Kellin Quinn has earned a rest. Fresh from releasing an album that’s being lauded as his best yet with Sleeping with Sirens – one that was produced by punk stalwart John Feldmann and features what Quinn describes as the best song he’s ever written – he’s relishing the opportunity to kick back and put songwriting to the back of his mind.
“I’m not one of those dudes that writes songs every day,” he says, which may come as a surprise to fans that love him for his introspective lyrics. “We’ll be touring Madness for a year or two, so I just want to take some time out and enjoy what we’re doing right now.”
Initial reactions to the post-emo quintet’s fourth record suggest it’s more than strong enough to see them through two years of touring, and Quinn is firmly in agreement with the accolades, agreeing without hesitation when asked if he agrees it’s their strongest work to date.
Sleeping With Sirens (Quinn, left) and the album artwork for ‘Madness’
Madness’s laid-bare emotional content is something Quinn is particularly proud of as a songwriter. His brand of frenetic, post-teen energy mixed with a heavy helping of navel-gazing often results in profound yet unpretentious lyrcis, and he’s keen to make it known that he writes from the heart first, and for the fans second.
“The whole of Madness is deeply personal,” he says. “It’s really important for me to inject personal feelings into my songs. If music makes me feel something, then I guess other people will [feel it] too.”
And what about the old stereotype of the teen misfit finding their inner peace with their headphones on and the riffs at full volume?
“Yes, people should relate to the music,” he says. “The Strays [track six on Madness] is, I think, one of the best things I’ve ever written. It’s so important to have confidence in yourself, and that’s what it’s about. People can relate to that.”
Another personal touch on Madness is the title track being a tribute to Craig Aaronson, the champion of a bunch of bands – including My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, The Used and Taking Back Sunday – who helped mould the alt scene into what it is today. They’re also the bands that soundtracked Quinn’s youth, so it made perfect sense for Aaronson to get involved at such a defining point in SWS’s career. Their previous album, Feel, was heralded upon its release as a sonic turning point, so the pressure was on to come up with the goods on its follow-up.
“[Aaronson] was our go-to guy,” remembers Quinn. “He was working with us before it released and was really excited about the songs, but he passed before the record was finished. From what I’ve heard from mutual friends, they’re all really happy with Madness [the track].”
Given that he’s the heart behind SWS’s material, you’d expect Quinn to take on principle songwriting duties, but he insists it’s a team effort.
“We all vibe off each other when we’re in the studio,” he explains. “I do a lot of melody lines because so much of what we do hinges on what I’m doing vocally, but equally it could start off with a guitar riff, then we all build from there.”
That cohesion is clear from the sound of Madness; it’s polished, experimental in places, and bounces from abrasive hardcore riffs to almost sugary sentimentality without sounding disjointed. Quinn announces with conviction that the band is happy with their current set up; it’s guitarist Nick Martin’s first album with them since he replaced Jesse Lawson in 2013.
“Yes, the dynamic did change, and so did our sound,” Quinn says, sounding a little exasperated as he trots out what must have become a stock answer to any questions about Lawson. He’s keen to turn the conversation back to their present incarnation, but his remark that Martin brings ‘old-school punk’ influences to the table is a little surprising. Madness, while it delves into a few sub-genres, could never really be described as old-school punk, even with veteran producer Feldmann at the helm. Then again, Feldmann himself isn’t afraid to step outside the genre that made him; his discography shows the likes of 5 Seconds of Summer and Avicii among his recent works.
It turns out that Feldmann and Sirens had been on each other’s radars for some time. “He actually approached me a couple of years ago about working together, and I thought this is the right time, the right album, to do it,” Quinn says. “He produced a load of the bands I grew up listening to; he’s so connected to the scene.”
Speaking of his introduction to the alt scene, Quinn describes it as a way of life, and he couldn’t have entered that life in a more textbook fashion: hangouts at his local skate park with high-school friends to the sounds of The Used, Finch and Taking Back Sunday.
“This music is a part of my life, and I wanted to contribute to that,” he says. “I’m so glad I’m still part of that community.” If he were a teen discovering the scene now, he says, it would be Real Friends and Avion Roe accompanying those trips to the skate park. “I love the raw punk sound. I think they could both be really special.”
One thing Quinn is slightly reticent to talk about is gender equality in the alt world. It’s a genre that often speaks from a male viewpoint, but the huge breadth of subject matter SWS explore in their songs succeeds in setting them apart. Quinn says he doesn’t think modern rock is ‘a man’s world’, and that his music is for fans of all genders, but he suddenly becomes enthusiastic when talking about his recent tour with Pvris.
“They blew me away,” he says. “[Lynn Gunnulfsen] is a great frontwoman. I think more girls are getting into it now and picking up guitars, and I would love to see more women in bands. I have a little girl, and if she wanted to do this I’d support her all the way. She’d probably be better than me!”
He sounds sincere, if not a little uncomfortable discussing the subject. It’s hard to believe that someone with Quinn’s emotional intelligence wouldn’t care about equality; instead, it seems to be something he genuinely hasn’t pondered much.
Quinn and Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes on the Warped Tour, 2013 and right, the poster for their current tour Photo: Chelsea Lauren/ WireImage
Before he heads off to meet the fans waiting diligently outside that night’s venue, he muses on his ongoing tour with Pierce The Veil. Over two years after the bands hit the road, they’re showing no signs of losing their chemistry.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, because we’ve got this new thing to put out and it’s like we’re at the point they were at three years ago,” he says, referring to Pierce The Veil’s most recent release, 2012’s Collide With The Sky. Despite joining forces with them on the lead single King For A Day, he’s adamant there won’t be any more collaborations.
“People get excited about seeing us both on stage together, but I think doing anything else on record would be like a part-two movie,” he says. “King For A Day worked but if we did something like that again, we could blow it really bad. I just think, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
While that news might disappoint some fans, it’s another little indication of Quinn’s confidence in SWS’s current material, and the direction they’re headed as a band. Just don’t ask him what happens next; he wants to bask in Madness’s glory, and with a bad review yet to come, he’s damn well entitled to.
Sleeping With Sirens’ album Madness is out now through Epitaph. They play London’s Kentish Town Forum on April 11 with Pierce The Veil.