Love them or hate them, Neck Deep are one of 2014’s breakthrough bands. After kicking off the year with the release of their debut LP, ‘Wishful Thinking’, the Wrexham pop-punk five-piece haven’t stopped touring since. With festival appearances throughout the UK and Europe earlier in the year, they’ve recently returned from two months in North America as part of the Vans Warped Tour.
We caught up with the band back on home soil. Having recently supported their idols Blink-182, Already Heard spoke to vocalist Ben Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans at the recent Leeds Festival.
Ben and Fil discussed their past festival experiences, supporting Blink-182, their up-and-coming UK headline tour and being “leaders” of the UK pop-punk movement.
AH: For starters can I get your name and role in the band?
Fil: I’m Fil. I play bass within the band Neck Deep.
Ben: I’m Ben. I sing in the band Neck Deep.
AH: This is your first time at Leeds. What are your expectations?
Ben: Well it’s our first time playing but we’ve attended before so we sort of know what to expect. I know Leeds crowds can be pretty rowdy. I know, if anything, Leeds is the messier half of Reading and Leeds. I’m expecting some rowdiness. I’m just expecting a lot of kids to come down. I’ve seen a few t-shirts knocking around. I think we will have a decent crowd.
Fil: There’s been a lot of build up to it because it’s been so long since we found out, it’s been growing and growing, now we’re here. So it’s like, “Ok, so how many people are actually come and see us?” Originally there was talk of us doing main stage, (and) we decided that wasn’t really for us. We didn’t think our crowd would “get it” on there and it would be too for us.
Ben: Yeah it would be too early for us to get out of bed.
Fil: We thought we would do the ranks at the Lock Up and work our way up. We didn’t want to go straight to the main stage. We’re really looking forward to it.
Ben: I think it’ll be good.
AH: You mentioned you’ve attended previous festivals. What are your memories from them?
Fil: I came to Leeds when the Kings of Leon headlined. It was the year I finished my GCSE’s because I remember my Mum called me with my results whilst I was camping. I did early bird ticket and went mental. So sick! I spent most of my day at the tent we’re playing today; the Lock Up tent. I saw Alexisonfire and Set Your Goals; that was tight.
Ben: I’ve been the past two years. Definitely the first year I came to Leeds Fest was one of the craziest times of my entire life.
Fil: Oh The Prodigy! That was the year I went. That was crazy! I remembered being absolutely lethered watching them. I was so far back but I was going crazy. I was like, “This is the best thing ever.”
Ben: Last year was decent. The first year I didn’t watch that many bands because it was that mental. We just fucked around all day. But last year I did actually go round and watch some bands. Biffy Clyro were sick, Green Day were sick last year. I saw Hacktivist and Eminem. Last year was fucking sick. I’m glad to have experienced from the mental side of it and the musical side of it.
Fil: I’ve only done it the once because it usually falls on my birthday, so I’m usually doing something when its on.
Ben: It’s just a good mix for everyone. It’s a good festival. It’s a really well-balanced line-up.
Fil: You just feel at home.
Ben: Yeah. It feels like this should be our festival in terms of the festival I would choose go to. Like Download is a heavy festival and I like it but sometimes the crowd there are a bit more “rock-orientated.” I think we fit more into this.
Fil: Yeah and it’s the sort of bands and music we like to listen to.
Ben: If there was a festival for us to play in the UK, it would be Reading and Leeds.
AH: Are there any bands you’re wanting to see whilst you’re here?
Fil: Blink obviously. A Day To Remember, Paramore, You Me At Six.
Ben: We miss Arctic Monkeys because we’re staying here tomorrow and then because we’re playing Reading on Sunday and they’re here. So we don’t get to see them which sucks. But yeah Blink, The Wonder Years, Flume. There’s a couple of DJ’s I want to see. There’s some really good bands. I think this is genuinely the best line-up since I’ve been going. If I wasn’t playing this year, I would probably still be here.
AH: You’ve just returned from the Vans Warped Tour. How was it?
Fil: That was incredible.
Ben: It already seems so long ago.
Fil: It really does.
Ben: We’ve only been home for two or three weeks.
Fil: It’s kind of got a similar vibe to this but it’s a lot more alternative. It’s a little smaller, and we were doing that everyday for two months.
Ben: And everything moves around. Everything has to be this well oiled ship. Like today we’ll play and then we’ll fuck off, have a good time and not have to worry about getting anywhere tomorrow. We can just chill whereas on Warped Tour, it’s like “cool, play, fuck around for a bit BUT be back here at this time otherwise we’re fucked.” You’re always on the move. As much as I don’t want to complain about being on tour, the travelling element can making it tiring. So this will be a way more chilled festival, but Warped Tour in general was sick. It was obviously a dream come true for any sort of alternative band, especially a pop-punk band.
Fil: Especially a band from the UK.
Ben: Yeah especially from the UK. Obviously there has been UK bands that has done it, and have done it really well but I’m glad we come be that band this year. We can be that British band that went out there and did really well. I know Marmozets did really well too other there. It’s cool to see British bands going down out there. All round a great success.
AH: When you came back you played with Blink-182, which I guess is one to tick off the bucket list?
Ben: That was top of the bucket list!
Fil: That was probably one of the best days of my entire life. It was so much fun. Getting to meet them was amazing. Some would say “don’t meet your heroes” but they were so great.
Ben: It literally was probably one of the best days of my life. They’re nice dudes, not assholes. It was very strange, ticking something off the bucket list which is genuinely at the top. It has been my wildest dream since I was kid. I think the only thing that would top of is if we wrote a record with Blink, or if we toured with them.
Fil: It was incredible to be there and not be like some little kid in a competition-winning scenario. We got to meet them on a professional level.
Ben: They were aware of us like “hey guys thanks for being on the show.“
Fil: They’re like the Godfathers and we’re like little ants compared to them but it wasn’t like “Aahhh!”
Ben: There was somewhat of a mutual respect there. It was cool.
Fil: Yeah I didn’t feel like a kid who had a won competition to meet them, which I was worried that it might be like. I acted like a little kid. I struggled to get words out but it was amazing.
AH: Next up is your UK tour with Seaway, Knuckle Puck and Trophy Eyes.
Fil: Yes the Intercontinental Championships tour.
Ben: Championshipssssss for copyright reasons. Add the S.
AH: Are you looking forward to these shows?
Fil: I’m so looking forward to that tour more than any other tour I can think of right now because it’s our headline tour. We’ve done a headline tour in the UK before and it was when we were a bit smaller. They were just standard headline shows whereas this is a full tour where we’ve put a full theme and idea behind. We’re not just going to walk out on stage, play the songs and walk off. We’ve been thinking what can we do to make this fun? That’s why we came up with the whole wrestling thing, like we did adverts you might of seen for the tour. That’s not where it’s going to end. The show will be themed along them lines and there’s going to be more to it than “we’re Neck Deep, song, song, song, bye.” We’re trying to put on a show now.
AH: You want something where fans can walk away and remember it.
Ben: Yeah like “wow remember when Neck Deep did that, that and that. That was cool.” Whenever you walk away from a show and you say “do you remember this bit, this bit, this bit and this bit”. You go to a show to see a band play but you also go to see them to be having fun like you want to see your band do.
Fil: We want to be interactive. We’re slowly getting to the stage now where we can do that type of thing, come up with ideas and actually make them happen. I think this is the first step in a new kind of era for us to do that.
Ben: Yeah we’re stepping it up. We’re playing bigger venues for the first time and headlining in some we’ve supported in before. It’s definitely a step up in terms of touring for us, what we can pull off headlining a tour, knowing we can play some Academy rooms, Electric Ballroom in London which is a big venue. Knowing we can headline those and potentially do really well is a cool thought. Considering we come from playing some club shows, even though I love the intimacy of those, but to be able to step it up is good.
Fil: Yean and now we’re going “how can we make this really cool?”
AH: You’re bringing three overseas bands for the tour. I guess you are friends with those bands?
Ben: Yeah. It’s pretty much why we got them on there. We thought “who can we tour with? Who would make a tour interesting who hasn’t been to the UK before? Who deserves to be out in the UK? Who would do well?” And it was those three bands.
Fil: It’s a proper balance. Some bands get a really weird band on the bill because it would be good for the show, then you get bands who only bring there friends and you’ve seen them together so many times. We want to try and find a balance between that. We’ve got bands we feel that fans of ours are waiting to see. People have been waiting for Knuckle Puck, we’re also really good friends with them. Same with Seaway and Trophy Eyes. It’s the perfect balance between “these are going to be sick on the tour, kids are going to love it, it’s going to be great for them and all we’re good friends with them.” I think we nailed it.
Ben: Yeah I think all criteria was covered with that. I think it really is a strong, strong tour. Kids will come along for the support as well and they’re support bands people want to see. So people will come along and enjoy them.
AH: I guess it goes back to having the whole package?
Ben: Yeah essentially. We’re not there for people just to see us, sure we’re headlining the tour, we want to give bands that opportunity out there and to get some exposure, as well as for fans out here. We want to be that band that can say, “You want Knuckle Puck over here? Sick we can bring them over on tour.” So that makes everyone happy.
AH: You’re seen by many as the leaders of the current UK pop-punk movement. What are your thoughts on that?
Fil: I think if people think that then we’re super proud and thankful of that.
Ben: We never intended to be that.
Fil: We don’t super back ourselves or promote ourselves as that but it seems to be the way that it’s falling, and if people think that and are happy to call us that, then we’re proud to be that.
Ben: We’ll take that mantle on. We’ll wear that crown. I’d love to be that band tha kids look up to and go, “Yeah Neck Deep were the British band that made everyone listen to my band”, or “even consider my band” or even open peoples eyes to pop-punk. If we can be that band that open doors to the next generation of UK pop-punk bands then that would be sick. I don’t think we want to dub ourselves with that because we don’t want to say “yeah! we’ll fucking do that for you” but if people want to say Neck Deep were that band for us, then I’ll be stoked.
Fil: I think it’s already started. I think a resurgence of pop-punk bands has already started. There’s a lot that’s up and coming and ones that I keep hearing about are sick.
AH: I was going to ask you what UK pop-punk bands would you recommend?
Ben: Roam. They’ve just been recording recently. They were recording in my brothers room. They were at my house, the bastards, for like five days. They’re fucking awesome dudes, and their new stuff sounds fucking sick.
Fil: They were on our last UK headline tour. They’re awesome.
AH: They’re touring with Me vs Hero then Man Overboard.
Ben: Yeah. And Me vs Hero are another UK pop-punk band but they’ve been doing for a long time. All these UK pop-punk bands are putting out new material for people to listen to, so soon there’s going to be a bunch of new shit for people to be like “sweet! I’m going to listen to the new Me vs Hero album, go and check out that new Roam EP.” As long as kids are loyal and are willing to listen to new music and want to listen to new music, then it’s awesome. I think UK pop-punk could do really well just as long there’s the support there, and people don’t go “fuck them” and have that typical UK attitude some people have sometimes. If we can put that aside, and people show some live then it’ll be cool. I think there is a lot of strong, budding UK bands out there that are just waiting to break through. I think we’ll see a lot more of them in the next year.
AH: Do you reckon the problem is when there is so many bands coming through it’s hard to stand out from the crowd?
Ben: Yeah of course.
Fil: I don’t think it’s quite got to that stage yet.
Ben: That’s fate though. If your band is the one that breaks out or people start noticing and recognising, then that’s just the way it is but that doesn’t mean if they don’t you should give up. You should always try and pushing for it because what are you going to do? Work and do a normal job? Is that going to make you happy? Just as long as people are willing to push themselves and be in the band for the sake of being in a band and having fun, then that’ll be cool. I would love a scene out here like they have in America, where there is a lot of support for local bands. We should be proud of it but the UK doesn’t want to show pride in things because we’re too reserved. People need to step up, show some pride and support some up and coming bands. UK pop-punk could be really, really good.
‘Wishful Thinking’ by Neck Deep is out now on Hopeless Records.
January (support from Knuckle Puck, Seaway and Trophy Eyes)
26 Cardiff Solus
27 Birmingham O2 Academy 2
28 Newcastle O2 Academy 2
30 Glasgow Garage
31 Leeds Cockpit
01 Manchester O2 Academy 2
03 Bristol O2 Academy
04 Norwich Waterfront
05 Brighton Concorde 2
06 London Electric Ballroom
Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)