The rise of Neck Deep, as told through their most important gigs

In their decade-plus-long career, Wrexham pop-punk heroes Neck Deep have always done shows their own way – from early U.S. gigs on a total whim, to accidentally smoking out entire venues. Ben Barlow looks back at it all…

The rise of Neck Deep, as told through their most important gigs
James Hingle
Nat Wood

Neck Deep blagged one of their earliest shows in America for a laugh. Now they’re massive, with more arenas than the Romans under their belts, as well as tours with their heroes in blink-182. Singer Ben Barlow looks back at the gigs that took the pop-punks from Wrexham to the world…

2012Neck Deep’s first-ever show supporting Me Vs Hero

“We supported Me Vs Hero and With The Punches, which at the time we were fucking stoked about. It was our first-ever show. We didn’t do any hometown shows because at that point the scene in Wrexham had died a little. First shows are usually just family and friends who’ve come down, and I don’t know what we were expecting – maybe a couple of people singing along. But it was actually really good! We had about 10 or 20 people, who were strangers, there to watch us. We were sloppy as fuck, definitely not tight in any way. Honestly, if we would have ceased to exist after that tour, we probably would’ve been happy!”

2013Playing our first American shows on a whim whilst on holiday in Florida

“This was just a total whim – fresh off the uni loan coming in! I think we literally got return flights to Florida for, like, £350 each. We were like, ‘Oh, we’ll go over to check out the theme parks, but if we can do a few shows, we may as well.’ So we put the feelers out, and the two shows that came out of that were fucking incredibly important for us. One was a house show in a little neighbourhood area called Daytona. It was fucking nuts, just an entire scene coming to this fucking garage in the middle of nowhere. The second one became really important for us, as we made a lot of friends there. We played a place called Epic Problem, which is actually attached to a skate park in Tampa. It was insane and it sold out. We went from maybe 20 people in a room in the UK to, like, 200 people in Florida in just a few months. Off the back of that, people started to take notice of what we were doing. We weren’t just some flash in the pan, and we ended up getting a record deal.”

2014Playing one of our most memorable shows in Liverpool on our first headline tour

“Our first proper headline tour in the UK was the Wishful Thinking tour, where we went out with ROAM. We also met one of our super-close friends, Elliott Ingham, who is a photographer. That was his first-ever tour, and he became one of our best friends. I remember we played one show on that tour, in Liverpool, which I always say was one of our best shows, mainly because the venue was like a big warehouse with no barrier. The owners let us smoke weed upstairs, too. I remember it was one of the first times where I came offstage and I actually thought I sounded fucking good, because in the early days I sucked ass.”

2014Travelling in brutal conditions on our first U.S. headline tour with Knuckle Puck

“This was bittersweet, because the shows were fucking amazing and we made a lot of new friends, and the experience definitely shaped us. As this was our first U.S. tour, we did it in a fucking van full of people and driving 12 hours a day. It was sick, and such an experience, and I got to see so much of America. I have so many good memories from it, but it was also just fucking brutal in terms of our travel set-up. We had all these people crammed onto the seats, and then a tiny little space in the back which was pretty much all people’s luggage and shit.”

2014Playing Warped Tour for the first time

“The shows were fucking wild – it’s what you imagine from watching it on YouTube. It’s like the great American summer, where you play out in the scorching heat. There were so many fans, and the energy in general was high all the time. Everyone’s always so stoked. It was always a dream of ours to play, and we’re very glad we got to do it. There’s a lot of similar fests popping up now, but Warped Tour was The One! It was fucking massive. I think the other thing was the scale of it. It was just insane to be amongst all that – whether you’re attending or whether you’re playing it. It just had this crazy atmosphere every day.”

2015Crying after supporting All Time Low at Wembley

“We’ve played Wembley so many times now, but we’re always a support band – always the fucking bridesmaid! But it’s cool, and doing it the for first time was special. It was definitely a cry-when-I-got-offstage moment! It doesn’t matter how you do these venues, we’re just grateful to be doing it. Being on that stage playing your music to thousands of people is a great experience. I don’t cry very often, but I did the first time we came offstage there.”

2018Headlining a stage at Download at the same time as Guns N’ Roses

“We were honestly a bit worried, because headlining a stage at a fest can kind of go one of two ways. It can be fucking awesome because you’re a great headliner who people want to see, or everyone will be like, ‘They’re bad’ and go somewhere else. That’s what we thought was gonna happen, because we were on at the same time as Guns N’ Roses. We thought everyone was going to go see them, so we did a bit of a Guns N’ Roses pisstake where we walked out to Sweet Child O’ Mine being played badly on a flute, with a giant Guns N’ Roses rip-off backdrop. We didn’t think anyone would be there, but when we walked out to a full tent we thought, ‘Game on’ and it ended up being a really sick show.”

2018Playing our smallest show in years at The K! Pit

“We hadn’t played a venue like that in a good seven or eight years, but we’re always down for whatever. We love playing big shows to thousands of people with all the bells and whistles, and that has its place, but we also fucking love playing small shows. So getting to do that Blondies show for Kerrang! was a nice reminder of where we’ve come from. I remember it being a short set of chaos – literally half an hour, where people could turn up for a quick set, sweat it out for half an hour, and then get home for tea!”

2019Singing onstage with Mark Hoppus whilst supporting blink-182 in America

“We were on first in these huge arenas, and most people were still making their way into the show. But the people who did show up for us, we were stoked about them. Obviously it’s good to warm things up and ultimately sell ourselves a little bit, and in that respect alone it was sick. But the experience of just being with blink, being in America in the summer and on an arena tour, being in their shadow and seeing how they do things was a dream come true. I sang with them in New York on the last night of the tour. I didn’t want to be that guy who comes up and says, ‘Hey, can I jump onstage and sing with you?’ during the tour. But at that show I got up and did Wendy Clear, which I’m stoked about as I got to sing a relatively deep cut – not something that everyone knows, like All The Small Things or whatever. That was a pinch-me moment, for sure.”

2019Smoking out London’s O2 Academy Brixton for our first time headlining

“Brixton is a milestone venue, and we still have a load of footage from that show that we haven’t done anything with. It was the first show where we had a bunch of production: fire and shit like that. We smoked out the entire venue at one point, which was sick. We had this fucking sparkle fountain thing, which looked amazing, but it made so much smoke that it looked like fog inside the venue. And it was special anyway. When you walk out and see that enormous crowd – especially as a headliner – it’s like, ‘Holy shit!’ It definitely takes you into another gear.”

2022Graduating to Slam Dunk Festival headliners

“Slam Dunk is a really special one for us. That festival has given us so many memorable moments, similar to Warped Tour, where you meet so many people. But to actually get to headline it was like, ‘Fucking hell!’ We felt like we did it well and it was fucking nuts. Being at the top of a bill like that was sick, but I think one of the other really memorable times at Slam Dunk was the last one before the pandemic, where we played on the main stage just after Boston Manor. Ben Ray [organiser] said we had broken the Slam Dunk crowdsurfing record. We’ve never had a bad show at Slam Dunk, and headlining was a big badge of honour. I hope that we get to do it again one day.”

2022Playing on the wing of a decommissioned plane in Indonesia

“They’ve got a really good hardcore scene, punk scene and skate scene in Indonesia. They have more music out there than I think people are aware of. It’s a genuinely amazing place. The people are so happy and so stoked to hear new music, and they don’t take you for granted at all. To be amongst Indonesian culture and to be able to have the opportunity to play shows and meet people wearing the same band shirt as you from the other side of the world, and whose concept of this music is so new, is so fucking exciting. We played a venue near Bali called Keramas Aero Park to about 5,000 people who were going nuts. They have an actual decommissioned old plane right at the side of the stage, and halfway through the set Sam [Bowden, guitar] went out and fucking ripped a solo on the wing. It was just nuts!”

This article originally appeared in the spring issue of the magazine. Neck Deep will headline Alexandra Palace on March 28, 2024 – get your tickets here.

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