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Neck Deep’s Track-By-Track Guide To All Distortions Are Intentional

Neck Deep reveal the stories behind each track on their new album, All Distortions Are Intentional

Today sees the release of All Distortions Are Intentional, Neck Deep’s fourth album and their most experimental offering to date. It’s the Wrexham lads’ most ambitious, too – introducing listeners to the world of Sonderland, an exaggerated portrayal of society inhabited by lead characters Jett and Alice, who, like all of us, are dealing with issues of love, loss, disillusionment and despair.

With so many complex themes to get your teeth into, and music to wrap your ears around, it would be helpful to have some guides to help dig into the concept of Sonderland, and explain how it came to be. Who better, then, than its architects, Neck Deep singer Ben Barlow, guitarists Matt West and Sam Bowden, bassist Seb Barlow, and drummer Dani Washington? Strap in, it’s a hell of a ride…

1. Sonderland

Ben: “Narratively, it’s opening up the world of Sonderland and giving the listener an insight into Jett’s depressed mindset. It’s him saying that everyone is so concerned with things that he deems to be pointless or not worth anyone’s time. He sets up the story of being alone, hating the world and himself, and feeling detached from everyone else. The music serves to complement his angsty outlook. Partway through making the album we were listening to demoes and thought Pushing Daisies sounded like a closer and this sounded like an opener.”

2. Fall

Ben: “It’s alluded to throughout the record that Jett struggles with some addictions, whether that’s booze or drugs. Jett decides to go out and have one of those heavy nights out where his hatred for everything compels him to abuse himself to block out the pain he’s experiencing. So he goes out and gets off his head, but then he meets a girl, Alice. Although it’s a crazy night, and they don’t necessarily get to see the real side of each other, Jett and Alice know they have a connection. They’re aware there’s something special so decide they want to do ordinary shit together.”

3. Lowlife

Sam: “Ben had been playing the basic tune throughout our US tour with blink-182, so vocally we knew it was going to be a great song. But having heard the riff so many times, we’d sort of lost a bit of perspective with it and weren’t sure how to develop it. The vocal and Ben’s driving belief in it was what held it together, and so we trusted in the process. Despite it being something very different, we made it work by jamming it out solidly for about two days. There’s a Weezer-y vibe to it and it’s not as polished as a lot of the other tunes.”

Ben: “It’s a cornerstone track on the record, and made us believe that the whole thing could be told from the perspective of this character, Jett.”

Dani: “It was great to do a fun, almost nonsensical song that shows off a totally different side to our band.”

4. Telling Stories

Ben: “This is the point that Jett and Alice sit down together and are pretty honest about their feelings towards each other. They realise they’ve been on similar paths and can share their similar outlooks. There’s a vocoder/pitch-shifter on this that makes my voice sound like a girl’s, so we could make it a conversation between the two characters. There’s one point when the lyrics have Jett say ‘I can be such a prick’ and Alice say ‘I can be such a bitch’, which pans in each ear at the same time if you’re wearing headphones. It’s a cool little Easter egg. This song also introduces two lesser characters called Jack and Emily.”

5. When You Know

Ben: “It’s a pretty straight-up love song.”

Sam: “We found [producer] Matt Squire fairly quickly in the process of making this record, and he was the number one choice on my list, but even though we’d met him and knew he was the guy we wanted to work, with we went on this two-week writing trip in L.A. and this song started coming together almost immediately. We worked on it for a couple of days with another producer, who’d get us to come up with stuff to a click track. The vocals Ben scatted along to adopting that process are the verse and chorus to this song. We ended up cancelling the rest of the trip, though.”

6. Quarry

Seb: “I love the juxtaposition of having When You Know – which is probably the sweetest song on the record – be followed by Quarry, the darkest and most out there. We weren’t sure about doing that at first, but Ben reasoned that the fact Jett is bipolar and flits between emotions made these kinds of gearshifts make sense. Quarry is such a dark, ominous word, and its hard syllables give it a sharpness.”

Ben: “This covers Jett’s deeper mental issues – the fact he can be thinking how much he loves this person one minute, and then contemplate jumping off a cliff the next. I’m not going to say where the song came from. I want people to figure it out.”

West: “Someone mentioned that Ben was essentially going to rap on this one, though he calls it spoken-word, and I wasn’t too sure. I love how it turned out, though, and been one of the favourite tracks of everyone I’ve played the album to.”

7. Sick Joke

Ben: “It’s got one of the best metaphors I’ve ever written on it… ‘I hold on to a moment, like a sad kid to a blanket’. A lot of this song changed after I had a really crazy, vivid dream in which I was left on earth thinking the world was going to end and everyone I’ve ever loved had left on an escape pod. Then the world didn’t end, but I was completely alone. I tried to write a song about that but it was too specific, but there was this element of not knowing whether dreams are real, or if life is a dream that I decided to focus on. There are times I’ve definitely questioned reality.”

Dani: “This song speaks to me about the time recording it at Monnow [Valley Studio, Wales, where the album was recorded] and all the weird coincidences and occurrences while we were there. At one point I was talking to Matt Squire about his work with Panic! At The Disco late at night, and as we went to leave we suddenly saw a sticker that had clearly been there for years that said ‘Haven’t you people ever heard of closing the goddamn door’.”

8. What Took You So Long

Ben: “The title was inspired by a line from the movie Singles, a romantic comedy set in Seattle and starring loads of grunge musicians, including Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. Every section of the film is divided up with these horrible title screens, and one of them says ‘What took you so long?’ In the context of the album it’s Jett asking Alice what took you so long for her to come into his life. This song also establishes themes of significance and purpose.”

9. Empty House

West: “There’s got a weird drop in it that’s almost like a fucking EDM track. It always felt to me that we were putting two choruses together to make this song, which I really liked as it’s not something we’ve done before. There was a point when we were in the studio when we decided to revisit it, though I was reluctant to change it. Our drum tech was like a litmus test for whether it worked and when he heard it he fucking lost it, so we didn’t touch what we’d done.”

Dani: “It’s so memorable and relatable. I always think about how songs will come over live and I’m sure this one will get people screaming.”

Ben: “If you think about this in terms of a movie narrative, this is the point where Jett and Alice’s relationship is challenged and might be on the line.”

10. Little Dove

Seb: “As a disclaimer I should say we didn’t want to do an acoustic song for the sake of it, to feel like something token, but this was something that Ben had for a while and worked really well. There’s even some mandolin on it, which brought it to life.”

Ben: “This is the make up song after things have gone wrong for Jett and Alice during Empty House. This one highlights Alice’s struggle, and has Jett telling assuring her she should let go of the things that are pulling her down to become the person she wants to be.”

11. I Revolve (Around You)

Sam: “You’ve had Empty House, in which the characters seem defeated, then Little Dove, where they’ve made up. This song starts with the words ‘We’ve come so far’, which highlights that this narrative has happened over a period of time. By the time we’ve got to this stage, you’ve been there with these characters and are invested in them.”

Ben: “It’s space-based, comparing a relationship to how the planets interact. I really like the analogy and it’s an epic track.”

12. Pushing Daisies

Ben: “It’s the epiphany moment for Jett that he can’t change the world, as much as he dislikes it, and his acceptance that we’re only here for a limited time and have to find out own purpose. Everyone has their own theories about the meaning of life, but I’ve come to the realisation there is no meaning, but we’re here to find someone or something that makes you happy. Ultimately we all end up dead, pushing daisies, and most people don’t change the world, though they feel they should be. It’s not about changing the world, though, as much as it is changing your world, as that’s the only one you’re in control of. You don’t have to make a massive impact to be happy or have worth.”

Neck Deep’s new album All Distortions Are Intentional is out now via Hopeless Records – buy, download or stream it now.

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Posted on July 24th 2020, 9:00am
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