Photo: Jennifer McCord
In Rank Your Records, we talk to members of bands who have amassed substantial discographies over the years and ask them to rate their releases in order of personal preference.
Brighton’s Architects recently played two sold out hometown shows to celebrate the release of their seventh studio album, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us. It’s a record that marks the next stage of what is truly an incredible and unexpected career for a metalcore band—one that vocalist Sam Carter would be the first to admit has exceeded any expectations of success. He joined the band—now completed by twins and original members Tom and Dan Searle (guitars/keyboards and drums respectively), bassist Alex Dean, and guitarist Adam Christianson—in 2006, replacing original vocalist Matt Johnson during the final tour for debut album Nightmares. Since then, the band has steadily grown in popularity and acclaim, picking up attention from broadsheet newspapers while also selling out some of the UK’s biggest venues. With the new album freshly delivered, it seemed like an opportune time to call Carter on the phone and pick his brains about the band’s back catalog.
6. The Here and Now (2011)
Noisey: I had an idea you were going to pick this as your least favorite…
Sam Carter: I think this is the sound of a band who is very confused. We were young and we’d just come off the back of Hollow Crown, and it had done really well for a bunch of kids who were just playing really aggressive metal. I think we did that thing that maybe you do a little bit later in your career where you experiment, and we didn’t have anyone saying no. We were just so convinced we could do what we want that we didn’t think about our fans or what they wanted to hear. I remember we played a gig at Koko and the biggest song of the night was “Hollow Crown,” which is a bit slower than the rest of the Hollow Crown album, and it just went down so well we were like “Fuck it, let’s go do 12 slower songs with big choruses!” The one thing that does stand out for me is that around that time it would have been really easy for us to be a heavy band with loads of breakdowns and go down that route, but I have respect for younger me and the younger band for going, “Fuck it, let’s just do what we want.” Thankfully, we’re still here now, so it wasn’t a complete disaster!
It must be very difficult when you start to get attention and you’re playing to big crowds so maybe you start to compromise, if even unintentionally, and you go down a route you don’t necessarily realize you’re going down.
Yeah. We didn’t even think at the time that there was anything wrong with putting an acoustic song in the middle of a metal record. I think at the time, we thought people might be up in arms about it, but we just really didn’t give a fuck.
But that’s also really cool. Maybe you have second thoughts about it now, but you shouldn’t give a fuck. You should just do what you want to do.
Right. We were punk rock before our time! But no one had paid attention before Hollow Crown and we had minimal attention, though at the time it felt really big, so we thought, “Let’s be the Beatles and make a weird record.” I remember, at the time, people being like, “You should do a side project and get this out of you.” And we were like, “Nah, fuck off! We’re Architects and we decide what Architects sounds like. And in the end, a couple of years down the line, we were like, “Uh oh, why did we do that?”
5. Ruin (2007)
So this was your first record with the band after joining as vocalist.
Yeah. It’s just one of those ones where you look back on it and I just feel I was young and it was my first record really recording vocals and writing lyrics and I was kind of unprepared. I had six weeks to learn how to be a vocalist and get everything together. There are still really good songs on this record and I think really fondly of that time. It’s not like I don’t like this record, I just feel like if it were recorded now I could do a lot better on the vocals. Because listening back to it, it doesn’t even sound like me. It sounds like someone who’s got a really sore throat—or that’s what I think of, anyway. And it was my first time in the studio recording vocals and I didn’t really know how to look after myself. But it does also come with good memories of the first few tours we ever did. And I’m not taking anything away from the music. I just wish that I could re-do the vocals.
Well, it’s 10 years old next years, so you can record another version of it in celebration and release it as a deluxe edition.
Maybe I’ll get the stem files and I’ll redo vocals or something for a laugh.
Was it difficult filling Matt’s shoes, though? Did you feel that pressure or did you not really care?
You know, I think I was so young that I didn’t even think about it. It was just like, “Oh, I’m the new singer!” I think it was a bit of naivety—you know when you’re young and you have that little bit of cockiness where you don’t really think? I just went in saying ‘I’ve got this’ and quickly found out that I didn’t have it. And it took a couple of years of touring to actually find it. Or we found a bit of it, at least!
4. Nightmares (2006)
This is the first Architects record, when you weren’t in the band, yet you’re placing it above two that were made when you were in the band.
Yeah. I was a fan of the band, and from being in the scene that we were all in—I was playing drums in a band called Nervous Wreck at the time and we were a hardcore band, and Architects were this band that everyone in Brighton just looked up to. They’re only a year older than me and it was like, “How are these kids playing music like this?” Because it was so technical compared to what everyone in the Brighton scene was doing. It was beyond it, and it was cool to see a new band sound like a proper metalcore band playing these hardcore shows where kids didn’t get it but they would stand there and be like, “How the fuck are they doing that?!” But I love this record and I toured the end of it with the boys. I went out and sang the last song of the night with Matt on the UK headline tour for this album, and for me it was really exciting. I could see the platform that the band had, which was really exciting. We actually re-recorded “To The Death,” the first song on this record, with me, and I still love that recording. It sounds really ferocious and it’s just a great song. I think Tom was a genius songwriter for his age.
3. Daybreaker (2012)
I’m putting Daybreaker next because it was a really exciting time for Architects. It was coming off the back of The Here and Now and we were ready to show people we were still a heavy band. I remember Tom playing me the demo of “These Colours Don’t Run” for the first time and being like, “We’re good, we’re good. We’re going to be fine,” and just being so stoked on it. There was still a little bit of a melodic edge to it that showed we had a bit of balls—as opposed to rocky it was metal—but there were these big chorus that we worked really hard on. We didn’t want them to be bubblegum choruses—we wanted them to be dark and miserable. And it was cool to go back to the studio where we’d done Hollow Crown, because we’d gone to America with this big producer who’d done Dillinger Escape Plan and Saves the Day—all these bands who we thought we’d sound great with the same production—but it just didn’t work out. Sometimes stuff just doesn’t work out. We were young and maybe we had ideas above our station to go and record an album in LA at our age with producers that maybe didn’t have the same ideas as us. We were so young we couldn’t get our points across properly. I guess we weren’t mature enough to say, “No, this is our band. This isn’t your decision.’ We were just naïve. So going back to Outhouse was a really comfortable environment. I remember we stayed round the corner in this house, and the last we were there we’d stayed in the room above the studio in sleeping bags on the floor. It was great to go back there and be creative on our own terms again.
Presumably, this record was a deliberate reaction to The Here and Now and the way that sounded? You were moving far away from it.
Yeah. It was a definite sort of “Here we are. We’re a great heavy band again.” We wanted people to know that.
Lyrically, too, there was a bit of a shift—it had more of a social conscience than much of what you guys had been writing up to that point. What prompted that?
We’d taken that shift into being a political band, but it wasn’t like we sat down and asked each other, “Hey, do you want to be political?” It was just that around that time we’d be watching documentaries about what was going on in the world together in the studio. We were almost vegan at the end of that record, too, because we watched programs together which really made us think about what was going on. And we were growing up. We were maturing. We were figuring ourselves out because we’d just been on tour the whole time we were supposed to be teenagers and reckless and stuff. I mean, we were, but we grew up touring. Whereas this was just a time to chill and so we watched that stuff and realized how much we cared about it all and wanted to talk about it. And it just worked. I think the aggression we had as a band worked with the message that we were trying to get across.
This was also Tim Hillier-Brook’s last album as guitarist. Were you aware that would be the case when you were recording it? How was the band dynamic?
It was around that time that, for one reason or another, he started distancing himself from us, and I guess in retaliation we started distancing ourselves from him, but it was never anything malicious or horrible. We still speak to Tim now—more than ever, in fact—but I think it was right. He wanted to pursue other styles of music and wasn’t happy with not writing for Architects. Because Tom’s always written everything and Tom essentially is the sound Architects. So he needed to go and get that out of his system and go write his own music, but I think at that time it was becoming clear that the remaining members of Architects were really, really tight and pulling in the same direction, so it all worked out.
2. Hollow Crown (2009)
So this one just edged out Daybreaker for the second place spot.
Yes. This was just the sound of kids that had been on tour for a year or so, off of Ruin, but had kind of ironed out all the creases that we weren’t happy with on Ruin. It sounded more aggressive, the songwriting was better, I’d figured my shit out a bit more and knew what I wanted my voice to sound like. It was an exciting time. We were living off beans and toast and disgusting stuff like tins of Campbell’s meatballs. Honestly, about five days a week we just had plain white pasta with cheese and ketchup and that was it. That was our staple. We didn’t have any fucking money. We’d just scraped enough to record that record, but now, looking back, it was a really cool time and I think people hold that record in real high esteem. People seem to really like it, and I think that’d because, more or less, people think back to that as a really cool time when there were loads of bands out and there was a really cool scene—us, Your Demise, and loads of other bands touring at the same time. And now, when I listen back to it, I get it. I get why people go on about it so much, because it was 19 year olds bringing out something that heavy. It’s a great record, if not maybe a bit too angry.
The title referred to the hard work you were putting in and the lack of appreciation you felt you were getting in return. That frustration must have really fed into the making of that record.
I think at that time we were just constantly looking around at what other people were doing and we were jealous. And that’s no way to be in a band. It wasn’t up until, really, halfway through the Daybreaker touring cycle that we realized how fortunate we were to be doing what we were doing. But I think some of that frustration really paid off in Hollow Crown. I was just a really angry kid but I didn’t really know why. It wasn’t till later that I’d figure it out and chill out, because you can’t be angry your whole life. But touring this album was so much fun. We went to America off of it and we lost loads of money but we didn’t give a fuck because we were in America just having fun and doing stuff we never thought we’d do. It opened a lot of doors to being taken seriously and taking that next level up and having bands we’d looked up to our whole lives saying we were a good band.
Your vocals got noticeably cleaner on this album. Was that a deliberate move towards a more commercial sound or more of a natural progression?
Being really honest, on Ruin we’d done a song called “You’ll Find Safety” and people really liked that song. It was the song that we were finishing with and we just thought that little bits of clean vocals here and there were worth trying. At that point, I was really quite shy about coming up with vocal melodies because I didn’t really know what to do, and our producer, John Mitchell just really understood where I was coming from. And we were all really happy and excited and we put all these harmonies in it and then we toured it and were like, “Oh my God… what the fuck have I done? How am I supposed to hit that note?” But you figure it out and you learn from it.
1. Lost Forever // Lost Together (2014)
I know that you’d put your new record, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, at the top spot, but we’re not allowed to do that. Which leaves 2014’s Lost Forever // Lost Together in number one.
Yeah, it absolutely would be. But Lost Forever // Lost Together actually changed my life. It changed all of our lives, really. It was amazing. It felt like a whirlwind and it felt like a dream. It honestly did. Because that touring cycle, everything changed—we went from the majority of tours playing a few shows where we’d be like, “That was amazing” to every show being amazing. We didn’t know what the fuck was going on. I remember doing out first UK/European tour for it with Northlane and Stray from the Path and we played Koko again and I remember just being like, “Holy fucking shit!” I think we were all just really appreciative of it, because for a time, around The Here And Now and coming into Daybreaker, we thought it had gone. We thought we’d lost it. So it was just amazing. I just remember playing Koko on that tour and thinking, “I can’t believe this is our job!” and then doing the Roundhouse and winning a Kerrang! award for best album and being signed to Epitaph… it’s all mental really, when you think about it. We started as this band that wanted to be really nasty and then we go and release our really aggressive album with blast beats and we get a Top 20. We didn’t know what the fuck was going on because we’d never even been in the Top 40, but we released that record and it went straight in at number 16.
It must have felt like all that hard work had finally paid off, that all that hard graft over the ten years was actually worth it.
One hundred percent. And I think that’s what made us appreciate it even more. Because it wasn’t like how it is with some bands, where they make a great record and they get it right straight away. We’d had years of figuring it out and working out what we wanted Architects to be and we finally got it right. And we knew we were doing something because we’d all look at each other after a song being played back and we knew it was leagues above anything we’d ever done before. We were just in a really good spot. I think we’d found out through touring for eight or so years what we were good at and how to get the best out of each other. And just the preparation for the record – me and Tom worked for months and months before we went to the studio just demoing vocals at his house and making sure we had everything figured. It’s crazy to think about it now. Even if it all stopped tomorrow—which I really hope it doesn’t—to be able to look back at that time and this record is just… it’s still hard to even explain now how grateful we are for it to have happened. Playing Koko was mental. Playing the Roundhouse was insane. And now, off the back of Lost Forever… and for the start of All Our Gods… we’re doing Brixton Academy. It’s like, what’s going on? How is this happening? But we love it. And that record, I feel finally captured the sound of what Architects is good at and what we’ve always wanted to sound like. It was how the songs had always sounded in our heads.