Search The Line of Best Fit
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The Ongoing Legacy of Architects

20 October 2022, 09:00

Brighton metalcore five-piece Architects have found themselves in the big leagues and now, they’re preparing for album number ten. Vocalist Sam Carter reflects on the milestone in conversation with Steven Loftin.

There’s an Architects album for every minute Sam Carter is delayed for our call.

Now ten albums deep into their eighteen-year career, the Brighton five-piece are currently ramping up to The Classic Symptoms of a Broken Spirit. While this is cause for celebration, it’s also a perfect time to look at the framing of a band who’ve lasted longer than most. Throughout those ten albums – and since first embarking out as a sharp-toothed, barking and biting metalcore band – they’ve made a move from kings of the underground to mainstream underdogs, particularly after the number one album 2021’s For Those That Wish To Exist gifted them, though not without the watchful eye of the devoted glaring down at them.

Appearing on the screen wrapped in a thick white cardigan after spending the best part of the day on a photoshoot on their hometown beach, their vocalist is every bit courteous and apologetic – the rattling snarl through Architects metalcore foundations nowhere to be seen as Carter delves into the ticking cogs of a band that are both pioneers in their field and navigating turbulent times –including founding member and sole songwriter Tom Searle’s tragic passing from skin cancer in 2016. It’s this moment which is a clear dividing line in their story. With everything after – bar 2018’s Holy Hell which still used remnants of Tom’s ideas – being a band born from the ashes of familiarity and seeking a new dawn, going from the personal to the political, Architects are proponents for change – with every new step offering up something new – and you’re either with them or against them.

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BEST FIT: Ten albums is a massive milestone, does it feel different releasing an album now?

Sam Carter: It’s mad man. So many bands don't reach that point – household names, it's a real achievement. I think it just shows how creative we are and it's a testament to how driven we actually are, and there's so many cool memories attached to each one. It just feels really cool to still be here and to still be getting bigger. I'm just so grateful for it really, like I bore myself with how much I say that but to still be having things be exciting and having new and amazing opportunities 16/17 years in is fucking wicked

What do you attribute that longevity to?

I think the creativeness of the band. I think the drive is definitely there and I think the self criticism and the fact that we're never satisfied. There's no stopping and patting yourself on the back. It's just like, ‘Go, go, go,’ there will be a time to look at this eventually, and in the meantime, just enjoy the moments that you're in

Does that play into returning off the back of a number one album?

Yeah, but who knows what's next. There's a bit of pressure been removed because Taylor Swift and Arctic Monkeys are releasing records but I think us getting number one on the last record was like Leicester winning the league. It's one of those things where you're like, well, that's not gonna happen again, so it’s cool that happened. I remember at the time, just taking it all in – it was just such a massive moment, and so silly. Before that, the highest record that we'd had was like number 16 so it felt like such a massive achievement.

What made it a number one album?

I don't really know. I think “Animals” was an explosion that I don't even think we saw coming which obviously helped. It was a kind of Right Place Right Time. And then when there was a chance of it happening, all of the fans of the band and everybody involved in the band just got behind us so much. It just felt so overwhelming because it was so much support even from people that probably hadn't listened to us in years – people that you went to school with...I think it felt like a win for everyone because it's not a thing that we ever expected and I think people can tell that we don't look like five rock stars. We're just five normal lads that play music together and to have that on your side and be able to be like we did that is a fucking massive achievement. But you can't think about it when you go to write or when you go to think about what you're going to do in the future because otherwise you end up somewhere that's completely not, like, realistic – it’s not feasible, especially for the music of our band, you know?

The band is 18 years old – and you’ve been present for 13 of them – how have your personal ambitions changed?

The ambition is to do new and exciting things; to go down those routes that maybe you didn't have the confidence in yourself to do before, or to take a hard left or hard right…to drop a song that people aren't expecting. Either way, whether you're freaking people out one way or whether you're getting too heavy and they don't expect you to do that, I think it's having those ideas and being bold enough and having the experience enough to kind of stand by them and not be thrown off by it. I look at people and people like Arctic Monkeys, they've been around for a very long time and on the last few records they've definitely been throwing curveballs out there but that's from the experience of how long they've been around and the confidence in themselves as musicians. I think that's the only thing you can really gain from being around this long.

The confidence in myself as a person is very low. There's not much of an ego there, but my confidence in actually saying like, 'I think this is a good song’…[and] I think the only formula for writing a good song is a gut feeling. Me and Dan [Searle, drummer and songwriter] have this thing called like replayability where if you've got a good chorus, you want to listen to it again. The only formula for what we would do now is to just continue down those roots of trying to do things that excite us as people because you say we've been around for a long time. The amount of metalcore-ish records that we have in our collection, we could probably do a pretty good one with our eyes closed, but that's not necessarily that exciting when you've done that many. It's about bringing that into a new world and making it cohesive with where you're at now.

Does balancing the expectation of the die-hard, day-oner’s, and the new mainstream crowd who have no relationship with the bulk of your career, come into play?

I think the key factor is that we technically are a new band. Josh (Middleton, guitar) has joined, Tom has passed on, and when Tom was here, he was our lead songwriter and wrote everything so the band now is very different to what it was two records ago. When we were doing Holy Hell, we still had riffs of his that he had had left behind and songs that we had worked on with him so there were still real strong elements of Tom within the band there. You move into For Those That Wish To Exist and Classic Symptoms you can't just rip him off – that would be insane. He didn't rip anyone off. So, we have to appreciate Josh as a songwriter and as a guitarist, and likewise, you know, Dan’s songwriting, and work as the band…I guess this is our second record.

It seems like even if Tom hadn’t passed, you would needed to have had that separation to create a refreshed iteration of the band anyway.

Yeah, exactly. And I think one of the cool things about where the band is now is we had a very brief discussion with him when he was really ill, and we were discussing ‘where should we take the band, and we kept saying this thing of like, we’ll be bio-industrial, we're going to do a bio industrial record. And I guess this is our way of having an organic industrial record, which I think is a lot of the elements of the last of the last record, and I think you come into this one, you move more into the industrial side of things because the last one had so many strings and so many different types of organic instruments on it. And this one is really leaning into that kind of electronic well, because we don't want to do the same thing twice

Speaking of organic, the album ends with a birdsong

That was in the middle of the countryside, where we were recording and I recorded it on my phone because I just was so taken aback by it – I’d obviously heard the dawn chorus before, but we were so far away from any roads or any sort of noise that we just sat in this woodland and it was fucking amazing. But I just love the idea of finishing the record and you take your headphones out and you're just back in life. [Plus] it’s all pointless because this is the best song in the world and we can't imitate it, the dawn chorus is essentially the coolest bit of music in the world. So yeah, and I also just love how kind of British that is, as well.

Architects have an inherent symbolism in your lyrics, does that track for this, ultimately looking for a hopeful dawn?

I like that. I like where your head is that with that. I wish I was smart enough to think of it…I genuinely think it was just coming out of the chaos of how in your face the record is. I really wanted that simple, almost thought provoking moment at the end of it – like a time to breathe, especially coming out at the end of “Be Very Afraid” where it's one of the most intense heavy songs we've ever written. It's like the most aggressive rave you've ever been to…but I just love the instant calm, from this horrible distortion electronic thing and then just back to organic. I think it leaves an open door for where we go next. I haven't quite figured out where we go or how we start the record but I would definitely love to involve that in some elements

You said recently in an interview thatSymptoms is rooted in joy, but there’s still the overt dark, deep Architects identity

I think what's funny is actually with the lyrical content and the message from the record is absolute misery. But then the actual recording process and being together and creating and working on the songs and just being able to just take things to the next level together was so fun – like so, so fun. Being able to spend a day building layers of percussion and parts, like beats that go under stuff; using fucking bags of coins and fire extinguishers and fucking dishwashers to make a beat and being like, ‘Cool, no one's gonna know that, but it sounds industrial’. [Even] using old synths and rewiring certain bits, and not having a fucking clue what we were doing, but being afforded with the time to figure it out, because there was no deadlines when no one knew what we were doing. That was such a great part of it.

It’s not a surface level joy, but deep within the band itself?

That's kind of interesting, because that's the thing. We've done so much sharing of what we've been through – almost oversharing our experiences and our trauma. And it’s quite nice to have…I’ll listen to the bleakest bits on the record, and think like that was a really nice day or, you know, even on songs like “Burn Down My House”, there's a tiny xylophone, and a piano and an organ on it and at the start of the day, it wasn't there. Then me and Ali just built up this song, just by trial and error. I've got some nice memories and lovely photos of us tracking those bits, and when you listen to that song, it's really emotional and thought provoking and makes me feel quite upset, but actually the memory memories are really cool.

It sounds like you’re more aware as a band of the importance of enjoying the process now

There was an enormous amount of pressure that we put on ourselves to continue the band after we lost Tom, and there was an enormous amount of pressure to make what we thought was a record that could stand up with with everything else that we’d released. And I think once you've got past that, and once you've worked through that, you can find the enjoyment of like, ‘Oh, we can do this.’ I think going into this one I was like yeah, let's really have some fun with it – and by no means does that mean that it's a pop-punk record! It’s bleak as fuck, but you know, you've got to laugh through those times

That’s essentially where the world is at at the moment

But that's it! I think so much of the content of the record – and where we're at – is very sarcastic, tongue in cheek almost. It reads in a sort of very funny…not funny, but a very dry way. I think that's a classic English way of dealing with things – the British way of just like, well, we'll just take the piss out of ourselves and that's kind of the message behind the record…we’re all feeling it, there's no way you're not. And if you haven't noticed yet, or you feel like you're the only one that does notice – everybody's feeling it. I think the record before this one was a lot more hopeful and this one is sort of just saying fuuuckin’ hell! It’s funny as well, you know, you do interviews with people and they say ‘what is the meaning or message behind the record’ and I might just say say the title. It's there. It's fucking in black and white. It's about the classic symptoms of being fucking broken and sort of trod down again and again

Is that the where the catharsis element people search for in Architects comes into play?

Yeah, I think it is about coming together and not feeling as alone in it because I think there's just so much that could get on top of you, that can eat away at you even just thinking about fucking heating bills stresses me the fuck out, you know? And then you start thinking about climate, then you start thinking about fucking Tories and then before you know it you're in a complete spin…so it's nice to kind of, I think have something there that people can soundtrack their fed up-ness. This will be the soundtrack to their sighs.

That kind of plays into the idea of achieving a number one album – there’s an inherent need for release that pop music doesn’t deliver on a wider level

I love the idea of like listening to pop music about money and partying and success and being like ‘Do I turn my kettle on? It's gonna cost me fiver’ – obviously there is a time and a place for that, and it’s important but yeah, I think it's nice to sort of say it how it is sometimes.

Is there a balance between delivering that for yourself, or for the listener?

I guess some probably somewhere in the middle, where it's like, you feel like it's unavoidable topic, really. If you lean into what you're going to write about – and we've always written about things that we find to be important and things that are kind of pressing, and in a political sense as well. But then also, yeah, I think you have to bring in this sort of human side of it and the crushing-ness…it kind of surrounds you really, to the point where you're like, well, we’re not gonna go and sing about like Dungeons and Dragons and stuff, there's just plenty of acts that do the theatrical stuff…Dan as a songwriter, where he's really good is that sort of sarcastic in-your-face truth, I think it's great. So I think we're always going to talk about things that are happening, and it just so happens right now it's quite easy to write about.

"I think about the kind of legacy of what this band's done – and does – and I think it all links together."

Does it ever get too heavy?

Yeah. Yeah, it does. For sure. I think, actually coming out of Holy Hell it was probably too much actually touring that record, and discussing everything every night eventually really took its toll because you're on stage and don't want to bring up a certain memory right now, but I didn't want to say the same thing every single night about Tom or tell the same old stories. I think it was important to humanise him and tell stories that maybe people hadn't heard or about places we were, [but] every single night you're bringing that up, you're kind of going into this room of memories and some of them are traumatic, and some of them are really lovely, but at the end of the day, they both make you miss your friend. And when you're doing that on stage every night…we obviously had such enormous support from our fans and it was so lovely, but there is something important about seeing maybe the singer in your favourite band being quite vulnerable and emotional and showing that side and showing that it's okay to cry and it's okay to to be grieving. I just think it was a lot to take on board. It was almost like reopening that wound over and over again, it was just scratching it open every single night

But, I think coming to the end of that cycle, and Dan having a chat with me and being like, if you are finding this a lot, please don't feel like you have to go that in every night, you're not going to let him down or us down by not by not doing that. I think you know, there's ways and moments in the set where we can know that we're doing it for Tom – and know that we're performing for him –without having to let everybody know. But I think with the political side of things, and with where everything's kind of at the moment, it’s hard to not be thinking about it. It's hard to not be talking about because I think most people are having those conversations anyway like 'fucking hell, when are they gonna fucking do something?!' But one of the key things I learned through that period was there will be moments where you're not strong enough to discuss that stuff – and that's the same with climate and where we're at – you've got to be able to take a step back and recharge to be able to fight that fight as strong as you want. It's better to do that than to be doing it sort of half charged and fatigued. It's better to fight when you can talk about things that you feel are important and that you're passionate about when you have the energy to really portray that passion in a in an important way and not just make it look like you're just virtual virtue signalling because you can't be arsed to really talk about it.

It sounds like there is a delicate balance between being an entertainer, an activist, and a human.

I don't know if I've quite figured it out. I think I'm always verging on the edge of burning myself out. But I think it's just part of being real, and being honest and just being like, I don't really know how to do all this stuff and balance it but I think it's important to show that element of truth and that you don't have it all figured out just because you're playing decent shows and stuff. You know, I think it's important to show that vulnerability to people and show that we're all going through it – it doesn't matter who you are and what you've got.

Do you think there are any misconceptions around Architects?

I don't think so. I think people thought off the back of “Animals” that we were selling out which is fine. You know, you can think that if you want. I know the origins of that song. We wrote that song together…I started screaming over the verses and screaming over stuff and I was like this is so shit. It's just awful. It just sounds terrible. And then we started doing the verses and stuff we were kind of aiming for like a Mew...the band Mew...airy, quiet vocal with just a really massive drums and I was like this sounds fucking cool, right? Let's go down this weird creepy route and then you end up with this fucking monster – that was never the intention, and yeah, I think people probably think we're selling out and that writing songs with catchy choruses and stuff is really easy. People think you just open your mouth and the first thing that comes out of your mouth is the chorus to “tear gas” and think that we’re trying to gain more success from what we're writing. If you've followed us for how many years of being a band, it's just not the case. We just love writing music and that's where our heads are at the moment. We're really inspired by a lot of industrial music; bands like Nine Inch Nails and obviously Rammstein, and we're very new to this genre that we're falling into so everything's kind of inspiring at the moment. We're not trying to do anything other than create things that we think are good songs

Is it that inspiration that lends itself into feeling reinvigorated?

Yeah, exactly. Bands like Nine Inch Nails, no one's fucking saying that they're sellouts or Trent Reznor is a sellout and he’s after money and all this sort of stuff. I listen to our songs and I still think that purpose really is to try and make the melodies and stuff as dark as possible and fit within the vibe of what this band is. I’ve been here for every part of it. I'm more careful of our legacy than people probably think. I understand the parts and where it goes and how it gets to this point, because I've been involved with them, and I'm very protective of them. And also, we've had a year of knowing where Architects is probably more than other people and people don't like change, and people don't like accepting change immediately. In a year's time, I'm sure they'll turn around and go, ‘Well, that's genius’.

Now there’s a well of ten albums, do you think there’s an expectation levied against you, and is that restrictive within itself?

No, I don't really give a fuck anymore. It wouldn't shape how we would write definitely does sting, and I can't say that it doesn't doesn't make me go like, 'Oh, that's a bit unnecessary', and I don't expect everybody to like everything – that's just not the world. Even the biggest, best albums in the world are hated by some people, and that's just just the way it goes. But I don't think that it's okay to be abusive, or to personally attack someone for them creating music that you can listen to for free. I mean, that's insane. But yeah, it's definitely interesting. In terms of writing, I think, and backlash and stuff, I think, just double down on it. You have to have the confidence to put it out. You have to really believe in it in the first place. And I think it's just not losing that, and knowing that that's how you felt, that's what you wanted [and] that’s where your heart was at the time…and trust yourself. You have to trust yourself.

The last one we released off of Exist was “Meteor", which is one of the softest songs off of that record, and the song before it was “Dead Butterflies”. Those songs are okay. But you release “tear gas”, which is arguably a harder, more aggressive song than both of those songs, and it doesn't make sense to people but a piano kind of ballad and another sort of four-on-the-floor kind of rock song is absolutely fine. But don't you dare try and you know, it's kind of like an I see I use the magazine example. I got into the Arctic Monkeys on the last record. So the songs that they're putting out now I'm like, this is fucking great, complete perfect direction because I love the last record and I love where it's going now. But I don't have the experience. I don't have the first two albums buried in my head, thinking they're gonna go back there, but also because I've just listened to the last record. I know they're not gonna do that sound because it would be such a big U-turn. It's almost like these people that expect us to go from “Meteor” to like playing fucking “In The Desert”, which is the first video we ever recorded, you know? Can you imagine? Everyone would be like, ‘What are you doing?!’

It would lead to a lack of respect in that you don’t believe in your own ideas

Exactly. You're damned if you do, you're damned if you don’t. Someone's gonna have a problem with whatever you do. You’ve just got to try and make sure that you don't have a problem with what you say.

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Do you remember your first experience of discovering the critical side of fans?

Yeah, when I joined Architects I joined on Ruin. So they had a record out called Nightmares with a different singer, and then I joined and we did Ruin and on three songs on the record, I did some singing just because I thought they were big, kind of anthemic parts and I didn't really know the rules of what metal were you supposed to kind of do and don’t do? At the time, I loved Every Time I Die, but then I also loved Linkin Park, and I didn't really see the difference I just was like, ‘Oh, there’s a chorus here, I’ll try and do it.' I hadn't properly tried to sing before in the studio, I was just like I'll give it a go – and people absolutely battered it. 'Who's this new singer?! What's he trying to do to the band?!’ Before that they were sort of just a really heavy, screaming technical band. And then here I was this little, you know, 16 year old, 17 year old kid with a massive blonde fringe coming in singing and just having a good time, and people hated it initially, and then it obviously started doing a lot better. I think that you can't let genres or gatekeepers or anyone block off that initial feeling of like, what does the song need? I think that's really my purpose, like, does the song need some singing here? Or does it need some shouting? Like, don't for a second think I don't think about the different options, but I don't think one or the other makes a good song.

It’s mad that these “rules” created by people, are in turn formed by people breaking rules and creating something they align with.

Yeah, it's like Black Sabbath are the metal gods and you can't touch them, but they're also quite pop-y when you break it down. They're honestly one of my favourite bands. I absolutely love them but there's hooks for days. He was a massive Beatles fan, he started Sabbath because he wanted to be in the Beatles, you know, but Ozzy can wear makeup for God knows how many years and no one says a thing. We have always been a heavy metal band with aggressive vocals. Whether that be aggressive singing or me singing or screaming. [But] you put a bit of makeup on and people are like, ‘How dare you?!’ I was saying this yesterday, from the outside, I felt like metal was a really inclusive environment where people looked after each other and we were all the kids at school that listen to the aggressive music and people kind of treated us like shit but because of it. And really, people only like if you stay exactly the same. Surely metal is a place of expression where you should feel free. I've wanted to dress the way I'm dressing now, and wear the things that I'm wearing – the makeup I've wanted to do it for a few years, probably the last record campaign, the one before I wanted to try and express myself more and I was a little bit nervous because I was like, 'Oh, maybe I'll get a little bit of backlash' and then eventually you go I'm gonna do this because this is what I want to do. I want to feel happy and comfortable. And then you get backlash. And you're like, this is exactly why I was worried and scared and then you just double down on it…if I've upset people because I'm wearing makeup and because I'm wearing some big boots, then how fucking sad is their life? Imagine them explaining that to their friends, ‘But why are you in a bad mood?’ ‘Sam Carter’s wearing fucking makeup…’

One of the last things I wanted to talk about is the overarching legacy of Architects, since that comes into play this far into your career.

I think about the kind of legacy of what this band's done – and does – and I think it all links together, it’s how important Tom was to this entire genre. And whether people know it or not, or will understand that because there's so many bands that try and write music like him, and that's not a shot at anyone, it’s lovely that people people are influenced by it. It's just important to me that his legacy is carried on and discussed. But also, I think it's important for people to see that if you want something and care about something enough you can make it happen because the odds were really against us as a band at the start. And then when we lost Tom even more so because we had lost our main songwriter and someone that we thought was a genius. And we all pulled together and made something happen – made an album happen – and here we are three albums after that has happened and we're still here.

It was one of those moments where you're just like, wow, he wouldn't believe this but yeah, I think it's just carry on. You don't have to be anything special. You don't have to look a certain way or dress a certain way – by all means do, if you want to – but you can just write really good songs and focus on that, and eventually it makes sense. I just hope people listen to our band, in the same sense that I listened to Blink 182 when I was a kid, and I wanted to learn how to play drums. I can see those instruments there. I want to do that, because that that's all that matters. That's all music is, it’s just inspiring that next generation of people who want to do that. When I have kids, or the dads in the band want their kids to have bands that they like and listen to and want them to be inspired by all the music that's out there now.

Do you feel alternative music has limitations?

I don't know, I think music is just getting bigger and bigger – even more pop bands, and other artists are falling into this culture of alternative music. You're seeing a real revival of that pop-punk, emo sound. All you gotta do is look at bands like My Chemical Romance – they're the fucking biggest band in the world. When they came back and they put that that initial show on sale…and then it was two…and then it was three…and you see Slipknot getting another number one. It's so cool. I think there's more people out there now than ever. I just don't think it's as discussed as the pop music but I think you can see over the last few years metal and alternative music is definitely racking up those numbers in the charts and definitely at concerts you know, so yes, it’s definitely a cool, cool space to be in – we’ve just gotta support each other and look after each other.

The Classic Symptoms of a Broken Spirit is released on 21 October via Epitaph

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