Architects On Their Critics, Evolution, And Why Adam Levine Can “Shove It Up His Arse”
“I can't take the shots that people throw out. They don't ever really think about the effort and time we put in, or the journey that we've been through as a band to put out this record."
It’s moments like this that the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song was built for.
Cast your mind back, if you will, to early March 2021 — a simpler time. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Adam Levine — who, need you be reminded, fronts a band — lamented the fact that there are, quote, “no bands anymore.”
Of course, the Maroon 5 frontman expanded contextually in the actual interview, saying that there were far more bands on the charts when they started out as opposed to now — which, to be disappointingly fair, is true. In the current Billboard Hot 100 at the time of writing, there are four bands — Glass Animals, Imagine Dragons, All Time Low and yes, Maroon 5. Had Levine glanced outside of his bubble, however — say, over at the UK charts — he would have seen something different entirely.
Architects, a global force in heavy music and — importantly to this story — a band, scored the number-one album in their homeland the week that Levine made these comments. Simultaneously, the band were number-one on the ARIA charts here. Across each chart, they rubbed shoulders with the likes of The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles and Ariana Grande — further emphasising just how far this fish was flung out of water.
“I’ve got no respect for Adam Levine,” says Architects frontman Sam Carter, when the aforementioned contrast is laid out for him. “I couldn’t give a toss what he thinks. It’s the same shit whenever guys like Gene Simmons run their mouths — these guys get rolled out once a year to say the exact same thing for clickbait. It’s just so boring. Like, I feel like if you actually are in a rock band, you’re so aware of so many cool bands that are coming through and doing so much cool stuff. Whenever anyone says that it, shows their disconnect from the scene and how great the scene is. Mr. Levine can shove it up his arse!”
What is even more unique for Architects’ recent success is that the album in question, For Those That Wish to Exist, is the Brighton band’s ninth. To achieve their first-ever number-one on any chart some 15 years into their career is a remarkable effort, and a further testament to the quintet’s staying power.
“Obviously, we don’t we don’t write music with the charts in mind,” says Carter. “We’ve never done that. I will say, though, that it feels a little bit cool that we’re getting this recognition — especially now. People are coming together and being like, ‘we’re going to push these bands into the mainstream, and we’re going to buy these records because we support this music.’ It really does show how big this scene is.”
Discourse, Discourse, Discourse
Of course, For Those That Wish to Exist hasn’t come without its share of detractors. Not long before its ascent to the top of the charts, internet tastemaker Anthony Fantano derided the record as “symphonic pop-metal” that “border[s] on parody.” Reviews on Rateyourmusic, too, also chastise the band for its “tough guy Christian butt rock” and for “chasing what Bring Me The Horizon did six years ago.” Contrast that with a glowing five-star review in Kerrang! or its 9/10 review in Clash, and you really start to get a sense of the album’s divisive nature.
So, does Carter pay any mind to The DiscourseTM? “I just can’t take it,” he replies. “I can’t take the shots that people throw out. They don’t ever really think about the effort and time we put in, or the journey that we’ve been through as a band to put out this record. I mean, there’s so many records that I don’t like, but I would never go on record and say it.”
“I can’t take the shots that people throw out. They don’t ever really think about the effort and time we put in, or the journey that we’ve been through as a band to put out this record.”
“A good thing that was said to me was ‘Why would you accept criticism from someone you wouldn’t ask advice from?’ That was a big thing for me. It’s just a weird culture — people are really angry, and they don’t really seem to know why. They’re just ready to take a shot at somebody for trying to do something positive. If it wasn’t you that they were going to have a go at, it was gonna be the post office worker or someone at Woolworths. These people are just angry.”
Carter goes on to explain the difficult position that bands like Architects find themselves in. They are, after all, 15 years removed from their debut album Nightmares — and the only person still in the band that played on that record is drummer/songwriter Dan Searle. Needless to say, the band Architects are now is not the one it once was — not least of all given the passing of Dan’s brother Tom, a co-founding member, who lost a battle with cancer in 2016.
So, what’s a band to do? If they continue making the same style of music that originally brought them to prominence, they’ll be chastised for spinning their wheels and making the same record again and again. Should they venture out of that framework, however, they’ll be greeted with accusations of selling out and asked why they don’t make music that sounds like their old records.
“It would have been a lot easier for us to stay there,” says Carter of the band’s metalcore origins. “I’m always confident when we make new music, but I also know how nerve-wracking it can be. Every record we move further and further away from that route we set out on, when the safer thing would have been to stick to it. To me, though, safe is boring. I love all the records we’ve made, but it just feels silly to carry on doing it just for the sake of it.”
Carter points to Searle’s passing as one of the reasons Architects have continued to adapt and evolve sonically. Even in the final stages of his life, the late guitarist was speaking to his bandmates about where he envisioned them heading after he was gone. It’s around this point that it becomes clear why Carter and co. have largely shunned public opinion on the band’s musical direction — the reality is that there was only one person they have really been trying to please.
“What’s left of Architects is the five of us that are here,” says Carter. “There were still a lot of riffs Tom had written that made it onto [previous album, 2018’s] Holy Hell, but now that’s behind us. We can’t just do a Tom Searle tribute record where we try and write like Tom — I think that would be like disrespectful to him. To truly honour what he was doing and how he pushed himself creatively, it felt like we needed to move in a new direction.”
Carter points to the song ‘Animals’ — which also gave the band their first-ever Hottest 100 placement back in January — as the point in the creative process where Exist truly began to take shape. Not only was it a fresh approach for the band, it also aligned with their final conversations with Searle. “One of the things we talked about was moving into a of heavy, bio-industrial world,” says Carter. “It’s funny… ‘bio-industrial’ means nothing to anyone, but to us it was like organic, industrial metal. When we finished ‘Animals,’ it felt like the first time that we’d actually done that since since he passed away. I remember just being like, ‘man, I just wish he could hear the song.’ I feel like we’d finally done what he was setting out to do with the next record, if he was still here.”
Outside of its sonic forays into alternative metal, djent, symphonic metal and even pop, For Those That Wish to Exist is also an intriguing listen from a lyrical perspective. As a lyricist, Dan Searle paints quite biblical imagery — life and death, heaven and hell, utopia and armageddon. It’s not a new thing for the band, by any stretch — their biggest single is literally titled ‘Doomsday’ — but it appears to play a bigger role in the lyricism here than ever before. For Carter — who describes his religious affiliation as ‘christened, but not a Christian’ — singing these lyrics was an intriguing experience.
“It’s super interesting,” he says of Searle’s writing. “I think it’s through ways of getting the point across, y’know? Heaven and Hell is basically like a good-and-evil sort of way of lateral thinking. I think the way he does it is great. What he’s doing taking you on a journey somewhere else. That’s one of life’s biggest questions when you look at good versus evil, right versus wrong. You’re like, ‘hang on a minute, does that exist? Can it exist? Is there an answer out there?’”
The involvement between Carter and Searle on the record develops even further when it’s noted that Searle co-produced it alongside lead guitarist Josh Middleton. It’s in moments like this that the camaraderie and mutual respect between the band members becomes increasingly clear. “It has to sound real,” says Carter. “I have to make it sound like I’ve written the lyrics, or that Dan’s singing them. It has to be coming from that place. I back everything that he writes, and I stand by him. We’re all so close as a friendship group that we all kind of know what each other is about as well. When we go into the studio, I’m ready to sing about these things that I’m super passionate about, and Dan’s writing them in a far better way than I could.”
The Endless Push Forward
More than merely a reflection of the heavy music he listens to, Carter sees Architects as a vehicle for all of his various inspirations. Across the conversation, he’ll lather praise onto bands as unexpected as R.E.M. (“Honestly, how good are they?”) and Mew (“We used to blast Frengers in the van on every single tour”). Carter also points to post-hardcore veterans Thrice as one of his biggest inspirations behind the band’s sonic evolution. “We kind of grew up at the same time, just in different parts of the world,” he says of the cult American band.
“The Artist in the Ambulance is a heavy record, just like our early stuff. Vheissu is more in the spirit of bands like Radiohead, and it came out around the exact same time I was discovering them myself. Their later records, like Beggars, are much roomier and more focused on the groove. I just see them as a band that pushes the envelope with every single release. They could just phone it in every time, but they don’t. They put real effort into their albums — every song has a purpose, and they create pieces of art rather than just singles. As we’ve gotten older and changed our sound, they’ve been such a big inspiration to us.”
This also reflects in the guests selected to perform on Exist. Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall is an obvious choice, given their similar trajectory out of metalcore and into the mainstream, but members of bands like Biffy Clyro and Royal Blood may not quite align with your usual Architects fare. “They came about really naturally,” says Carter of the collaborations.
“I don’t think I’m ever satisfied. I don’t ever want to sit around and pat myself on the back. There’ll be time for that.”
“Simon [Neil]’s part in ‘Goliath’ already felt like a Biffy part to us — we all thought that he would smash it. We’d sort of befriended him from just chatting at various music festivals, so when we emailed him he said yes straightaway. That meant a lot to us, as we’re all huge Biffy fans. As for Mike [Kerr], he’s one of my best mates. We actually rehearse in the same space as Royal Blood, so we’re super close with them. When he came in for ‘Little Wonder,’ he smashed it instantly.”
With all this talk of longevity and the veteran status of Architects, it’s worth noting that the band members are only in their early-to-mid 30s. The Searle twins formed the band when they were just 16 years old, and Carter himself joined not long after turning 18 himself. The band has essentially grown up in public — perhaps not with the same fanfare as, say, Panic! At The Disco or Paramore, but certainly in their own respect and within the ever-burgeoning UK heavy music scene. As our conversation draws to a close, Carter is queried on his motivations behind the band’s continuation and his own personal creative quest.
“I think it’s the same as it was when I was a kid,” he says. “I don’t think I’m ever satisfied. I don’t ever want to sit around and pat myself on the back. There’ll be time for that. There’ll be a time where I can sit there and look back at everything and be like, ‘that was really cool that you did that.’ Right now, though, I think I just want to just keep going.”
“I think if you stop and stand still and spend too much time looking around, you lose focus. You lose the reason why you did it in the first place. You’ve always got to try and do better — be a better band, be a better vocalist, put on a better live show. I’m still just as hungry to do that now as I ever was.”
David James Young is a freelance writer who will always come out of mosh retirement whenever required.