There’s an overwhelming tendency toward self-seriousness in punk music, as if the easiest way to be considered worthy of discussion is to fixate on heavy topics: pain, war, love, loss. For Sleeping With Sirens, however, becoming "important" comes with staying true to one's self, whatever that may be. With a handful of Top 20 releases under the group's belt, including recent album Madness, the formula is clearly working.
Fuse sat down with Kellin Quinn and Nick Martin of the Orlando band backstage at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium to talk about their evolution as a band, nostalgia, pie-humping and everything in between.
You've been on tour with All Time Low for a while now. Has anything wild happened? Even PG-13?
Kellin: PG-13? In Nashville, we ended up going to this bar that Yelawolf was at. Some guy was drunk and obnoxious and kept pulling on Yelawolf’s arm and saying “Hey! You know so-and-so,” and Yelawolf is like “No, I don’t. I don’t know who that is,” but really nice. He kept doing it over and over and over again until Yelawolf’s security guy, this giant dude, comes out of nowhere and haymakers this guy, and this guy is out cold. We were in such awe that that happened. You don’t see a lot of fights but when you do, everyone has the same reaction. “Ahh! A Fight!” You get excited and scared at the same time.
It’s funny that your tour story has nothing to do with the people you’re on tour with.
Nick: We’re not so rowdy! You think it’d be crazier, but we’re pretty tame.
Kellin: That’s the only really exciting thing that’s happened so far, watching someone get in a fight.
Madness has been out for a while and has done really well. How long have you been living with the record?
Nick: We released it in March but we sat on it for a while. We recorded it the previous year so we sat on it for at least three or four months, actually.
Does it still feel true to who you are now? Or does it feel like a very specific moment in time?
Kellin: I think it feels true to us. I have a lot of fun playing those songs live the most. It’s not even that they’re the most relevant to us now--they just have such an energy to them that they’re just fun to go out and play...moreso than the other songs.
Nick: It doesn’t feel old yet.
Are you the kind of band that’s always writing?
Nick: I haven’t really gone through a writing spree yet. Kellin writes a bit more.
Kellin: I’ve been writing for other people a lot lately. I haven’t written anything for us in a while. There’s this band I’ve been working with from Canada. They’re this new, young band. I just wrote their entire EP. They're called Chase Your Words. It’s not out yet. They’re from Vancouver and they’re cute. Cute little Canadian band. They’re really great.
Nick: I’ll probably start writing new Sleeping stuff in December and January.
Then another record next year? You guys just crank ‘em out.
Nick: It’s a very feasible thing. I feel like at this point in the state of the industry, to stay relevant, you’ve got to keep churning out more and more material unless you’re like Taylor Swift or Adele, [where] you can take like four years—
—To have a couple kids and write a record about an age you’re not anymore.
Kellin: That’s why you write for other people, who are like 14 and 15!
A lot of your audience is that age…there’s a huge young and female population. Do you feel a certain responsibility to them? You’re the kind of band that gets the “You saved my life” thing, a lot of heavy stuff.
Kellin: You just gotta kiss them.
Don’t give them hope!
Nick: Don’t make it worse!
Kellin: Yes and no. I think there’s a fine line between “Hey, you helped me get through this” and “Hey, you saved my life” or “You’re my role model,” this and that. Which is kind of nice to hear but at the same time it’s like, “Kid, I’m not your role model.” I’m probably not a good role model to have.
Nick: I always tell kids that they’re the ones that ultimately made the decision to do better. It’s nice that we’re that conduit to have you say that you can do this, and that you have an important life to live and that you only have one to live, but I think it’s important for kids to know that, “Hey, you did this by seeking help and getting better and getting out of those experiences that brought you down.” It’s important for us to spread the message of “Give yourself more credit.”
Kellin: I don’t like feeling like we’re above anybody just because we’re on stage and we play music for a living. We’re all the same. We go through the same shit, too. It becomes a certain pressure. You get this pressure on you that you have to always fulfill that. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where, you know what? I can’t have that pressure on my life anymore all the time.
Nick: You can’t help everybody. If we could help every single person, every single kid, we would.
Sleeping With Sirens does a really good job of writing songs that come from a place of darkness, but there’s always a positive spin.
Kellin: That’s how I’ve always written songs. Have you ever seen those movies where it’s just dark the entire time and it just never has a silver lining and you’re left feeling worse about yourself? I think it’s the same way with music. I think there’s a way to look for some positivity at the end. I write like the romantic-comedy way. I’m a rom-com. I’m a John Hughes film in song.
That’s sweet and nostalgic. Do you find yourself writing nostalgic songs? You’re effectively writing songs for kids.
Kellin: “Don’t Say Anything,” I wrote that song with the original American Pie movie in mind. We’re going to do a music video for that song that’s going to be all these scenes from American Pie that we act out.
You should get a monkey and have three of you be Blink-182 in that one scene.
Kellin: Or just get Blink-182 to be in it! We’ll get Tom to come back. Jack [Fowler] is going to hump the pie.
Nick: He’s going to be the pie-humper, for sure.
There are bands in this section of the music world that are often maligned with genre-signifiers like “pop-punk” and “emo,” where folks think the have a band’s number before listening to the music or going to the show. Has that ever happened to you guys? Are you concerned about it at all?
Kellin: There’s a couple bands that we asked to tour with, we won’t name any names, that have been like “We won’t tour with Warped Tour bands.” But it’s like “Bitch, you were a Warped Tour band." I like that we come from that do-it-yourself world. We worked our asses off to get where we are. No one gave us a free pass.
Nick: And what does that even mean? “A Warped Tour Band”? Eminem was on Warped Tour. There’s all these amazing stories…
Nick: It’s a compliment. That’s a massive alumni of artists and bands.
“We worked our asses off to get where we are. No one gave us a free pass.”
You guys left Rise Records for Epitaph for the last album. What was that transition about?
Kellin: Rise is one of those labels that has a sound and a look and I got tired of being pigeonholed into that Rise sound. Being the metalcore band who “doesn’t sound like themselves anymore.” As soon as we went to Epitaph, I think all of those comments went away. Ever since we were on Epitaph, we don’t hear any of that shit anymore.
Nick: That’s what’s beautiful about Epitaph and their roster. Every genre that you can think of, from old punk rock to reggae, are there.
Kellin: There are the kids that love the old bands that are like, “Fuck this band, Epitaph sold out” and it’s like, “Damn, I didn’t know we were the band a label sells out for.”
Nick: Fuck it, we’ll take it!
Your first record, With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear, is five years old. Would you ever consider doing one of those full-album cycle tours?
Kellin: Not for that one. Maybe for Let’s Cheers To This. The second one, not the first. I don’t think in the middle of your career it’s smart to go out and play one of your first albums.
Nick: It depends on the band. Weezer did it with Pinkerton and the Blue Album.
Kellin: Alkaline Trio.
Nick: I think it solely depends on the band.
Kellin: Those are bands that constantly sound like them. Our records are very evolving. They all sound different. I don’t think it works as much. You can see Weezer and Weezer sounds like Weezer…every record sounds like Weezer.
Evolution is good, though. You don’t want to make the same record twice.
Kellin: I can’t.
Nick: Some people don’t like that. Some people want us to sound like we did five years ago. There’s no fun in that.
There are tons of Sleeping With Sirens copycat bands that they can go find.
Kellin: I tell them that! I say, “Go listen to this band. They sound like us five years ago.”
Is there anything you know now that you wish you would’ve known then, at the beginning of your career?
Nick: Mine is simple: To give less of a fuck. I grew up in a punk rock background, playing in punk rock bands, all that good stuff and I felt like at some point I strayed away from that attitude. I started carrying too much about what people thought I should look like or what I should play. As I got older I learned that I was much happier saying, “Fuck you. I don’t care if you don’t like it. This is who I am, this is what I’m going to play. If you don’t like it, you can fuck off.” But in the nicest way possible.
Kellin: I’d probably kick my younger ass when I was like “Oh, I love flying on airplanes.” Now I fucking hate flying on airplanes. I never wanna fly on another airplane again.