Acres – ‘We wanted to be careful and work hard on these songs’

Words: Miljan Milekić

At this point, Acres are probably the most exciting name in the UK post-hardcore scene. They announced their debut full-length for August and shared two new singles – title track ‘Lonely World’ and ‘Talking In Your Sleep,’ both to fans’ acclaim. A few days ago the band joined Casey on their last-ever European tour, and we grabbed the opportunity to talk with vocalist Ben Lumber and guitarist Theo Sandberg. Check the interview below.

Hey guys! First of all, last night you played Trix in Antwerpen, which is one of my favorite venues. How was the show?
Ben: Uh, it was awesome, really cool. It was sold out, so you can’t really ask for a better start of the tour. And it’s a really, really nice venue.

How does it feel to be on this tour? You’re on the road with an amazing band, but at the same time you know they are splitting up in a few months, so I guess it has to be a bittersweet experience in a way?
Ben: Yeah, it’s super cool to be on this tour. We know Casey for a few years now, they are good friends of ours, so it was super cool of them to ask us to come out with them on the final run. But yeah, as you said, at the same time is sad to see them go. As friends, it’s been awesome to watch them develop and grow into what they’ve been. It’s definitely sad that it’s their last tour, for sure.

So far, did you have the chance to showcase some of the new songs on the shows, and possibly test the crowd a little bit? How does it feel to do it?
Theo: I mean, it’s cool. Obviously, it’s still early on in the tour, and we’re still kind of testing the waters. Like, one of the new songs, ‘Talking In Your Sleep,’ we literally put it out two days before we started the tour, so that’s still kind of going down. Playing it live right now, it’s a little daunting, and we are still sort of finding our beat with it, but super exciting at the same time. Um, a lot of that, especially that song, is quite fast-paced for us, so yeah, it’s been really fun to play.

Actually, that’s my next question – what’s the idea and the message behind that song, and especially the video?
Ben: I wrote that song about being lied to, and people deceiving you, but at the same time, not doing it in an obvious way. For me, the song name, ‘Talking In Your Sleep,’ is like a metaphor for those lies and deceit slowly starting to unravel over time. And for the video, I wanted to make something that shows the song, which is kind of empty, and kind of bleak. We chose to shoot over in Latvia, we find the location, which was this really, really nice, old, abandoned, I think it was a World War II building. And it seemed that it would super, super fit in for what we wanted the song to look like.

So, this is your second single from the new album, after the ‘Lonely World,’ which is already drawing quite a bit of attention. How encouraging is it to see such a positive reaction?
Ben: It’s awesome, it’s really cool. We spent so much time writing the record, and we wanted to be careful and work hard on these songs. So, going from that to see how ‘Lonely World’ is doing in just under a month is incredible. Yeah.

Theo: When we were writing for the album, it was one of the songs that, as soon as the ideas for it started to come forward, everyone knew that we were onto something special. I think we know right from the get-go that we wanted it to be one of the main singles, and to really push it. So, to see people, sort of clarified that it was the right decision to do that, it’s really, really good for us. It’s super nice.

And that song is actually my first contact with your band. I’ve never heard of you before, and I instantly liked it. Do you feel like the upcoming album is the best piece of music you ever wrote, and do you think that the writing process itself was more serious than ever before?
Ben: Um, to answer the first bit, I think 100%, yes. I think this is the best of music this band has ever done.

Theo: The writing process, I think it was much more, sort of strategic I’d say, in the way that we had a formula of a way of writing. It was like me demoing the songs instrumentally in my room, and then, once that instrumental demo was finished, I’d send that to Ben and the rest of the band. When everyone was happy with the instrumental demo, we’d send it across to a friend of Ben‘s who would help Ben demo the vocals out. And we were already strict on ourselves, to make sure everything was perfect. Even with instrumentals before Ben started working on the vocals, and then equally with the vocals, Ben was going back for multiple days, to make sure all the takes were perfect.

And this was all just even before we did proper pre-production, this was just the writing process, you know. Then, when we went into the studio, we recorded with a man called John Mitchell who’s done records for Architects, You Me At Six, Lower Than Atlantis, a lot of other bands. He helped us to finally, sort of, craft the arrangements of the songs. And all those kinds of things we’d never done before. So, we were definitely a lot tougher on ourselves to make sure that song will really be up to scratch.

And I love how you managed to keep the strong and raw emotion in the songs, while at the same time, it’s easy to hear that songs themselves are polished and well-thought, done with great attention to detail. How did you manage to combine those two approaches, that often don’t go together?
Theo: I mean that’s a really awesome question, because, in the past, that was always something I really struggled with. As you say, to get something that was emotionally full of charge, but at the same time had formulas. I think that was one of the struggles we had with the past music – some of the songs that were most emotional, kind of just went on these crazy tangents, and the structures weren’t really there. Whereas with this, I think on the instrumental side, the way I’d write songs is to keep playing around until I came up with felt exciting in one way or another. I’d play around with it until it felt like I’d gauge an emotion for the song.

From that point, to be honest, I guess I’d just work off it and think of what kind of a song do we want it to be. Do we want it to be a slow-building song, do we want it to be more of a single… And I’d start thinking about the structure, like, what’s going to be the chorus, what’s going to be the verses… Half the times, to be honest, before the songs were even halfway into writing, I’d have in my mind what the bridge should be. Also, I’m aware, as an instrumentalist, that a lot of the meaning and the emotions come across when the vocals are put on. So like my job is kind of, just to create the structure for Ben, and then Ben brings so much of the emotion. So I don’t know, he’ll probably be better off answering about the emotional side. If that makes any sense.

Ben: I mean, when I first joined the band, EP’s and singles were already written, so there was only so much I could do with that. And, as I said, with this record, it was written in mind for my voice, and what I was able to do it as well. It was super nice to be able to be myself a bit more on this album.

Theo: And we talk back and forth a lot, in general, and while we were writing. When we would decide what kind of song we’d want to write next, Ben would be like, – “let’s maybe try a slow one next.” We’d send inspirations back and forth to each other and, get a vibe of what we wanted to do. And then, as it said, it would just be a case of trying to find a hook, or a melody, or something that felt exciting enough to write a song on. I’m imagining it’s kind of the same with the vocals.

*click the photo to pre-order new album ‘Lonely World’*

Do you think we can expect some more surprises on the record as well?
Theo: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think so. The way I like to think of this album is, like everything that’s been done before by Acres down even more. I know that’s a very typical thing to say, but you know, the heavier bits are heavier. For instance, the breakdown that we have in ‘Lonely World,’ that’s like one of the heaviest bits we’ve put in a song. And then, there’s also some of the lightest songs we’ve ever written, yet to be released. Definitely some of the slowest songs… We’re utilizing other instruments like piano a lot more on this record. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of surprises to come.

You also didn’t put borders to your music, in terms of genre and style, you mixed it up, exploring different influences, and it seems like you finally found your own sound, more than ever before. Would you agree with that?
Ben: Yeah. I 100% agree. When I first joined the band, this is kind of what I wanted to bring to it, and this record is exactly how I pictured Acres will be with myself on vocals. So yeah, I think we’ve definitely kind of zoned in on the sound and found it a bit more.

Theo: I think a big thing for us and with the formula of an album is that there should be a sense of journey, and a sense of progression throughout it. We’re really didn’t want it to be like every song is the same thing. We wanted it to be like – “this is what Acres would be like in this environment.” You know, as a slow song, as a ballad. Like, what would an angry Acres song sound like? What would an upbeat Acres song sound like? All these things. As you say it, it’s not just a bunch of songs in one particular genre, and it’s more like a display of or what Aces are musically in all the different environments that we could write in.

You’re doing ‘Lonely World’ with A Wolf At Your Door Records. As a label that had and have quite a few bands that went through everything you are going through in terms of getting your name out there, do you think they are the right choice to lead you to the next level?
Ben: Yeah, yeah. 100%. When we were approached, and we read through everything, we had a meeting with them, and I think the whole band in half an hour, was 100% comfortable with label managers. I can say nothing but good things about the label, and the guys that are running it. They’ve all been super supportive, and that they allow us to be the creatives we want to be, with the ideas we have and what we want to do. They’ve just been really, really supportive.

Theo: I think it’s been an amazing opportunity because, when you join a label that has had a lot of prestigious names on it prior to you, it can be a bit daunting. And for us, like, we never worked with a serious label, like A Wolf At Your Door. That was quite nerve-wracking, but they’ve just been so ridiculously supportive and helpful. I mean, as Ben says, I don’t mean we could say anything but amazing things about them. It’s been absolutely great.

So, what are the next steps for you as a band? Obviously, the record in August, this tour, but what else can we expect from you?
Ben: We’re going to be releasing a few more songs from the record in the next couple of months. We also have a couple of festivals that we’re yet to announce coming up soon, and then we’re planning on doing a headline run around September as well, for ‘Lonely World.’ So yeah, a whole bunch more stuff.

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