Interview: Architects on Being Nicer to Each Other

Architects sweep through their new album the classic symptoms of a broken spirit, which is out this October from Epitaph Records, with alluring urgency. It’s a multifaceted, metal-driven search for stability in a world overwhelmed by shocking destruction. Can we find or forge a place—metaphorically or literally—that allows for powerful, life-affirming release? Or will the storms threatening to throw us into the depth—a potentially devastating prospect—spread further? With sonically massive but emotionally piercing passages, all of these concerns feel inescapably present in the album’s world, charting a ragged journey and setting a course of relentlessly forward movement against a backdrop of threateningly approaching unrest. 

Architects balance commanding power with delicate, sincere, and relatably desperate emotion across their new record, amid whatever particular lyrical theme the band might be exploring on a song. The album remains heavy, with colossal and monumentally impactful guitars that suggest expansive ambition and careful attention to small-scale, emotional concerns. You could easily imagine experiencing something quite simply very personal amid a perhaps giant crowd as the music echoes, because the melodic choices suggest heartache. It sounds pained, or at least strained, as though carrying intensely heavy burdens. Structurally, it’s a sense of leaping towards the sun—or however you might conceptualize success or something positive—while perhaps violently smashing into the rocky, barren earth as the scene moves forward. 

The classic symptoms of a broken spirit features several passages worthy of headbanging—or however you might preferedly approach such a stylistic turn, although the straightforward, physical intensity of the album ranges, ultimately circulating around a heaviness that can get you moving. The expansive, bulky nature of the sound on this album—It’s all just big—fills out the drama. You might feel like you’re with the band in a post-apocalyptic bomb shelter as explosions rattle the surroundings. The music is tense, but it’s also empowering. It just jolts you. As the band further develop and explore their sound, brutal breakdowns remain. 

Below, see what vocalist Sam Carter has to say about issues like the potentially overwhelming nature of recent political developments, the thoughts expressed by people on the internet, and The Beatles.

When assembling these songs, was the emotional arc of the album a prominent part of the process?

I think we are always in discussions about what the songs are and what they mean and why we’re doing it. I think a big thing with Architects is there’s always got to be energy in the song, whether that’s a positive or exciting energy or whether that’s a super somber, depressing energy. But I think, especially with this record, we wanted to make people feel really involved in the songs when they were listening to them, making them feel like, oh, this song’s about me, or it was totally relatable. I think we focused on getting that personality in there as well. I think that’s what makes it feel so relatable as well.

Do you think it’s gotten easier over the years of being a band to emotionally connect with listeners along those lines?

I think it’s easier to know when it’s there, but it doesn’t necessarily get easier to get it there. I think it’s like, you know more when you’ve achieved that moment. You’re like, OK, cool; this is it. I think we’re aware now more of when we’ve reached the point or a point in the song where we feel happy with it, but it definitely still takes a while to get it there.

Instrumentally speaking, was keeping the songs catchy—something you could easily jam with in a live setting —an important consideration for you guys? 

I think vocals are sort of the icing on the cake, but I think in terms of actually getting the songs really catchy, you’ve got to think about songs. We were looking back on the last record, songs like “Animals” and songs like “Black Lungs,” where you have people singing the riffs or singing the melodies, not just the vocals back to you. So yeah, it’s always a factor. I think simplifying stuff sometimes can make things a bit catchier, especially when you’re moving into the world where we’re at in Europe, in the U.K., where, when we’re playing in these arenas, I think sometimes songs like “Tear Gas” will hit so well because it’s so stompy and repetitive and loud—and just stompy and groovy.

I think that’s what we were looking for—a lot of groove on the record, and riffs and parts that you could bang your head to and just enjoy, like when you listen to Rage Against the Machine. Those riffs hit super hard, but you’re not having to count on your hand what the time signature is. You can just really enjoy the riff, and I think simplifying things—but when you simplify it, have that laser focus on making sure that riff is the best it can be.

As a band, I think we’ve always kind of written the songs that aren’t in the set list. When we go into writing a record, we’re sort of like, OK, cool. What does the set need, or where can we take this? Like, what’s missing from our back catalog? You’re trying to write the record that isn’t in your record collection almost, and I think that having that focus on (performing) live is also a good thing because that’s what we spend most of our time doing.

On a somewhat different note, Architects obviously have a long history, and people on the internet have thoughts. Is internet pressure for the music to sound some particular way something with which you deal? Or is that just something off in the distance?

I think it doesn’t shape our band, in terms of how people would react to something doesn’t shape what we do going forward, or looking back, or going like, oh, people want this, or people want that. I think it’s always painful when people are so needlessly aggressive towards you, and angry with you almost, for you releasing something that essentially they get to listen to for free, which is wild to me to complain when something’s just put in front of you. I think there’s plenty of bands and songs—People put out stuff that I don’t like or don’t listen to. And I just choose not to listen to it. I’m just like, OK, that’s it.

People nowadays are so entitled. It’s like everybody that has Instagram or Twitter is a music journalist all of a sudden. I think it’s really interesting. Likewise with positive comments and stuff as well, for me, I’m just like, whatever. I try not to read any of them. People need to be careful because you don’t want younger bands to be too affected and shaped by the things that people are saying, because it may stop them from creating something amazing. I think people’s best work is when they go out of their comfort zone and do something that they’re happy with. 

And I think also people are very quick to forget that we are still a heavy band. We are still in situations where we’re representing heavy music to a large audience. And we’re always shouting out bands that are a lot more aggressive and heavy than us, and championing the scene really. We’re trying to do good for it. At the same time, we’re not the same five people—literally Josh (Middleton) wasn’t in the band until two, three records ago. 

And at the end of the day, we were very fortunate to have Tom (Searle) in our band who was the best musician at writing heavy music. He was the best at writing those insane, Architects-type riffs that everybody rips off now. So we can’t in good faith go back and rip off Tom’s riffs because that would just be insane. So we are really happy with where we’re at as musicians and what we create with the five of us now.

And Josh has brought so much brilliant stuff to the band. It doesn’t really bother me in the sense of where I would take the band or what we would do with the band, but in terms of feeling quite sad about the way people are and the way people talk to each other, it bums me out in that sense because I just worry for the younger artists, seeing that. When I was a kid, if I saw bands getting absolutely smashed for just putting out music, I’d be like, uh, I don’t understand. Like, what are we gonna do? I’m just trying to enjoy music. So yeah, it’s just part and parcel of it, but it’s younger bands that I worry for.

I think in terms of where we are, we have, like, 15 years under our belt where we’re experienced enough to just trust our gut after this amount of time. But you look back at bands like—I always use The Beatles as an example. If social media was around, and people were as aggressive and angry as they are now, would Sgt. Pepper’s exist? Would they have taken the big jumps that they took in the middle of their records? You’ve got to be careful that these standards that the internet sets people to don’t destroy that creative venture of trying stuff out because you love it. Not because you think it’ll sell well.

Making something because of personal interest in it certainly lends it some staying power.

I think the best stuff is done through that mystery and excitement and nervousness. Almost like, that’s why some people’s first records are amazing because nobody’s there telling them how to do it. There’s no formula. There’s no thing of: Oh, you can’t play that note next to that note, that doesn’t work. It’s just that raw energy. And I think when you move into a new world and you move into trying new styles out, it’s nervous and exciting. And it reminds you of being a young kid and falling into those amazing moments, where you’re like, how the fuck did we do that? And that’s all you want when you’re in the studio. We’ve done so many records that are heavy, and we know how to do these things. But the last two records have really kind of been a way of us exploring how to take heavy music in different directions and take what we’ve learned into these new areas. And it’s exciting. It’s fun. You have to be able to mix it up after 10 records. Otherwise what’s the point of releasing a 10th record?

The records that we’re inspired by are still a lot of the records we used to listen to when we were younger, but I think you can work out ways to develop them into your sound. Some of our influences, like Radiohead and The Beatles—You wouldn’t necessarily listen to Architects and be like, oh, of course; they’re doing that. But you can be influenced in other ways.

Thematically, Architects have often dealt with pressing social themes, and that certainly continues with this album. Do you think you’ve seen things get better over the years? Worse? Some of both?

(The record is) the sound of people that just feel a little bit broken by everything that’s going on. You just look at our government, like, we’re fucked. The U.K. is just completely fucked, and it feels like there’s not much to be positive about—You have to really search for that stuff. In terms of Brexit and the people that are literally just coming into our government now, it’s crazy. The health minister that’s just been put in doesn’t believe in same-sex marriages; the environment guy that’s just gone in there doesn’t believe in climate change and is trying to do stuff with fracking and getting oil from different places in the countryside here.

It’s fucking insane. It’s hard to remain positive and have that fight. I think it’s easy when you are constantly surrounded by people that share the same feelings as you, which for the most part, I think is true with my friendship group and people within the band, but it can be really tiring. You can be just like, what’s the fucking point? And I think, especially after so many years of constantly trying to discuss things that we feel are important, after a while, it’s like, fuck me, the list is now endless. You throw a dart at a dartboard, and you’re like, OK, what am I gonna talk about on stage today that’s shit? I think you have to look inside and try and be a good person yourself. I think just change the people around you in a positive way and just be kind and be open. And I think also in times like this, it’s important to discuss mental health more than anything and be there for people that are struggling with anxiety and stress. Just fight those battles that you can fight really.

Part of me is like, is this just the way it’s always been? Has it always been like this throughout our existence? Are we just old enough now to completely be like, fuck, OK, nothing’s going to change? We have to stick together. And as I say, it’s examples like the way people talk to each other on the internet—I think we’re all in this together. Imagine judging someone because they liked a different band from you. It’s like, fuckin’ hell we’re not in school. We have all got to try and be kinder to each other. You never know what someone on the other end of the internet is going through or what some comment could do to someone’s day. I just think we’ve all just got to try and be a bit more compassionate and empathetic towards each other.

What’s your sense about going from where the band was so many years ago to now? In a broad sense, is that sort of difficult to grapple with?

I feel a lot more anxious now than I did when I was playing to nobody, I’ll tell you that. But the—It’s exciting. Every day, I think the older you get and the longer you are in the band and around the band, the more you appreciate it, the more you are grateful for it. I think when you’re a kid, you never think that it’s going to last forever. You are just sort of at 100 miles an hour, don’t take anything in; just fucking get through it; get drunk; play a fucking show; get in the van; drive for however many hours it was, and then get to the next venue and do it all again. It was sort of just like, live fast, die fun. The older you get, the more you’re like—You have that energy still; you still want to smash things, and do it to the best of your ability, but you can take a step back and look back at the venues that you’ve played in that town throughout your years of life.

Our band is almost old enough to drive now. When you think of it like that, you’re like, fucking hell. You know, we’ve been through some shit, and we’ve been through a lot of tragedy, and we’ve been through some amazing highs together, but yeah, I think that time of being in the band and still being in it, you have to just reflect and feel grateful and thankful for it. But I think also you have that need to continue because you don’t want to lose it, because you fought so hard to get it after all that time. And that’s why we still put so much effort in the studio, and that’s why we’re still so focused on nailing everything that we do and, even if it’s fucking exhausting, trying to keep everything to this Architects standard. Whether that pisses people off or what, it’s all good. We’re just grateful and thankful to still be here. And it’s nice that people can kind of see our journey, and hopefully that journey inspires them, you know?

Follow the band here.

Photo courtesy of Ed Mason

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