Sleeping With Sirens at Good Things 2022: “The key to music in general is that it should be fun”

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Sleeping With Sirens roared to life in 2010 with their pummelling debut album, With Ears To See And Eyes To Hear, and have since held steady as staples of the Hot Topic “emo” scene. With their first few records aimed primarily at angsty, black-sheeped tweens hopped up on Monster and mid-transition from primary to high school (and more importantly, MySpace to Facebook), there’s a good chance that, should you have found a seat on the hype train in time, Sleeping With Sirens have been with you for half your life. 

Much like ourselves, Sleeping With Sirens have grown exponentially over the last 13 years. Our social circles shifted as friends came and went, and they similarly cycled through guitarists and drummers; we filled our résumés with jobs, some lowkey and fun and others impressive but gruelling, and they similarly hopped from label to label (first Rise, then Epitaph, then Warner and now Sumerian); we found new passions and hobbies, and eventually got nostalgic for our teenage obsessions, and they, too, tried new things (see: Madness and Gossip) but ultimately fell back in love with the punchy, colour-drenched metalcore they cut their teeth on.

On the cusp of 2023, having just released their seventh album – the prismatic and powerful Complete Collapse – with a full year of touring ahead, Sleeping With Sirens stand tall as their strongest, most energised and invigorated selves. The album is reflective of that: another parallel between them and the average late millennial is that they too were pushed to the brink by adversity, but clawed their way back and, galvanised by the experience, were met an immediate jolt of adrenalised optimism. 

For the Kellin Quinn-fronted band, this journey started with 2015’s Madness, a confident dive into the open seas of pop-rock – something they’d toyed with, but never fully committed to on records prior – that led to them being sucked into the riptide of major label chaos with its follow-up, Gossip, two years later. Chewed up and spat out by the pop radio monolith, Sleeping With Sirens almost didn’t make it to the end of the 2010s. They’d been singed by the industry and burnt out on the road, and as strongly as their artistry translated to that shiner, more saccharine pop sound – Quinn’s chops in particular were primed for Top 40 hitmaking – the band didn’t get as much out of it, personally speaking, as they did from metalcore.

What followed was a complete 180: Sleeping With Sirens ditched Warner for Sumerian – another indie label à la Rise and Epitaph – and swung back around to their old-school sound, keeping their newfound slickness intact but wholeheartedly embracing the riff once more. Their 2019 album, How It Feels To Be Lost, is explosive and defiant, at once an unapologetic nostalgia trip and a fierce leap into the future. But like any great comeback, the initial “fuck yeah!” was inevitably followed by the daunting question of what would come next. Where would Sleeping With Sirens head when their trajectory was no longer guided by sheer adrenaline?

With touring off the table, the pandemic gave Quinn and co. a chance to gather their bearings – a forced micro-hiatus of sorts. This proved to be incredibly beneficial: after reflecting deeply on everything they’d been through over the course of making and touring six albums (and an EP, and a couple errant one-offs), Sleeping With Sirens had – perhaps for the first time ever – a crystal clear vision for the future. That involved ambitiously swinging from their highest highs to their lowest lows, fusing their grittiest riffs with their most shimmering melodies, and committing to a mindset that no idea was too unseemly to consider. So paved the way for what is, in my own opinion, Sleeping With Sirens’ best album yet.

Complete Collapse has been out for (just a few days shy of) two months now, so when Sleeping With Sirens touched down for this year’s Good Things festival, I caught up with Quinn and guitarist Nick Martin to vibe on how the album has been coming to life onstage (particularly in Australia) and how it brought the band to a new peak. Have a listen to – or read – our chat below.

elcome back to your home away from home. How’s the trip been so far?

Kellin Quinn: It’s been good! 

Nick Martin: I’m loving it. I missed Australia so much, so it feels very, very good to be back here. It feels very familiar.

Quinn: Yeah, it’s been really nice. The weather’s been really nice. It’s been light jacket weather, which is great, but it’s not too cold. [We’ve] got sun today, so I’m gonna wear my sleeveless shirt and let my BB guns out.

Martin: Wow, your BB guns!

Quinn: My BB guns, I’m gonna let my BB guns out!

So before kicking off the fezzie run today, obviously you’ve already played a couple of sideshows – Melbourne yesterday, and then Adelaide on Wednesday?

Quinn: Correct. Did you say ‘side’ or ‘sad’ shows?

I guess the main question is, what’s it like playing in clubs again? Because it’s been a fucking while.

Quinn: I like playing in clubs.

Martin: I do too. It’s tough – I wouldn’t say it’s, like, what I prefer, but yeah, it feels good to be back in in some clubs. I’m enjoying it.

Quinn: He’s not much of a clubber. I am though, I like to go to the club.

Martin: You love the club.

Well of course, you’ve got plenty of new tunes to show off – two albums’ worth since the last time you were here. Of course the big talking point is Complete Collapse – how will these new songs been coming to life onstage?

Quinn: We were talking about this in rehearsal. So, I like playing new songs, like, a year into them. I don’t like playing them right away. Because it takes a while to, like, find your footing with the whole live experience, you know, playing songs off a record. So yeah, we have a lot of albums, we have a lot of songs, and so we’re kind of slowly getting into the new record. We haven’t played a lot of… Well, I don’t think we’ve actually played anything off of our last record here, so… Lots of tunes! But yeah, we’re having a good time with them. 

Martin: Yeah, it’s crazy that you say that, because it doesn’t hit me until it’s brought up [that] we have two albums’ worth of material that we [are] yet to play over here, so it’s nice to finally play new songs. But I mean, for me, I enjoy playing the nostalgic hits from the catalogue. I like a good mix of it. I think it’s important for us to not play too much new material – it’s important for us to have a nice mix of the catalogue. There’s a lot of songs.

I feel like the live show is the real test, right? Like, a song can sound killer in the studio, but if it doesn’t work live, it doesn’t work, right?

Quinn: Yeah, that’s true. 

Martin: Which happens to us.

Quinn: Yeah, there’s a lot of songs that we don’t play live because they don’t sound good live.

Martin: Yeah, really. It’s true.

When I spoke to Nick a few months ago, we were talking about how this record really represents Sleeping With Sirens in its strongest form, and that the band has kind of been rejuvenated by Complete Collapse. How did this record push you guys to that level?

Quinn: I think a huge thing was being able to have some time at home and rest. I think that our band was just kind of touring non-stop and into the ground, and we were just burnt out. And I think we didn’t realise that until we had time to reflect on it. So we were charged up and energised when we back into the studio, and we just had fun making songs again. And I think that’s, like… The key to doing music in general is that it should be fun. And if it’s not fun, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it anymore, you know?

Is it safe to say that before this record, things weren’t so rosy in the band?

Martin: I think there was… 

Quinn: It was on its way up. It was pretty bad before the last record. [The] last record was great, and then I think that the extra time at home definitely helped cement us, like, being in a better place as people.

Martin: Yeah, I think we’re in a much better place now. But we had definitely gone through rough patches as a band, but also just individually, so it’s nice to come out on the other end of that and be where we’re at now, for sure… As opposed to many years before, where it was really tough for us.

I think that vibe of, like, pushing through the boundaries – [and not even] musically, but just personally – I think that’s very palpable on How It Feels To Be Lost. And I know [that] after Gossip, you know, being thrown through the wringer with Warner Bros. and being burnt out on touring, that was like… You guys were pretty close to the brink. That album, How It Feels To Be Lost, was that sort of like a chance to find your footing as a band again?

Quinn: Yeah, I think so. Look, I think that as much as it’s a rough situation to go through – making a record that you’re not really that proud of – the benefit to it is humbling yourself to kind of get back to square one and finding your roots again. And I think that’s [what] How It Feels To Be Lost [was] for us – finding our roots and going back to, like, where we began. And this record that we just put out, Complete Collapse, it’s kind of a continuation of that, but just a more mature sound.

And obviously a cornerstone of Sleeping With Sirens, from LP1 to now, is that emotional intensity – in both the lyrics and the music. And again, it’s so palpable, how you pour so much of yourselves into both of those aspects. In the process of doing that with Complete Collapse, what did you learn about yourselves?

Quinn: I learned that I can take naps in the studio, no matter how loud the music is. If there’s a comfortable couch, I can do it. And I didn’t know that about myself!

Martin: [Laughs]

Quinn: I feel like every answer has been serious! I had to break the ice, dude, I can’t be serious [for] that long.

Martin: What was question? Like, what did we learn about ourselves?

Quinn: Yeah, through the process of making our new record, what did you learn about yourself?

Martin: I don’t know if this really answers it, but I think there was a bit more of a newfound confidence for me, personally. I think I was going through some rough patches personally for a long time, and during this recording process, it definitely allowed me to open up a bit more and be more confident in myself as a musician, but also as a person. So it’s a very, like, therapeutic process for me.

Quinn: Great answer.

Huge shoutout to Janine Morcos and Amy Simmons for making this happen!
Complete Collapse is out now via Sumerian Records. Check it out here.

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