Nine Songs: Architects
It's no easy feat for a band to weather tragic storms, to be a consistent voice for the disenfranchised and continue to take British metal to new, modern heights.
But that's exactly what Brighton five-piece Architects have been doing. From skulking around the outskirts of metal - arguably music's outsider genre - they've worked their way upwards to phenomenal heights in a time where being an outsider is the new norm.
First banding together in 2004 - the masterplan between brothers Tom and Dan Searle - they’ve released eight albums of churning vitriol that's seen their name gather momentum, recently headlining a COVID safe, empty Royal Albert Hall. Tragedy struck in 2016 when Tom passed away from cancer, and since then the band have set out without their predominant songwriter once again on ninth outing, For Those Who Wish To Exist.
It’s a drizzling winters day when we speak to Architects vocalist Sam Carter, whose sat at home in Brighton, leaning forward in his chair, wearing a black John Lennon shirt loosely draped around him. The name of the iconoclast on his top hovers throughout our conversation about the songs he loves.
Since becoming behemoths of the UK metal scene, Architects are as much about exorcising as they are fighting wrongs - calling to arms hope and understanding. Much like Carter's Nine Songs, which takes in both renegades and pioneers, he and his band of brothers are on the cusp of mining into the mainstream consciousness. It's within this mainstream where his idols dominated and started to construct a more understanding world - and continue to do so in various formats. They're the original wild ones who saw not boundaries but instead saw life. They saw art. “I'm inspired by people that want to be creative for the sake of it,” he enthuses. “Not because they need the money, it's just a cool thing to do.”
For Carter, this is just as important for Architects. For Those Who Wish To Exist is a tour de force, which considering they’re homed in a genre renowned for its gatekeeping sensibilities around the dredging darkness, pushes the envelope to a lighter territory, bordering on pop melodies. Featuring sweeping orchestral movements and guest-spots that will delight devout metalheads and casual rock onlookers alike, it’s an album that given Carter’s devotion to a certain Liverpudlian four-piece, makes perfect sense and comes as a brave move. After all, how do you push the envelope when you’re already penners of brutal, tracks filled with distortion and throat-rattling anger?
"It's whether you have that drive of wanting to push through and do something really special. If I get into a band from the '60s to the '80s, if they're a big band - like getting into Bob Dylan - you look through the back catalogue and you're like, 'Amazing, I've got 20 records where I can get deep. Each one is different and tells a journey.' It is harder now, but I think you still can do it, you've just got to want to do it. You've got to really work for those moments."
For Those Who Wish To Exist feels like that moment for Architects. It's bold, it's brash, it's dear to itself while knowing that the future will forever remain unwritten, particularly in a world where everything is consumed at a dizzying rate. “People forget that it's not all written in a day and then uploaded to a SoundCloud. It's amazing for people that can do that, but some people really need to take time and mould it to this perfect thing that they've dreamed up in their head. I don't write songs for a playlist - we write them for albums and to be taken in as a whole piece."
“Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan don't need to be releasing music, they still love it!” Carter professes. “And that's why when people say, 'Oh, I wish Paul McCartney would stop releasing music, it's not as good as it used to be'. It's like, 'Do you think he gives a shit?' No, he's not creating music for it to be in the charts. It's 'Well, I'm bored, I'm gonna do McCartney III.'"
“My dad is a massive Beatles fan and I’ve listened to them pretty much the whole way through my life, but in the last five or six years I’ve been delving into the history of why they were so good. What it was about them, looking into what they were doing as musicians and the way they paved the way for so many other artists and different styles of recording.
"The way things were done then was straight to tape, there was no fucking around. If you wanted a particular sound, you had to invent the sound and reverse it, and that stuff got me really excited. I watched a documentary on the BBC about Sgt. Pepper, and one take of one of the songs was a little bit faster than another one, but they wanted to keep them both. They had to stand around the room with pens and hold the tape so that it manually sped up. I admired that level of creativity, that even though they were a massive band, they still wanted to push the envelope.
“It was definitely the early stuff when I was a kid, it was the easiest stuff to listen to. "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" work as a nursery rhymes for kids if your dad's a bit of a rocker! But then growing up and getting more and more into songs off The White Album and songs like "Helter Skelter", "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)" and being, ‘Whoa, this is what would happen if Sabbath started getting ideas!’
“A Day In The Life" is the perfect blend of Lennon and McCartney together, and how they brought each individual piece and merged it. They’re hands down my favourite band of all time, there's no question. It sort of overtakes my life really, how much I love that band!”
“The story here is that Bob Dylan wasn't massively on in our house as much as some bands were when I was growing up, but there was always an appreciation of him. My dad always spoke really highly of him, but I think it might have gone over my head at a young age, some of it's quite intricate and quite out there, and also how subtle some of his messages are.
“I watched the documentary No Direction Home and that really made me fall in love with him. The Beatles were obsessed with him as well. You can hear those elements come through in so much of their solo stuff, but hearing the story of being in a band that likes to talk about things that are political and things that are going on in the world - as a lyricist I don't think there's any better than Bob, he’s so cool.
“And what a fucking cool guy! The whole way through that era he looks so cool, just the man. I love that hat on the front cover of Desire, it’s like 'Where the fuck is this hat with the feathers from?!’ I want to get one, even to just have on the wall. I found this guy that makes those hats, he makes Beyoncé’s hats as well, but that’d cost a bit much for me. I'll just buy a hat and put some dried flowers in it!
“Hurricane” really epitomises the peak of his songwriting, and the whole story behind the song is incredible. It still feels current now - hearing about the police going in and arresting the wrong black guy. I think it's one of my favourite songs because you can hear how pissed off he is the whole way through it. As the song goes on you start hearing him really dig in on the guitar and it's amazing. It’s the level with which he makes the song so much more intense with the way he's delivering the story, and you're so into it by the end of it.
“It's that sense of creative freedom and being ‘Well, actually if you don't like it then it's your loss, and one day you will’. That’s how confident Bob was when he moved into that era of playing with a band. You see the footage of people leaving venues where they're like 'Boo! He was shit', and if only they knew now how stupid they looked.
“When we released "Animals", I was watching a lot of those videos and it was the first time that we ruffled the feathers. I was so glad that we did it because it was ‘Great, that means we're doing something that’s thought-provoking and creative, and not doing what we were doing before’. I love the stuff that we were doing before, and I still think we're a really good heavy band, but it's something about not feeling like you have to stick in the same lane.
“The Beatles made me feel that as well, every record of theirs was like a completely different style. It wasn't just down to the songs; it was the completely changing look. How many bands do you know where you can go, ‘Oh, that was ’67 or ’64’? That's what I love about this new record, it feels like a whole new era for the band, but it's a whole vibe shift.”
“The best. “Paranoid” is one of the best metal songs of all time. I love Ozzy, I think he’s the perfect English rockstar - just by accident. He had a love for it, he still loves it and he doesn't know what else he should do with his life.
“When they all got in a room together, it took music to a whole other level. I watched an interview with him where he said ‘When we started, we wanted to sound like The Beatles but we weren't very good at it, and that made Black Sabbath', and I was like ‘That's so fucking cool!’ At that time, they were coming from a working-class background and creating this absolute monster out of nothing. Again, just four mates in a room, getting pissed up and writing songs is so incredible and everyone knows this song. It's crazy.
“If you don't write songs or you're not a massive music fan, I think people take it for granted. You're 'Oh, everybody knows “Iron Man” or “Paranoid”, but Tony Iommi came up with those riffs, he wrote that. It’s incredible, and that's what gives me a buzz. When you're ‘How do these people do it? Where is it in their brain that goes, 'Oh yeah, I'm just gonna reinvent a genre. This is metal, enjoy it.’ You look back now at how impressive their back catalogue is, but imagine seeing Sabbath at the time, you'd be 'Fucking hell!' That's why these bands were so big, because at the time people were going to those shows and being, ‘I can't believe what I've just seen.’
“I don't think I was aware of how big of a deal it was until recently. I think I actually realised how good they were when we played a show at Graspop festival, and Ozzy was headlining it. This was maybe eight or nine years ago; seeing how much it meant to people and seeing him, how old he was and he was still smashing it. That made me want to really go in on Ozzy and Sabbath because, as I say, you can take that song for granted.
“They're rock club anthems where you’re like ‘This is great’, but then when you get into the story of him and his journey, and all of them, the amount of drugs, drink, and partying, it’s proper Rock ’n' Roll. It sounds like something out of a book, but someone lived that!”
"What an icon. I don't know if there will be anyone like him ever again. He was such an amazing human and artist - the influence he had on a generation - and somehow he made everybody feel like they were his friend. The day he died it was like everyone was mourning - everyone - like they were his best friend, because he was. He did things that everybody wanted to do. He was flamboyant, but he still had a private life where he kept things to himself. He was eccentric, but he went with the times and was constantly changing, evolving and creating these masterpieces.
“I love all the stories of him and Lennon hanging out in Japan and London, going around and getting pissed together. There's a really cool video of him playing “Imagine” and he's talking about how him and John were pissed up in Japan, and they were going through these little shops. There was a shop that sold an old Beatles varsity jacket, and he got him to put it on, but it was too small, and it looked like he'd outgrown it. That's such a cool thing, these two full-blown rockstars walking around, getting hammered and no one noticing them.
“It was his birthday when he put Blackstar out, and he died two days later. He was constantly pushing that envelope of being creative and making an amazing record that people still talk about. Blackstar is unbelievable and the fact that he still did all the videos endears me to him massively as well, because Tom died of cancer about a year or two after that.
“I remember we were on tour in Germany. Blackstar came out and we were talking about it, and then a few days later he passed away. We were talking about how incredible it was that he was still releasing music, and then hearing what he was going through was just, ‘Wow.’ But now thinking back and knowing that we were touring through that time with Tom being ill as well, he didn't have to be. Tom didn't have to be on tour doing that stuff, but sometimes the love of the craft overtakes what you probably should be doing - ‘Well, am I just gonna sit here and do nothing and get ill, or am I gonna go and go out swinging? Because that's all I've ever done.’”
“I grew up listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, because my dad was a big Zeppelin fan as well. “Ramble On” is the best drumbeat in the world. It's the way Bonzo kicks it in and the groove between where it stops, it's the kick in the hat - it's so groovy. The drums are so pushed on Led Zeppelin II, right up in your face. At the time I didn't even realise how many boundaries Bonzo was pushing for a drummer of that time - I would be, 'Wow, that sounds like something that I want to play’ or ‘I wish I could do that.'
“He was a true rockstar, a proper, proper rockstar, but what they did for music was carry the torch for rock drummers. Growing up as a drummer, and still playing the drums, I think he was one of the first ones that were 'I'm fucking here, he might be in the front singing, but look at my fucking kick drum. I'm gonna do a drum solo in the middle of a song, and we're going to record it!' If Dan did that, I'd turn around be, ‘There's no room in this song for a drum solo!’"
“Again, Led Zeppelin were a band of icons - maniacs - with unbelievable songs for the time. All these bands were around at the same time, and you think, ‘Fucking hell! They were all so different.’ Obviously, there are the elements of rock and classic rock going on there, but Sabbath and Zeppelin are so different to Bowie, and Bowie is so different to the Beatles - it's so insane. And all those elements start because of a love for The Beatles. It was so weird how it all linked together.”
“I was gonna pick "Wonderwall", but then I was listening to (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” is unbelievable. That whole album is flawless, and from complete chaos - on a whirlwind of drugs, alcohol and everyone loving you, to still create something that tender. That record is super Beatles-y influenced, but it's a really emotional record, in a time where you look back and they're laddy-lads creating this open, and honest record. The brotherly connection between the two of them is unbelievable. Obviously, musically it really works, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? is fucking brilliant
"What I love about them is now its still 'Will they won't they, will they-won't they?' I don't think anyone ever wants to know the answer. We all live in this world where we can have that discussion of ‘Well, even if they could, would you want them to? Would you want them to write a record? Would you want them to do Maine Road?’ I guess they're our eras band of legends.
“There's a really good documentary on Rockfield, the place where they recorded it at, that made me be 'Okay, on the next record I want to go somewhere with all of us together and recreate how they used to do stuff back in the day.’ You don't think about 'Oh, they were miking them up on a fucking wall!' It's so insane.
“What a band, and what a song. They're of that era where you can't really think of many songs like it, where everyone knows the words. Everyone knows the drum fill, which is saying something!"
"I love everything about Nirvana. Growing up, a lot of what was getting me into the more aggressive rock were bands like blink-182, where I would be, 'Oh cool, someone with tattoos is playing the drums'. I remember going to like my uncle's house at Christmas, and he gave me Nevermind and In Utero and said, ‘Listen to this, let me know what you think.’ I was immediately drawn to "Territorial Pissings" because there were super-fast drums, aggy vocals and screaming. I was like ‘This band doesn't give a fucking shit and it sounds incredible!’ It was an opening into aggressive vocals for me as well.
“And again, it’s just genius, ‘How can you write a song that heavy, but it be that catchy?’ To see how much that band defined a generation, when I was at school Kurt had been dead for years but everybody at school was in Nirvana shirts and Nirvana was everybody's favourite band. Probably the height of fashion at the moment is people wearing thousand pounds Nirvana shirts, they're a band that changed everything and are still massive.
"He had a big heroin problem and a lot of that was born from a pain that he had in his stomach; he was trying to cover that up. A proper rockstar that didn't want to be a rockstar. It’s one of those things where you think ‘What would the record after In Utero be like? Where were they going? What would he have done?’ Would he have been 'Fuck it, we're selling out' or would it have been 'Right, we're fucking grindcore.' (laughs) Do you remember when that "You Know You're Right" song came out, and it was such a good song? They pieced it together from all the demos and one thing's for sure, they would have been good.
“He took like quite a lot of influence from Lennon, especially later Lennon, where he was more open and painful and not hiding from stuff. You can see that songs like "Mother" must have clicked with Kurt. Coming from like a place like Aberdeen in Seattle, it's on the outskirts. Every time I've been to Seattle, I’ve always been ‘Should I go to see his house?’ and it's always an hour away from where we are, which is a long Uber journey. I'll probably do it next time, because I'm kicking myself for not doing it right now.
“He was a tortured artist writing from a real place, and I think that's the best thing you can do in those situations, because that creates that real thing that people can connect with.”
“When I was first getting into the Beatles, I think George Harrison was so overlooked for me because of how good the others were. I mean, John and Paul - and I love Ringo as well - but I was so obsessed with those two. But delving into this record, it's unbelievable. I think it was the first solo release by The Beatles to go to number one in America.
“I love the way his voice sounds, I love the stories from around that time, of everything that he was doing and the outreach that he was doing with the concepts of Bangladesh. It’s how spiritual that record is, not in a fake way, but in a way where you can tell that he's so dedicated to it. He was a real artist and a really nice guy; you can tell that he had a heart of gold.
“This song in particular really helped me through a lot of stuff, especially with loss and grief, and how sometimes everything can feel so full-on and too much. We live in a world where with everything going on you can feel so intense, but “All Things Must Pass” is like 'Eh, it's just another day'. Yes, everything will go on, in the sense of ‘Well, we all die, all things pass’ - but we're all gonna carry on.”
“What a song, Tool are an amazing band. I didn’t grow up massively listening to Tool, but when we were recording All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us in Sweden, I remember Tom and Dan were listening to them all the time in the car, and I was like 'This band is doing my fucking head in!’
“It was the tour after, one night I was stoned on the bus playing FIFA with Tom and we were listening to this song. All of a sudden the middle-eight kicked in and I was like, ‘I get it, I get it.’ Something changed and I was like, ‘Oh man, Fuck, I feel stupid I wrote this off’, I delved into the record that night, I went to my bunk and fell asleep listening to it just being, ‘What a journey.’
“That band means a lot to all of us, because of that period when we were on tour and listening to that every night and really getting into it. What an insane band too, they’re so good. Tool are the only band in the world where it’s almost like the bass player is the lead guitarist. It's amazing.”