Architects part ways with guitarist Josh Middleton
Architects have announced the departure of guitarist Josh Middleton after six years in the band.
An outsider at heart, by casting off the shackles of expectation, Sam Carter has finally learned to embrace who he wants to be. And as Architects gear up to release their 10th album, the Brighton metallers are also finding their own path away from fan pressures and on into pure creative freedom...
“God, if people hated my eyeliner, wait ’til they find out it’s cruelty-free.”
In the dressing room of a Brighton photo studio, Sam Carter is laughing the laugh of someone who can’t believe quite how mad the world’s gone. Kerrang! has just reminded him of the reaction to Architects’ video for deep fake. With a weary smile, he rolls his eyes and looks mock-shocked. “Nothing’s had to suffer for these eyelashes. Unbelievable…”
Architects are used to their own fans being their harshest critics. Apparently they’re sellouts. Apparently they’re chasing some sort of pop career every time they do anything that’s not built on breakdowns. Apparently they can’t do right for doing wrong most of the time, even if their trajectory and streaming numbers remain steadfastly upward. So that was nothing new. What confused Sam was that in a world of outcasts and underdogs, a bit of (actually very cool looking) eyeliner was the charge on which he was being pulled up.
“I thought that metal was supposed to be an open and welcoming place,” he puzzles. “We're all the kids that listened to heavy music in school and had the piss ripped out of us for it. And then you do something I would consider quite alternative… For however many years I’ve just worn jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt, and now I’ve started wearing things I’ve wanted to for a long time and not felt comfortable enough to. Now I kind of see why.
“It felt a bit like I was being shit on, but I'm not the kind of person to shy away from it,” Sam continues, with a devilish gleam, “so I immediately just doubled down and started doing it more.”
Another sigh, and then a big laugh.
“You don't look at Ozzy and be like, ‘What the fuck!?’” he hoots. “And he’s just brought out a make-up range!”
Sam can’t help but smile, however ruefully, about all this (“You’ve got to, or you’d go mad”). Particularly since things are so rosy today. The video in question was taken from Architects’ 10th album, the classic symptoms of a broken spirit, out on Friday. In November, they’ll be heading out on the road with Biffy Clyro, where they’ll be making their first-ever stop at London's The O2. When Sam does the washing up these days, in his eye-line is the trophy awarded to Architects from The Official Charts Company for their last album, 2021’s For Those That Wish To Exist, going in at Number One.
“That happening was kind of like Leicester winning the Premier League,” he says. “It just doesn't happen.”
Except it did. And then Architects went on their biggest UK tour to date. And then… went quiet again. They popped up at London’s legendary Abbey Road studios at the end of last year to record songs from the album with an orchestra, something the Beatles-obsessed frontman calls a “biblical experience”, but really, Architects had weighed up touring properly, didn’t like the way the cost-to-risk odds were looking at them with the pandemic still threatening to up-end everything, and so decided to write the next album.
“It was the only thing that made sense within the dullness of not doing anything,” Sam explains. “It reminded me that I am a musician, this is what I do. It was quite nice having that time where I was just walking the dog – I'm a pretty good dog walker, but that's about it. So it was nice to have something to focus on, and it kept up the communication between everyone. Even if you’re not in a studio together, you’re still working on the album, you’re constantly in contact with each other.”
And if you’re angry about what Sam’s putting on his face in his band's videos, or that previous single tear gas has an industrial stomp more in line with Rammstein than 2007’s Ruin, then wait ’til you hear what they’re singing about…
The lower-case title of the classic symptoms of a broken spirit speaks for itself. The titles of the songs on it more so – living is killing us, doomscrolling, a new moral low ground, be very afraid, born again pessimist. Sam says there’s a Very Architects sense of gallows humour in such nakedly bleak wording, but that’s needed when you’re picking through topics like climate change, the worrying, widening shift between those who have and those who have not, and unvarnished analyses of your own mental health. “Otherwise,” he continues, “you’d walk around crying all the time, because it's fucking terrifying out there.
“You kind of want to be an escape for people. You want to be a place where people can listen to [what you’re saying in your music], and come together, and have a joint moment and [share that] sort of fatigue-weakness of the state of the country and of the world.
“I'm worried about my heating bills, I'm worried about climate change, but I have people to talk about it with, and I have a band to sing about it in. Some people don't have that room for conversation. They’re really worried about this stuff, and their friends don't give a shit. So, it's nice to be a band that can talk about these things, and lean into it, and be able to go, ‘It's fucking shit, isn't it?’”
It’s hard not to think so. In the days after K! speaks to Sam, Britain’s already paper-thin government announced its fourth Chancellor of the Exchequer in as many months, Jeremy Hunt, a man whose entire mission statement as Health Secretary seemed to be priming the NHS for a sale by gutting it and destroying the morale of anyone working in it. Can’t afford food or not freezing to death? Tough shit, is his line. And on the subject of fuel, Liz Truss – who, at the time of writing, still somehow holds the title of prime minister – continues to insist that environment-wrecking fracking is the way forward, rather than cleaner alternatives.
In the same week, two Just Stop Oil campaigners walked into the National Gallery in London and filmed themselves throwing a can of soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, before gluing themselves to the wall. Yelling, “What is worth more, art or life? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?” Somewhat depressingly, the conversation in the days since has been more about their method than their point. Meanwhile, Britain has fallen even further behind on meeting its own climate targets.
Sam is the first to admit that he doesn’t have the answers. And that as individuals – even one as engaged as he – almost anything you do is window dressing while an entire game is rigged against the planet. These anxieties exist within Architects' music, but so does the idea of sharing your worries with others and working out what can be done.
“It's not telling people off, it's not anyone's fault, and also there's not much that we can do,” he says. “There's little things, but the larger problems within our society probably fall on about 13 businesses that are responsible for 80 per cent of the carbon emissions in the world.
“If I do my recycling wrong, I go to bed annoyed, and I feel like I've just fucking killed something. No, I haven’t – it's on those companies. I'm not removing my hands, and I try to do better every single day, and do better things for the environment and for me for everyone around me. But sometimes you've got to [realise that] it's on them.
“Big businesses have big answers, but no-one is asking them these questions,” he continues. “And I think the problem is, because everybody is so caught up in it, and finds everything that [these companies] provide as such a necessity, no-one's going to. [They all add to the] convenience of life, and people go, ‘Well, I'm just gonna do that. I'm just gonna do this, I'm just gonna do that.’ And it's really fucking hard.”
Elsewhere, the album takes just as hard a look inward. On burn down my house, Dan Searle’s lyrics deal with mental health. Not only in the weight of one’s own struggles over the past couple of years in which fear and angst over the pandemic were compounded by human contact becoming barely legal, but in the continuing question mark over why it’s not practically seen as a real health issue.
“It’s really fucking bleak,” admits Sam. “It's a song that’s talking about mine and Dan's mental health, but I think it's more open in terms of where we're at societally. There’s discussions about mental health, and charities and people doing stuff, but it's still not as real as people might think it is. It's not an actual, proper conversation. So much of it is just saying, ‘It's okay not to be okay’, but we’re still not having the really fucking hard conversations – asking somebody if they're alright, and saying, ‘Are you actually?’”
For Sam, this was a question to which the answer was ‘no’. A year before Architects guitarist Tom Searle passed away in 2016, the singer began to take antidepressants. Over the pandemic, with the world being a more confusing place than usual, he doubled his dose. This helped keep darker things locked away, but so was everything else. Instead of depression, he felt nothing.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with antidepressants – they saved my life. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here,” Sam says. “But when I doubled the dose, I went too far. I just felt absolutely nothing – no joy, no sadness. There were points in it where I was like, ‘I just want to feel something. I want to feel sad, I want to have some sort of emotion.’”
A key moment came when a pair of Sam’s friends asked him and his fiancée to be godparents to their daughter. While his partner burst into tears, he himself, honoured and happy as he was to have been asked, also felt nothing. “At that moment, I just thought, ‘I need to get off this, I need to try and work through myself more.’
“I took my time, because it’s really dangerous to come off them too quickly," he says. "I got off them, and I was very proud of it, but during that time it was fucking insane. It was so hard to come off.”
At the same time, Sam began examining himself and his life more thoroughly. Where the band had nobly been working through their grief in public, he realised it also needed quieter, more personal attention as well.
“Actually sitting back and looking at everything, I realised, ‘Okay, there's so much stuff that I need to address, and so much stuff that I need to talk about and heal,’” he says. “I think me and Dan were going through it at the same time. [After Tom died] we went straight on tour, and we recorded a record about that situation. We went onstage and spoke about him every single night. And it was really fucking all-encompassing and really hard. But when you step back into yourself, you realise, ‘I need to work through this – not me working through this in front of everybody else.’
“I was already seeing a counsellor, but I wasn’t spending as much on it as I could,” he continues. “It's easy in life to go and spend a load of money at the pub, or to buy a vinyl that you've wanted for ages, but this was the lower levels of it. [I decided], ‘I'm going to try and make sure I get the best counsellor I possibly can, save up and actually just spend money on going and looking after myself.’”
Talking about feedback Architects get from fans, Sam laughs off the negative comments lightly. Doesn’t care. The ones about make-up are whatever they are. The few that actually leave a mark are the ones complaining that the band aren’t what they were with Tom.
“It's like people don't think of you as a person, you're just in a band and your life's easy,” Sam says. “I think about Tom every second of every day. I can't hear the word Architects without thinking about him. And I've seen so many people say, ‘Tom would be ashamed of this, Tom would hate this record, Tom would do this.’ It's like, ‘You don't even get to fucking say his name.’ Tom was the main songwriter, and we've all learned how to be songwriters in Architects now. We've worked so hard to create this. It would have been so much easier to just go, ‘I can't do this. I can't do this anymore. I can't try and imitate this, man.’ We're trying to not rip off our friend’s songs – I can’t just ask Josh [Middleton, guitar] to write some riffs that sound like Tom’s. How insulting would that be?
“It’s mad that people [say things like this], and then go, ‘It's okay not to be okay,’” he sighs. “We need to address the way we speak to each other because it's fucking horrible. I'm not asking you to love it. Music’s completely subjective. I'm pretty sure a lot of our fans don't want to hear about why Side B on Revolver by The Beatles is the best. We’re not going to agree. If you don't like it you don't like it – you just don't need to insult me or bring up my best mate.”
Listening to the classic symptoms of a broken spirit, the Gordian knot of frustrated emotion of all this is writ large. But it’s also, as Sam says, intended as a shared thing, the plain-speaking language used as a way to reach those who need to hear and feel it.
In doing this, Sam doesn’t want to bring people down. He wants his band to be a source of catharsis so that people can find light in the darkness. “When we play shows, we want to turn people’s Wednesday night into a Friday,” he says. At another point, asked what kind of band Architects are these days, he half-jokingly smiles, “We're alternative arena metal. I don't know, man. We're just a rock’n’roll band.”
For the upcoming Biffy tour, these songs are actually built for such stages. Sam describes the rush of playing Animals live in terms of “seeing loads of people being crushed by a massive, simple riff”, and says that for whatever naysaying there’s been from a few fans for tear gas or deep fake, they’ll change their minds when it hits from the stage. And unsuspecting Biffy fans encountering one of Britain’s finest metal bands for the first time? That’ll be part of the fun.
“It'll be interesting. I'm excited,” he says. “I kind of hope people are like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ I always enjoy winning them over. I like that challenge of seeing someone in the audience and going, ‘I see you’, just focusing on that one person who's furious and trying to change their mind.”
Most important of all, right now Sam Carter is happy. He’s satisfied, content. He’s delighted with his band’s new album, and at the prospect of finally getting back out on tour with his friends. He’s taking care of himself, properly, and seeing the difference. And as much as whatever’s in the album, this is something he wants to share and bond with people over as well.
“I cannot believe this is my life,” he grins. “I cannot believe it. I hope people can tell that. It just means so much. It's like someone's put LSD in my mouth.”
Broken spirit? Maybe. But Architects know how to fix it again. Let them show you.
the classic symptoms of a broken spirit is out October 21 via Epitaph
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