While She Sleeps Detail the Creation, Community and Curiosity of Their Sixth Album, 'Self Hell'

While She Sleeps Detail the Creation, Community and Curiosity of Their Sixth Album, 'Self Hell'

- By Creative Team

The band discuss the freeing process of creating their sixth studio album, SELF HELL, and how learning to let go has brought them closer to their vision than ever before.

Words by Maddy Howell 

On 2021’s SLEEPS SOCIETY, While She Sleeps experienced a seismic shift. Collaborating with their fanbase and forging a unique community centred on creativity, the Sheffield six-piece embarked on a mission to not only reshape their artistic approach, but their relationship with the music industry at large.  A daring reimagination of their artistic process, it was an album that redefined the future of While She Sleeps, and with sixth studio album SELF HELL – their story continues.

Setting upon a fearless quest to relinquish the shackles of perfectionism and champion spontaneity, across twelve new songs the band are rediscovering the sheer joy of creation. Revelling in the endless possibilities that now lie ahead, as they charge into 2024, the British metalcore heavyweights are more liberated than ever.

Delving into uncharted sonic territories and embracing the unexpected, vocalist Lawrence “Loz” Taylor and guitarist Sean Long discuss navigating a constantly evolving industry, finding solace in their symbiotic relationship with their fanbase, and how an insatiable curiosity fuels While She Sleeps’ unwavering commitment to authenticity and evolution.

Going back to 2021’s SLEEPS SOCIETY, that was a different album for While She Sleeps, created during a very different time. What was it like to see the fan response to that project, especially given how much involvement the community had in its creation? 

Taylor - “It was mind blowing, especially because we’d spoken about the concept of that album a couple of years before we even dropped it. To a degree, what we did was nothing new. It's basically just a misfit fan club, but the crazy thing about it was the timing. We wanted to release a record to show people the state of the industry and how difficult it can be to be an artist in the current climate - and then COVID hit.

That allowed us to put the Sleeps Society into motion at a time where you couldn't tour, and there wasn't much else going. The timing of it allowed us to keep our crew in jobs by allowing them to come on board, and now we’re at a point where the Sleeps Society is funding our band. We don't have to go to a major label, everything is straight from the band to the band. That’s a beautiful thing, especially when you reach the size that we now have. We’re working in a way that takes a bit of that power back and cuts out the middlemen. It’s punk, even though we're the biggest we've ever been as a band.”

Long - “We said what a lot of people have been wanting to say for a long time. Those ideas have been on the tip of the tongues of artists and fans alike, but people don't have the balls to say it in the way that we did. People want to be part of something, and they want to believe in something, so we said what everyone was thinking. That's why it worked so well, and people got behind it. It's no surprise that our fans supported it because they support everything we do. There's no music without the fans, so it’s been quite natural for us to always put them first. They're always on our mind, and the decisions can't happen without them.”



When that era wound to a close, where did your minds go when considering which direction to head in next? 

Long - “With our advanced age, we're learning to let go and have a little more fun. We’re trying to stop worrying about the end product and how to create the perfect album. We went into this new album with the idea of, ‘Who gives a shit if it works?’ We wanted to put things where they weren’t supposed to be and do things that we’d never normally do, and to do that we had to stop caring. Our music means so much to us, but on the other hand - it is just music. 

We wanted to make sure that this was a fun album, and so we included all the crazy ideas that we may have swerved away from before. SLEEPS SOCIETY was a well-rounded version of everything this band was up until that point, but this time we wanted to do something that had the craziness of SO WHAT?. We have to do whatever we want, and you can listen to any two songs on this album, and they’ll sound like two completely different bands. You're not supposed to do that, there’s supposed to be a common theme, but why can’t we do this?”

Taylor - “SELF HELL is the most collaborative record we've ever put together, and that comes from leaning into the things that we’ve shied away from in the past. When you're coming up as a band, people start coming to your shows and you get a record deal, so you want to nurture that. We’ve always played our live sets like we're the underdog, and over time there's a level of confidence that seeps in. Now, we've been doing this for a long time, and in the studio each individual member has time for their ideas to breathe. We're not following the current trends of rock and metal, and we've never been a band to do what's cool right now. That separates us.”

That’s why despite being a bit of a curveball for the band, SELF HELL perhaps feels like the most authentic While She Sleeps album to date. Having learned more about each other's style of working and influences over the years, has it become easier for the wider vision to be guided by individual essences and ideas?

Long - “Definitely. As the internal producer of the band, it’s important to realise that none of us are a finished product in terms of our skill sets. We’re always learning, and honestly, we don't consider ourselves to be professional musicians. Everyone's viewpoint and opinion are completely valid, and there can't be any hierarchy. By opening that door, it's allowed for more fun to be had within the songs. Loz loves old school emo like AFI, and in the past I would have thought that sound wouldn’t work in a Sleeps song. Now, that's the twist that makes it more fun. We all have completely different tastes from on another.” 

Taylor - “With every record, we get better at fusing those ideas. When we first came together as mates in a band 15 years ago, we were all set on metalcore. We loved bands like Darkest Hour and All That Remains, but from record to record we’ve moved through different things. It's not always easy to get your artistic licence across an album, and we're growing in that way. We're working better in the studio now, and it's easier to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. It makes it a lot more fun, and I think our fans can hear if we’re having fun creating something.”

Long - “For example, the chorus of the title track is so different from anything we’ve written before. I’d been on an old school electronica hype, and we ended up writing a chorus that almost had a Fatboy Slim vibe. It was a little train of inspiration, but it was great because it felt like something we weren’t supposed to do.”



It feels limitless, and that feeling only grows with each new album his band releases. As a creative, is that a freeing way to work?

Long - “Absolutely, because even though we came up in the metalcore scene, I just want to make good music. If it turns out to be heavier, rockier, softer, or whatever else - that's just the way it is now. We’re in flux all the time, and While She Sleeps is always developing as we develop as people. The idea that music should be boxed up and nailed down is ridiculous, so we like to rebel against that. If you always know what a band is going to sound like, that band is dead. We need to be alive, and to do that we need to shake fans up. We need to make fans happy, but we also may need to disappoint fans.

I’ve listened back to SO WHAT? at times and regretted what I did. We were focusing so much on huge choruses, and whilst doing that, I forgot to pick up my guitar. There are barely any lead lines on it because I was so focused on the vocals, but even though I may regret that, it’s part of the process. We’re like a flower that’s blooming. You can't lock it down because it's always changing.”

Taylor - “At this stage of our band, I think our albums need to represent the fun that we're having during our live show. We’re expressing ourselves in a different way than just cut-off shirts and black skinny jeans, and our live shows are so much fun now. We’re trying to entertain, and SELF HELL has that same feeling. These songs are going to be great to play live.”

Long - “What's more important? Us stressing about making sure we’re appeasing the image that people have of us, or us having fun. It’s always the latter, because that’s reflective of how this band makes us feel. The way I approached this album was very synth-based, but I've already started writing the next record which is very guitar based. We’ve got to be allowed to pick up different elements each time, but we're always going to do our thing.”

There's something special about the idea of curiosity in music. It says a lot about a band when you’re going into a new record not just excited for what comes next, but curious. Is that unpredictability and element of surprise what keeps the fire burning for you?

Taylor - “Exactly that. There are some strange interlude sections on this new album, and it’s so cool that we can do that now. If we can pull this off, who knows what's to come? There’s something fun about the unknown.”

Long - “We don’t know what’s next for this band, so how are our fans ever going to guess? We have a limited skill set, but each album we just sit together as five guys and try to make something out of it.”



The five of you are the driving force, but you have your community to guide you too. That community was responsible for a lot of the decisions made on your last album, but how much of an input did they have on SELF HELL?

Long - “Not as much, but they've still had input on how things were rolled out. They've helped us pick the singles, and songs like ‘TO THE FLOWERS’ only exist because of them. We did a live stream around a year ago where we showed them some demo ideas, and whilst we liked the idea of that song, it wasn’t really on the cards for the record. When we played it though, everyone was like, ‘If that doesn’t become a song, you’re fucking mental’, so we made it a song. It’s ended up becoming the most successful single from this record.”

Taylor - “It can be difficult to pick singles, especially when you have an album like this. You have to expect the unexpected, and we can drop a metalcore song that our fans love, but then still bring out these emotional, heartfelt songs too. Both can resonate with our audience, and that can make things easier, but it can also make things more difficult. Do we do more of the heavy stuff, or do we let the emotionally charged songs take the lead? I think it’s exciting how many opportunities it’s opened up for us as a band, even if it takes a lot more thought.”

What inspired the album title of SELF HELL, then?

Taylor - “Sean and I were having an in-depth conversation about how more people nowadays are turning to self-help and putting themselves first. What was interesting is that when you start writing the words ‘self-help’, you get to ‘self hell’ first. You have to go through self hell to know that you need help with something, and there's a whole journey to be made. The album meanders and ebbs and flows through lots of different emotions and feelings. One minute it’s full of heavy screaming and riffs, then the next song has an early 2000s emo vibe to it. In a sense, that’s reflective of the life that we're going through and our experiences.”

Long - “We never sit down and say, ‘Here's the album title. Now, let's write songs that fit that’. There's always something deeper at play, so it's not contrived or conscious. This time, the album title came quite late. We'd already written all the lyrics, but they made perfect sense for the title once we had it. There are these crossovers in the labyrinth of life, and that can happen when writing songs as well.”

How has working on SELF HELL impacted your vision of While She Sleeps going forward? Does it feel like more doors have opened for this band now?

Taylor - “This album has the potential to bust the doors wide open. There are so many different flavours in there that we can expand on, and in a lot of ways it feels like a second debut for us. It’s a breath of fresh air to be moving into these areas, and we’re excited about the future and where we go from here.

Writing a record can sometimes be overwhelming. When we recorded BRAINWASHED, I was going through throat surgeries and yet we decided to do a 15-song album where all the songs were four minutes long. That was a big task, but we approached this album in a much more refreshing way. We broke it up into two halves, and we did the drums at Metropolis Studios in London rather than our usual place. Doing things differently is fun, and I think this album could take us to the next level.”

Long - “Now, the freedom within our writing is very healthy. That's only going to inspire us to try more new things and keep building on this band. We’ve only been using synth sounds for a couple of albums, but already people are saying that's the sound of While She Sleeps. Organically introducing new sounds is exciting because we have that punk attitude. We don’t just want to layer up every chorus purely because we know how to use a computer, we want to bring in cutthroat 90s synths that sound like guitars themselves. I'm so happy that’s becoming part of our sound, and it’s only going to develop. We’re going to continue doing weird shit, and the next record will be just as weird. We’re ready to create a new vision for While She Sleeps.”


Self Hell from While She Sleeps arrives March 29th. Order the album - HERE

While She Sleeps have also recently been confirmed for a North American trek supporting Architects set for spring of 2024 along with Of Mice & Men. See the complete list of dates and cities - HERE 

Get tickets - HERE


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