Bring Me The Horizon
Photo: Courtesy of Bring Me The Horizon
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Bring Me The Horizon's Oli Sykes
Six albums into their career, Bring Me The Horizon flat out refuse to go through the motions. The band's new album amo arrived—or rather departed—Jan. 25 with a rich, variegated sonic color palette, unapologetic pop melodies and unflinching lyric themes of love, truth and betrayal.
While its lead single, "MANTRA," may feel more like home to longtime fans, with its punishing percussion and rubbery riffs, the rest of amo shows frontman Oli Sykes and company pushing up and out from their metalcore roots and into the dark yet lustrous skies above, exploring the cosmos of electro-pop, hip-hop, EDM and beyond.
We caught up with Sykes over the phone to get his reaction to "MANTRA" earning the British band its first GRAMMY nomination for Best Rock Song, hear what elements he feels makes for a great album, his thoughts on collaborating with Grimes, who he calls "the millennial Björk," and more.
Congrats on the GRAMMY nomination! Where were you when you found out?
We were in England. We just finished up our U.K. and Europe tour… We were signing about 2,000 CDs at the time to send out, and I guess we got the news at the same time as the world got the news. We were just like, "What the hell? Is this true?" It was kind of crazy.
You're up for Best Rock Song, a songwriter's award. What do you remember most about writing "MANTRA"?
We'd been writing for about nine months, I would say, and we had a load of cool stuff, we had a lot of stuff that we were really excited about. But it was the more experimental and weirder stuff and the stuff that you'd never heard Horizon do before, which we were excited about but the same time, we were ... One night I just said to myself, "Alright, if the record label or management or whatever said, ‘What song are you going to show the world first,’ what would it be?"
And in my head, I was like, we don't have that song. We don't have that song because all this music we've made so far is bats*** crazy and if we put this out first, people are not even going to recognize it's us or we're going to alienate our fans. And as much as we knew we wanted to do a completely different record, we still respect the fact that, to a lot of people, we're quite a new band. I know it sounds crazy, we've been going 15 years, but to a lot of people, they've only just got into us like one album ago, maybe two, maybe three, and so we didn't want to completely just pull the rug from underneath them.
So we had this mini-meltdown moment, and that's how "MANTRA" was born, with like, "Let's write the comeback song. Let's write the song that we would want to put on the album first, that we want the world to hear first."
The production on amo is daring and adventurous. Halsey even called it "a technicolor, emotion, trip" on Twitter. How do you see the sound of your sixth album?
I guess for me this album embodies everything that I like about music and what I'm into and what I'm doing in the best possible way. It's a record that I've always wanted to make. When we started writing this record, we had no idea what it was going to sound like. It wasn't preordained that this is how it would sound, but we just knew ... the goal was really to make an album that challenged you and it took time to like, and it was one of those album that you would almost be surprised that you like it, and it's not just something that when you first hear and go that's amazing, that's cool. It's something that really you have to [sit with].
My favorite albums are ones that when I first heard them, I was either underwhelmed or confused or just didn't know how to process it, and it always ends up being the kind of music that was ahead of its time and then everyone's catching up to do that kind of thing. That's not what I'm saying this record is, but I'm saying I didn't want it to be safe.
We knew what we could do to play it safe and keep our fans happy and all this stuff, but... it felt like it was time to push it that next level and do something where we just did everything we ever wanted to do. We used every kind of inspiration and influence and put it into this music and then didn’t worry if it came out the other end and everyone said this is not rock music, or this is not metal music.
We really don't care. We just want to be a band. We have no elitism, and we have no care for whatever people think. We're soft, we're pop, we're hip-hop, we're rock, we're whatever. We just really wanted to make something that hopefully blew people's minds.
You worked with Grimes on this album on "Nihilist Blues" – how did you connect with her?
We sent the song to her management. We knew we wanted a couple of guest features on this album. Again, we wanted to do some things from different worlds and try and connect bridges a bit more between rock music and everything else because you kind of feel like it used to be such a booming craze, do you know what I mean? Back in time when JAY-Z was collaborating with Linkin Park and all those kind of things, it's kind of gone now. We really felt like that should come back, so we were looking outwards to different places, and for me, Grimes is one of my favorite artists from that world.
All I listen to is kind of female fronted avant-garde-y pop stuff anyway, and I think she's almost like the millennial Björk for me, so she was my number one choice, and I'd seen her in a magazine a couple of years back where she said she liked our band. Wasn't sure if she was just joking or you know just on the spot, so we sent her the song and we didn't hear anything for about a week or so, so we were kind of thinking, "Yeah, well alright, maybe not." And then, out of the blue, she just texted me and she was like, "Yo. I f***ing love this song. This is one of the greatest songs I've ever heard."
She got all the reference points we were coming from… like Nine Inch Nails meets Darude."
She was going to come down to the studio, but she opted to just do it in her studio, which I think worked out good because she put so much work into it, she must've sent us about 30 different tracks with little noises and ad libs and all this stuff that we used throughout the song, as well as the vocals. It was my favorite song anyway, but her coming into it and also putting her, I guess, finesse and signature on it, just took it to that next level.
You've been forthcoming about your battles addiction and loss in the past, how have you seen your relationship with creativity change based on your physical and mental health?
It's one of those catch-22 situations. You go through these painful experiences and through all this stuff, but it really is fuel for the fire and it kind of contributes to what you do.
One of my friends said to me the other day, while I was going through my divorce process with my ex, and kind of found out all this stuff that she'd been doing and all this stuff, and he said to me today, back when we were sat in his flat and he was like, "I'm sorry, man." He said, "I knew it was the best thing that could've happened." He went, "I don't know why, because it wasn't like I knew at that point that she was wrong for you or anything like that but at the same time, I just had this feeling that it was all going to work out." And then he was like, "And look at it." He went, "Listen to this album."
He went, "Not only is it obvious that you've got out of something that you needed to get out of, but you're going to help so many people and they're just the best thing you've ever written in your career," and all this stuff.
And he's just like, "How crazy is that? That something so terrible can just literally contribute to something so amazing."
And when you think of it like that, it's so true. It's not only therapeutic— and it's not necessary, obviously. Better not to have to go through these situations, but they not only make you grow as a person, but being able to write about them and put them into words where maybe people would never have looked at it in a certain way or can't, maybe, articulate it themselves, get to experience it and I think that's the greatest thing about music with lyrics that are actually real.
Totally. So what are your plans for GRAMMY night, and any spoilers on what you'll do if you win?
Oh god, we're not even thinking about it. I mean, it's such an incredible thing just to be recognized, I think we're just stoked that we can even be like, "We're GRAMMY nominated artists," that's amazing. And we're not getting too excited about the prospect of winning because we're obviously up against some huge and really good acts, so we're just going to expect nothing so we're not disappointed and just drink it in.
Back in England, we've never been to anything like this, so the fact that a different country is recognizing a song and a work we've done. That's just good enough for us.