Sleeping With Sirens Talk Gossip, New Sound & The Oompa Loompa Song | Interview

Sleeping With Sirens aren’t the same band that first exploded onto the scene in 2010. Sporting swoopy bangs and playing heavy tunes, the post-hardcore crew were just getting started. Seven years later, and here they are: 5 albums in, on a major label, and gaining fans left and right. And their most recent release, Gossip, has launched them into amazing, new territory. The band’s sound might have evolved, and they might have grown, but their passion and love for SWS hasn’t wavered.

We caught up with bassist Justin Hills, drummer Gabe Barham and guitarist Jack Fowler on the London date of their tour with Rise Against. Check out, and we’re quoting Justin Hills here, the best interview ever.

MOSH: So guys, how’s the tour with the rise against going?

Justin Hills: it’s going great so far. I love those guys.

Jack Fowler: Playing in front of new crowds is definitely something we haven’t done in six years so at first, it’s a little weird, but then they warm up to us. So it’s fun.

MOSH: Do you notice a difference between the crowds of the usual pop punk bands that you tour with and the crowds of the heavier bands?

JF: The main difference is that a lot of these crowds are able to grow facial hair. 

Gabe Barham: Yep!

JF: And they are a lot older. Like our fan base is like, I’d say, 14 to 23/24, and their fan base is like 25 to anywhere to like 45.

MOSH: You guys just released Gossip, it’s amazing by the way, and you worked with producer David Bendeth. What was that like? How was the creation process?

JH: It sucked! It was tough! It was really hard, but he definitely brought the best out of everybody in the end.

GB: Yeah, he’s definitely the type of guy that will kinda break you down just to build you up even better, you know? But creating the record was a long process—like six months and different locations in the states. We went in with a lot of songs, and scrapped a lot of songs, and came up with songs that we didn’t think we were going to write. I think, overall, we’re really happy because I think the record makes sense cohesively. It’s still weird for me listening back on it, listening to some of the songs, I’m like “that is crazy”. I would not imagine us making those songs. But it’s something that I think we’re all extremely proud of. I would go back to him [Bendeth] again! I loved him. He was tough, but it was great.

JF: It was definitely a learning experience for sure. It was tough, but it definitely made us all better. It made us all fall in love with our instruments again, because I think we all kinda lost touch with that for a while.

MOSH: So let’s talk ‘Legends’! It’s the Team USA Olympic song?! That’s amazing! How does it feel?

GB: It feels really good!

JH: It’s really surreal, I think.

JF: When we found out about us being the band for the Team USA theme song, we were actually in London in a hotel lobby. Our manager came over and was like, “yo, we got it”. And then we all just started drinking very heavily.

GB: And calling our families.

Justin: I cried a little tiny bit. I’m not a bitch but…

GB: Tears of joy!

JF: I called my dad, and I was like, “yo, we just got the Team USA song” and he goes *imitating his dad* “so what’s that mean?”

GB: *also imitating Jack’s dad* Who cares son?

JF: He was like “does that mean I can finally hear it on TV?” and I was like “well, I hope so!”

GB: I think it’s awesome. You know, we’re all extremely honored and super proud of, especially that song, but with that, with us being the Team USA theme song for the winter Olympics, we’ve gotten a lot of other opportunities. Just starting this month, November through January, we’re Fox Sports Artist of the Month. Yesterday there was all the big college football games and everyone’s tweeting us and sending videos of our songs playing during the football games and stuff, so it’s definitely bringing us a lot of new exposure. It’s great. We’re extremely excited. 

MOSH: Do you think that all came with the new sound? I mean, even with your previous album Madness you guys were putting together a lot of new, different elements to your music. Do you think that had something to do with all of it?

JH: I don’t think it would have happened until this record. I think it’s a lot more grown-up and a lot more mature. It’s a lot more get-able to a wider range of people than Madness. It [Madness] is still like that scene-ish, Warped Tour sound.

GB: That older Sleeping With Sirens, you know?

JH: It’s just growing, I guess.

GB: You can especially see on this tour when we play the new songs versus the old songs. We play a lot of the old songs in front of this Rise Against crowd, and they’re just like, “alright. Well, we don’t know these songs” but then we play the new ones, and the reaction is completely different. That grownup sound is coming off exactly the way we wanted it to with this older crowd. I think that the Olympics and ‘Legends’ and all that stuff has definitely been a direct correlation with us getting all the new exposure.

MOSH: What are your favourite songs off of Gossip? We came across a video online of Jack saying that he thought the title track sounded like an Oompa Loompa song…

JF: I fucking hated that song!

JH: It’s because all of the guitar and the bass and everything is just one.

JF: The guitar and bass were the same thing, and it was all just really cheesy, and really stupid. And Kellin takes, for some reason, anything I say to heart. I looked at him when he showed me the song, and I started bobbing like an Oompa Loompa, and he just goes, “I fucking hate you. You’re so mean”.

GB: But now, it’s probably one of your favourites.

JF: Yeah, now it’s one of my favourites. But I still think my actual favourite is ‘Hole In My Heart’.

*Guys all agreeing*

JH: Yep. Best song ever written.

GB: Yeah. I mean, ‘One Man Army’ is incredible.

JH: It is, but ‘Hole In My Heart’ is the best song ever written… in rock history.

GB: In the history of music?

JH: Yeah. Easily. It’s my favourite song in the whole world. ‘Stairway To Heaven’? *scoffs*. More like sweep it under the stairway! *Laughs*

MOSH: So other than the oompa loompa song, were there any others you didn’t want to put on the album/were unsure about?

JH: There was one song that Kellin sang that I’m glad didn’t make it. He just thought it was like the coolest punk song ever.

*Justin begins (kinda) singing the punk song*

JF: Yeah, that was Bendeth’s favourite song and we ended up hating it. There was one song called ‘Celebrate’ and it sounded like if we were to be in Lenny Kravitz band—which could be cool like four records from now. When you listen to it, it kind of just sounds like you’d hear it in a strip club.

GB: I’d be cool with that.

JF: It’s like a strip club-y kinda song. It’s super sexy, Lenny Kravitz-vibe song. It’s not for us right now. If we would have put that out, people would have been even more pissed off.

GB: I did not like ‘The Chase’ at first, but now it’s one of my favourites. I fucking love that song. I can’t wait to play it.

MOSH: So how comes you named the album after the Oompa Loompa song? Why did you go with that for the title?

JF: I think Kellin named the album Gossip, based off [the fact] that he knew it was a different direction for the band. He knew that people were either going to talk about saying that they love it, or talk about it saying that they fucking hate it. But regardless, people talked about it.

GB: Yeah, they are going to talk shit or love it. Either way, they are gossiping about it. Either that, or it was going to be self-titled.

MOSH: You guys have been busy. You also just released a live acoustic EP. You’re pretty much pros at acoustic now since you’ve done so much with it. How do you feel about acoustic? Do you enjoy it?

JH: I think it’s fun. It’s like playing two different songs. We try to change them up and give them a different vibe—especially with the way that Kellin will sing along to songs and sing the melodies different. It ends up somehow worked into the acoustic song, which is kinda cool because it’s in the back of his head how he wants it to sound acoustically, and we just kinda put the music to that and follow his lead.

GB: It definitely shows a different side of our band. When people think Sleeping With Sirens, most of the time, they think [of] five dudes going insane on stage: Justin running around, throwing his bass and Jack doing crazy guitar solos…

JF: And drinking beer—lots and lots of beer!

GB: But then doing the acoustic stuff shows a completely different, more intimate side to the band. It gives us a chance to, like Justin said, almost rework those songs completely and Kellin has more free range to do what he wants with his voice. And it gives us a bit more artistic freedom in the songs. I love doing it. It’s something that I think we’re going to continue to do. And maybe someday do another live and unplugged tour when we released that one record. I think that’s something we’ll do in the future and be like half-acoustic set, half full-live band set. It’s definitely something that is special to us. 

MOSH: You guys are also doing a Vans in-store set and a meet and greet. How do those kind of things go? You excited for that?

JF: It’s super cool. We did it on this whole last US run. So we got used to it. In-stores, I think, are a lot more fun—I love doing stuff for radio stations, but it’s a little nerve-racking because it’s live—but in-stores, you have your fans singing along and they are there, it’s super intimate. It’s just like an acoustic show. It’s a lot of fun.

JH: We kinda let it ride and let the kids banter and we’ll talk to each other, and it’s fun. It still feels like a show, but it’ll just be inside of the Vans store.

GB: I feel like London always gets all the cool, special shows.

JF: Because it’s basically our hometown!

JH: Because London is the shit!

GB: We did that one live and unplugged show at the church here.

JF: And we filmed the ‘Kick Me’ here. And ‘The Strays’. They do get a lot of cool shit.

JH: We did pyro here at Brixton.

*All agreeing*

GB: It’s like our home away from home. We love it here!

MOSH: Good. That’s always good to hear. It means you’re going to continue to come back.

Guys in unison: Of course. Always.

JH: Unless this place implodes.

GB: I don’t think it will.

MOSH: Um. Let’s hope it doesn’t, because we’re just chilling so we don’t really need that kind of negativity in our lives…

JH: I didn’t say hopefully, I said unless. I hope it does not. It would be a very small city if it imploded.

*Does imploding noise and gestures with hands. Only one tiny piece of land remains*

That’s where we’re going to play.

MOSH: Good. Okay, so kicking it back to Gossip. How do you think the fans reacted to it? Older fans versus newer fans?

JH: My mum loves it!

MOSH: Oh good!

JH: She’s old… er. Older.

JF: It’s a mixed reaction. Some people want us to be a Warped Tour band forever. They want us to sound like our first record, and I’m sorry, but if you want to listen to the first record, go ahead and listen to it—it’s on iTunes—but we will never sound like that again.

JH: I don’t think we’ll sound like the second or third or fourth record either.

JF: I mean, we’re never going to sound like ‘Captain Tyin’ Knots’ again.

GB: It doesn’t mean we’ll never play those songs again. The last tour we whipped out ‘The Bomb Dot Com’ and I’m down to throw out there ‘Captain’ and stuff like that. Any time.

JH: I’ll play any song except for ‘Captain Tyin’ Knots’.

*Guys laughing*

GB: We’re the type of band that like to evolve and change with each record, and you can either hang with us and go along for the ride with us and grow up with us, or you can just want to listen to that old shit. You can listen to that old shit. But in order for us to be passionate about our music, we have to create the music that we want to make. And we don’t want to make that kind of music anymore. So there are some kids that hate it, and there are some kids that love it.

JH: There are some kids that like it all, and that’s cool.

GB: I think the great thing is that this new record has opened us up to a whole new crowd of people that we can win over and have a new—well not new following—but expand. We try to make music that our old fans love and we’re trying to make music for new fans as well. It’s us.

JF: If you look at the artists that evolve over time and change from album to album, in my opinion, they’re more successful—like Panic!, Fall Out Boy or Weezer, or Paramore. Those kinds of bands changed their sound and some people hated it, but now look at them.

GB: Yeah, Paramore just can’t keep writing Riot over and over and over.

JH: Nor would they want to.

GB: I think that the overall consensus is that it’s good, and we’re happy with it. I mean, I’m sorry, but fuck what they think. We’re making music for us. If we love it, then they will too.

JH: I just don’t want to cheat fans out of the same record two times in a row. Or even skipping a record cycle and then trying to go back because we’re scared that it’s not going to do well.

JF: Like if I waited three years for my favourite band to put out another album and it sounded the same as the other album, but just not as good, I would be pissed off. I’d rather it sound completely different.

MOSH: So what’s next for Sleeping With Sirens? What we doing, guys?

GB: Touring forever.

JF: We have radio shows lined up throughout December in the states. And then on tour probably for the next two years.

GB: We start touring next year in January, and we basically don’t get off tour until the end of August.

JF: No, that’s only because we haven’t seen September, October, November and then the whole radio festivals in December.

GB: We’re just going to tour the shit out of this record and see where it takes us.

MOSH: UK, yeah? *cough cough* *nudge nudge*

Guys in unison: Absolutely. Yes. Of course. Always.

JF: We’re already starting to pick the bands. And I’m not going to tell you who, but it’s cool as fuck.

*The band proceeds to tell us in secret*

Snitches get stitches, guys. You’ll just have to wait and see!