Reece Owen

Bring Me the Horizon – Doing Away with Survival of the Fittest

They’re a multi-platinum selling band with fans that span every inch of the globe, but they’re so much more than any reputation, any single song, or any box people have put them in. They are Bring Me the Horizon – a melodic metalcore quintet with prowess, passion, and plenty of mosh pit action each and every time they have taken the stage since their formation almost 20 years ago.

Bring Me the Horizon have become a household name for any metalhead, EDM and rave enthusiasts, rock lover, and even pop fan. They have a versatility unlike any of their peers which is partly why they’re one of the biggest UK rock bands to date. 

We had the incredible chance to sit down with Oli Sykes, their lead vocalist, and talk about the band’s up-coming tour with Knocked Loose and Grandson. (It arrives at Barclays Center this Saturday, September 24.)

Long before an Aquarian writer, Bring Me the Horizon were my first mosh pit, my first crowd-surf, and my first time hearing true screams live. Seeing their earth-shattering performance in 2015 is partly the reason I am into the music I am today. I may be just one person, but their fanbase is an army of people just like me – fans from all walks of life, all ages, who discovered heavy metal through their accessibility and overall talent. With the world at their fingertips, there is nothing this band can’t do. 

You’re coming to Brooklyn, Barclays Center, September 24. How are you feeling what’s going through your head?

Excited. I mean, honestly, it feels like forever since we’ve been to America. It’s definitely been a few years. Obviously with COVID and everything it’s been even longer than normal. It actually feels a little bit surreal to be back here, you know? Like there was definitely a point where it felt like, “Man, are we ever gonna tour?” And again, I know we were definitely never not gonna tour places like America and stuff like that, but it feels a little surreal and exciting, and this is really only ours…. We’ve done festivals and stuff all summer, but this is our second tour since the pandemic. It feels exciting to be back and it feels like a lot has happened for the band since the last time we’ve been here – the new record has us feel like we’ve made a lot of new fans and kind of our music seems to be reaching a lot of new kids and stuff like that. It’s going to be really interesting to see what the shows look like.

Absolutely. And, you know, you mentioned reaching new fans. I’ve been a fan of Bring Me the Horizon for like a long time and Post-Human Survival Horror was in my top two albums of the year for that year – one of the best records yet. You talk about forward momentum of a band, and there you have it.

Thank you so much.

How have you noticed, specifically, how the Post-Human release kind of resonated with people?

Yeah, I think we had a kind of like a one-two combination in terms of the album being really well received. I think we were writing a record when we were in isolation and we did it well, but the pandemic was happening. We made that record without any of us being in the same room – did it all online across the internet. I think we shared music with people who I feel like really needed it at that time. I think there was a lot of disconnection and a lot of escapism in the pandemic, which was definitely an important thing to do. You had to escape at some points. Also, I feel like I’m someone who has realized that, to feel better about something, you have to process it and you have to face it head on. I feel like a lot of people that listen to rap music, the reason they were drawn to rap music as an alternative is because we are discussing those things that a lot of people would like to turn away from. I think people needed that more than ever – some people anyway. Some people didn’t want to think about how bad stuff was. Some people want to turn away and just escape, but I think there’s a lot of people like us that feel like they want to process it. We gave words to that situation and made a soundtrack to it. I feel like that was a huge reason for it to connect with so many people. Then, I guess, we had a very unexpected and strange kind of exposure through TikTok with one of our songs from nearly like eight years [ago], 10 years old now, kind of blowing up on that platform. It felt like it just opened us to a new generation of kids, you know what I mean? At the same time, we’re also hearing this new music and stuff, so it feels like our audience has grown larger quite unexpectedly, but obviously like we’re very happy about it.

Absolutely. Does it almost feel like, “Can You Feel My Heart” has like a new life? You know what I mean? Almost like it’s a new song because of just how many more people love it.

Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s like our most played song now and it’s always been one of my favorite songs, if not my favorite just because I’d always wanted to make music like that song. It was the first time I felt like I successfully cracked that kind of song, you know what I mean? We’ve been playing with electronics and mixing it with rock and I feel like that song was just like, “This is it. This is what I want it to make.” I think for a lot of kids, as well, it’s such an emotional song. If you’re a 14 -year-old kid in this day and age, maybe you haven’t heard a lot of music like that, maybe you just listened to pop music and stuff that kind of goes just skin deep. I think a song like that kind of hits you in the feels. It definitely is unexpected, [but] I love that song. It’s also unexpected that 10 years later it’s kind of found this new audience and it’s awesome. I mean, we open our show with it now because it feels like a new song in some ways.

Absolutely. I totally agree. You’re talking about the electronic element and I feel like when That’s the Spirit and Amo, both dropped, there are a lot of metal critics kind of saying like, “Where is all this electronic coming from?” I almost wanna tell them, “Have you heard There Is a Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It? You know, this has always been a part of the band. It’s just like taking different forefronts now.

Yeah, sure. We kind of would hire someone who did electronic for those earlier records and kind of stick with someone for as long as we had and tried to get that in there, but obviously Jordan arriving and becoming a part of the band and him being as good as he is, it just gave us that open door where we’ve always wanted to go, where we went, and we just finally have the kind of tools to do that.

That makes perfect sense. And again, with a talent like Jordan behind the keyboards, you know, you got the vocals and it’s just a powerhouse that really, really makes these records what they are and why they’re resonating with so many people. I want to ask a little bit about switching gears from Post-Human to II. Obviously, you mentioned before, that Post-Human was a very angry record because of the pandemic and what we were going through is Post-Human II is two going to be a different emotion. Can we expect something totally separate?

Yeah. It was gonna be that these records are all intended to tell a story and progress in like a narrative and an arc. So, it’ll definitely be moving on from the first record, but it’ll be almost like an answer to the first record. What we’re saying about a whole new generation of kids listening to our band now has this kind of geared towards that generation [with them] in mind. What would be my advice or where do I feel like we need to change what we’re doing? I kind of have this feeling that, like, the life that I’ve lived with the band is a lot more relatable these days than it would be 15 years ago when I actually did grow up in the band. I’m not trying to say that I was a celebrator, but at the same time our band was in its scene. People had a lot of opinions about me and a lot of people hated me and a lot of people loved me and a lot of people wanted to see me fall. A lot of people championed me as somewhat bigger than I was. That kind fucks with your head, especially when it feels like one false move and your whole life can be wiped out. You have all these people thinking you’re something amazing that you can never live up to. At the same time, you have all these people thinking awful things about you and bullying you and whatever else. At the same time again, you’re like, “Well, I’m just a person. I’m not this amazing person people write me up to be, but at the same time, I never said I was this awful person that these other people think I am.” 

I think that I felt very alone when I was growing up in that message we had, whereas I feel like today that’s nearly what every single kid is going through in a way with the internet and stuff. It’s like social media has made everyone feel like a celebrity, but still not in some respects. In terms of something that you said from five years ago that could ruin your life, everyone has an opinion and everyone feels free to share that opinion about you. I think for a lot of kids, there’s a lot of feeling like they’re not good enough, feeling like they can’t live up to other people, a lot of comparison, and I kind of (obviously) relate. I see kids growing up now in today’s age and I think, “Man, it is a different time for kids.” Just from what I’ve been through and the rest of the band and what we’ve been through as a band, we can kind of relate to that. The next record is all going to be about that, kind of talking about that and also talking about life. The whole record story is called Post-Human and it’s all how we evolve in some respects, because, you know, we’ve stepped out of evolution in some ways. It’s no longer like survival of the fittest. We’ve stepped out of the food chain, we’ve stepped out of evolution in a way, so the way we evolve is gonna depend on technology and the decisions we decide to make in the future. It used to be the survival of the fittest and whoever has the best kind of genetics is going to make it through in terms of surviving. It’s not gonna be the same anymore, so what steps do we take? What is the right path to go down now? ‘Cause I think we can all agree that we kind of feel like we’re at some kind of crossroads or there are a lot of paths we can take at this point. Also, I think we can all agree that it feels like we are not in a great place, but I believe in humans, I think, and I think the planet is incredible. If we decide to heal, we can do it quickly, but we all need to start seeing how critical it is that we do kind of change the way we are. 

I think one thing that struck me about the pandemic is how clear it was that the way we built society and the way the world works only works when it works. It only functions when it’s moving. As soon as it stops… we haven’t thought that far. You know what I mean? We just assume that everything’s going to just keep ticking along and when it’s done, it really gets bad and… look, we’re still suffering from that. Things are just getting worse. That was so similar to me in the pandemic. I was like, “Wow, I only work when I’m working.” I thought I was healed. You know, I’ve been through drug addiction, I’ve got all these things. I thought I’d healed all of them. I thought I was, but I wasn’t – I was just distracted. I was just incredibly busy and all that stuff. As soon as everything stopped from me, I fell back into the same old patterns. This next record is the first record looking at life like how that can be a metaphor and how that kind of actually weirdly aligns with the way the world is and the way you are as a person. I think that’s the next thing: I fell into those bad places again and I found a way to heal. I feel like that’s the same thing. We’ve gotta look like society on earth. We’re reeling from something really bad. How do we heal? What’s the right way to heal? What decisions do we need to make? Obviously, it’s in the future and in the hands of the next generation, so I feel like it’s important to, I guess, direct my attention to those people.

Yeah. That makes perfect sense. It’s like, you’ve made all these accomplishments and progress, but until you sit with the silence, that is when you can really start to think about what’s your purpose in society and what we are doing. All the environmental changes that you mentioned, all the social media stuff… social media alone is, I’ve always said, no one would ever say half the stuff they type on the internet, on YouTube, to that person face to face. It’s just like false sense of confidence

Things like that! We’ve gotta learn to realize that we put too much stock in all the wrong things. We argue about so much. We argue about all these things, people talk about certain topics that show how the world’s gone mad or how things are out to get you. You have to go out into the real world and see no one’s talking about what they’re talking about on Twitter or Facebook. It’s just a small minority of people whining about it. I think we place too much stock in all the wrong things. We’re so addicted to things like social media and status and our jobs and our lives. Well, what if all that goes? Who are you? What’s important to you? What are your values? What are your morals?

What always almost cracks me up is when I’m on social media and I’m like, “Oh, that’s a really cool metal band,” and someone is like, “It’s actually a metalcore band.” It’s almost like faux confidence. everyone thinks that they’re one step ahead of you on the internet. Whereas when you’re in person, it’s more simply, “Oh, I like that band, too.”

That’s why I believe this is so true. Something can be annoying, but then when people are doing it, trying to make actual progress, whether it’s with racial issues or gender or anything, it feels like sometimes people are just looking for a way to go, “Ah, but you are wrong!” instead of, “Hey, what about this?” Rather than actually all putting our heads together and moving forward, everyone’s just trying to call each other out sometimes rather than actually moving forward and making progress. I always think that sometimes we don’t have any sympathy for someone who’s been raised wrong. Do you know what I mean? Someone’s being raised by their parents to have things in mind that are clearly not right, but we never have a little bit of sympathy to be like, “That person’s been raised by some bad people who have also been raised by some bad people.” We’ve all been raised by some people, but we just want everyone to realize that they’re wrong instantly rather than be a bit more sympathetic to those people that have been essentially brainwashed – and that’s just one example. Sometimes I feel like everyone from every side should just take a few steps back and actually think, “What is the best way of making actual, real progress rather than everyone pointing the finger at each other, all trying to call each other out, all trying to make people feel bad?” You know what I mean? 

I’ve always felt like that with veganism as a vegan. I could go around pointing my finger going, “You are an evil person. You eat meat, you do this, you do that.” I don’t think anyone’s ever changed by someone pointing a finger and saying you are wrong. I think it just puts you off and makes you want to do the thing that they’re telling you is wrong. Even more, rather than going, “Wait a minute. I used to eat meat. I used to be like that.” I’m just using another example here, but like trying to simplify with the fact that you weren’t always right. Either you’ve made mistakes and you weren’t always perfect or you have this mindset that you realize is right, only right. I think that’s where things could go. That’s almost like something that’s so important for the next generation to get hold of, right? Don’t make the same mistakes as the older generation where they just won’t listen to anyone and they won’t have sympathy and just think everyone should suck you up and get along with it.

I agree with everything you’re saying wholeheartedly. You catch more bees with honey than with vinegar and it’s so true. If you’re attempting to make a connection with someone, then they’re – of course – going to be more sympathetic to it. If I am hearing what you’re saying, even if they don’t initially agree with your viewpoint, at least they’re gonna try to understand it. Whereas if you come at it with aggression, which you do see a lot nowadays, it’s just never going to happen.

It’s going to happen a lot slower that’s for sure.

Absolutely. Well, I’m really happy we talked about this. That’s a wonderful tangent that is really so vital and important. I’m happy to hear that it’s weaved throughout this new record. I want to ask a little bit about how you noticed playing these new songs live? You know, I feel like with every Bring Me the Horizon record there is, there’s so much vast sonic difference. You know, every album sounds so unique. I feel like when you’re making a set list, that’s got to be really hard.

Yeah. I mean, it’s a good problem to have, but it’s definitely a problem. Like all these songs off the new record are translating live really well. I guess that’s more surprising because we never once got in a room and jammed them out together before, so the first time we got to play them live was on stage in front of like 10,000 people. It was weird that the old songs worked as well live as the new did, because we’ve got loads of songs, like some of my favorite songs, and we tried to play ’em live and it’s just the same ride. This just isn’t about a great song on record that is not connecting as well live or it doesn’t come across or translate as good. They all work. I think, maybe, subconsciously, we were missing playing live shows so much that we were writing songs with the intention to play them live. That could be how they came across as well as they did, but we play a lot of that record. Luckily, kids respond to it really well. It’s always nice as an artist that you get to play a lot of your records, because sometimes people only try to hear your old songs.

Exactly. It’s such a fun problem to have, because, for example, one of my favorites from Bring Me’s albums is the ~GO TO~ EP with all that really cool synth dubstep. When I see you guys live, I want to hear some of That’s the Spirit, Sempiternal, Post-Human. Now, I want to get into your head space on this because I have followed your career consistently for a little over a decade now. I remember seeing you guys at the Worcester Palladium, and then at the Tsongas Center, then at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, and now you’re coming to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The venue increases every time you come to America and it is phenomenal. I kind of want to get your take on watching this audience just slowly build, because this wasn’t an overnight thing.

I mean we’ve kind of had that everywhere and I think it is a strange one to be a band that is almost 20 years into the career and still feel like we’re growing and still feel like we haven’t hit the roof yet. I guess we can attribute it to some of the things we were speaking about earlier, you know? Opening up to new generations. We’ve always had this kind of adapt to our mentality where it’s like, we keep evolving, we keep pushing on, we keep working harder, we keep trying to get better and better. I feel like it’s paid off: the amount of time on the craft.