|Bring Me the Horizon (Handout)
Bring Me the Horizon is all about pushing boundaries.
"We need to start breaking all the barriers between genres of music," insists singer Oliver Sykes of the British metalcore quintet. "I don't get why people are only allowed to like certain kinds of music or they'll get ragged on by their friends. It's just stupid. Good music is all just good music at the end of the day. I just think people need to start broadening their musical tastes."
One of the fastest (and loudest) ways to do that might be to spin their third album There is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It. There is a Heaven, Let's Keep It a Secret. It's as massive and elaborate as its title -- and a disc on which BMTH rock it like they talk it.
Driven by 23-year-old Sykes' bloody-murder screaming and pitch-black lyrical confessions, their hypercomplex songs arc-weld the whiplash frenzy of metalcore to electronica, classical and pop -- including angelic vocals from Canadian synth-pop darling Lights -- to forge a sound that is as daring as it is uncompromising.
But surprisingly, it is not uncommercial. The album hit No. 2 on the Billboard rock charts shortly after its October release. Not bad for guys in their early 20s who took their name from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie quote and get no airplay.
With the hard-touring bunch about to return to Canada for a few shows, Sykes got on the blower to talk screaming, darkness and Lights.
Your songs are so complex and intense that they would seem difficult if not punishing to perform. Do you ever consider that while you're writing?
Not really. We never worry about how we're going to play anything live. We just write and worry about it later. But yeah, the way I do things vocally can be quite a challenge onstage, because my vocals are quite constant. In the studio, to get the best takes, you can chop them up a little bit. But even there, I got to the point where I was throwing up I was screaming so much. And live you're just pounding it out. There's no room for breathing.
Do you do anything to take care of your throat?
In all honesty, I don't. I'm probably the most unprofessional vocalist you'll talk to. I know I should be doing warmups and looking after it.
Your lyrics are incredibly dark and personal. Are you really unhappy, or is it just that your music wouldn't work with happy lyrics?
It's all about me. Everything I write is personal. And it's all very true. I'm a very happy guy. I love my life and everything I have. But I don't think you'll meet a person in the world who's not f---ed up in some way. Every single person has problems and issues. That's what I'm singing about. It does shock a lot of people -- especially my friends and family. It's stuff I don't talk to people about. But when I put pen to paper, it's a lot easier.
It must be cathartic to scream it all out.
Yeah, it's like therapy for me, going onstage and screaming about all this s---. You get it all out of your system. I think that's why a lot of people with similar problems to me don't go down a good path in life -- they don't have a way to vent. I'm very lucky. Of course, the thing is, a lot of the problems I'm singing about have to do with the fact that I'm in the band.
Well, it's stuff I don't really want to be too open about. But when you're in a band and getting bigger and going across the world, you start dealing with more ... well, one word that comes to mind is vices. But like I say, it's not something I want to talk about too openly.
OK. Tell me how you got Lights to sing on your album.
We met a couple of years ago. One of our shows got canceled because it got snowed in, and she was at the same hotel. We all ended up drinking at the bar. She's a really cool girl and we all got along really well. So when we were recording in L.A., my manager told me she was in town and asked if we'd be interested in getting her on the CD. We wanted some female vocals. She said she'd love to, and came down and nailed it in a few hours. It was all a lucky coincidence.
You wouldn't think the two of you would have much in common.
Yeah, but you'd be surprised. She's into metal, and I'm into more ambient stuff. So we met in the middle. But yeah, if we brought Lights out on tour, there'd be kids booing her. And if she brought us out, there'd just be people going, 'What the f--- is this s---?'