Interview with our cover star Brighton-based metalcore group Architects

There are few rock bands able to match the impact, ferocity, and commitment to constantly bettering themselves than Brighton-based metalcore group, Architects. The band have been around for nearly two decades and was formed by twin brothers Dan & Tom Searle back in the early 2000s. In the band’s formative years and after the release of debut record ‘Nightmares’ in 2006, the previous frontperson Matt Johnson had left and the gifted musician and vocalist, Sam Carter, stepped into the role. Throughout the next several years, the band would tour and sell out numerous headline shows, gain a fiercely loyal fanbase, and the line-up occasionally changed. After releasing a slew of albums, it wasn’t until 2014 onwards that their hard work started to really pay off and the rockers had a true sense of their musical identity and what the band was all about. In 2014, they dropped their sixth LP ‘Lost Forever // Lost Together’, followed by 2016’s ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ then tragically, guitarist and principal songwriter Tom Searle passed away due to a three-year battle with skin cancer. 

The band was forever changed but determined to carry on with Tom in their collective hearts. In 2018, Architects released their gripping eighth record, ‘Holy Hell’. An inward-looking record that dealt with the loss of Tom and explored pain, loss and how to live with it. Coming out the other side of that grief was 2021’s inspired and expansive record, ‘For Those That Wish to Exist’. It was a different calibre, something completely unique, and took the band to places that they hadn’t gone before by including synths, moments of orchestration, and different sonics. This record in particular also marked a momentous occasion for the now arena-headlining band, their first number-one album. This win for Architects couldn’t have been foreseen by the band’s members Dan Searle (drums) Sam Carter (vocals), Alex Dean (bass), Adam Christianson (guitar), and Josh Middleton (guitar). It was something they never expected, especially for a heavy rock band, it was a triumph.

Now, Architects have unveiled their tenth studio album, ‘The Classic Symptoms of A Broken Spirit’. Admirably, the band are refusing to follow their previously winning formula by tearing up the rulebook on this new record. Fuelled by their past successes and victories, they have created something creatively liberating, playful and spontaneous whilst pushing themselves as musicians. Essentially, they’re proving they are eager and ready to pursue the next best version of Architects. So to celebrate the release of the record, House Of Solo sat down with frontperson, Sam Carter. What was the first thing on the agenda? Well, we had to find out how it felt to be ten albums deep into their career.  Especially as it’s not a stage that many bands get to. It’s something to be celebrated.

“It makes you feel really fucking old. Even though I don’t feel old, it makes me feel old. In terms of having ten records, I don’t think we really think about it too much. Looking at other bands and their output, like Metallica, and seeing how many albums they’ve released in their career, makes me think like ‘maybe we put out too much shit’” laughs Sam over our Zoom call.

“It’s exciting, man. It feels good. If anything, I think it shows the level of excitement is still there, there’s still creative energy within the band and I think that’s why we’ve always put out stuff when we feel like it’s good–we’re always writing. One of the joys of being in a band is being able to be creative and have something to focus on. Something to create and love. To still be doing it after this amount of time and having ten records, I think you’ve really just got to enjoy the creative element. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be that many albums.”

You could forgive the band for having taken on any extra pressure due to the last Architects record topping the charts, but surprisingly they didn’t. Some bands may have felt more pressure when writing the follow-up to such success but Sam assured me, any pressure felt during the making of ‘The Classic Symptoms of A Broken Spirit’, was minimal. If anything, the success of their last album “didn’t change much” in relation to the five-piece’s drive and motivation. It helped fuel it but they’ve always been propelled forward by their need to create. It pushes them to constantly raise the bar with each project they release. Although they’re always looking at the future and what comes next, Carter is extremely proud of it and says “It was an amazing time to get a number one record”.

The songwriter jokingly remarks during the interview that he doesn’t believe they’ll strike gold twice with the latest LP, in terms of UK chart domination, because music giants Taylor Swift & Arctic Monkeys are also releasing projects at the same time. Yet Sam comments that he’s “just glad to be along for the ride”. I’m quick off the mark to reply with an optimistic outlook and mention that it could happen though, he shouldn’t rule it out yet. Moving onwards, something that I’ve personally admired about Architects is that each member has always been extremely musical and had that typical rite of passage. What I mean by rite of passage is that in most cases before an artist or band gets ‘big’, you best believe that they’ve been in loads of different musical projects before the stars aligned and they found some form of success as whatever current moniker they go by. It’s certainly the case for Mr Carter at the very least. By trade, he was a drummer and played with numerous bands. There were times were drums and vocals would make an appearance after he found out he had a booming loud voice as he was able to sing over the thrashing and pounding sound of the drums. Sam spoke a little about this time in his life:

“When I was a drummer I was a pain in the arse. I was playing the drums and putting fills in places that didn’t need to be filled. I just wanted to be at the front. I would be like ‘look at me, I’m back here, look at me!’ and show off all the time. I was in a few bands at the time and I was working at Holland & Barrett, so I would take my cymbals and snare drum to work every day, go to the practice place after work and then practice with one of the four bands I was in. I would then get the train home which took half an hour and then had to walk from the train station to my house. I would do that every day for four or five days a week. It was just me playing the drums but through that, I started another band because I was doing backing vocals, and helped with vocals in other bands when certain members couldn’t make it to practice or shows” states Carter.

Sam’s appetite for performing meant that one of the bands he was in, supported Sheffield’s alt-rock group Bring Me The Horizon at a local venue. During this show, the previous Architects singer had quit and after Sam’s performance that night, he was approached by Alex (better known as Ali) the following day. Sam accepted the offer to meet with the band for a tryout and after that went swimmingly, Sam joined them for a couple of rehearsals as the group already had a forthcoming tour booked in their calendar. Everyone clicked with Sam and things went well. Carter made his debut as the frontperson of Architects in Oxford back in 2007. Interestingly, the band planned for him to come on and perform the last song of the set as a passing of the torch between the ex-vocalist and Sam. The rest was history. Sam recalls being “absolutely terrified” of this first outing but felt like he had “a real purpose for the time” in his life.

It’s been fifteen years since that debut performance and the band have done incredible things since then and ascended to dizzying heights, whilst also progressing individually as musicians. So with the jump from shouting over drums to becoming drum-less and a frontperson, Sam explained how he continued to better himself in this newfound role.

For the first two records, we were on tour so it was a case of learning that your voice isn’t always going to feel tip-top, some nights it’s going to feel pretty ropey because you drank too much the night before. You figure out how many drinks you can have before this affects your performance. Back then, I used to smoke so it’d be like ‘How many cigarettes will it be before my voice sounds like shit?’ I was figuring out my limits and the adjustments that I needed to make during the first few years. The moment we went to a studio in America to do a record called ‘The Here And Now’… that’s when things really stepped up, as when we were recording we were told ‘you’re not using any Pro Tools, no autotune, there are no effects on this record’. 

“It was all of us just playing our instruments essentially to tape in the studio but it wasn’t actually done on tape. I absolutely shit myself because I was like ‘what the fuck am I gonna do? I’m an okay singer, but maybe I’m not note-perfect’. So I had singing lessons whilst I was out there. I had about two or three lessons with a vocal coach called Mark. He was just so brilliant, reassuring, and calming. He taught me things that still stick with me now. I still do the warm-ups he gave me, we did the warm-ups together and he recorded them with me in the room. I literally do it all the time. It was amazing” comments the Architects frontperson.

In a way, Carter was subjected to a real baptism of fire, learning as he went. Now, his vocals are fiercer, more commanding, and have real depth to them. Again, his persistence and hard work paid off. Turning back to the new album ‘The Classic Symptoms Of A Broken Spirit’, Carter explained what he’s most proud about the project. Simply, it boils down to a few things–the band are still excited to make music after all these years, he’s proud that they all “care more” and as a result of that, they spent more time “fine-combing everything” on the record. Yet most crucially, he’s most proud of the fact that by entering uncharted territories and going outside of their comfort zones, this record brought a real sense of artistic freedom and sparks of joy during the writing process.

“I like that we’re pushing ourselves [on this album], we’re not just doing the same record again. We’re going into this uncharted world where you’re nervous. We’re not pros when it comes to writing industrial heavy-metal music, but it’s exciting for us. It felt like the first time you write a song, where you ask yourself things like ‘well how did that happen?’. You start writing the record and hit on a couple of things and you’re like ‘this is really fucking cool’. You then try different avenues and experiment more. I love that we’re still trying to be entertaining and show different sides of what our band is capable of” says Carter.

When an artist or band tries something completely new, a small percentage of their fanbase will inevitably cause a ruckus online. It’s normally down to that percentage believing that the band should stick with a certain sound or influence. They also tend to think that this new version of the band that they’re hearing is awful. This is something Architects have particularly faced on their last record and in the past. But why shouldn’t this constantly evolving band continue to push the envelope and try new things? Radical new ideas can breed innovation and it is natural for a band to change over time. Sam says this sort of thing is so common now. He’s seen it happen not just to Architects but to other bands like Arctic Monkeys and The 1975. One reason why he believes this sort of thing is more common now is down to a very small percentage of younger people being “angry” and “very vocal” but he completely sympathises as “there’s a lot to be angry about” in this world.

From his youth to adulthood, Sam absolutely adored listening to music and even if he couldn’t appreciate a band’s sound at one point in time, he’d revisit them down the line and have a totally different perspective on them. One example he brought up was Arctic Monkeys as he was “never a big fan of their early stuff” but he now loves the “last three records they put out”. And that’s it isn’t it? Things just change when you get older. Your personality, your music taste, the art you put out, everything evolves and changes. So of course Architects are going to try different things over time. Sam is fully aware that some fans have grown up with Architects and have been around since the band’s early days. He also accepts that sometimes you can’t make every fan happy: “not everyone is going to be with you for the whole ride”.

Continuing the conversation, Carter says: “For me, it’s a divisive thing putting out music and seeing how people react. Some people will be angry but some people will love it but you do have to be able to change. I don’t think The Beatles would have been The Beatles if they kept releasing their first record over and over again. You have to see these big moments in musical history as inspiration, the change from ‘Revolver’ to ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ is absolutely massive.”

Whilst on the topic, the frontperson is keen to note when people say negative or hurtful things online, they often think there’s no one on the receiving end, they forget that there is another human being on the other side. 

“I think people think there’s not somebody on the end of these comments or there’s not somebody on the other side that has tried really hard. So when people say online ‘your band’s fucking dead to me’, ‘I don’t want to listen to them’ or ‘this isn’t what I like’, you could catch me at a bad point in the day or at a point where I’m feeling particularly low or even when I’m having a good time, those comments still affect you. I’ve never met anybody who has slagged off our band to my face but I’ve read a million different comments online. I hope it stays that way but it does hurt.”

He’s right, the internet can be a damaging place that impacts your mental health, especially when you receive hurtful and absurd comments. Sam believes people need to be “a bit kinder and be aware that there is a mental health crisis going on. Being kind costs nothing.” By this point in the interview, it has already occurred to me that this charismatic frontperson isn’t just in one of the UK’s hardest working bands, he’s also an extremely thoughtful, caring, and kind individual. You can tell he cares deeply for those close to him, so with that in mind, I had to ask him what he admires the most about his bandmates. After all, they’ve been a band of brothers over the last fifteen years or so.

“I admire the drive and the tenacity they possess. To step out on the stage again after everything that happened with Tom, especially when it was so raw, really full-on, and very in-your-face. We really took comfort in being a band of brothers and being able to put an arm around each other when someone needed it or being able to check if someone was okay. The willpower they possess to not give up and be like ‘we’ve got this, and we’re going to be okay’ is amazing. I think that is what I love about them the most. I also love that we’re still pushing each other to be better musicians, people, and advocates for things we care about. We’re very honest with each other, if someone’s feeling bad or feeling rough or having a difficult time, I feel like I can always be very open with them and they can always come to me as well. I’m proud of them, they’re great guys and I love them all” Carter says cheerfully over the video call.

On a different note, Sam previously had a full circle moment when he was asked to lend his vocals to the popular video game franchise Final Fantasy, specifically Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. This gaming franchise was and still is huge. The band even used to walk out on stage to ‘Shinra theme’ from one of the games. Out of curiosity, I had to find out if this is something he’d like to do again in the future and how he found the experience.

“I’m always open to more things like that. Being creative, collaborative, and creating something important is really fun. I loved the experience so much. Working with them and the team was wicked. Final Fantasy means so much to people. You feel like you really don’t want to fuck it up for them and you want to make sure you do a good job.”

At the moment the band are gearing up to embark on a support tour with Scottish legends and fellow rock giants, Biffy Clyro. They will be joining the trio for a run of arena shows in November. These support slots will offer Architects the opportunity to win over new fans but some would ask why are they supporting another band when they’re already an arena headlining act, and the answer is simple: Sam thinks “Biffy Clyro are a really special band”. There aren’t many bands they would do this sort of thing for and the whole band are looking forward to this opportunity, Carter thinks it’s going to be particularly fun.

“The fact we could finish a set, grab a shower, get a glass of wine, and go watch Biffy [Clyro] every night… it’s just going to be the best week ever. I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like it’s a really cool moment for us to bring some of our fans in for Biffy and show them a band that’s really important to us and then also for us to be able to play to Biffy’s fans and show what we’re about. Hopefully, we can also gain a few fans from it as well” comments Sam.

‘The Classic Symptoms of A Broken Spirit’ is a record that thematically is about where we are in the world right now and all the issues (climate change, injustice etc) and constant struggles we are faced with, and how the individuals that are trying to make a positive change in the world are feeling broken. Yet on an optimistic note, the record implores those people to continue pushing forwards. How does Sam keep motivated with everything going on in the world? He finds inspiration via the charities he advocates for and works with. As an animal lover and environmentalist, he enjoys working with grassroots-level organisations such as Wonder Dog Rescue, a one-woman operation which helps disabled dogs that have been injured at the hands of humans. Or non-profits like Sea Shepherd UK, an organisation that is dedicated to defending, conserving, and protecting ocean wildlife and habitats. Through this work, Carter sees the dark side of humanity but also glimmers of hope thanks to the hard-working people that run and work for these organisations. Not only has Sam and the band used their platform to raise awareness, but fantastically they’ve also been able to raise vital funds for these charities through merch sales.

“I’m just using my spotlight to push focus onto these organisations. We’ve made some money for them through selling merchandise and I love the fact our band does that and will continue to do things like that. It’s important to use the platform you have to inspire a bit of change and to support these companies and organisations that you see are struggling but are doing such a good thing. Another organisation I support is Romanian Rescue Appeal UK, where I got my two rescue dogs from. I’m constantly inspired by people who put others, animals and the greater good of the world, before themselves. They are people that get up at different times of the night to make sure these dogs are okay or they drive across the country to go and rescue these dogs, they are true heroes” replies Sam.

With our interview finally drawing to a close, the rocker has time to answer one final question, what does he hope fans take from this new Architects record? He leaves us with some wise words:

“It would be to bear in mind that we’re all in this together. We always will be. A lot of the issues that we’re facing and a lot of the things that are scary right now, we are facing together. Even though it feels like we’re very separate and not connected, we are actually all facing these things together. The only way we’re ever going to get through this is if we all come together and try to be kinder and a bit more compassionate.”

The Classic Symptoms of A Broken Spirit’ is out now.

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