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The first time While She Sleeps ever played Alexandra Palace, it was at Vans Warped Tour UK, in November 2013. On a bill featuring Enter Shikari, Rise Against and Parkway Drive, Sleeps performed in the middle third of the day with an incandescence that underlined their then-growing reputation as British metal’s next great thing.
A year earlier, Bury Tomorrow had themselves played the festival. Singer Dani Winter-Bates recalls their small stage not having the luxury of a proper loading bay like the main stages…
“We had to bring all our gear in through the kitchens!” he laughs today.
Two months shy of a decade to the day since Sleeps made their first turn there, they are returning to North London’s grandest venue as headliners, their biggest UK show to date under their own banner, as part of a week-long Euro run. Announcing such an occasion, it felt only right – a blindingly obvious decision, actually – that the band they were bringing out with them were Bury Tomorrow. Both outfits have grown together over the years, they’re old mates and, crucially, it’s only reasonable to bet that they are going to blow the bloody doors off.
“It’s gonna be a special night,” says Loz, as he and Dani arrive at K! Towers to chat about the tour, and all things past, present and future. And this time, neither band are going to be coming in through the kitchens…
Coming and headlining Ally Pally is a massive moment. Has it sunk in?
Loz Taylor: “Yeah, it’s mad! I mean, for us it was crazy enough to do Brixton – that felt like a tick of the box. But to get to the next level and go to Ally Pally as well is mind-blowing. If you told 14-year-old me I’d be doing that, I’d probably pass out. It feels good that we’re doing it together as well. It feels right, and not before time.”
Dani Winter-Bates: “We’re ridiculously stoked. We’ve done a lot of stuff with Sleeps – we’ve known them for years and years. It was such a natural thing. And it’s quite a condensed tour, which is actually pretty cool, because I think it’s really easy to end up going through the motions on a really long run.”
Loz: “Yeah. Because it’s not, like, six weeks long, we’re going to be in the moment as much as possible.”
Dani: “You can lose that on a longer tour. Suddenly you’re three weeks in and you’re like, ‘What the fuck happened to the tour?!’ Weirdly this’ll feel like the earlier days, almost, because even though we’re at Ally Pally and places like that, we won’t have time to settle into tour life. Those long tours are great, although we once decided to do a five-week Australian tour, which was the worst decision of my life.”
Loz: “Bloody hell, there’s not that many places in Australia. You must have played every single tiny town.”
Dani: “Yeah. And we’d have four days off in between some of the gigs. I remember thinking, ‘This should be paradise,’ but we were so poor!”
Tell us about how you guys first met each other…
Dani: “Loz was promoting a show up in Doncaster – The Leopard, was it? – and he was in his old band, Revenants. So we’ve known each other a long time! When I first saw him in Sleeps, it was when we did a Yorkshire tour back in 2009 or something. They were just incredible. We called our agent and went, ‘Get them on the rest of the tour!’”
Loz: “Revenants were based in Barnsley. And [Bury Tomorrow guitarist Kristan] Dawson was in a band around the same time, called And White Stars. And that’s how I met him. So there’s a lot of links flying around that go back a long way.
“But yeah, that show was how I first met them. I’ve always tried to book shows in Doncaster, because there’s not much in the way of our genres going on there. I try to bring stuff in, and I’ve had some really cool bands, but there’s no [decent] venue. I’m kind of campaigning at the moment to get Doncaster a decent venue, I’ve been speaking to the council and stuff. But that story just shows how important these places are to young, new bands.”
You toured together in 2012. What do you remember about that?
Dani: “It was amazing. Were we in the same bus? No! It wasn’t buses back then. What was your orange van called, Loz?”
Loz: “Van-gerine! It was an ex-RAC van that we kitted out. We had double-bunks in the back and a trailer, which I think was illegal. There was a little trapdoor in it, so when the driver needed a nap he could just flip the door down and get to a bed.
I don’t remember very much about that tour, though!”
Dani: “You guys headlined. I remember it being carnage, but I won’t bring up those stories because we’re in a new chapter. We went to a lot of cool places in Europe, and I think it showed British music in a really good way, like, here’s two bands who are doing good things. From that moment onwards, it felt like, ‘Okay, these two bands are doing great things,’ and off we went on our own journeys.”
Do you watch each other onstage and go, ‘Fuck, I need to up my game’?
Dani: “I remember one year at Sonisphere watching Sleeps and being like, ‘What the fuck is happening? This is insane.’ And Loz as a frontman – not to flatter you or make you embarrassed – but I’ve always thought, ‘He’s got it.’ I remember watching you and being like, ‘I don’t even know what it is to be a frontman next to him!’”
Loz: “Likewise, when I first saw you guys I remember being blown away by how tight you were, even all the way back then. I remember your clean vocals being so on point as well. Playing with you, it set precedents for us to have to level up. We always used to have a bit of a thing where we really enjoyed playing first, and go as crazy as possible onstage, so there’s almost nothing left for the next band. And I remember seeing you guys and being like, ‘Shit, they’re tight and really good.’ We were watching you and feeling like we didn’t know what we were doing onstage!”
What’s the maddest thing you’ve ever seen one another do at a gig?
Dani: “I’ve seen Loz jump off everything. Anything you can climb on, he’s been up it and jumped off it. At Ally Pally, there’s a warning about doing it, which I’m sure he’ll ignore. There’s a picture at a festival where you had a While She Sleeps flag, and you climbed up the tower and planted it at the top. That was a badass moment. I thought, ‘That’s what they do best.’”
Loz: “That was at Download one year, I think. More than anything, that felt really wild and dangerous, because when I was climbing that scaffolding tower, some of those bars weren’t even tight. I couldn’t believe it. I was climbing up it – and it was a fucking long way – and I’d grab hold of the bars and they’d be spinning. I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, this is dodgy… but I’ve committed to this now in front of people. I can’t stop halfway!’”
What about you, Loz? Have you seen Dani do anything like that?
Dani: “He definitely hasn’t – I think I’m very boring!”
Loz: “It’s not crazy, but there is something else that’s coming to me. Thinking about all the trouble of mine with vocals and having throat surgery and stuff like that, I’m always amazed at how consistent Dani is as a singer. Even down to watching him recently, when he’s posted videos of himself covering other bands and songs, the control and the technique he’s got
with the vocals is just so good. I’m jealous of that, to be honest, because I’m still trying to figure out where my thing is and find a very, very consistent way to do it. And I think throwing yourself around like I do doesn’t actually help anything! You’re out of breath, so you can’t support your vocals very well and all that kind of stuff. I’ve got to give it to Dani and say he just blows me away every time I watch him, because his singing is just so solid. Every time I see Bury Tomorrow, I come away thinking, ‘Fuck, I’ve got to get myself some singing lessons!’”
What are you going to be bringing to these shows? It’s a special occasion, after all…
Loz: “It feels like a big old celebration. Having these guys out with us, our long-time mates, is just great fun anyway. But for us, it feels like a big celebration of everything.
“The main thing for me is that I want people to have fun at our shows. And I think we’ve done really well with bringing together a community of people that are all connected by us, the Sleeps Society. Mat Welsh [While She Sleeps guitarist] always says that he reckons he can have a beer with 95 per cent of our fanbase. It’s awesome that we’ve managed to cultivate that, and that we feel like our fans understand the message and get it. And, obviously, there’s going to be loads of fire and stuff like that – it’s gonna be While She Sleeps on steroids, basically!”
Dani: “Number one, our job is to make sure that the crowd knows who we are. And then, equally, we want to celebrate and have fun and make sure everyone walks out there going, ‘Holy crap, that was the show of the year.’ For us, that’s the main mission: contributing to it being the biggest show of the year. With our production, we’ve been granted the opportunity that you don’t often get, so we’re having a big show. I don’t want us to be the band in front of a banner before the big stuff happens – I want people to go away from that show and be like, ‘Wow, that was an experience from start to finish.’”
While She Sleeps headline Alexandra Palace on September 23 with support from Bury Tomorrow and Polaris. This article originally appeared in the autumn 2023 issue of the magazine.
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