'Pure energy' - Bring Me the Horizon's Mat Nicholls on return to touring, Sheffield arena shows and new music plans
Bring Me the Horizon will bring 'pure energy' to Utilita Arena Sheffield on Friday night, having ended their longest ever touring hiatus.
Drummer Mat Nicholls says that while life, as it did for everyone else during the pandemic, came to a juddering halt for the Grammy-nominated South Yorkshire band, they have remained hard at work to ensure they were not forgotten.
"Bands can go 18 months without touring but it wasn't a conscious decision to do that, we were just the same as everyone else, life just stopped basically and you had to just deal with it," he said.
"It was weird, it was the longest we've had off since we started the band. We started when I was 17 and I'm 35 now and that's the longest in 18 years. We just had to deal with it and make sure we were still active, still doing our best to make music and keep the merch moving, make sure people didn't forget us."
The result of their remote recording sessions during lockdown was the Post Human EP.
Singer Oliver Sykes and keyboardist Jordan Fish wrote and produced it from their respective homes, with Nicholls travelling to a studio in Chesterfield to record his parts when government guidelines allowed.
Although the EP came out in October 2020, it had not been played in a live setting until their current tour began in Hull on Monday night.
The tour was announced just under a year ago and, thanks to the removal of Covid-19 restrictions, is allowing Nicholls and his bandmates to return to normality, or something more like it.
"I kept getting asked about it a few months back and I didn't even know if it was going to go ahead," he said.
"Then they opened the country up a little more and a little more each time. I'm not going to say it feels super normal but it feels normal to an extent. We're still having to test, we're still in bubbles, we can't go out and see guests like we usually would. It was booked in the hope that it would be as normal as possible and I think it is.
"We've all been in a bubble, if our wives or girlfriends want to be in the bubble they have to have a PCR test then isolate for a few days. It just wouldn't be able to continue if one of us gets it, so we're staying as safe as possible. It's strange but it's working and everyone is doing their best to make sure it stays that way."
The length of time that elapsed between gigs made Monday's opening show a special one, although it took time for the first night butterflies to subside.
"I'm not like a bag of nerves but I do get nervous," said Nicholls.
"The days leading up to the first night it was all excitement and then pure dread as well - just hoping I would play well. When we got on stage and got the first few songs out of the way I could settle into it. The morning after I woke up with no feelings of anxiety about the show, just excited. I've missed this so much. It's getting back to it and feeling good about it. I can't wait to play Sheffield, a Wembley sized show but in Sheffield, it's mental."
Friday night will not bring Bring Me the Horizon's first arena show in the city that birthed the band, but it will serve as a reminder of just how far they have come from their 2004 debut at The Charter Arms in Rotherham town centre.
"Our band has always been on an upward trajectory but we've never had anything given to us all at once, we've had to work for everything, it's taken a long time to get to where we are," said Nicholls.
"I was 17, so 18 years we've been doing this band and it's always been a gradual thing. We've never had a leg up, we've always had to convince people we were good.
"When we first started playing Sheffield we used to dread it because we were young kids and the young kids who came to the show probably thought 'why are these guys doing this?' It was a weird time for us when we used to play Sheffield but now it's unbelievable, the support we get. I'm looking forward to the O2 in London, that will be massive, but Sheffield is so good for the buzz and the fact that it's our home. It's going to be awesome."
The band, intent on returning with a bang, have poured themselves into perfecting material that isn't exactly new but still holds an element of the unknown for the members themselves and the fans flocking to the arena on Friday and Saturday night.
"The setlist is stacked, just bangers," said Nicholls.
"There's not a drop in the set, every song is pure energy, a lot of crowd participation. On the first night it was super loud, the crowd were signing along to everything, singing it back to us.
"We've practised these new songs so much because we wanted them to be good. We had never really played them as a full band because of the way we recorded them. This is the most we've ever practised, we're not really a jammy band, we only really practise when we have to. We were like 'we need this to be bang on perfect' so it was cool. I think we all enjoy playing these new songs more than the old ones, they just feel really good as songs. I'm pretty sure we play every song from the new EP on this tour.
"It's been out a while and people have had time to take it all in. They're just new in a live context, but people have been waiting to hear them for ages and we've been waiting to play them for ages."
Beyond the UK tour lies a support slot at Knotfest, a stadium show headlined by Slipknot and also featuring Killswitch Engage and Fever 333.
After that the work will continue on yet more new music, this time recorded in person as regular life continues to make its return for Bring Me the Horizon.
"We've got a show in America with Slipknot in Los Angeles, but we may end up staying there for a good month to do some writing and recording," said Nicholls.
"It'll give us a break from the Skype writing process and see if we can do it a bit more naturally, a bit more organically. One show, some writing, back on it next year with festivals and what not. Back to normal, or as normal as it can be these days."