• Tiana Speter

INTERVIEW: Lawrence Taylor (WHILE SHE SLEEPS)


Pic: Giles Smith


A band impossible to sleep on with their slick precision and indelible sonic hues, Sheffield rockers While She Sleeps have continually garnished their high-octane riffage and anthemic wiles with a staunch dedication to their fans since first forming in the mid 2000s.

Cultivating a unique blend of influences including Thrice, Slipknot, Foo Fighters, Alexisonfire, Comeback Kid and Refused (to name a mere few), While She Sleeps are certainly not shy of crafting abrasive thickness with stripped-back beauty. The down-tuning, screams and heart-stopping beats are eternally in attendance in any While She Sleeps outing; but its their ambitious penchant for the occasional creamier tone or piano-driven spotlight amongst the splintering glee that truly makes WSS unforgettable, seen with particular force n their 2021 fifth studio album SLEEPS SOCIETY.


In conjunction with the recent album, the band happily immersed themselves with their legion of diehard fans, developing and launching their SLEEPS SOCIETY platform, offering an up-close-and-personal experience for fans to enter the luminous While She Sleeps world; and ultimately creating an emboldened method of connection for the fans and band alike during the unforeseen ongoing pandemic while the world crumbled around us all. While 2022 hasn't been a rosy fairytale for the music industry by any means, it has significantly allowed live music to creep back into our collective worlds, with While She Sleeps currently on the road in North America - and, in excellent news for us all here in Australia, a run of shows down under here in July, with UK rockers Loathe and Aussies Mirrors along for good measure.


After a chat with While She Sleeps frontman Lawrence Taylor last April, Tiana Speter once again got to catch up with the man himself in between American shows to chat about the impending Aussie tour, as well as adapting in the industry, the heavy music community and the time he thought a koala was going to kill him.

 

TIANA SPETER: Now Loz, I interviewed you last March...

  • LAWRENCE TAYLOR: I was gonna say that!

TIANA: Yes, I had to look it up to make sure, and when I realised it was only last year in 2021 we last spoke...I'm not just saying this to be dramatic, it genuinely felt like it was about five years ago. And at that point SLEEPS SOCIETY hadn't even come out yet, we didn't know this pandemic was gonna go on as long as it did...but here we are, over a year later, the album's out, you've been able to tour it, the SLEEPS SOCIETY platform is going strong. How is it actually feeling in While She Sleeps land right now?

  • LAWRENCE: Well, it's been really crazy because we sort of stumbled across doing the SLEEPS SOCIETY and the Patreon stuff. We were thinking about doing that before the pandemic hit. And then it sort of strangely aligned for us that that would really help our band out; but also would be the move that we wanted to do at the right time. It was really crazy! So, the patreon's been a huge amount of work, but during that time of COVID it was so positive for us to keep our heads into and keep working towards. It's been an amazing way to connect with our immediate fan base who love it as much as we do! Yeah. And yeah, it just kept our heads in it and kept us really, really busy. And then obviously our guitarist Matt taking on more of a management role - it just feels like the machine's really turning. And luckily for us through that time was when we were sort of planning on revealing something like that or pushing for something like that, or whatever you wanna call it. So, yeah; it's been great, but hard work!


TIANA: Obviously it's something amazing for you guys as a band, but the fact is too: everyone really needed that sort of connection more than ever when it emerged, there truly is something for everyone in this. And it's not like you would ever hope for something like this to happen in the world, but the timing was fortuitous. And While She Sleeps has such a...I don't wanna use the word rabid, because that sounds negative. It's such an engaged fan base, what are the plans with this SLEEPS SOCIETY platform? Are you guys pretty strictly thinking long term with all of this? It seems to be something that a lot of other bands have started to look towards as well, especially seeing that it's actually working so effectively with bands like yourselves...

  • LAWRENCE: Yeah, the plan is just that it can be a community now where our hardcore fans sort of live, if you like. I think the main thing for us is that when we first got into metal...well, for me it was always about community, and the community that hangs around rock, metal, hardcore, punk rock. And this kind of goes back to that old, sort of, "fan club", you know? Bands have always had fan clubs, this is just like that, but for the modern day. And I think that there's that many independent artists out there, not just bands, but there's so much going on. If you like something enough, you know, our fans have got a place to be there now and, and it's more face time, and we go out of our way to make sure there's enough stuff and plenty going on. And people seem to be really happy with it! And we're stoked we can do that for our fan base. Not that it's necessarily anything crazy or crazy new, but I feel like that way of doing things for bands kind of got overlooked a little bit. And it's actually an incredible idea, and a solid way to engage.

TIANA: It's taking that real life experience beyond as well. Like you touched on, I never feel safer than I do when I'm at a metal or a punk or a heavy show. Like: I walk in, and I'm home.

  • LAWRENCE: That's awesome, and I feel exactly the same! Nice one.

TIANA: Speaking of live shows, obviously While She Sleeps are going to be once again taking the extremely long trip back to Australia this July, Loathe are coming along for the ride and Mirrors here are joining too. What can we expect from a 2022 While She Sleeps show? Did lockdown and all of that stuff give you guys time to kind of tinker and tweak that side of things? Or are just gonna go absolutely crazy onstage and let out some pent up frustrations?!

  • LAWRENCE: (laughs) Yeah, I think it's a bit of everything, you know? We've spent time with our instruments, we've spent time, writing, recording; we've hung out with each other a lot! I think we're just learning as a band continuously, and trying to move forward and try to progress and be positive and all that stuff. So - yeah! It's just gonna be more of the same, we always try and go out and leave everything we have on the stage, high-energy, crowd surfing, you know, a beer-swilling good time! We want people to leave our show with positive energy, but also letting go of negatives, if you like. Because that's how I leave it up there. I'm just like: "alright, let me sort this, let me sort this out!". But yeah - that! Let's just have a party!!

TIANA: I've seen some of the photos online of your recent show, and it looks like a hell of a time, I feel like I need to get myself mentally and physically prepared for these upcoming shows. Like - as much as I've missed getting beer spilt on me and getting lost in the mosh, all of that...I went to a gig recently and this makes...so, I'm 35, okay? I was like: my back hurts from standing up for this long (laughs). Did you guys have to focus on actually getting gig fit again, or did it just come back like muscle memory now that you've been back on the road and in the zone more? Because I need tips. That's why I'm asking.

  • LAWRENCE: (laughs) I'd say a bit of both. Yeah, I think we're looking after ourselves more than we ever have. So, that definitely helps when you get to a certain age, you've got to! You've gotta switch it up - or else you're just not healthy enough to bounce around the stage. We're all looking after ourselves, it's clicked back into place. Touring's been great out here, and yeah - we're back in!

TIANA: Hell yes, bring it on! And tell me, now that you guys are like back at it, obviously you're in America right at this moment, you're heading away from home more and more as stuff is reopening again. Is there a classic, textbook While She Sleeps fan no matter where you go?

  • LAWRENCE: Honestly, our fan base is sick. Like the majority of people we meet...well, definitely for our headline shows, they're just such chilled out people. Matt Welsh, our guitarist, says that he reckons he could have a beer with like 95% of our fan base. Which is mental that we can say that that's what we've achieved. You know what I mean? (laughs) What a cool community, the way that we feel like we can have a beer with our fans. We have great fans and we love the support!

TIANA: Yeah. I love it. Well, because we're talking live shows right now, can we go down memory lane for a moment? Can take me back to your first ever While She Sleeps live show, or one that was earlier on in the story for you?

  • LAWRENCE: Yeah, the first ever time I filled in for While She Sleeps, they did two shows in Belgium from the UK. Belgium's an absolutely beautiful country, it was absolutely boiling...we were out there proper, sort of, "hillbilly-ing" it, if you like; barbecues and sitting in the sunshine and playing shows and swimming. And I was really fond of that! Fast forward, like, a year or something - I joined the band! And it was just more of the same. I remember playing a show in Italy where it was so hot that the ceiling and the floor and everything was just absolutely soaked. And it was this crazy show where like 50 people turned up!! They're really fond memories.

TIANA: And fast forwarding it to now...you guys have played an insane amount of shows. I'm not gonna sit here and list them because we'll be here for hours and that could be a bit boring for both of us. But these days, do you love jumping out on these big festival stages or or do you love playing those more sweaty, intimate venues?

  • LAWRENCE: Yeah, I think they both take it out of you in a different way, I love both kind of shows. Yeah, I love the big stages, but I also love gnarly rooms. I think that kind of flip flops, when you're playing in gnarly, small rooms that are really intimate...you know, a festival stage might be nice every now and again, but then when you play a large stage all the time, it's kind of like: "oh, I wanna go back to the punk rock sweaty room".


TIANA: Well I think no matter what, it's always guaranteed to be a good time! And I feel like the energy always seems to be matched by the crowd with you guys, which is fantastic. So even if there's 50 people, 5,000, 50,000, everyone's going to be be having a good time. For yourself personally, can you take me back to the first ever live show you actually went to as a punter, not as a performer?

  • LAWRENCE: It was probably The Used? In Sheffield where the band's from, I think that might have been the first ever. I remember going to Linkin Park, I remember going to see Funeral For A Friend...think there might have been a Slipknot show? But with these, I'm talking...like, I was very young. Do you like emo?


TIANA: Yes I do! I once tried to hold it together when I interviewed Bert from The Used and not yell at him how much I loved him when I was a teenager.

  • LAWRENCE: That first Used record for me was a big one when I was young. Love it!


TIANA: Couldn't agree more! And am I crazy, still on the live music train here for a moment, are you still running or planning to run the Festivale in Sheffield?

  • LAWRENCE: Perfect!


TIANA: Couldn't agree more! And am I crazy, still on the live music train here for a moment, are you still running or planning to run the Festivale in Sheffield?

  • LAWRENCE: I 'd like to, yeah. As cheesy as it might sound, I like to feel like I'm trying to do something community-based in my hometown where I grew up playing shows - no matter how big or small that is. So, I booked shows here and there and I tried to do...well I did do a couple of festivals before and stuff, So, yeah, I'm working on a skate park jam at the moment, bringing bands to my local area. We don't really have a thousand cap venue in my town where I live - and we do need one! So I've just been trying to do more of that sort of thing locally.


TIANA: Dare I suggest an emo festival?

  • LAWRENCE: Yeah, definitely! Pick some bands, who would you ask?? Like At The Drive In...? Or are we going "emo emo"?


TIANA: I think we'd need a mix of nostalgic favourites, but get some new up-and-comers as well, a bit of a "past, present and future" kind of thing? Let's plot that afterwards.

  • LAWRENCE: And we need Static Dress, they sound like early Underoath...but a bit Placebo as well, they're really cool.


TIANA: Before we wrap it up for today, tell me: as someone who's been doing this for a fair while now, obviously the industry and the realities of being in a band has its ups and downs, especially over the past few years. But you guys have survived, and thrived for a fair while now, and you're still releasing new music too along the way, you've just dropped the incredible EYE TO EYE video recently as well...but overall, what is it you love most about being in While She Sleeps and continuing on this adventure?

  • LAWRENCE: Just being able to share tours with like my best pals, really. We're a family, we've been doing this for so long together now...and because we've had time off as well, I don't wanna take any of that for granted. We're back out on the road, we're able to bring our crew out with us, we're having a good time in the States and it's like...yeah, don't take that for granted! And just appreciate being out with your mates.


TIANA: Well all of that is only gonna continue, and it's so exciting we're gonna imminently have you here in Australia, which I'm absolutely losing my mind about, but I'll play it cool. Maybe.

  • LAWRENCE: Do you think when we get there it'll be warm enough to surf?


TIANA: The water does stay warm for a while, plus you're from the UK where you get actual winter, so I'll reckon you guys can handle Australian winter and get in the water...

  • LAWRENCE: Yeah, easy! And should I look out for any animals? Am I gonna get bit and all sorts of shit?


TIANA: See, sometimes Australians like to invent animals...have you ever heard of a drop bear? I don't know if I should reveal all our secrets, but Aussies like to freak out visitors saying drop bears will literally drop out of trees and come at you...

  • LAWRENCE: That's the kind of things I've heard of, I've heard of lizards dropping outta trees!


TIANA: You could just go full tourist and hold a koala at one of the wildlife parks, have you done that yet?

  • LAWRENCE: Yeah I've done that before, koalas hate me! I thought it was gonna rip my face off, it was awful. There was like eight or ten of us that went to a park to see some koalas, or a zoo, whatever, with kangaroos and all of that stuff...and I was lat in line. So by the time the koala had been hugged by all my bandmates - it was fed up! I could see it being mad at me already, and I was like...he's not up for this! And the photo...is just hilarious!


TIANA: Is it like one of those awkward family photos?

  • LAWRENCE: Yeah, it's just awful, I was scared he was gonna go for me. Like: I thought he was gonna kill me.


TIANA: Well, thank goodness he didn't, and here's to some more upbeat Aussie moments when you're here in July!

  • LAWRENCE: Thanks heaps Tiana.


WHILE SHE SLEEPS ARE SET TO TOUR AUSTRALIA THIS JULY, KICKING OFF IN BRISBANE, BEFORE HEADING TO NEWCASTLE, SYDNEY, BELGRAVE, MELBOURNE, ADELAIDE AND PERTH.

TOUR INFO BELOW, AND FOR TICKET INFO VISIT: www.destroyalllines.com

 

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BY TIANA SPETER