U.K. rockers While She Sleeps have just released their second album, Brainwashed, via Razor & Tie. We figured that gave us a fine excuse to pick the brain of WSS guitarist Sean Long. Here are our 10 questions.
We couldn't be happier with how people are receiving the record. No one seems to have a bad word to say about it, which is quite amazing for us.
After having the album with us for so long, working, changing and developing it, it can very easily become quite scary. For example, "Is it just us who thinks it's great and we've lost our minds?" [laughs] So when people finally hear it and actually love it, it is an amazing sigh of relief.
02. How did the writing process differ on the new album versus your debut, This Is the Six?
We've always written our music off the back of our latest material, using it as inspiration, among other things, to keep our sound alive. So you could say, in a strange sense, we've been writing for each album since we started creating music. For example, I'm already writing for the next record, so there's never really a stand point to start writing. However, there is a point at which we decide to start to compile all our work together and begin to create block socks.
The way in which it has differed this time is how staggered the whole song arrangement and writing has been. Due to Loz's [Lawrence "Loz" Taylor] throat problems, it made it difficult to stay on top of the music side of things for me, as I usually feed off of new vocal ideas from him, which makes me flow with the music.
Also, because of the time we lost, it meant we had to leave a lot of the vocal and melody writing to Mat [Welsh] and Loz to track a lot of it on the day, and it left little room for group writing sessions. As always, it was a blessing in disguise as Mat and Loz really thrive on pressure because it forces you to produce what you really want because time is thin, and it will force out the truth.
03. What kind of gear did you use on Brainwashed?
For amps, we used a Marshall JVM205 and a Peavey 6505. Guitars ranged from an Ibanez FR, an Ibanez Roadcore, a Telecaster, a Gibson ES-335, the Epiphone Matt Heavy Signature model and a Les Paul Special. Plus a wide range of acoustics.
04. How does your gear differ from the studio to the stage?
I’ve tried my hardest to sound as much like the records a possible. In no way does that mean it’s all polished live, as we love the fact that a live show is completely different every time. But tone-wise, I take pride in trying to make it like the record just so kids can thrive off of our it sound from already listening to the record.
05. What's the first song you learned on guitar?
"Damn It" by Blink 182. Aaran [Mckenzie] our bassist used to play guitar when he was younger, and it was the first song he taught me. Blink rule!
06. Is there a particular style of music or any guitarists that inspired the way you play on the record?
Not really. Like I said, we like to take inspiration from our own lives and try and make our own vibe from that. But I have to say, introducing the whammy was definitely a blast of Rage Against the Machine, as they were one of the first bands I loved, and I hadn't listed to them in years.
07. There are plenty of heavy riffs and solos on the new record. What's your favorite song to play and why?
Either "Brainwashed" of "Life in Tension." "Brainwashed" because of the shred fest at the end [laughs]. I fucking love that riff and have been waiting for a long time to play and watch how it works live! "Life in Tension," on the other hand, is really fast but easy to play live, but then I get to rock a new whammy sort of vibe in the chorus, which is awesome.
08. The band is known for its DIY work ethic. How has this influenced your guitar setup and the way you play?
I’ve sort of stopped caring so much about if I have all the best gear, as when in was younger that’s all I wanted and thought that was the way to go. It turns out if you really enjoy playing live, it will shine through your playing. You can have all shiny gear, but really it’s the passion behind the writing that will dictate the power of the presentation.
09. If you could have any guitarist, dead or alive, join you on stage for a shred session, who would it be and why?
Tom Morello. Just because I wouldn’t be doing this interview and wouldn't of got hooked if it wasn’t for him. He's an absolute legend!
10. While She Sleeps will return to the U.S. in June for the Vans Warped Tour. What are you looking forward to the most? Is there anything you know now that you didn't when you played the fest in 2013?
Yeah; it's fucking hot as shit [laughs] We've all learned a lot about prepping for the tour beforehand and being ready on the first day. It’s a brutal tour for sure, but we're still stoked to get a fire going in the States. We can't fucking wait!