Every now and then - and it happens less often than you might expect - a band comes along with the power, precision and indelible heart to capture the zeitgeist of a generation. Wrexham’s Neck Deep are, beyond any shadow of a doubt, one such band; a bona fide phenomenon whose remorselessly effervescent pop-punk bounce has already achieved what all rock music aspires to - striking a chord with kids all over the world. Since their formation a little over three years ago they have become one of the scenes most looked-up-to stalwarts in the US, UK and beyond thanks to a killer combination of monolithic choruses, spartan work ethic and redoubtable X factor. Returning now with a new salvo of hits in the shape of second full-length effort Life’s Not Out To Get You, Neck Deep stand on the cusp of something truly remarkable.
“This band has already provided me with some of the most incredible times in my life,” beams Ben Barlow. “When we started my only ambition was to play one gig. At this point I think I’ve ticked most things off my first bucket list and am having to draw up a new one!”
It’s no surprise that Ben’s bin is already full of goals written down and swiftly ticked off. After all, with an average age of just 20, the quintet (completed by guitarists Lloyd Roberts and Matt West, bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans and drummer Dani Washington) have, amongst other things, undertaken 2014's US Warped Tour (with 2015's imminent, having being the first band announced) and crushed the iconic Wembley Arena as main support to All Time Low - just one year after they first played the 180 capacity Camden Barfly as the launchpad for 2014 debut album Wishful Thinking.
Yet despite a catalogue of landmarks that would turn most bands salad-green with envy, ND’s sights are firmly set on the future.: “With Life’s Not Out To Get You we wanted to make what could, in the future, be considered <the> Neck Deep album,” enthuses Ben ahead of a landmark Reading and Leeds mainstage appearance which will ignite the album campaign proper. “It’s a record which sums up so much of the journey that we’ve been on up until this point but which I think will also surprise a few people. It’s us at our most mature, our most sophisticated and with the best collection of songs we’ve ever written, in my opinion.”
Indeed, produced under the watchful eye of and all-star team comprising Andrew Wade, Tom Denney and A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon, Neck Deep’s latest opus is a twelve track blast that sees the band taking the ball from where Wishful Thinking left off and smashing it straight into the back of the net.
“To be blunt, I didn’t want this album to just be songs about girls and how hard it is being on tour and stuff like that,” laughs the singer. “One of the most important things about our band in my eyes is that kids get what we are talking about, that people relate to the things I’m saying in songs. No one cares if I moan over two verses about how being on tour is hard sometimes. And besides, I love being on tour! There’s nothing to complain about there!”
To that end, first single Can’t Kick Up The Roots is a swaggering tale of growing up in a crappy small town (“There’s nothing to do in Wrexham but get drunk, really” confirms Ben) but having a sense of local pride nonetheless: “Coming from where we have do has meant that we view everything with kind of a naivety, I suppose,” says Ben. “We’ve never been surrounded by people with big egos and haven’t had the chance or the will to develop them ourselves either. Can’t Kick Up The Roots is really about saying that if you want something badly enough and chase it as hard as you can then anything at all is possible. The fact that Neck Deep even exists at all is testament to that.”
From there, Life’s Not Out To Get You runs an emotional gamut that belies the band’s years: Gold Steps’ majestic crunch delves into more sophisticated melodic territory than the five some have ever entered before while Serpents’ potent narrative thrust and Usain Bolt turn of pace mark it out as a real career highlight.
The message then is loud and clear: Neck Deep are a setting themselves up as a force to be reckoned with not just for this summer, and not just for the one after that but for many, many years to come. And if their staggering rise to prominence has impressed some, then the frontman is determined that it’s these next phases that will really show the world what him and his mates are made of.
“A lot of people ask me if I ever get nervous or afraid because of how quickly things have happened with this band,” offers Ben. “But the honest answer is I’m not because I know that all we can do is keep being us and that’s all that counts. We have made a record that I know people are really going to like and that we all believe in, that takes a lot of pressure off.”
“Life’s Not Out To Get You is a goodtime album and we are a goodtime band,” he finishes. “We just want to keep spreading that fun everywhere we go and if we get to do that then I feel like I’ve done my job.”
The good times look set to continue for Neck Deep for as long as they want them to. The second chapter starts here.