After a lot of apologetic tapping on shoulders and stepping on toes, I find myself squeezed tightly between the barrier and the stage at a Neck Deep show. Even before the band ever takes the stage, I can say with certainty that their set is going to be insane. This crowd is legitimately the largest I’ve ever seen at a Warped Tour amphitheater set—the fans that have secured a spot at the barrier are surging forward hopefully each time the lights flicker, straining against the metal structure separating me from the crowd. Against my will, I now know exactly what a red-faced gentleman in a backwards camo snapback had on his hotdog for lunch, because I am approximately 6 inches away from his face. I am overwhelmed. I barely have the mobility to reach into my backpack, let alone to turn and face the broad shouldered security guard waving his hands as he barrels towards the photo pit. He starts yelling at the photographers over the blaring crunkcore background music. “I’m gonna let you be here for 3 songs, like usual,” he bellows, “but if the crowd surfers get too dangerous, you’re gonna have to get out of here.” A pang of adrenaline surges down my spine as I become acutely aware of the likelihood that I’m about to get kicked in the face. There’s a nervous exhilaration bubbling in the pit of my stomach—this is how those National Geographic photographers must feel as they’re approaching a pack of lions. Before I have time to panic, Neck Deep rocket onto the stage, already bouncing to the opening riff of “Losing Teeth”. I brace myself and the chaos begins.
***Disclaimer: I did not get kicked in the face. Thank god. But Neck Deep frontman Ben Barlow’s melodically abrasive sing-yelling, paired with the group’s penchant for double time drum lines, can sometimes feel like it’s own assault to the senses (in the best way, of course). Since their formation in 2012, the British 4-piece has released 2 EPs and 2 albums, the most recent of which, 2015’s “Life’s Not out to Get You”, charted at number 8 in the UK and number 17 in the US. In Neck Deep’s mere 3 years, they have already been through some intense ups and downs—they were signed to Hopeless Records, won the Kerrang! Award for 2014 Best British Newcomer, and gained fans in blink-182; but this August, they lost a member when guitarist Lloyd Roberts stepped down after allegations of sexual misconduct. Nevertheless, the band is still swinging—they’re currently touring the US with All Time Low and Sleeping with Sirens.
In mid-July, I caught up with Ben Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans to chat about their riotous crowds, Warped Tour run, and playing alongside their heroes.