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Weekend Extra: Neck Deep frontman Ben Barlow reckons they’ve got something for everyone

Cool concept: Ben (centre) with Neck Deep bandmates (from left) Sam Bowden, Matt West, Seb Barlow and Dani Washington

CONCEPT albums are a funny thing, people either love them or hate them and there can be a distinct eye-roll whenever the phrase comes up. That didn’t faze Neck Deep, though, and with good reason — All Distortions Are Intentional reached the Top Five of the album charts.

They had a huge tour planned to celebrate their success, but, like so many other shows, that has now been rescheduled for spring next year.

Singer Ben Barlow laughs. ‘I wasn’t always open to doing a concept record. I always thought we would be lumped in with a bunch of other records and a certain expectation. It is a bit of a dirty word, really, with assumptions attached. It wasn’t always the intention, you know, from when we started writing it. It very much came along quite naturally during the writing process.’

The theme of the album revolves around a loner named Jett, who lives in a place called Sonderland, a portmanteau of the word wonderland and ‘sonder’, defined as the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, with their own ambitions and worries.

Jett is alone until he falls in love with a girl called Alice. Ben recalls: ‘I wrote the song Lowlife when we were on tour with Blink-182 and it was different to anything that we had written before. There was this lightbulb moment of, well, this could be a character, not me, this isn’t me saying this. As soon as I got that thought in my head, everything kind of snowballed.’

Ben says he’s been trying not to let the tour postponement get to him, after the album’s roaring success.

‘It’s bittersweet really, as all we want to do now is play it live for people. I’m so pleased with how the record’s done, despite everything.

‘We made a record that we love and that fans are really, really enjoying and I think we’ll have a longevity with it. We can look back at this weird moment in time and be proud.’

Like most of us, Ben is badly missing going to gigs. ‘In the alternative world, shows and gigs are the heart and soul of our scene. I feel like shows are one of the most important things that people look forward to the most.

‘I’m hoping and just praying that it’s going to be bigger and better than ever when it comes back. I definitely think there will be a kind of special atmosphere there, for sure. I keep thinking about, “What am I going to say when we come back?” I think I might get emotional reflecting back on what a year this has been. And I just hope the fans see it the same way’.

If you’ve not heard them before, says Ben, you may be surprised.

‘My mum is nearly 70 and she can pick out a handful of favourite Neck Deep songs and will listen to the record. So, yeah, if my mum is into it I think there’s something in it for everyone,’ he laughs.

As for their live shows next year, you don’t want to miss out. ‘If you want to go to a gig and get a bit rowdy, a Neck Deep show is for you,’ says Ben.

‘I just don’t think we could play a show any other way. We have tons of energy. We have songs that are kind of rooted in punk, but then also sad songs and acoustic songs.

‘We’ve got a lot of ballads and love songs, so we cover everything from shedding a tear to crawling around on someone’s head!’

■ Neck Deep begin a nationwide tour on March 31, 2021, neckdeepuk.com