Interview: Sleeping With Sirens Guitarists Jesse Lawson and Jack Fowler Discuss Warped Tour, New Acoustic EP

Next month, Michigan-based post-hardcore rockers Sleeping With Sirens will set off on their first-ever headlining tour in support of 2011's Let’s Cheers to This (Rise Records).

In the meantime, the band is knee-deep in a winter tour in support of label mates Attack Attack!, and they're putting the finishing touches on their forthcoming, still-untitled acoustic EP.

Guitar World talked with guitarists Jesse Lawson and Jack Fowler (formerly of Broadway) about their tours -- including Warped Tour in June -- the EP and the overall growth of the band.

GUITAR WORLD: You guys were one of the first bands to be announced for Warped Tour 2012. Will this be your first time on the tour?

JESSE LAWSON: Yes. This will be our first time on Warped Tour, and we’re stoked about it. It’s something we’ve all talked about. Warped Tour is something that, as a local band, you always look forward to doing and hope that one day you can. Now we’re finally doing it, and I think we’re really excited about it. It’s gonna be awesome.

JACK FOWLER: I am more than excited about it. I think it’s gonna be a great time. The stage is awesome and it’ll just be great to see how much the band has grown in a year and a half.

You guys were scheduled to record an acoustic EP in Los Angeles. What was the inspiration behind that since the release of Let’s Cheers to This last May?

LAWSON: Kellin and I always just start writing a record with just the two of us doing acoustic stuff. When we started posting those acoustic videos on YouTube, they were blowing up. Kids always responded well, and when we first started touring, we were even doing acoustic sets after the show, and it was nuts because literally, the same amount of kids that would come to the show would hang around after and just watch the acoustic set. So we knew that it was cool, and we knew that if we had done an acoustic EP it would go over really well.

FOWLER: So far, there is going to be one old song that we do acoustically, and the rest are just going to be new songs. The way we write acoustic songs is very different from everything else. The kids have just been dying for an acoustic EP out of us anyway, so we decided to give them a few new songs to listen to that will hold them over until the new album is done.

Sleeping With Sirens went through a ton of changes between the first full-length, With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear, and Let’s Cheers to This, your second release. Most bands graduate to a more refined sound after a few years of playing. What's your take on the whole process and what led you guys to play this style of music so soon in the game while keeping certain signatures from your earlier record?

LAWSON: I think the member changes played a huge part in that. I actually didn’t write on the first record, and then when I joined, I brought kind of a different feel to it. Jack did as well. We just didn’t want to play as many breakdowns and be stuck in that “box.” I think that as we go forward, we’ll probably go even more outside the box. We just like to mature, and I think that’s our goal with every record: to mature more and just be straight rock and roll rather than a “scene” band, because that’s not really fun for us. It helps that Kellin and I have been together since we were 15 or 16. When I joined the band, he and I already had that connection and history with music, so it made it really smooth rather than an awkward transition.

FOWLER: It’s very different. Like Jesse said, there were two different guitarists on the second album, so it’s more of a growth in a sense that Jess and I come from just a straight-up rock and roll background. That’s how the album came about. We just wrote what we felt at the time and we knew it was gonna be a big change in sound from the band, but it worked out in our favor.

Jesse, how has having Jack Fowler in the band affected your writing process?

LAWSON: With Jack writing with us, it’s always a great thing. He’s one of those people who will just kind of listen to a melody or structure that we came up with and will just write catchy riffs to go with it, and they always work.

What it was like to be integrated into SWS?

LAWSON: I thought it was really cool. I wasn’t really doing much, and when they asked me to jump on, I was stoked. I’ve been touring for a while, so it was just one of those things where I went for it and it worked out!

FOWLER: My old band, Broadway, and Sleeping With Sirens toured together and that’s how I met everyone. We all got along really well and about a year or so later they called me and were like, “Hey, we have a spot open. Are you willing to take it?” I immediately said yes. I knew they were on the uprising and my band was starting to fall of, so I took the opportunity and it worked out to be awesome for me.

Describe your live guitar setup.

LAWSON: I run an Orange TH30 and I play an American Fender Telecaster. I keep it pretty basic because I do mostly rhythm stuff, so I just run a Boss delay pedal and a tuner.

FOWLER: I run an Orange TH30 head with an Orange cab. I play Fender Telecasters, and I only use Seymour Duncan pickups. When it comes to pedals, it’s really kind of endless. I probably have about 15 pedals that I run. I’m way into it. I have a Line 6 DL4, a Boss DD3 for simple delay, a noise gate, a suppressor — I have way too many things on that board. I’ve been playing with the same DD3 for three years. I know everything about it. That’s my one solid pedal.

Are you anticipating any new gear soon? Endorsements?

LAWSON: We are working with Orange. As far as guitars, we don’t really have much, but we’d like to do something with Taylor. Their electric guitars are really good. Or Fender. I would love Fender. I think Telecasters are the best guitars out there.

FOWLER: Maybe Fender if I get lucky. We all use Fender and Orange across the whole stage.

A lot of new pop punk bands have been signing to Rise Records since you guys released Let’s Cheers to This. Do you think the genre bending of metalcore and dubstep, rock and R&B, pop and metal, etc. is here to stay or do you believe it's a dying trend? What do you envision as the next step for the music scene?

FOWLER: I think this whole music scene is awesome, but the way we’re looking at it is if you look at any bands that have longevity, it’s just rock and roll. So we’re gonna take rock and roll and put it to an edge. The music has changed so much in the past year alone. Everyone was using synthesizers one year, and then all that stopped. I think solid music and choruses are coming back into play. I think the next big thing will be very catchy bands with awesome choruses. Kids like simple music that they can sing along to, so you have to give it to them.

Describe the moment it hit you that you’re in a touring band. Is it a residual feeling or was it a one-time thing?

FOWLER: I’m still kind of in shock that I’m actually doing it. Every time I come home from a tour, I see my friends and they’re kind of doing the same thing. Everyone always tells me how lucky I am. I embrace it every day. I think it’s the best job in the entire world.

Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

LAWSON: Never stop. You get told “no” a lot, and there’s obviously a very small chance you really do make it as a musician. Just keep trying different kinds of music and don’t give up. It’s not easy and it’s not quick. There’s a lot of trial and error, and you just have to keep going. Hopefully something will turn out for you.

FOWLER: You’re gonna go through everything. Van breakdowns, fighting with your best friends, the worst possible situations — you just can’t ever give up.

Catch up with Sleeping With Sirens via their official Facebook page.

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