On Sept. 20, Sheffield, England’s Bring Me the Horizon landed in the top 10 with their fifth album, That’s the Spirit. By moving 62,000 units (55,000 of them pure album sales) Bring Me the Horizon’s U.S. debut for Columbia Records more than doubled their sales tally for their last album, 2013’s Sempiternal, and was the No. 1 album in America based on pure album sales. Their North American headlining tour kicks off tomorrow (Oct. 1) in Orlando, Fla. We caught up with frontman Oli Sykes to talk about the band’s progression from the deathcore that marked their early albums to the overall positive vibe of That’s the Spirit.
Congratulations on That’s the Spirit‘s success. What are your thoughts on its debut and sales?
It’s been the most intense week of our lives, that’s for sure. With the Weeknd non stop murdering the charts, and bands like Five Finger Death Punch doing ridiculous numbers and the almighty Slayer having a record out as well, we just didn’t know if we stood a chance. We also had our UK chart battle to worry about with Stereophonics and the Libertines. But to end up with the highest selling record of the week in the U.S. is just something none of us saw coming.
Overall, the album seems more positive and upbeat than previous ones. Was that intentional?
I like to call it positively negative. Every song on the album explores the happiness we can find in the sadness; it’s all about turning dark into light. We try so hard to block out negative or dark thoughts, but sometimes embracing your demons is the most vitalizing thing you can do. So I explore different aspects of this. “Throne” is all about how you can turn your grief into gold. “Happy Song” is a sarcastic open letter to the world about how we use superficial and trivial things to ignore the real problems. But they all recognize the good and the bad in everything, and I think that’s why the album feels so positive, because that’s the way we need to live to be truly happy: by making the darkness conscious, not just the light.
You recorded the album on the Greek island of Santorini. Did the setting help inform the tone of the album?
I’d like to say it did, but we had pretty much finished and demoed the album before we got there. It is an incredible place though, and I’m sure that being in such a location took away a lot of stress and helped us be more creative than we would of been in say, an industrial estate. There’s nothing like being able to watch the sunset over the Aegean Sea while you’re tracking vocals!
That’s the Spirit is the most commercial album you’ve written. At what point did you decide to ditch deathcore and metalcore and write popper music? And why?
You make it sound like an ex-girlfriend! I don’t think we ever ditched it outright. When I was 17, death metal and extreme hardcore was the best music in the world to me. But as I got older, my palette changed and my thirst for melody and emotion just got bigger and bigger. It’s been a natural evolvement for us. I don’t think many bands, or people for that matter, are into the same music when they are 25 as when they were 15. And for us, we’d done the genre to death. We just needed to do something new.
Were there any albums or artists in particular that you were inspired by on the new album?
The digital aspects are inspired by artists like Bjork and Massive Attack, but we have a real love for ‘90s Britpop — bands like Oasis and Blur. Everything inspired us on this record: classic rock, hip-hop, jazz, stoner, doom.
Were you worried about backlash from the fan base that’s been with you since the beginning?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. Not because it would have changed the way I feel about the record, but I guess I always want everyone to be happy. At the end of the day, this album is all the better for not being super heavy. None of it feels contrived, or like we are writing it for any other reason than for a life of music. These songs are the result of hard craft and dedication, and I think they are all the better for not being laced with breakdowns and constant screaming.
You recently switched labels in America, from Epitaph to Columbia. What advantages are there to being on a major, and how do you think being on Epitaph helped with your development?
This time around, it’s just been incredible. I think it may be because everyone we work with actually loves the CD, where usually they are working with a CD they don’t particularly like. Everyone has just put everything they’ve got into this record. Seeing fully grown adults — whether it be the A&R dudes at Columbia, or our management Raw Power — jumping and bouncing about like children at our shows or album playbacks, it’s just something we haven’t seen before!
Sempiternal and That’s the Spirit have gotten you radio airplay in the U.K. and the States. How important is radio airplay to a band like Bring Me the Horizon?
In the USA, I’m starting to understand how important it is. Seeing bands like Twenty One Pilots explode onto the scene shows you how important it is. They’re an incredible band, and if they didn’t have great songs, they wouldn’t be doing so well, but if you’ve got something good, and you can get it on the radio, then you’re just getting your music out to so many fucking people.
You’ve admitted to having been addicted to ketamine in the past. Do you have any particular message for those struggling with addiction?
For me, it had to get to its absolute worst for me to make a change. Hopefully for others, they won’t have to. This may sound like the lamest advice in the world, but talk to someone, figure out why you’re addicted. I don’t believe that people are born or destined to be addicts. There’s always an underlying problem, whether it be self-medicating, using it as a coping mechanism, or using it to not feel all together. First figure out what that is, then work out a healthy way to combat the problem. But I can’t stress enough how much talking helps. I was so reluctant at first; I didn’t think it would help. But even if there’s no answer to your troubles, they will seem so much smaller once they leave your head.
You worked with Skrillex back in 2010 on your album There Is a Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It. If There’s a Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret. There was also a remix of that album, and there are a lot of electronics on the new album. Do you see the EDM and metal worlds coming together more?
I think EDM and metal and rock have been together already for a long time. Bands like Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, the Prodigy — they all have influences from both. The only thing that needs to stop is electronic music being used as a gimmick. There’s nothing lamer than seeing one hundred bands on Warped Tour walking out to a random dubstep song with no relation to what they do, then having a bunch of crappy synths and electronic faff. Some people still see it as novelty, or think it’s the “in thing” to do.
Do you still consider yourselves a metal band?
We came from a metal background, so I guess we will always feel connected and relevant to the genre. I guess we are as much a metal band now as Fall Out Boy are a pop-punk band.
What artist do you aspire to have a career like?
Foo Fighters. They clearly do it for the music and nothing else.