Multi-nominated Grammy Award band Bring Me The Horizon are headlining their first ever Australian music festival at the end of 2022. Good Things Festival are not only showcasing the return of large scale international touring, but they’re displaying a marvel evolution, where a bunch of the best Soundwave Festival veterans from Sheffield climb to the top of their game.
From their angsty deathcore nucleus Count Your Blessings, which haunts them to this day as they tirelessly defend themselves against their own fanbase – to their laundry list of collaborations with the biggest and most controversial megastars on the planet, Bring Me The Horizon have truly become that band we’re proud to tell someone close to us about.
When Wall of Sound got the call to take on our debut interview with lead vocalist Oliver Sykes, we had to think carefully about what it is that fans might want to know or what will excite fans ahead of Good Things, but what we hadn’t considered was what the thirty-five year old might want to voluntarily share with us. The frontman has an enigmatic charisma that sparks endless curiosity in the way he carefully articulates everything he wants you to know about him and his band.
Reflecting on the band’s journey, and reaching the Australian festival headline slot, Sykes shares, “It’s pretty nuts to be honest, man. It’s a weird one ‘cause to be a festival headliner was never really the goal. Not ‘cause I didn’t want it, just ’cause I never thought our band would ever be in a position to do that kind of thing.”
But as they say – be the change you want to see. Perhaps subconsciously, Bring Me The Horizon thought it might be a good idea to put on a music festival in Malta back in May where they headlined, and invited some friends along like Bullet For My Valentine, Beartooth, Motionless In White, and a heap more. Of course, it would be remiss not to mention that on one of their earlier Aussie tours they were indeed the supports for BFMV – another nod to the new heights Oli and his bandmates have now reached.
“It was really special actually,” Sykes says, summing up the five-day rock/metal festival in Malta. “It was really cool ‘cause it was just something that we did for the fans really. It was like six thousand people,” he recounts pretty chuffed, noting that most punters would have trekked many kilometers to make the distance. “It was all for our core fanbase [that] we’ve made over the years.”
With immense gratitude and awareness to the lengths their fans went to for the Malta Weekender, they were petrified it was going to be a disaster; queue Ja Rule if you’re gauging whether this is going.
“Is this going to be a wash-out?” Sykes asked himself when tickets went on sale – “But it was really f*cking good, especially after the last two years. To see our fans and the people who’ve support us over the years, it was just a really special thing.”
However, again the fears of embodying Billy McFarland had felt quite scary for the band. “It was surreal to see all these moshes by an infinity pool at this swanky beachside bar. I feel like people were surprised at what it was, but so many people said they had the best two days of their lives, so it was thankfully a success and not a metal Fyre Festival.”
What global BMTH fans quickly learned upon the wind-up of the festival was that their setlist was mixed to say the least. “It was just nice to do a throwback [of sorts], which we were kind of dreading, but it felt really cool to do.”
Of course, the Shadow Moses himself is referring to the setlist of everyone’s dreams, including plays of Suicide Season‘s ‘Chelsea Smile‘ (where they were joined by Spiritbox‘s Courtney LaPlante) and ‘Pray For Plagues‘, plus loads more – check out the setlist here.
The performance has become immensely topical and perhaps a bit regrettable for them. Oli laughs – “We’ve really done it now, because that’s all anyone’s gonna be asking” – he says in his heavy Yorkshire accent.
“It definitely made me want to put some more old stuff in the set. It is difficult, after you’ve been about for twenty years, because there’s the songs that we just feel like we have to play, [and then there’s the] songs we feel like we want to play and we need to play.”
“Especially [with] how well our last record was received, there’s so much Post Human in there as well,” he says, referring to the setlist options. Amidst the global pandemic, Bring Me The Horizon released monolithic EP, POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR (our review here) which stunned fans as they returned to some of their heavy rock roots, a pin-drop to where the series of collaborations really began – just ask Yungblud, BABYMETAL, Evanescence and their Good Things 2022 yearbook peers Nova Twins. The release was nine (!) songs long and included monster singles like ‘Ludens‘ and ‘Parasite Eve‘.
With the cognitive dissonance between an urge to serve their fans, they are consistently forced to juggle a sizeable back catalogue amidst some of their ‘new’ material, considering the pandemic prohibited any of the 2020 getting played in a live domain up until recently.
“We’re really attached to playing the songs live, it’s really hard to find the space”, Sykes says earnestly, however mindful of the perspective of a fan’s typical persona. “I feel like people make this point when we don’t put at least one or two golden oldies in there, so maybe we will,” he says, referring to the upcoming Good Things set.
Culturally speaking, that perpetual cognizance of their fans’ wants and desires can be a creative inhibitor for Bring Me The Horizon, as it is with many artists who strive for the intrinsic need to explore the unknown. It might’ve been expected for Sykes and the band to internalise the crux of these crossroads during the 2015 era of That’s The Spirit (our review here) and 2019’s amo (our review here) leading to a mixed reception, particularly from the heavier music enthusiasts.
One of the ways the British rock band have recently navigated this discord is through a series of collaborations on the back of POST HUMAN: SURVIVALHORROR. From ‘Bad Habits‘ with one of the biggest popstars in the world – Ed Sheeran, to ‘maybe‘ with alternative music’s most arguably controversial artist Machine Gun Kelly, BMTH certainly can’t be dismissed for the breadth they’ve taken in these projects.
To take it even further, they took on what appeared like a genuinely fulfilling project with Norwegian singer/songwriter Sigrid on ‘Bad Life‘. Throw in hip-hop infused ‘Fallout‘ with Sydney’s Masked Wolf and another cheeky videogame with their Gran Turismo 7 instrumental ‘Moon Over the Castle‘, and quickly breadth becomes virality.
“A lot of these were in lockdown – obviously I had a lot of spare time and a lot of good stuff came [my way], where I was like ‘you know what? This is sick!’, or I really thought this is my way to support that artist.”
However, beyond his true-to-form altruistic approach, the forced hibernation phase also enabled Oli to fulfil something that hadn’t quite been translating into his band’s releases, and it was relieving – “To get out some of my creative urges that I would have otherwise maybe inflicted on our band and everyone would hate me for it,” he laughs in an expression of outward sensitivity, awareness and emotional intelligence.
“I love so many different kinds of music. I love pop music to black metal, to whatever,” he says again with that infectious Yorkshire accent. “Sometimes I would love to put all of that stuff into our music, but it’s not possible – and sometimes I just want to be a completely different band and there’ve been moments in our career and on some albums where I’ve tried to do that.”
However, in that tension between the band’s needs and the fans’ needs, Sykes has come to fathom their point of view. “It’s almost like taking a step back, there’s bands that do that,” he says referring to pop and the like – “And they always do it better than us; but we are a rock band and I’m not saying that we can’t push the boundaries, because that’s what we’re about.
“I guess I’ve kind of accepted and also sympathised with fans that we are a rock band, and if we lose that element of us, it’s not what people signed up for.”
This ultimately become the reason why the DROP DEAD clothing founder saw collabs as a way to separate himself from that confronting dichotomy. Cathartically, Sykes shares – “It’s been a really nice way of getting to do whatever I want and not worrying about the fans, ’cause I’m like ‘if you don’t like it, you literally don’t have to listen to it. Just be grateful that I’m not imposing it on you in our music.'”
With a more crystalised vision of how to shift forward with Bring Me The Horizon, the vocalist shares that recent radio-rock singles ‘Die4u‘ and ‘sTrAnGeRs‘ will contribute to their next big release, whether that be in the form of an EP or an LP – or the façade of an EP that really deserves the kudos of an LP.
Last time Wall of Sound checked in with the five-piece, we got wind that POST HUMAN was planned as a concept/series of EPs exploring different styles, with SURVIVAL HORROR being the first chapter (read about it here). However, with nearly two years since this grand masterplan, the follow-through to the desired concept remains a mystery… for now.
“So yeah, ‘sTrAnGeRs’ and ‘Die4U’ are both songs from the next record, which we are working on every available moment that we have – it’s tough and it’s slow.”
He jokes about fans wondering when they’re finally going to be ready with a full release (even comparing its progress to the last Game of Thrones novel), but it’s a bit of a process for this bunch of perfectionists as he explains.
“I’m starting to feel like George R. R. Martin [GoT author] at this point where people are just thinking ‘is he ever going to release this fookin’ [final] book?’ – we’re starting to become that in band form…”
“We are working on it, it’s just, we feel like the bar is high now and we’ve got so many songs out that they have to be special, and we just don’t want to put out crap… Unfortunately it takes like a long time for us to write a good song, but we are working on it.”
On whether they’ll follow on from ‘Dear Diary‘ with some more Slayer-esque riffs, Sykes can’t resist the urge to leave the world guessing. “Yeah, you might get some more – who knows?“
Perhaps Bring Me will have a fresh record in time for Good Things, time will tell. Either way, commenting on breaking into that sweet headline slot in Australia, Sykes says, “I can tell you, we’ve got to do you proud, it’s a big honour – it’s a massive, massive thing for us, so, we’ll make sure we deliver.”
Australia is a special place for the eclectic musician for more reasons than most – he spent some of his formative years living downunder, and having grown up in Perth myself, I had to delve into that chapter from his time living in one of the most isolated cities on earth. “I lived in Adelaide and Perth for like five years altogether, I think I spent two or three years in Perth.”
“Actually, last time we were there, me and my dad drove to the suburb that we lived in – it was called Sorrento Quay. I guess it’s changed it’s name or something? I remember the house, I remember the street and I remember we went to the beach every f*cking weekend because it was so hot,” Oliver Sykes laughs as he reminisces on the good times, and starts gearing up for Good Things in December 2022.
Interview by Ricky Aarons (@rickysaul90)
Get tickets to Good Things Festival here
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