Architects have a platform and they’re using it for issues that matter
Vocalist Sam Carter and drummer Dan Searle discuss the band's latest record 'For Those That Wish To Exist,' climate change and much more in their debut AltPress cover story.June 10, 2021
Architects knew heading into their latest writing sessions that they needed to change. After pouring their hearts out for the world to see their grief in vivid detail on Holy Hell, a change of perspective was necessary to keep the band evolving. Now emerging from the darkness, they are turning their focus outwards and creating positive change for a cause they deeply care about.
Throughout the last several years, the members of Architects have felt a rejuvenated passion for environmentalism and what society is doing to our planet. Climate change continues to escalate at an increasingly rapid pace, and on For Those That Wish To Exist, the band demand we all reconsider our role in the planet’s downfall. Corporate entities and government bodies may be the driving force in environmental damage, but the album challenges humanity to confront their individual impacts and question whether there is more they can do.
The band openly pose this question, though. Everyone has limitations on what they can change, and imperfections shouldn’t halt progress, which is something Architects showcase across the sonic landscape of this album, too. Technicality takes a backseat to tactful melodic passages of synths, orchestral strings and slowed-down riffs, but they’re not ditching their heavy past completely. The band are simply more selective about using powerhouse moments of scorching-hot metal to make the most of them.
As Architects enter a new era of their career, they’re priming themselves to have an arsenal of musical tools at their disposal and aim to make a difference in the world while using them. Drummer Dan Searle and vocalist Sam Carter explore our collective responsibility in the themes of their new record and how the various changes they’ve experienced helped shape their future as leaders in heavy music.
With this new album, Architects made a stylistic change in both the writing approach and the overall sound. The riffs are more simplistic, and the vocals are much cleaner than ever before, but why did it feel like the right time to try out some newer things?
DAN SEARLE: I was desperate to make this jump. It didn’t happen on Holy Hell because it was the first album that Josh [Middleton, guitar] and I had written together without Tom. It was a confusing time, so we felt we should do what was familiar and safe. I think it’s understandable that we took that measure at that moment, and fortunately, the album was popular, and it meant a lot to people.
I think with time, you see how highly people hold that record. I can’t speak for my bandmates necessarily, but I needed to do an album to trust myself and to build that belief in myself. Previously, I would be my brother’s No. 2. He led the way, and I just helped and tried [to] see what I could do to complement his work. Now I have much more of a prominent role, so I’m able to dictate the way things go with Josh, but I think there needed to be a period that we just felt like we believed in ourselves.
SAM CARTER: Holy Hell was a very good metal record—carrying on from where we left off losing Tom, being able to have half the record with his riffs and the rest with Josh’s. Moving into this period of writing, we didn’t want to just rip off what we’d done before by copying ourselves and copying Tom’s riffs. That would’ve felt cheap and disingenuous. It felt like [the] time to go with what we’d learned throughout the years of writing with him, being musicians and learning together, to feel out where we were and what we wanted to achieve.
SEARLE: The only time we had ever made the melodic switch, it had been pretty uncomfortable for us. We changed things with The Here And Now, and it got slaughtered. It took us a long time to rebuild our confidence and to believe in ourselves to make that change. It was risky, but it doesn’t feel like it now because the album has done well. I think the more cynical fans that weren’t so into this record think we just did an easy option, but that wasn’t the case at all. I was quite nervous about that. I don’t worry about other people’s opinions, but once it’s done, you have to face up to the fact that people are going to hear it, and they’re going to give you their opinion on it. For some of those people, it’s not going to be what they’re used to.
This is also the band’s longest record to date. Do you feel that trying out some new things led to you becoming ambitious in different ways than you expected?
CARTER: I think you write with what you know. We had a few years of touring bigger rooms than we were used to—you start writing for the set and where you can take things in that environment. It does give you a level up of creativity.
SEARLE: The whole rule set that we had was that there were no rules. It didn’t really matter if something felt like too much of a radical change. If we liked it and it resonated with us, then we just went with it. The great thing about doing a record this length—and by the way, it was going to be a double record—is [that] it gives you the ability to maneuver, diversify and experiment. You can do a few songs where you’re doing something more familiar, but then you can go off and experiment.
I wasn’t worried about making a record where everyone likes every single track. It was just about doing whatever we wanted. A lot of people will love this record but not be into a couple of tracks because they’re just too different for them. We weren’t trying to please everyone. It was just about experimenting and doing whatever we wanted.
In the modern world, bands find themselves in a narrower lane. [There] was once a time in earlier years [where] bands would change with every record. People lived with it, and the attitude was [that] you either liked it or you didn’t, and, if you didn’t, you moved on with your life. Bands had this fearlessness. It would be nice for artists to feel like they have that freedom [again].
You’re more subjected to people’s opinions now, and that’s the nature of, I think, commercialism plowing through artistic intention because you’re not just thinking about the music. You have this devil on your shoulder that’s saying, “This is how you pay your bills. This is how you put food on the table for your child.” You do your best to try and drown that voice out and keep it as authentic as possible.
For Those That Wish To Exist also became your first No. 1 album in the U.K. What was it like finding this out? With this being your ninth album, does it surprise you that the band are still able to make new achievements this far into your career?
SEARLE: [Laughs.] Yeah, absolutely. Even when we were three, four albums in and we [played for] a decent crowd in London, but nowhere else in the world, I thought our ship had sailed. I thought we’d missed our chance because you don’t see that many bands make it on their fifth record, and you certainly don’t see bands have their biggest record on their ninth. We’ve been very lucky because our sixth was our biggest, then our seventh, then our eighth, then our ninth, and it’s a very odd and unique career path.
It just shows that every band’s path is different and unique, and it’s never too late. All that matters is the music. It’s such a corny thing, but it’s so true. We only focused on the songs and making sure they were as good as we could possibly make them. I think the difficult realization for us was that we got too caught up in other stuff, and we didn’t fully appreciate that fact.
CARTER: It was a really big deal, especially because we live here. Then we got No. 1 in Australia as well, which was crazy because it’s the other side of the world, and we’re not even there to be able to celebrate it. It was a huge achievement. It’s one that people that I’ve not spoken to in years were hitting me up like, “Whoa, I’ve just seen this, and we went to school together, and now you’re bloody No. 1. How crazy is that?” We never write with that in mind. We just write with honest intentions and [wanted] to put together a good album and create something special for ourselves. This one just really connected.
SEARLE: To be getting No. 1 on our ninth record is well beyond a lot of our wildest dreams. I know we’ve been surpassing our expectations for years, but I would probably say having a No. 1 record in the U.K. is the most ludicrous. To have a No. 1 record is so unlikely for a metal band. It’s so difficult and so rare. That wasn’t the ambition. It wasn’t spoken about, so we’re grateful that it ended up happening. It was like an actual moment of disbelief for me. I thought there must have been a mistake. I was waiting for someone to tell me that we were actually No. 2.
CARTER: It surprises me that we’re still a band! I remember putting out the first and second albums and just being like, “I’m not doing this when I’m 30. [Laughs.] I’ll be way too old then.” Now I’m 32, nearly 33, and I’m like, “Fuck, let’s go until I’m 50.” It feels almost like magic. You’re just like, “How the fuck is this happening?” It’s enjoyed more now because of the effort and the time that we’ve put in throughout it. We know how special this is, and it’s definitely not something we take for granted at all.
You also recently released an orchestral variation of “Animals” recorded at Abbey Road Studios. What stood out the most about the band’s time there?
CARTER: Walking in that door and walking up the steps, it’s just amazing. I’m a lifelong Beatles fan and not just the Beatles—the number of bands that have recorded there, like Pink Floyd [and] Black Sabbath. Every important rock record from the U.K. has come out of there. It’s amazing to be in there and also amazing that we seem to be in there all the time. There’s some serious magic in those walls.
We’d done a couple of Spotify sessions in there before, but I think this was more special because [we were] able to see everybody together after going through all this shit with COVID and having time apart from each other. Going in there and being excited to be around each other, it was nice to just have everyone together and jam and see all our crew.
SEARLE: None of us take it for granted. It’s amazing that we find ourselves frequently going to Abbey Road because it took 15 years of the band existing before we ever went there, and now, we seem to go all of the time. So many artists have walked those halls.
CARTER: We could have done something like “Dead Butterflies” or any of the other songs off the album with strings, but doing “Animals” felt really special because it has no strings on the actual record. It took it up and made it this whole other beast. It ended up feeling like we were in fucking James Bond or something.
SEARLE: We’ve got strings involved on the record, some extra percussion stuff, but the thing about those types of musicians is that they’re really musicians. There are brilliant musicians within guitar music, obviously, but the way that a violinist is expected to turn up to a session, sit down, look at the paper and play it perfectly—it’s another level of musicianship. It’s a different art, really. The ability to just know the piece instantly is super inspiring.
We have plans to try and reimagine the record again, maybe with the whole record having an orchestra. That’s something that we’re thinking about right now. It’s amazing that we can because we’ve always wanted to do something like that, to have a full orchestra playing with the band. What band doesn’t want to do that?
The whole theme of the album is quite self-reflective in looking at how personal responsibility is a huge part of the world continuing to be destroyed. What inspired you to want to tackle this topic on the record?
SEARLE: This is the second album I’ve written the lyrics for, and the first one was just all about grief. After my daughter was born, my perspective shifted. I started to see beyond my own life, and you start to wonder what sort of world you’re leaving for your child. You care about that stuff before you have a kid, for sure—the youth on this planet are the most ecologically conscious part of global culture, global society—but having a child shifted my perspective hugely.
I started to become concerned about it, but I try to live my life from this place of accountability and self-responsibility. I try to point the finger at myself in a healthy way and ask myself, “What else can I do?” It’s all well and good getting all riled up over corporate interests not taking their responsibility for the way in which they continue to pollute the planet, but if everybody knows what they need to make the most of themselves, then the world would be a vastly different place. I was struck by the juxtaposition between the severity of the situation and my own apathy. My part is very small in the grand scheme of things.
I conceded that I ask myself the question of, “Why am I doing so little?” and draw from the idea that we’re held back, or our hands are tied because we carry so much baggage. We’re troubled people. We have years and generations of trauma, but we all live in this selfish, individualistic manner. It’s very hard to incentivize ourselves and provide an action that is essential and necessary for us to turn the ship around and start moving this planet in the right direction.
CARTER: I just feel it’s like, “How could you not?” I think you have to write about what you know, what you care about and what’s in front of you. I think at the time of Holy Hell, we were completely wrapped up in what happened with losing our friend, and we wrote about that. Then you come out with that part of your life, and you remember things that you were passionate about before you entered this really painful world, that painful place. You come out, and you look around, and you’re like, “Nothing’s changed.” We were talking about all this stuff before.
We’ve been through these situations, and you’re like, “How can I sleep at night? What can I do? How can I help?” I think writing a record in a way that is just talking about what’s happening makes people listen more. People don’t want to feel like they’re under attack, and it’s not like we’re saying we have all the answers. We’re just saying, “This is pretty fucked up, isn’t it? We all need to pull it together and do something about this because it’s going to end badly.”
What do you hope this album accomplishes in terms of the message the band are trying to get across?
CARTER: I just hope it sparks some conversations within people about the situation of where we’re heading and if they’re comfortable with it. I think we have a responsibility as a band and as individuals that some people look up to. Not everybody, of course, but you have to use that responsibility well. I think you want to be able to try and leave the world in a better place and feel that you did everything you could. I hope we can continue to use our platform for good and also say that we’re not perfect. You don’t need to be perfect to try and help these things—you just have to try.
SEARLE: I think it’s just for people to ask themselves the question of, “Why am I not doing more? Do I want the planet to die?” I don’t talk about this much because it seems this particular issue is very divisive in a big way, to the point where you can’t really suggest what I’m about to suggest: I believe in climate change, but some people don’t. I think the way to speak to those people is to say, “OK, you don’t believe that we’re affecting the climate.
Do we really want to destroy the oceans to a degree where there’s no longer any life in oceans? Do we want to pollute the air to the point that our children can’t breathe the air outside of their home?” I think that we can come to a common place, and I believe that we can find commonalities among our differences. I hope that we can look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves why we’re not doing more. It’s a simple question.
For Sam, too, you’re closely involved with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. How did your relationship with them start? Why do you believe they stand out as an organization, as opposed to other environmental groups?
CARTER: We were on a plane going to Australia, and I watched a documentary called Sharkwater, which was about the illegal shark fin trade. I was so horrified at everything that I was seeing. I was already vegan at that point, but then I was like, “Why and how is this happening?” In the documentary, Captain Paul Watson got arrested, and I was just obsessed at that point. I knew they were a nonprofit, so I started thinking about ways that we could do stuff to help them and how we could possibly spread the message.
From there, we started inviting them to every show we were playing and setting them up next to our merch table, covering their merch fees for them to be there. It moved on from there to putting out an Architects and Sea Shepherd shirt, which raised a bunch of money. It snowballed into everything I could do to raise money, and then they asked me if I would be a U.K. ambassador.
That was a super proud day because it just felt like I’d made a difference for them. Sometimes you can feel like you’re banging the same drum, but I have this responsibility. I’ve been speaking to the director [Ali Tabrizi] a lot and speaking to Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd about how we can continue to push this Seaspiracy documentary on people because it’s a really eye-opening one. I feel like it’s not eye-opening just in the sense of seeing what these animals go through but statistically and factually where we’re headed and what we need to do.
Do you think it’s easier for people to ignore climate change, as opposed to other issues given the gradual time frame it’s happening in?
CARTER: I think it’s so much easier, man. I made a tweet one day, and I caught a lot of shit for it, but I just said, “Can we shut the hell up about the Royals?” Everybody’s talking about what Meghan said, what Harry said, who said this and who said that, but can you imagine if we put this much energy into climate change, deforestation or overfishing? If we put this outrage on what one person said or what they didn’t say to like, “Do we want to have a world for children to grow up in and enjoy?” That should be the question on everybody’s lips.
It’s easy to not see it. You don’t see it, [and] then you think it’s not happening. The same thing with Seaspiracy. So many people don’t watch it because they’re like, “Oh, if I watch it, then I’m not going to eat fish,” and that’s the whole point. You need to see this. This is there to change your life in a good way. You’re not going to watch that film and then be like, “Nah, fuck this. I’m just going to carry on doing what I’m doing.” Ali, [who] made the documentary, he’s not doing it to make money. He’s a young dad, and he wants to leave the world in a better place and go to sleep at night feeling like he’s done something.
I think people are so scared, and we’re so used to our little world that we live in. We don’t think anything is ever going to change, but it will. It’s on our fucking doorsteps. We just had two days in Brighton, where I live in England, that have been super hot—people at the beach, people in the sea having the best time. On Monday, it’s going to be snowing. For April to be that hot at this time of year and then for it to be snowing is like freak shit. It’s mad to me that there’s even a debate and that some people don’t believe in it. It’s crazy.
SEARLE: It is easy to ignore, but I also appreciate that a lot of us conduct ourselves in situations—just speaking from my point of view—but my life is just simple domestic stuff. There’s no time for anything else. I have to look after my daughter; I have to cook food; I have to clean my house; I have to work. The simple, obvious things still leave you with very little time in the day to go and save the world. I understand that most people just don’t have the space in their life to make the sacrifice, and for me to do what I need to do, I need to abandon my daughter, but I’m not going to abandon my daughter.
I have to accept the limitations of what I can do in my situation, but I liken perfection to be the enemy of good. They say if you can’t do anything, do nothing, but I don’t think that’s the case. I do what I can—I can always do more. I can talk about it. I have the platforms to talk about it. I know that when the point comes in my life where I have less responsibility to my family, then maybe I can step it up.
Seaspiracy and many other documentaries [highlight] the state and corporate giants. These are the people that can make the big moves that will create huge shifts in the way we treat the planet. It doesn’t absolve us on an individual level from action. I think it’s important we all do what we can. Drive less, walk more, do your recycling properly, simple little things. These are all simple gestures, and all of us as individuals need to do them.
How do you think people get past the idea that they can’t personally do anything to help fix the problem?
CARTER: I think that’s the thing: People need to understand that their efforts are more powerful than they know. I think you vote with your wallet with things like this. If you go into a supermarket and you don’t buy what’s there, that’s a huge move. Eventually, people are going to catch on, and it’s going to create a wave.
It’s these little changes, these little conversations that you have with people, where if you’re not just shouting in somebody’s face and they come [to] ask for an honest piece of advice about it, they are inspired, and they go away and do it. Then they have that conversation with somebody else. These things can make massive changes. They may feel like a drop in the ocean, but it will make a big difference. It will create a tidal wave.
SEARLE: Certainly Western culture has developed into a highly individualistic one. That means that we don’t look at ourselves as a whole—we limit ourselves as an island. I don’t identify as communist or anything like that, but this is the benefit of the ideology. That ideology sees everyone as a whole, so people give up their individual wants and needs for the collective. Obviously, nobody’s worked it out perfectly, but until we see ourselves more as a collective, I think it’s going to be hard for us to understand that those little efforts are working.
The photo shoot for this cover story highlights the “most important number in the world,” with the time frame reflecting the countdown from the climate clock the photos were taken at. Why do you think this number is something people should be paying closer attention to?
CARTER: I think we’re so used to it being in the distance. It almost doesn’t feel like a real thing because it’s easier to think it’s not a real thing. I get that. It’s easier to close your eyes and think somebody else will do it [because] that’s the way we’re programmed as humans. Then when you see something literally with a timer, there’s something that brings it to the forefront. Something that makes you think, “Oh shit, this is real.”
Now I’m looking at this, and I’m thinking, “Hang on a minute. I haven’t had kids yet. What if I have kids and they’re going to have to live through this? Will there be a place for these kids to live?” It’s an eye-opening thing when you can actually see a timer. It’s like someone’s saying, “Well, we fucking told you this was real, and now you’re going to have to actually see it.”
SEARLE: It’s the start of a domino effect, isn’t it? I suspect as we get closer to that moment, we will see an exponential rise in the attention that it’s getting. Right now, that whole issue and that countdown are all very abstract. Those that believe it feel disempowered, and those that don’t believe it don’t give a fuck. How do you engage these people?
I think people need to be putting most of the pressure on the state, on corporate interests, and those will be the people that ultimately can make the big changes. With regards to what we’re going to experience with the rising temperature and how that’s going to affect our life, hopefully we will see that gather some momentum. The difficult thing is that if it does, the most disempowered will be the ones that are affected, right?
Most Western countries won’t be affected, and it’s largely the rich people in Western countries that have the power, right? I think that’s why we need to collectivize and stand up for those people that are in harm’s way, [those] that don’t have a voice in developing countries. Those people are the ones that need to be protected, and they need us to stand up for them to try and ensure that their way of life [and] their homes aren’t destroyed. It will kill a lot of people, and it will displace a lot of people.
Through the pandemic, bands have been doing livestreams instead of hitting the road, but there’s an obvious environmental effect caused by touring. Do you feel the band will find ways to make your carbon footprint smaller when touring returns?
CARTER: On the last album, every flight we took, you have an option when you book these flights to offset your footprint. It isn’t cheap, but it makes you understand the value of that journey. We don’t just fly around the world willy-nilly. We’re pretty sensible with the way that we route and tour things. I think you just have to take that hit as a musician. If you have the money to do it and you’re going to go and earn money, but you have to use a lot of carbon to go, then you have to pay the world back. I think if you’re spreading the message that we’re spreading, it would be fucking insane to not do that. It would be so mad to push that this is a conversation we need to be having and then just fly around the world all over the place.
We’d been thinking about doing it for a long time, but we moved into doing all of our merch through the first phase of lockdown over here—sustainable, organic products where we know where everything’s coming from. It’s so easy to print on a fucking piece of shit T-shirt, put a logo on it, sell it, someone buys it once and then throws it away. That’s so damaging to the environment. The amount of water that goes into making a pair of jeans is fucking nuts.
SEARLE: We do what we can. We pay carbon offsetting fees. [It’s] a drop in the ocean, but it’s one thing we can do. We have no plastic on our rider. We request that venues don’t have any plastic or they use biodegradable cups and whatnot for the punters, but these are small things. The issue we have is the amount of fuel we’re burning from flying and driving.
CARTER: It’s all about doing what you can, and you can’t be perfect. Nobody’s perfect. I think you just have to think about whether there’s something that you can do that’s positive because why not? We’ve got all of this time on our hands and moving out of this COVID situation. Is there anything that we’ve learned from it, or are we just going to carry on down that shit route that we’ve been going down?
SEARLE: The world will not stop turning, no matter what we do. The issue is [that] we need to be weaned from the teat of oil. I believe we should minimize our energy consumption, and we need to transition to clean energy. There’s no stopping the consumption, so I believe we should try and individually minimize it. The population continues to grow, but ultimately what we need is to transition to clean energy sources, and my worry is that will only happen when we run out.
I think there will be people out there making it happen because there are potential huge amounts of money to be made. My hope is that certainly in my lifetime, there will be clean methods of aviation, there will be improved battery technology and we can be getting onboard battery-powered tour buses. It’s one of those things [where] as a band, we’re hyperaware of our own hypocrisy, and this is why we try and do things like printing T-shirts on organic and fair trade and trying not to overprint. You’re still making stuff, and the manufacturing has emissions. It’s basically impossible to be perfect in the world, but we are trying.
Why do you think it’s important for artists with platforms as large as yours to be active in discussions around topics like climate change?
CARTER: I think of it as you have to understand that it’s cool to care. It’s like with Sea Shepherd, I think that they’re my fucking heroes. I grew up getting hardcore DVDs and talking about being vegan, and these things impacted my life and made me who I am. I think these topics are super important because if you see somebody you like in a band where you respect their music and then you see what they’re about, instantly that makes it cool.
I think we live in a world where it’s really easy to not give a shit. That’s almost a cool attitude to have, but that whole state of mind is coming from a place of like, “Oh, it’s not going to happen to me. It’s not going to happen to this generation.” It really will, and it’s coming now. It’s important to change that attitude of “I can’t do anything. I’m just a kid. I’m not going to make a difference.” You can.
I was that kid in school who failed and did fuck all and just wanted to be in a band. Then I got in a band, grew up and learned stuff there. I didn’t learn about climate change in school. The deforestation of the Amazon and the way we treat this planet, I didn’t learn about that in school. I learned about that at hardcore shows. It’s about doing that research for yourself and having these conversations with people and opening your eyes from there.
SEARLE: You have a platform, and people are paying attention. It’s easy not to use it because it turns people off. We have a lot of fans who are like, “Please don’t talk about this stuff. I don’t believe what you’re saying,” or “This is some liberal bullshit.” For some people, it’s just business, but it’s important to look past that and understand that there’s a responsibility to people that have the platform to use it for good. You encourage positive change and positively influence a younger generation into understanding the situation we’re in.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really like doing it. I do because I feel like we should and we have to, but it doesn’t feel comfortable. I often feel on the edge of saying the wrong thing or saying something that is factually incorrect, and I might do that. I have to accept that that is the case, that it’s uncomfortable. I think in the world we live in now, to put yourself out there and have strong opinions, there’s always going to be a gang of people that are going to shoot you down, that call you out. It’s tricky, and you just have to accept that you will take punches for it.
I strongly believe that I’d really just like to live a quiet life, but I’m doing my small part and doing what I can. I’m trying to be on the right side of history. I think that’s what it boils down to. I’m inspired to talk about this more again and become more active in it because of my daughter, and I care deeply about the world my daughter is going to inherit. Any discomfort I feel talking about this publicly or any criticism that I or any of my bandmates might be on the receiving end of, it’s justified in my eyes because I’m helping build a better world for my daughter.
You can pick up your own copy of issue 393 featuring cover stars Architects right here.