Over the past 13 years, Sleeping With Sirens have been on one hell of a journey. They cut their teeth in post-hardcore, bursting onto the scene with gems like ‘If I’m James Dean, Then You’re Audrey Hepburn’ and ‘If You Can’t Hang’ – but as they surged through the ranks and became veritable legends of the alternative world, the band swerved further and further into pop territory, eventually going full gloss on 2017’s Gossip.
What followed was, bar none, the riskiest move Sleeping With Sirens could’ve taken: they ditched the major label they’d signed to for Gossip (Warner Bros) and linked up with Sumerian, swerving right back to their sonic roots with the bold and belting How It Feels To Be Lost. There was some shock value to the move – and the record itself was very solid, if not downright fantastic – but for its follow-up, Sleeping With Sirens needed to rely on more.
Cue: Complete Collapse. Ironically titled, the album presents Sleeping With Sirens in their strongest form, galvanised by a decade of growth both sonic and personal. It’s also the first album to feature newcoming drummer Matty Best – formerly known as the rhythmic bedrock of Tonight Alive – and the last to feature guitarist Jack Fowler. With the album out in the wild, Wall Of Sound caught up with Best and Sleeping With Sirens’ remaining guitarist, Nick Martin, to learn a little more about how Complete Collapse came to life.
So, Complete Collapse has been out for a whole week! How do we feel about the way everyone’s getting around it?
Martin: I’m so fucking chuffed, man! I’m just stoked on it finally being out. I’m sure Matty feels the same way?
Martin: You know, we started recording in June of last year, and when everything rolled in 2022, it felt like things were just taking forever. I was like, “I just want this thing to be out!” But this year has flown by so fast – a few weeks ago, we were like, “Oh shit, our records are about to get sent out to people!” So now that it’s out there, it just feels really, really good. And so far, the reception has been super positive.
Best: We had this question at a meet-and-great the other day, and it was funny because – without sounding cocky or anything – we’ve always been so confident about this record. We really believed we had a record that everyone – especially our fans – were going to enjoy. So it’s just been nice to release these songs and see that people actually are enjoying them.
I think it’s fair to say that this band has been through a lot of growth over the past 13 years. Seven albums in, how does Complete Collapse represent Sleeping With Sirens in its absolute truest form?
Martin: It’s interesting, because like you said, we’ve gone through so many changes – definitely as a band, but also just on a personal level, you know? I’ve been in the band for… God, nearly ten years now! But I still feel like the new guy. And I’m sure Matty feels that even more – this is his fourth year in the band. So we’re still “the new guys”, but we’ve been in this band for a big chunk of its history, and it definitely feels like our band, even if we weren’t there for a lot of the early years.
That’s something Kellin has brought up a few times, in that this record kind of draws from all over the Sirens catalogue. Every so often in the studio, when we were recording, Kellin would go “Man, this reminds me of our first record!” So there’s that kind of “nostalgic” feel to the sound of the record, but also the overall feeling of how we recorded it, and where we were personally – we just had so much fun making this record, and I think that really speaks to where we are as a band.
When you look at all the shifts we’ve gone through, growing this band throughout all these different stages of our lives… It feels like a big full-circle moment. It’s a phenomenal feeling. And I don’t think that was a conscious goal of ours, either – it just kind of happened, because we all felt like we were in sync with each other. It’s special because we’ve gone through a lot to get here; it took a lot of struggling to get to this point, where we’re all on the same page. And now that we’re here, we’re in the truest, most pure, most fun and most awesome era of Sirens.
So being able to blend the aggression of Sirens’ earlier material with the more pop-leaning style of albums like Madness and Gossip, do you feel like you’re writing the best riffs you ever have these days?
Martin: Absolutely. I feel like all of those records – all those different eras of Sirens – have really inspired where we are today as a band. And again, it’s kind of a subconscious thing. We didn’t go into the studio thinking, “I want this song to sound Madness,” or, “This song needs to sound like it could’ve been on Ears To See…”
We were all just in that same place, writing-wise and in terms of how we were feeling, and those riffs just came out naturally. But somehow, in some way, we managed to pull inspiration from all of those old records, and it definitely feels like classic Sirens – like, people will listen to this record and say, “Oh yeah, this totally has like a nostalgic feel to it.” And it’s really important for us to still kind of tap into that, even on a subconscious level.
When you were doing the more pop-centric stuff, did you feel constrained by what you were able to do as a musician?
Martin: Kellin and I have both addressed this quite a bit – especially in our Gossip era – but it bears repeating: we’ve always been a band that likes to take chances. We don’t like to play it safe. I think if we kept releasing records that sounded like the first two, we probably wouldn’t be a band today. It’s just so important for me – and for Kellin and the rest of the guys – that we’re always pushing ourselves and trying new things, So even when we were going through our “pop phase”, we enjoyed that.
The only real downside of that era was that we weren’t in the best place, as far as it went with our personal lives, and we were really touring ourselves into the ground. Towards the end of it, we were truly burnt out. I don’t want to say that mistakes were made, but you know, we just weren’t at our best – not as musicians, but just on a personal level. So although we still draw from that style, I think we’re just in a different place now.
Like, we actually don’t play any songs from Gossip live at the moment, but not because we feel like they don’t belong in the set – it’s more that the feelings we have around those songs and where we were at the time… It’s a little too raw for us right now. But I think at some point down the road, we’d like to revisit Gossip, and tap back into that pop-centric sound. We’re just on a different trajectory right now… And it feels good.
Speaking of those changes: earlier this year, we saw Tony Pizzuti join the Sirens camp on lead guitar. How’s he been settling in?
Best: He’s so fucking great. He’s crushing it out here. It’s really cool because all of the members, now, have met from touring with each other over the past decade. We were all friends before we joined the band, so it really feels like this is the best version of Sirens that there ever has been. And yeah, Tony is crushing it.
Martin: He’s just such a good dude. He just has the best vibe – he’s added a really pleasant dynamic to our band.
Best: Like Nick touched on before, it’s a really fun band to be in right now – not that it ever wasn’t, but I think it’s fair to say that touring is especially fun again. We’ve all been through the ringer – either in Sirens or in our previous bands – where you go through that development of progressing through your records, switching lanes a little bit, then getting sucked into that major label vortex and coming out on the other side. And especially with Sirens, the last few years have been a couple massive years of growth. Tony is just, like, the icing on that cake. Things are moving in a really good direction, and Complete Collapse… It hasn’t even been out for two weeks, and it’s feeling like the best era yet.
Oh man, the major label vortex! Together, you’ve witnessed what it’s like being under the foot of the two biggest monoliths – Sirens on Warner and Tonight Alive on Sony… Did you guys get to bond over the shit experiences you’ve both had?
Best: [Laughs] We’ve bonded over many experiences, hey! Whether it’s been people at the labels, producers… We both made a record with one particular producer, and we found out later on that we’d both a very similar experience with how the records came out, and how the process in the studio went down.
Martin: We have a lot of shared experiences – good and bad!
Best: Yeah, with Tonight Alive, we toured together on-and-off for eight or nine years – we’ve kind of been through it all together in some way. We could share a lot of stories – probably not in an interview, though [laughs].
Yeah, when you were talking about that record, I was thinking, “This dude is choosing his words so fucking carefully right now!” But having been through what you have, now that you’re in the position you are, do you really the independence and the freedom that you have?
Best: Absolutely. For me personally, with this record, I was actually in Australia for most of the writing process. The guys would go into the studio and work on a couple of songs, and then I’d open my emails in the morning, and there’d be a Dropbox with a couple of links to some demo tracks. So I’d just drop them into my Pro Tools sessions and start writing my drums to their guide tracks, and we’d do it that way. And even that concept itself, saying it out loud, it seems like it would have been constricting – but it was actually really liberating, you know? We overcame that hurdle of being like, “Fuck, how are we meant to write a record like this!?”
And with my parts in the songs, I’d never had so much freedom to write whatever I wanted to. I think that speaks volumes for the record as a whole – there’s not one song on it that one of us look at and go, “Eh, that’s not really my song.” That’s what I was saying before about feeling so confident with the release: we’re confident with the songs because we could do whatever we wanted with them. There were no grey clouds hovering over us, or label execs breathing down our necks going, “Write a three-minute pop song!”
Something my editor Browny and I were chatting about the other day is that, you know, obviously you’re best known locally for being the drummer in Tonight Alive. If and when that band comes off hiatus, do you have to choose between which house you reign in, or… What happens then?
Best: I’m with these guys, you know? To be completely transparent, Sirens threw me a lifeline when I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, musically. I was living in Nashville, doing some bar gigs and a couple of sessions here and there, and when I met up with the guys, it was just like the right time to do something like this. And from the very first tour that I did with Sirens, I’ve known that it’s the camp I want to be in. These guys are some of the nicest, most selfless guys I’ve ever met – and it makes such a difference when that’s your camp, you know? So I owe a lot to the guys, and I know that for me personally, this is where I’ll stay.
There has been some talk of a couple of [Tonight Alive] reunion shows, but logistically, it’s getting a lot harder with everyone starting to move on with their lives. To answer diplomatically, I think if Tonight Alive ever did something, it would be when Sirens wasn’t.
Martin: And we’ve told Matty from day one, anytime it’s ever come up, that if Tonight Alive ever do want to reform, that’d be cool. Like, “If you guys want to do some shows, go play some shows.” Because we’re all big Tonight Alive fans ourselves – I’d go just to enjoy it from the crowd.
You might be an honorary yank now, Matty, but we will see you sooner than later – come December, Sirens are whipping down to play Good Things Festival! How do you feel to have this trip just around the corner?
Best: We fucking love Australia! These guys have been out a bunch of times – obviously I haven’t played there in a little while, but to return with Sirens, it feels epic. The festivals are going to be nuts. Melbourne sold out, Sydney will go soon, and Australians are just wild – you know how it is! That’s what I’m most excited about.
Martin: I miss Australia so much. I’m just so ready to be back – I fucking love the coffee, I love the people there, I love the food… It sounds so cheesy, but it’s always such a beautiful experience. Australia has had such a soft spot in my heart for a really long time, and it feels so, so good to be heading back. Like, once we got the word that it was happening, I was legit just yelling through my house: “I’m going back to Australia!”
Interview by Ellie Robinson (@queerdorito)
Sleeping with Sirens play Good Things Festival in December.
Complete Collapse is out now on Sumerian Records.
Get it here
Sleeping With Sirens – Complete Collapse tracklisting
2. Complete Collapse
3. Crosses (feat. Spencer Chamberlain of Underoath)
4. Family Tree
5. Let You Down (feat. Charlotte Sands)
6. Be Happy (feat. Royal & The Serpent)
7. Us (feat. Dorothy)
8. Ctrl + Alt + Del
9. Bloody Knuckles
10. Mr. Nice Guy
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