SLEEPING WITH SIRENS
The knee-sliding culprits were identified far too easily
Kellin Quinn is fading, fast. Suffering from a heavy cold, Sleeping With Sirens’ frontman is currently stumbling through one of a clutch of aborted interview attempts with Kerrang!. The aim: to dissect his band’s latest album, Gossip – an adrenaline-spiking splurge of hooky guitars dispensing instantly memorable riffs. Interview one took place en route to the doctor’s office.this follow-up is happening as Kellin fantasises aloud about staying in bed all day,“sleeping and eating shitty food.” He coughs, he splutters. His words are punctuated by heaving sniffs and snorts, but the 31-year-old won’t be quitting this chat in a hurry.
“You’ve got to motivate yourself to keep going,” he says, defiantly.“i don’t think I’m always the most determined. I can get myself in a rut, like today, when all I want to do is stay in my bunk. But I think it’s important to create through those moments. That’s when you find the best songs to write, when you feel down or uninspired – that’s when you [have to] push through.”
Certainly Kellin and his Sleeping With Sirens bandmates – guitarists Jack Fowler and Nick Martin, bassist Justin Hills, and drummer Gabe Barham – know a thing or two about battling against episodes of adversity. Gossip, their fifth studio album, and the record most likely to match 2013’s breakout release, Feel, is a coming-of-age project; an “honest” retelling of the frontman’s shift from “boy to man” as he faces up to the twin responsibilities of being an instantly-recognisable rockstar, and a father to his young daughter, Copeland. The growing pains have come thick and fast: Gossip is shot through with a sense of personal acceptance (Hole In My Heart), facing up to the doubters and critics (One Man Army), and losing your sense of self, or forgetting what’s important in life, in whatever it is you’re working on (Trouble).
For Kellin, this was a response to the music industry that seemed eager to change the way he presented his music.
“It’s about getting lost in everything around you when you feel like you have to be this certain person,” he says.“it’s about having people come up to you and tell you who you’re supposed to be. I feel there are a lot of hands on your music all the time.there are a lot of people who want you to do certain things and to be certain things. I’ve found myself in trouble because it’s like,‘is this [music] even mine anymore? Is it everybody else’s?’ It’s a frustrating experience, and in a lot of ways music becomes about everyone else and not so much about you anymore.”
In parts, Gossip is very much about this struggle. And Kellin – his body racked with illness, might be on a bit of a low today – can be forgiven for sounding a little downbeat. Sometimes, though, when he speaks of “finding the motivation” to forge ahead with Sleeping With Sirens, the band he’s fronted since their emergence “seven or eight years” ago, moments of self-doubt creep into his answers.at times, it sounds as if he’s had a hard time locating his creative mojo.
“I’m not a kid anymore,” he says.“i feel like sometimes you wake up in the morning and you question why you do what you do. I think that’s something everyone struggles with.are you doing it for passion, or are you doing it to pay the bills? It’s something that’s been going through my head.this record is inspiring enough to make me want to keep making music, to want to keep going with it.” Did you ever feel like quitting? “No, because there’s nothing else I’m good at doing,” he laughs.“i still love making music. I think it’s something I’ll always do, whether that’s me being an artist, or working on the management side of things, or running a label.there’s always going to be a foot in the door, because that’s where my passion is. But you have to have faith in why you started – that’s something our band has always had… I think I’m a survivor. I’m still going strong, so I’m obviously doing something right. And I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
This doubt is also indicative of Kellin’s open and honest attitude to songwriting.when asked to describe his life as an artist and family man, he explains there’s very little to divide the two. He doesn’t think of himself as a rockstar at all.“i think I’m just a guy that writes songs that people relate to. I don’t have this rockstar mentality where I think I’ve gotta to go out there and be this fake fucking guy onstage; I don’t have to go up there and pretend to be something that I’m not. I’m vulnerable and honest and that’s the way I’ve always been.”
So far, it’s worked out just fine.
On Gossip’s title-track – a passing shot at online critics and the implications of careless words – Kellin talks of having nine lives.a few of them have been used up already, he reckons.“i’m probably down to four or five,” he laughs, before dividing his life up into several distinct chapters.the first, he explains, arrived as a kid; the next when he went to high school, a period in which he listened to the ’60s and ’70s rock albums his grandmother had given to him on vinyl.“the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, the Stones – the stuff that had the most passion.” His college chapter, by all accounts, was a little frazzled.“you don’t know who you are, you think,‘holy shit, I’m fucked,’” he laughs.
Fast-forward to now. Kellin is working through another tumultuous episode, though the narrative this time is of changing priorities. Gossip sees him as a
"I'VE ALWAYS BEEN VULNERABLE" KELLIN QUINN
responsible adult, supporting his family while working in the studio and out on the road. But these days there are “more important things to worry about” than the gig he’s got next, the city he’s heading towards.all of a sudden, his life as a 20-something starting his time with Sleeping With Sirens is a retreating speck in the rearview mirror.“my dad told me, when I turned 21, ‘You’ll be 30 before you know it.’ He was so fucking right. It was the fastest time in my life.”
He says he didn’t really think about his age until his last birthday.then his reaction was,“fuck, I’m halfway through.where did it go?” But that’s because life, and change, has come at him fast. Meanwhile, his passion for music takes him away from home for long periods.
“Do I miss my daughter when I’m gone?” he says. “Of course, but I’m responsible for my family and I want to take care of them, so that’s what I do. I look at being on the road as my job and I’ve got to got to work in the same way as everybody else does.yes, I make music, but it’s still my job – and I have to take care of my family and give my daughter the best life I can. It’s a good feeling to know that you’re giving the family a life doing something that you love to do. She is very musical, and she’s always happy. She looks at life as an adventure, which is something to be admired. She inspires me every day.”
Throughout Sleeping With Sirens’ latest creative splurge, Kellin has also found the time to figure out who he is. He says that Gossip has been his way of moving into manhood, of figuring out how he operates as a dad, a husband and a musician.
“I feel like I’m trying to work out what kind of person I am every single day,” he says.“i feel like I’m growing up with each record I make – I feel different and I can catalogue my records as my life, something I’ll be able to give to my daughter someday.
“I’m 31 so I can’t be a boy anymore,” he continues. “But on the inside I feel like I’m always going to be young, so there’s a fight between my age and how I’m supposed to act. I’ve found myself this past year trying to live more in the present, and the future, because you can’t go back and change what you’ve already done.all you can do is focus is what you can do now and what your future holds. But I don’t regret anything. I don’t think you should think like that. If you spend your days regretting things, you’re always going to be lost.you make mistakes, you learn from them and then you don’t make them again.that’s how I look at my life.”
Kellin isn’t claiming to have everything figured out, but he does have a better handle on the things that he’s realised are most meaningful to him: family, friends (“ones that know the real me”), fans of his band, and a sense of opportunity.“i value every single day I get to wake up and be alive,” he says. Overall though, Sleeping With Sirens is an opportunity for him to put his thoughts and emotions – the dark and light places – down on the page in an honest and open way.the process, he reckons, is pretty straightforward.
“I’ve been doing it for eight years,” he says.“i don’t think there’s a mathematical process to making lyrics, you just have to write what you’re thinking or feeling. If you can be honest, it helps you to write great songs. But if you’re trying to be someone else or you’ve got this character that you’ve made, that can be daunting because it’s not about you. It’s what everybody else wants. Besides, I’d be cheating my fans if I wasn’t being honest.”
Sleeping With Sirens have arrived at their current destination through determination and vulnerability, with the two arriving hand in hand on Gossip. Kellin Quinn might be under the weather, but he’s about to emerge from his short-lived rut in fighting form. It’s what tends to happen when you push through the pain.
SLEEPING WITH SIRENS’ ALBUM GOSSIP IS OUT NOW VIA WARNER BROS. THE BAND TOUR THE UK WITH RISE AGAINST IN NOVEMBER – SEE THE GIG GUIDE
Things we know: don’t let SWS put up your Christmas decorations