By: Eva Zhu
Neck Deep is a pop-punk band hailing from Wrexham, Wales. They’ve been active since 2012 and are currently signed to Hopeless Records. Around that time, and before signing with Hopeless, the band released a pair of EPs: Rain in July and A History of Bad Decisions. After Hopeless took the band under its wing in 2013, they released their debut album Wishful Thinking to positive reviews (it was number 27 on Rock Sound‘s “The 51 Most Essential Pop Punk Albums of All Time” list.) Soon after its release, all of the members quit their jobs or dropped out of university. The band became a full-time gig. In August 2015, they followed up with a brilliant sophomore album titled Life’s Not out to Get You.
Currently, the band is on tour to promote their third LP, The Peace and the Panic, which was released on August 18, 2017. They are currently on the North American leg of the tour with support acts Speak Low If You Speak Love and Seaway. They will be stopping in Vancouver at the Vogue Theatre on February 23.
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with the lead singer of Neck Deep, Ben Barlow, and we discussed the inspirations behind The Peace and the Panic, how the band has evolved over the years, his musical influences, and his opinions on Vancouver.
At the time of the interview, the band had just played a gig outside their tour in Hawaii and felt pretty good about it. They were a little jealous that other pop punk bands have toured there and wanted to join in on the fun. Barlow mentioned that they’re playing bigger venues than ever before, and are familiar with the ins and outs of tour life after being on the road countless times over the past few years.
The Peace and the Panic — as described by Barlow — is “a world of difference” compared to their early stuff. They’ve grown as songwriters, both individually and as a band, and Barlow believes that the growth is going to continue to show through in their songwriting. The political climate (in the wake of Brexit and Trump) and the death of Barlow’s father were clear inspirations for some of the tracks on the album. The former influencing “Don’t Wait” and “Happy Judgement Day,” while the latter was used to write “19 Seventy Sumthin’.” This event is also reflected in the album title. Barlow explains that “. . . you can be in a good place in your life and then you can have the panic. With the good comes the bad, you have to have it all in balance.”
Barlow is excited for their fans to grow with them, as a majority started listening to Neck Deep in their teens and are now in their early twenties. As their fans grow and change, so do the lyrics they relate to. Recently, Barlow has been listening to a lot of John Mayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Lil Peep; all of them have inspired song lyrics and guitar work for their latest album. However, Blink-182, Green Day, Sum 41, and more — aka the OG modern pop-punk bands — were the main inspirations for their music. Barlow wanted to play pop-punk music because of the success of Blink-182.
This album has more of a pop vibe than their previous releases did, and it’s a far cry from their EPs that were released in 2012 and 2013. I asked Barlow if this is a trend that will be further cemented on future albums. “[The Peace and the Panic is] a lot more dynamic . . . [it] kinda brings in a few different styles . . . and I think that’s what we’re gonna continue to do, explore a bunch of different styles . . . if we write a heavy song, we write a heavy song. If we write a punk song, we write a punk song. If we write a pop song, then it’s gonna be that way.”
Neck Deep is a modern pop-punk band that embodies the early 2000s sound found in Blink-182 and Sum 41, which is a rarity nowadays. If you don’t have anything to do on Friday, February 23, I highly suggest buying a ticket to their concert. It’ll be one hell of a fun time.