While She Sleeps’ Loz Taylor: “When this whole culture and community hit me, there was no going back”

Skateboarder. Gig promoter. One-time professional football hopeful. Who is Loz Taylor, really? As While She Sleeps prepare to hit Download, we caught up with their livewire frontman to trace his journey from young Doncaster mosher to British metal icon, and learn how he’s still fighting to keep the scene that nurtured him alive…

While She Sleeps’ Loz Taylor: “When this whole culture and community hit me, there was no going back”
Rishi Shah
Andy Ford

Long overdue and hard-won, While She Sleeps are on track to be British metal’s next arena band. At the helm, you’ll find singer Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor, propelling this band onward with every ounce of breath his lungs can offer. Over the course of two decades – which have thrown all kinds of challenges in his way – Loz has more than proved that he’s up to the task.

Well-accustomed to globe-trotting in the name of Sleeps, the minor matter of a trip to Brazil awaits Loz as he calls Kerrang! from Sleeps HQ, tapping out momentarily from final pre-production rehearsals. He’s still beaming from the release of their killer sixth album SELF HELL, especially when we mention acoustic closer RADICAL HATRED / RADICAL LOVE – which he, perhaps surprisingly, calls his introduction into songwriting.

“That one, I did learn a few chords on acoustic guitar and started messing around,” he explains, with a sense of pride. “I’m glad you pointed that one out. You see, I don’t play any instruments. I don’t write any music into laptops.”

Quite the opposite of the traditional, classically-trained musician, as a 16-year-old lad from Doncaster, young Loz learnt his trade as a vocalist the old fashioned way. Having never even attempted screaming – only recently discovering early emo through Funeral For A Friend – he was put onto the likes of Alexisonfire and Killswitch Engage by some mates from his local rock night, in the hope he could channel his inner George Pettit and front the group they were looking to get off the ground.

“At that point, I just had a band with my little brother, in my grandparents’ garage. It was nothing serious at all,” says Loz of his adolescence, still a few years before Sleeps would come into his life. “I used to sing along to early metalcore to try and hone my vocals. You couldn’t just go on YouTube and look up how to scream. [I would] put a CD on and turn it up so loud that I couldn’t hear myself and just try to match the screams. I cranked it up to 11 and tried to scream along with them. I just threw myself around a bit and shouted my head off.”

Loz’s journey began a couple of years beforehand, underpinned by two fundamental components: a skateboard and a leopard.

“The first time I got a skateboard, I slipped off the kerb and my board went straight under a truck. It just crushed it straight in two. I’d had it for about 20 minutes!” he recalls, laughing off the heartbreak of the occasion. “I [met] a lot of friends through skateboarding. The skate community has always been quite welcoming and open-minded. Then, it’s a natural progression into listening to more punk rock, nu-metal and emo. They go hand in hand.”

Though Loz had been a successful footballer from a young age – earning trials at Doncaster Rovers – this new world gave him a sense of belonging that exceeded anything he’d experienced on the pitch, darting down the right wing. “When that whole culture and community hit me, there was no going back.”

He cites a particular example from his time setting up drum kits at a local shop named Electro Music, when he was introduced to some slightly older skaters who invited him to practise his skills at a nearby warehouse.

“We were all skaters, but we were also musicians, just starting out [during the] summer holidays. Beginners, if you like. I felt like this is where I belonged. This is where I want to be.”

What about the leopard, then? Not the majestic, spotted big cat, but the sticky, gritty local Doncaster venue of the same name. You’ll be pleased to know that it’s still going strong to this day, though not quite the same animal of old. “Nowadays, you just have Def Leppard tribute bands and that kind of thing.”

Nevertheless, it was a place to go, where ideas were seeded.

“It was really the hub for me, for a little while,” he says. “I actually remember seeing Kasabian play The Leopard [in 2004]. Look how big Kasabian ended up being and who they are now. I was in that room when they played to 200 people! I also remember going to see Enter Shikari, when they first released their first EP. A couple of months later, they came back and my old band – Fail To Reason, we weren’t very good – ended up supporting them, which is kind of funny now.”

Still living just a stone’s throw away from Doncaster, international stardom for Sleeps has left Loz more motivated than ever to give back to the community that raised him.

“If there’s no-one still promoting shows in a city like Doncaster, then how are youngsters supposed to get inspired to be in their own bands?” he queries. “In my spare time, I try to book shows. I’m quite passionate about bringing music to the community where I’m from.”

Take a glance at 2022’s Twisted Summer Jam, for example. The likes of Guilt Trip, Mouth Culture, recent K! cover stars Graphic Nature and Bad Nerves – “before anyone had really heard of them” – playing at the local skatepark for just a tenner. It’s an occasion Loz is proud of, but the job is not yet complete. His ambitions for his city know no bounds.

“Doncaster is actually missing somewhere that is 700 to 1,000-capacity, [where] bands can grow [into] and play. Speaking with councils, a lot of places are really struggling with their town centres and getting footfall in, because everything’s moved online. I keep saying, ‘If you have a decent venue that puts decent bands on, people would come out more.’ I’m working with my local council at the moment to put a venue in Doncaster and keep that train going. Sheffield got everything and Doncaster got left in the gutter, essentially!”

It was in the Steel City, which Loz would visit for the better skate parks and gig venues, where he would befriend While She Sleeps, before he joined the band.

“We were friends anyway, through playing in Doncaster,” he remembers. “They supported my old band. We’d go over to their place in Sheffield on a weekend and just chill out – smoke weed in the car, kick back and share stories about bands we’d been to see. We were all young, naive and just having a lot of fun.”

Eventually, Loz was asked to fill in for Sleeps’ original vocalist Jordan Widdowson – who was working in a bank – for a Belgian tour.

“I remember coming back quite gutted, to be honest. I’d got a very small taste of what that life is like… will I ever get to taste that again?” When Sleeps decided to recruit a new full-time vocalist, asking a host of figures including Bury Tomorrow guitarist Kristian Dawson, Loz answered their call, a decision that took all of 30 seconds to make: “Dude, I’m your man.”

It’s a moment intrinsically linked to DN3 3HT, a Doncaster postcode which spells out the final track of their 2021 album SLEEPS SOCIETY.

“It spells out ‘The End’ [backwards],” he beams. “It’s where I left my day job, working as a learning support assistant, and fully joined Sleeps. Mat [Welsh, guitar] picked me up after my last day, ripped my shirt open, tied my tie around my head – movie style – and drove to Sheffield. Pretty much straight away, [we] started working on [2010 EP] The North Stands For Nothing.”

The road from there was far from smooth, however. Burnout and poor technique condemned Loz to three vocal surgeries, a series of “awful” experiences that even forced him to withdraw from touring temporarily.

“I blame the early metalcore bands that I screamed along to for my bad technique! I had to get a polyp removed, and it wasn’t a simple surgery,” he explains. “I had to stay quiet for 15 days straight after the first one, in silence. I remember having to write things down on note boards! I thought I’d come out of it sounding like Joe Pasquale or something, but the body is quite resilient. I’m lucky that it’s not stopped me [from] doing what I love.”

Picking the brains of vocal coach Melissa Cross, Loz’s relationship with his voice has altered since he learnt things the hard way.

“When I was growing up singing, I always thought [technique] was bullshit. If it’s not heavy as fuck, with full passion behind it, it kind of takes the reason for screaming away. But I understand now that there is an element of responsibility. People pay their hard-earned cash to see our band play. I have to sound the best I can sound. I took it for granted a little bit, I guess.”

Zap back into the present day, and that remark couldn’t be further from the truth. Playing live is the very fabric of what motivates Loz, still reeling, in some sense, from that formative Belgian tour that whet his appetite. Powering through obstacles with his brothers in arms, Loz is in the form of his life, a sentiment that rings true for the entire band.

The boy from Doncaster has grown into his full form, a man whose passion for his craft and hopes and dreams for his city know no bounds. Now, watch him shine.

While She Sleeps play Download on June 15 – get your tickets here. This article originally appeared in the summer print issue of the magazine.

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