcoming self-titled album Neck Deep, set for release this Friday 19th January via Hopeless Records. We sat down with vocalist Ben Barlow to talk about their most unapologetic record to date, favourite Aussie tour memories and aliens!
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“We spent a couple years just kind of getting back to where we were pre-pandemic.” Barlow ponders on why he feels this, their self-titled fifth album is their most authentic yet. “For the first time since Wishful Thinking, which was our first album, we made the record ourselves, you know, took it back to basics. My brother Seb – who plays bass for us, but has also been writing for the band and recording the band since day one – engineered it and we all produced it and we made the record ourselves. We felt, you know, I think like I said after that period of reestablishing ourselves and kind of building ourselves back up, we realised what people love about us and what we love about us”
Prior to writing this record, the group had played some intimate ten-year anniversary shows of their debut EP, 2023’s Rain in July which was a nice reminder of where they came from and why they started the band. From there they decided to record and produce the next record themselves. “It’s this return to the more core pop punk sound, you know, short, sharp and your face to the point. But also, because the process was very much self-sustained itself, self-sufficient, and there was no outside influence whatsoever. Like every creative decision on the record was entirely our own. And, you know, we’re very proud of it and owned it.”
There’s no doubt one learns a lot after five studio albums about songwriting and recording, but Barlow expresses, “I think a lot of people probably look at guys and bands, especially pop punk bands, and don’t necessarily think that they’re like songwriters, you know, they’re like dudes and bands and they just write pop punk and it’s silly, and it’s easy. But no, we’re very accomplished songwriters, you know, we really, really care about the songwriting process and it’s my favourite part of being in a band.”
It seems they’ve made records in every way possible over the years from working with the hottest L.A. producers to isolating in the middle of Whales and have picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way but they’ve concluded no one knows the band better than they do and the biggest lesson he has learned is to trust your instincts. “You can work with the best producer in the world but if you don’t vibe with them, or they don’t understand your band, the way that you do, or maybe their intentions aren’t the same as your intentions, then it’s not going to be the record that you want it to be. So if anything I’ve learned is, do as much of it as you can trust your intuition over anyone else’s, when it comes to your art…believe in yourself and do trust yourself and don’t get blinded by the shiny lights of La-La land and, and fancy studios, you know. You can make the best record in the world on a laptop these days.”
You can make the best record in the world on a laptop these days.
[ Ben Barlow, Neck Deep ]
From the shiny lights of Hollywood to shiny lights in our skies, Barlow shares that the extraterrestrial themes of single, Take Me With You are more than just an artistic concept, but give an insight into his long-time fascination with space and potential alien lifeforms.
“Total believer ever since I was a kid! Me and Seb, my brother, and to be fair Powlesy, our drummer is a big believer, too,” he enthuses before reflecting on memories of being a teenager and hearing alien conspiracy theories from older brother.
“The idea that there’s something more out there to me has always made sense, even probably before I learned [of] any factual cases, or any sort of cases of UAPs or aliens or anything like that. To me, even as a kid, it was like, ‘Well, yeah, sure that they got to think that’s got to be the case, right?’ And, you know, I grew up watching movies with aliens and shit and it became something that I just accepted as fact.”
He also attributes idol Tom DeLonge as fueling his interest in outer space and the album’s seventh track Take Me With You as a nod to Blink-182’s Aliens Exist. “I always thought it was so freakin’ cool that he was like, you know, kind of into the weird and wonderful, you know, UFOs and cryptids and all this shit.”
Commenting on the spooky timing of Take Me With You’s inception he reveals, “I think we had decided to write that song like just before the the UAP hearing in American Congress and I said to Seb in an Uber, I was like, ‘Yeah, we should write a song about aliens called Take me with you.’ Like, that’s how that song was written; the song title came first. It was like a couple of days later, and it was like, UFO, the UAP airing in US Congress and we were like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’”
Neck Deep have never shied away from politics, and track four from the record, We Need More Bricks touches on everything from the monarchy, immigration, protest laws and international wars. When asked about the monarchy specifically, Barlow doesn’t hold back. “It’s just the most antiquated bullshit that this can. I think it’s just typical of the UK to hang on to these old antiquated traditions for no other reason other than like, ‘It’s what we do.’ There is absolutely no point to them, they don’t have any judicial power. They own pretty much all the land in the United Kingdom that hasn’t been sold to private investors and they do fuck all with it.”
“They parade themselves around on fucking golden boats and fucking golden gowns and all this shit – while people literally are like picking cans out of a food bins to eat – when they could turn around and say, ‘Look, we can help this country,’ but they don’t … I mean, I’m an anti-establishment guy. I think it’s rooted morally but also just punk ethos, isn’t it?”
As for deep-cuts on the album, Barlow says the track They May Not Mean To (But They Do) is one of his favourites with some of the lyrics from the song, Godspeed little sinner nearly becoming the album title. “Because I’m a moron and can’t really eloquently explain what I am looking for in the song it usually takes a little bit of grinding it out to get the song to where it needs to be … I had such high hopes for that song I was like, ‘God I need to get the message of the song right, I need to get the tone and the intention right with it,’ and I think we did.”
No stranger to Aussie shores, Barlow named avocado on toast and our weird obsession with giant tourist attractions like the Big Koala as core memories from his time touring here. But one of his favourite moments happened in 2018, “[We] went to Newcastle beach with some of the guys from Trophy Eyes and it was the first time I’d ever seen like a really, really starry night in the southern hemisphere. I was blown away like, ‘Whoa, the stars are completely different down here,’ totally different constellations and everything. I saw the Southern Cross and that was a really sweet moment for me of, ‘Damn, man, I’m so far from home and like, here on this beautiful beach with great people.’”
It’s clear Ben Barlow is someone who relishes talking about the bigger topics in life and is grateful to be in a position where he can use his platform to share his perspective. As for his parting words – “Fuck the King!”