Special Feature: While She Sleeps’ Loz Taylor On Mental Health, Community And The Sleeps Society

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While She Sleeps October 2020 Band Promo Photo

“For bands in general nowadays there’s so many cogs that have to turn to keep the machine going. It’s not like it used to be back in the day where “Rock’n’Roll’ was enough!” quips the While She Sleeps frontman, Loz Taylor. The Sheffield quintet have never been the sort to take their feet off the accelerator, and not even a pandemic will change that. “Being as busy as we usually are, having to take on festivals and touring around writing music and recording, it’s often really difficult, so I guess the silver lining from our situation at the moment is we’ve been in one place during the writing and recording process and we’ve been able to focus on that.” 

The time off the road has given the band the chance to take on new endeavors, whether that’s creating new podcasts, or trying to change the way people support their favourite artists as a whole in an ever changing music industry. “We’ve always been the sort of band that have tried to drop the smoke and mirrors” says Taylor as he explains the thinking behind their new platform Sleeps Society. “We wanted to approach our fanbase and say ‘This is how things are, we’re starting the Sleeps Society so that anyone that gives a fuck about this band as much as we do, has a place to be.’ With this campaign we just wanted to highlight some of the things that we felt weren’t serving the artist in the correct way.” Taylor goes on to emphasise the very real point that it can take thousands upon thousands of streams for a band to start seeing any income from streaming platforms where people are paying the price of two pints a month for as much music as they like. “We’re not saying we’re any different to that, but it does beg the question, how do bands similar to While She Sleeps sustain themselves? It’s okay for multi-million pound recording artists, but it always seems to be the underground bands that suffer”.

On top of this providing a new means for the bands to operate, it’s also allowed them to give something to fans and interact with them. “I think primarily we wanted people to be able to jump on and we could give people knowledge that we’ve learned from doing what we’ve done for so long. Even at that basis if you want to jump on and find out some information about video or photography or guitar or vocals then that’s all there” Going as far back as their 2010 EP ‘The North Stands For Nothing’, it will be obvious to anyone that has followed the band in any capacity will be aware of the sense of the community that comes so part and parcel with what their music represents. Loz tells of how important community is to While She Sleeps and how they wanted to build on that with Sleeps Society. “The community side of this for me is hugely important, I’m not really like a gear head and I don’t really play instruments that much, so for me it is about that community side of things and we’re seeing a hugely positive reaction from that.” For Loz, this comes from a place of being younger and finding comfort in the metal community. “I just remember being a young kid on the back of a school bus and getting spat at and punched for wearing a Korn hoodie or something. Times have changed from then, but even though those things were going on for me when I was younger, and down where I’m from we call them “Sweaties”, I was a Sweaty, but it gave me that sense of community. When I went to metal shows or my local venue to watch shows it was always about that sense of community, so that’s what’s hugely important for While She Sleeps.

In 2019 the band released their fourth album So What?, which is regarded to be their most experimental endeavor yet, seeing them play around with more electronic sounds. Whilst this theme of electronic sounds is continued into Sleeps Society, it’s used less frequently but certainly more effectively. “Sean’s just really enjoying messing around with the vintage synth sounds and has been since the beginning of ‘So What?’. I just think it’s something that he’s really interested in and when we hear it as a band it excites us.” It’s something that’s always interesting to see when bearing in mind that the band came together when they did due to their mutual love for early 2000’s metalcore bands such as Darkest Hour, Unearth and Killswitch Engage. “I think for a short while, metalcore became a bit of a dirty word, there were thousands and thousands and thousands of metalcore bands coming out and you felt like they were putting themselves through the ‘metalcore machine’ of screaming and singing and you felt like you’d heard it all before. So I think for us, when that happened, it was always about stepping outside that box and pushing our own boundaries and pushing ourselves and seeing where we could take our sound. We have a philosophy in the studio at the moment where, if it kind of scares you a little bit and you think “Are we actually going to do that?” or “Are we actually going to say that?” then we usually just try and go for it. So hopefully that just makes things exciting, we don’t want to be a band that records the same record twice.”

“I don’t just want to be a one trick pony and just be the screamer of the band. It would be nice to feel like I can hold a note and can sing a little bit. That for me is just something that I’ve been experimenting with. I’m trying to work on my actual scream techniques but also moving into singing a little bit more.” Before going in to record the vocal tracks for So What?, Taylor underwent throat surgery, as a result, he had to relearn his whole vocal technique just before recording the album. “I was having extra vocal training just before So What?, but it was so soon after the vocal training that I hadn’t really had time to sit with it and actually perfect it and try and hone in on the technique. In a way So What? was a way of me trying to figure it out and get the record done. I have had a bit more time to practice and sit with it with this record”

“I used to have this philosophy that if it’s not heavy and it’s not loud, then what’s the point in doing it? I was pushing so much air through my larynx that it was like, “No wonder I’ve had surgery”, so it has taken a while to train myself in that way and getting used to not getting wrecked all the time and throwing myself around on stage. It’s been a learning curve for me but I really think I’m onto something now with the technique side of things and continuing to still learn. It’s been a journey, but I think I’m getting there now.” Taylor goes on to how he’s been inspired to launch a new podcast that will see him speaking with other vocalists and learning about their vocal journeys and what they have had to overcome. “It’s called “Throat”. My first guest is Drew from Stray From The Path. We’re just talking about people’s journeys with vocals and if they’ve had any training or got tips for people and that sort of thing. So for any vocalists out there or even backing vocals I guess, it should be pretty interesting and I’ve had a few guests on the show already, so keep your eyes out for that!“

Going as far back to their formative years, Loz talks about how the band have always wanted to write about things that mattered to them and draw from their own lives. “The UK scene from 2006 to about 2010 was very death metal orientated and it felt like everyone was screaming about severing heads and stuff. It just felt like there needed to be a band that was just sort of wearing their heart on their sleeve a bit more and just talking about situations that they actually experienced.” The positive messaging in the bands lyrics is something that has always resonated with their fans and has been essential in making what has set While She Sleeps apart from other bands around them. “I think naturally, progressing from album to album and moving through the different styles and different lyrical content, we’ve always kept that with us. Talking about things we’ve actually experienced or what’s happening in the news or from a political standpoint or through relationships. For the most part we play metal, but we want people to have a really positive outlook on the metal that we play, music that can unify people and bring out a positive mental attitude in people and for everyone to feel like they’re not alone in whatever it is they’re going through.”

Sleeps Society sees While She Sleeps at their most honest and most vulnerable, and with good reason. “I think when you’ve actually been through stuff and experienced it, that’s something that you can give out in your lyrical content that might help other people. I think it’s easy to feel like you’re alone in the bullshit that happens around you and the dogshit state that you often feel like the world’s in, so I think for us as a band it’s important to reiterate that we’re all in this shit together so we may as well have a party about it. And realise and understand that for what you’re feeling, there’s plenty more people out there that feel the same.”

Taylor continues on and opens up about losing close friend to suicide during the first UK lockdown and how it brought these themes to the forefront of his mind and how important it was to lean on that more in the record. The band recorded a documentary about the making of ‘Nervous’ which focuses on themes of mental health and sees all five members of the band open up about their own struggles with mental health. It seems clear that part of the motivation behind writing songs like this and opening up themselves is to help open up a dialogue and get people talking about their own mental health, something that can often be so stigmatised.

“I think the main concern with it all is opening people up to be able to voice it. Being from a Yorkshire background I feel like there’s a lot of a “Shut up and get on with it” kind of vibe, and I think for us it’s not been the way forward. The best way for us to move forward with all those sorts of things has been to open up and talk to people around you. You pretty much find out that everybody’s with you with that and it might not be to the same level or not necessarily for exactly the same reasons.” Loz continues “It’s really positive man, and we’ve seen a lot of positivity come from that single in particular and a lot of people like yourself have said that “I think it’s really awesome that you’re addressing that and open with people about your own experiences too”.”

Now more than ever, openly talking about mental health is so important and While She Sleeps are doing more to address it than most bands would even come close to. They’re laying themselves bare to encourage loved ones and fans alike to open up and they’re even providing a platform for them to do so. All the while they’ve been working hard during the pandemic and have produced their most ambitious album to date which will take them to larger heights than ever before. Welcome to the Sleeps Society.

While She Sleeps new album Sleeps Society is released tomorrow (16th of April 2021). You can check out the Rock Sins review of Sleeps Society on this link. You can also pre-order / order the album and associated merchandise directly from the bands’ official website. While She Sleeps will take Sleeps Society on tour across the UK in September subject to the COVID-19 pandemic, supported by Loathe. Dates follow below. Tickets are again available from the bands’ official website.

SEPTEMBER 01 – GLASGOW, Stereo (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 02 – GLASGOW, Stereo (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 09 – BIRMINGHAM, The Asylum (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 10 – LEICESTER, O2 Academy 2 (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 11 – BRIDGEND, Hobos Music Venue (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 12 – BRIDGEND, Hobos Music Venue (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 15 – LONDON, The Underworld
SEPTEMBER 16 – LONDON, The Underworld (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 17 – LONDON, The Underworld (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 19 – BRIGHTON, Chalk
SEPTEMBER 20 – LEEDS, The Key Club (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 22 – LEEDS, The Key Club (SOLD OUT!)
SEPTEMBER 23 – LEEDS, The Key Club (SOLD OUT!)

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