The U.K. band We Never Learned To Live’s new album The Sleepwalk Transmissions feels like a reckoning with the newest reflections of the technological expanse that we’ve found inside ourselves. It’s a call for personality in a world that stretches eons beyond our bodies — the album is heavy, but cerebral, and it definitely delivers a musical punch, but it knocks you towards drifting in a teeming deep space, not into the muck.
Vocalist Sean Mahon shares that the band produced this stirring work via looking to their own personal experiences in music at large and traveling through our decidedly modern environment. “I think The Sleepwalk Transmissions is really the truest representation of our collective tastes and inspirations that we’ve ever put out there,” he shares. “At the core of our band is just playing music that we enjoy playing, and that comes honestly and naturally to us. That noughties metal and post-hardcore wave has always been a major influence for us.”
Collecting The Sleepwalk Transmissions
The band members have been together in some capacity for about a decade at this point, and they’ve therefore had the privilege of exploring multiple facets of their musical drives after meeting up thanks to the bustling Horsham music scene in West Sussex. Back on their 2014 self-titled EP, they dealt in clearly massive soundscapes, with two out of three of the songs approaching the ten-minute mark in an epic post-metal style exploration. They began honing in on concision for their 2015 Holy Roar Records full-length, Silently, I Threw Them Skyward, and on their newest record, which is also out through Holy Roar, they dialed their high-reaching heaviness into a tighter, even more directly catchy context. As Mahon put it, “shorter, snappier songs just seemed to feel right.”
He explains: “I think collectively we just felt like we had a bit more drive to make these songs a bit more concise and focused, trying to achieve the same kind of journey and soundscape that we aimed for in previous releases but in a more snappy, concise form. We always strive for our records to be listened as a full record rather than individual snippets, and this way we could take the listeners on a more dynamic journey over more tracks. I think we all felt that basically any song on this record could have become a single, which is a really exciting position to be in.”
The musical directness certainly fits with their stated aims of crafting a science fiction-style exploration of our own perspective on the universe that’s well outside of our flesh and blood. As the singer puts it: “The Sleepwalk Transmissions is a collection of sci-fi short stories in a massive, effects heavy soundscape of distortion, delay and passionate urgent drumming. It’s heavy and dark but ethereal and dreamlike simultaneously, with plenty of opportunities for belting out lyrics or air drumming to some insane fills.”
Keeping The Music Alive
Listening in, they’ve truly dialed up that cooperative contrast, taking their particular heaviness to exciting ethereal extremes. They truly sound like a heavy post-hardcore band gone to space, in the best way. Importantly though, in their music and in their overall presentation of their craft, the band stay closely in sync what’s provided them their platform in the first place — their personally, emotionally affecting music. Nothing else really offers the same escape as heavy music, Mahon suggests, but he notes that it’s important for people to remain conscious and appreciative of this as the onslaught continues from all sides.
“I don’t want heavy music to just become a fashion trend,” he explains. “It’s a difficult catch-22, venues are struggling more than ever to get people in through the door, but I get that heavy music can be quite obtrusive to people who don’t get it and naturally it’s a subculture so you’re less likely to pack out venues putting heavy band nights on.”
Considering a collective, technology-enforced emphasis on image, he adds of the music scene: “I do worry about the future of it at a grassroots level, but that probably goes to music venues generally as a whole. I think the bottom line is people need to get to local shows as much as possible and support their local bands and promotions companies.” This alluringly intense music scene capturing some of our intense emotional snapshots ranging from dissociation and despair to elevation and catharsis in pain didn’t get here by accident — we keep it going ourselves.
Sonically intense music that rockets the senses out into some unique experience has certainly faced challenges before, and Mahon definitely recognizes the great stuff going on out there. “As a whole we love heavy music, but specifically heavy music that makes you think or has that melodic layer or hook that makes it memorable and gives it some deeper meaning,” Mahon explains of his band.
That’s pretty much precisely where The Sleepwalk Transmissions lies, feeling just familiar enough to be accessible and inviting before rocking listeners with injections of a new experience of the clouds of soaring post-metal, post-hardcore and the like coming down to earth to have a chat.
“I think this record will definitely pull in more listeners who are more similar to us as music fans than perhaps our previous releases which is really exciting,” Mahon shares. “On a personal level I am really excited about having the more melodic sides of my tastes now out in display. I would love to see some songs from this record become unofficial anthems for those who have really been involved in the scene and hopefully lyrically they are really placed for the kind of times we live in. Exploring where humanity goes in an era of rapid digitalisation is a scary and confusing place to be and hopefully this record really hits some people in the right spot.”
Listen to We Never Learned To Live’s new album The Sleepwalk Transmissions below. Memorably, Mahon shares: “Sometimes, when people ask what we sound like but ‘heavy music’ to them is either Metallica or Slipknot, I tell them to imagine a really dark, distorted Radiohead playing at double speed and you’re probably close to We Never Learned To Live.”