Back To Basics: How Neck Deep’s Self-Titled Record Helped Them to Rediscover Their Purpose

Back To Basics: How Neck Deep’s Self-Titled Record Helped Them to Rediscover Their Purpose

- By Creative Team

Marking their evolution with a self-titled fifth album that embraces their pop-punk roots and confident songwriting, Neck Deep’s decision to return to a simplified, hands-on approach has set the stage for a triumphant new era.

Photo by Nat Wood
Story by Maddy Howell

In a little over a decade, Neck Deep has undergone a remarkable transformation from a hopeful teenage band in Wrexham, Wales, to a prominent global force in rock music.

With records ranking in the top 5 both in the US and UK, viral hits, and over a billion streams, the quintet’s journey from modest beginnings has been marked by unapologetic authenticity and a growing confidence – both of which have led them to their milestone self-titled fifth album.

Forgoing external collaborators and producers and opting for a more hands-on approach, LP5 sees Neck Deep stripping things back to basics, embracing their roles as seasoned songwriters, and acknowledging the distinctive sonic elements that characterize their band.

Written and recorded in their own warehouse space whilst sticking to an old-school ethos, they’ve had the freedom to shape the exact album they envisioned - and the results are dazzling. Ready to serve as the musical backdrop to their fans' highs and lows, Neck Deep are entering a new era with one goal in mind – to make people feel something.

Ahead of their huge US tour kicking off later this month, KNOTFEST sat down with frontman Ben Barlow to discuss how Neck Deep’s latest chapter led them to their most self-assured album to date.

The last time Neck Deep were on the verge of releasing a record was in 2020, which was certainly a tricky year to be navigating the music business…

Barlow - “It was rough. It was a real blow to not be able to play live shows around All Distortions Are Intentional, because that album didn’t get its day in the sun. Those two years of COVID made us want to take a step back and simplify what we were doing, and it gave us a chance to get all our ducks in a row. We took that time to get back into being Neck Deep, and I think the things we learnt over that time contributed to where we are now.”

Coming into your fifth album then, did you have a specific mission statement in mind? 

Barlow - “There's got to be a vision and a direction, but the goalposts can move and it's good to do things in the moment. After making an experimental record like All Distortions Are Intentional, we wanted to get back to doing something that was more directly in line with what we're about. It was an intentional move, but it came naturally. We have a vault of songs from throughout the years that we dip in and out of, but we're always writing. We have to consolidate all of those ideas to make them into a coherent thing, and we hammered it out in the studio. Making it ourselves, we had to be deliberate with everything we did, and that was the responsibility that we took on. I think that vision has made for a great record, and one that feels like us.”

Self-produced in your own warehouse space just a few miles from where you grew up, this record feels very distinctly Neck Deep. What was it like to go back to your roots and focus on creating a high-energy pop-punk album again?

Barlow - “It was so fun writing these songs. Trying to tap into a little bit of our older influences - especially those pop punk and alternative influences - came so naturally because we are products of our own environment. That's all we ever knew growing up, and all we’ve known for our whole lives. Seb [Barlow, bassist], Sam [Bowden, guitarist], and I are usually at the center of writing songs, and we were on an even wavelength this time around. In a lot of ways, going back to our roots felt like simplifying much of the process. We realised that we don’t have to do anything crazy, because people love us for who we are. We have a message, we have a sound, we have a feeling to our music, and we have a very dedicated audience. You can't really go wrong if you're just doing what people love about you, especially if you're also doing what you ultimately love.”

You scrapped a version of the album that you’d made with a producer in LA before deciding to work on this record by yourselves in your own space. How integral did that decision end up being to the album you created?

Barlow - “Massively. As soon as we sat down to write in our studio, it felt like we were actually making the record In LA, it just felt like we were prepping and doing the bit before you make a record. It didn’t feel right, so we had to trust ourselves and trust each other. It was a big decision, but we just wanted to have fun and not have to question ourselves too much. We lost a lot of time when we scrapped those sessions, but in terms of how the songs came about, it was definitely right for us to go back home and do it there.”

Did the process of doing that play into you realizing it was the right time to put out a self-titled record?

Barlow - “The self-titled thing came along after we had everything together. After the experience of remaking it and doing it ourselves, we realized that we were ready to take on this big responsibility. Now, we know that we could continue with that process for every record that we do from now on. There were other album titles that we thought of that have gone into the vault to be resurrected one day, but when a self-titled album was suggested - this felt like the best moment for it.”

In terms of the songwriting on this record, you’ve always drawn on personal experience in your lyrics. Given how much intense emotion there has been in the world recently, where were you drawn to when penning lyrics for LP5? 

Barlow - “I’ve always been a political person, and punk rock has always been very political. I think it’s important that we channel some of that into our music, and that’s why a song like ‘We Need More Bricks’ exists. That’s Neck Deep’s most political song yet, and it came about because my mind has been so focused on what’s happening in the world around me. We’ve seen so much change and having to deal with that as someone in their late twenties is rough. It feels like we’re in the thick of it and during what are supposed to be the best years of my life - the world's going crazy. The craziness of the world that we live in is a good setting for a lot of songs, but Neck Deep has always been known for touching on life and love in a way that feels like an arm around the shoulder.

This album is a return to a more positive message, and people will probably make comparisons to Life’s Not Out To Get You. Those similarities have come about very naturally though because I'm having experiences that make me think and feel like this. I try and put those down in the hope that people can connect to it, and that's always been the aim. We’re doing the things that people love this band for, but with more life experience and more knowledge.”

In that regard, a song that is likely to resonate with a lot of Neck Deep fans is ‘They May Not Mean To (But They Do)’...

Barlow - “The title of that song is from a poem by Philip Larkin. I can get inspiration from anywhere, and I saw it on a Supreme sticker. They made a shirt and a sticker with the original poetry on it and seeing that affected me. Your parents have their own flaws within themselves that end up rubbing off on you no matter how hard they try. No one's perfect and trying to raise a kid is fucking hard. You can be the best parent in the world, but your imperfections will still rub off on your kids and affect the way that they live their life. When you hit your mid to late twenties you start thinking about things that happened when you were a kid and how they led you down this road. So much of it leads back to our parents because they're the most influential people in our lives.

For better or for worse they're a huge impact on you, and I've written songs about my parents before because I love them dearly. I lost my dad back in 2016, and seeing the most influential people in your life disappear can fuck you up. That’s life though, and no matter how much you try and avoid it - those things happen. I think that song will make people think and feel different things because everyone has a different relationship with their parents. However, I don't think you can deny the impact that they have on you.” 

Over the last decade, it feels like a huge community has grown around Neck Deep. As someone who grew up in the scene and is part of their own musical communities, what has it been like to see the connection people have found with this band?

Barlow - “We're so lucky to have that, and we have a super dedicated fanbase around the world. That has allowed us to do what we do, and seeing people have such a strong response to our lyrics is the best feeling in the world. We’re always chasing that energy, and it feels good to be more than just a band with catchy songs. People don’t just like our music because it’s good, they like it because it gives them a perspective on things. I never thought that my words would do that, and it was definitely not my intention when we started out, but I’m glad that Neck Deep has grown to project this positive message about the ride through life.

Through our music, my entire adolescence and how I grew up has been documented, and the whole world can listen along. From doing that, I’ve found that a lot of people feel a similar way to me, and that’s why I keep doing it. I think the songs that last the longest are the ones that make people feel something.”

Over the years, the US has become a second home to Neck Deep. What is it that keeps drawing you back to the States?

Barlow - “Honestly, we didn't have to try too hard to break America - it just happened. I think if you’re doing well over there, that's a good barometer of where you're at in general, so to see the shows that we’re playing there still growing after 10 years is mad. There are so many iconic venues and so many iconic cities to play and it’s good for the soul to be there and feel the pulse of it all. Pop-punk is slightly more mainstream in America than in the UK where it’s still seen as an alternative thing, and I think it’s amazing that a spotlight is being put on this kind of music.

The scene is so strong out there, and it's so fucking big that you have to dedicate a lot of time to it! We've been very successful out there, and we're super grateful for that because it doesn't happen for a lot of UK bands. The US is probably our main market now, so we have to pay a lot of attention to it. So much of the industry is in America, and whilst playing the UK always feels special, the US has always been very good to us. We want to make the most of our time out there because the shows are great and it’s such a fun place to be.”

After a decade of being in this band - and after everything you’ve learnt whilst creating this new album - do you feel more confident about the future of Neck Deep?

Barlow - “Definitely, especially after seeing the reaction to the new stuff. Having that confirmation gives us a solid base to work from going forward, and we know a little more about what people want from this band. As it turns out, that’s exactly the stuff that comes naturally from us, so we have to make the most of it. We don't feel like slowing down, and it seems as though things are about to pick up in a big way for us. We’re ready to take off on the right foot with this record and see what happens. I can’t wait to get back in the studio because it feels like we've got at least another few bangers in the tank.”

--------------------
The self-titled album from Neck Deep arrives January 19th via Hopeless Records. Pre-order the release - HERE

 

Neck Deep begins their US headlining tour later this month with support from Drain, Bearings and Higher Power. Following the tour, the band will return to the UK for a special headlining set at Alexandra Palace with Knuckle Puck and Drain on March 28th. See the complete list of confirmed dates below. 

 

Upcoming Neck Deep Tour Dates

January 25 – Nashville, TN – Marathon Music Works*

January 26 – Atlanta, GA – The Eastern*

January 27 – Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live Orlando*

January 29 – Dallas, TX – The Factory in Deep Ellum*

January 31 – Phoenix, AZ – Marquee Theatre*

February 1 – Pomona, CA – Fox Theater*

February 3 – San Francisco, CA – The Warfield*

February 5 – Seattle, WA – Showbox SoDo*

February 6 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory*

February 8 – Denver, CO – The Mission Ballroom*

February 9 – Kansas City, MO – The Truman*

February 10 – Minneapolis, MN – Skyway Theatre*

February 13 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Music TheatreI*

February 14 – Cleveland, OH – The Agora*

February 16 – Boston, MA – Roadrunner*

February 17 – Philadelphia, PA – Franklin Music Hall*

February 18 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Steel*

February 20 – Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live*

February 21 – Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE*

February 23 – Cincinnati, OH – Megacorp Pavilion*

February 24 – Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall*

February 25 – Chicago, IL – The Salt Shed*

March 28 – London, UK – Alexandra Palace^

October 19 – Las Vegas, NV – When We Were Young+

 

* with Drain, Bearings, and Higher Power

^ with Knuckle Puck and Drain

+ Festival appearance

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