Architects hadn’t even finished making their new album when its underlying message was thrown into sharp focus. Drummer and lyricist Dan Searle had decided to use the Brighton metallers’ ninth record, For Those That Wish To Exist, to answer a fundamental question about humankind’s survival in the face of an ecological disaster: why aren’t we doing more?
More pertinently, Dan asked himself, why aren’t I doing more? As he put this into the lyrics, the band were working in a recording studio in Bali – not because it was their first choice of exotic retreat to focus on music, but because they were meant to be doing it in Australia. And Australia was on fire.
With an effect of the climate crisis happening right in front of him, among the other emotions such disasters bring up in a person, Dan found himself not just worried at what he was seeing, but also disappointed in the response.
“You’d expect that we would be fighting tooth and nail to fix the climate problem, and we’re not,” he says. “The curious question to me was: why wouldn’t you put up a fight when you’re in one? You’re essentially being attacked and you’re going, ‘Oh well, someone else will sort it.’ Something as big as this is all abstract until it’s real. I think humans generally find it hard to conceive what an event like this will be until it’s really here. We find it hard to take it seriously. I’m just the same. But it’s becoming more of a potential that we will have to face up to reality regarding the climate within our lifetime.”
Today, Dan talks to VICE via Zoom from his home in Devon, while singer Sam Carter joins us from his house in Brighton, ahead of the release of For Those That Wish To Exist on the 26th of February. With a COVID-enforced pause on the usual activity around releasing an album, like going on tour, both admit to being at something of a loose end, while also being quick to recognise how fortunate they are. As one of Britain’s biggest metal bands, managed by Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden, whose last London show was at Wembley, money’s not yet become an issue, and there are worse things than being bored and kicking around the house a bit. When we compliment him on the snazzy jacket he’s wearing, Sam boasts that he’s got dressed up to go to the shops and to visit the band’s lockup. Dan, meanwhile, has been using the extra home time off the road to look after his baby daughter.
It was, in fact, becoming a father that got Dan thinking about the world. The members of Architects have a history of being vocal on ecology and conservation, with Sam a proud ambassador for Sea Shepherd. He’s also been a public supporter of Jeremy Corbyn – to the extent that he appeared on the cover of Kerrang! with the former Labour leader, and led the crowd in a chorus of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ at Reading 2017. (“I took a fucking battering for that,” he says today. “Every time I did anything with Jeremy, I had people on Twitter telling me that I’m anti-semitic and all this. There’s nothing worse than him tagging you in something, because it just absolutely ruins your day.”)
For Dan, it was entering this new chapter in his life that made him realise that here was someone who would, in years to come, inherit a world in which big decisions were going to have to be made.
“Suddenly it became more of a problem, for me because it’s a problem for her,” he says. “Someone’s got to grab that situation by the scruff of the neck. I think it will [feel like] a threat that we occasionally see on the TV or in magazines until it’s on our doorstep, and then we’ll have to question what we’re doing. It’s like the pandemic. We saw it slowly rolling closer and closer, and the government were like, ‘Oh it’s in China, oh it’s here… OH! We’d better do something!’”
Before you point out the obvious ‘well, what are you doing about it?’ response, Architects freely admit that’s the point: not much. That’s why they’re asking the question.
“I might sort my recycling out or turn the lights off when I leave the room, these little crumbs, but I’m not really doing anything that has serious weight to it,” admits Dan. “And nor are virtually any of us. What I was getting at on the record was that we’re all struggling so much on an individual level, that to start tackling these bigger issues just feels completely impossible. The enormity of the situation is so big that it’s almost impossible to shoulder. Certainly, I feel like that myself. I didn’t want it to be a finger pointy record, I just wanted to give people the opportunity to ask that question of themselves.”
For Sam there’s also an element of frustration that the argument is there for massive change, and is being made, but it often falls to outsiders to really fight for it. A few days after this interview, US President Joe Biden announced huge environmental policy changes but, prior to that, former President Donald Trump spent four years laughing off impassioned calls from Greta Thunberg.
“When she talks and says, ‘You’ve taken my childhood away from me, why am I having to do this?’ you see her resonate with people,” he says. “Why should it fall to a teenage girl to make points to [governments] that we need to make a change and we need to do it now? Why is it a teenage girl’s job to remind people that she’s trying to keep the world alive for her and her kids? We’ve known about all this stuff for a long time, it’s just easier to turn away and not think about it.”
For all the focus on environmental concerns on the record, both Dan and Sam say it’s not something they obsess over constantly. And even with the heavy subject matter, making For Those That Wish To Exist was a creatively joyous affair. It finds them stepping away from the more technical end of their sound and embracing something simpler. “Doing more with less,” as Dan puts it, “which is actually way harder than it sounds, especially if you’ve got technical riffs down to a tee.” This shook out brilliantly in the album’s first single “Animals”, which features a chug and groove closer to Rammstein than Converge.
As well as having a new musical scope, For Those That Wish To Exist is also the band’s first album since 2014’s Lost Forever // Lost Together that hasn’t been touched by the illness and death of Dan’s twin brother and founding Architects guitarist Tom, who passed away in August 2016 following a three-year battle with cancer.
“I feel like there was pressure to talk about it all the time, like, eyes on you just watching how you react to things,” Sam says. But having “turned a page” as Dan puts it, a fresh energy came into the record.
“For a long time it felt like we were existing under that cloud,” says Dan. “I felt like everything about this album was liberating. We could do what we wanted, we didn’t have to broach grief, and we had, I suppose, sort of grown out of that situation. This was a new chapter, and I think you can hear that in the record. A friend said it sounded like a great debut record, and I love the idea of that.”
“I think with that whole period, there were a lot of times where you’d just feel quite nihilistic and you don’t give a fuck about the world and what’s going on around it, so you don’t think about it for a bit,” adds Sam. “But then as the dust settles, you do start to think about the world we’re in right now and how intimidating and scary it is, and you start to think, ‘What can I do?’”
What, indeed? But sometimes, it’s a good enough start to simply ask the question and see where it takes you. Bonus points if you get someone else wondering it as well.
“The thing I’d like people to take away from the record is that we ought to slow our lives down, take a look in the mirror, take responsibility, have a sense of accountability for our actions, and be honest about who we are,” says Dan. “Obviously there’s a huge responsibility for corporate interests and governments, but it starts with individuals. And hopefully, if we’re able to do that, then we are able to collectively move towards a world where we are steering the ship in the right direction.”
For Those That Wish To Exist will be released on the 26th of February via Epitaph.