Bad Omens: “We’re not going to do anything to compromise this”

Bad Omens are becoming one of the biggest rock bands in America. And frontman Noah Sebastian is becoming a star. Not that he thinks about anything other than music, though. Ahead of their UK tour with Bring Me The Horizon, he tells us little about himself, but plenty about ambition, playing massive shows, and how, “I’m just trying to impress myself…”

Bad Omens: “We’re not going to do anything to compromise this”
Jake Richardson
Bryan Kirks

It’s pleasing to find Noah Sebastian in good spirits as he joins Kerrang! today. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Bad Omens frontman was forced to postpone a handful of shows on his band’s U.S. headline run owing to a particularly nasty throat infection. You’d think it might dampen his mood, but despite only recently recovering, he’s diving headfirst back into the swing of things, and informs K! that prior to our conversation he was enjoying playing around with a new computer set-up he’s had installed, which he’s going to be using to work on music.

This small talk is symptomatic of his approach throughout our time with him. Noah is absolutely fixated on his band, every answer he gives is contextualised by what it means for Bad Omens or how it affects their music or current trajectory. Far more at ease talking shop than anything bordering on the personal, whether it’s by design or not, the mentality he presents is refreshingly driven, painting the picture of an artist who obsesses over all the small details of his creative output, as well as everything that goes alongside it.

That drive is paying dividends. Last year’s excellent third LP The Death Of Peace Of Mind has catapulted Bad Omens – completed by guitarist Joakim ‘Jolly’ Karlsson, bassist Nicholas Ruffilo and drummer Nick Folio – into the big leagues, garnering hundreds of millions of streams, radio hits in the States, and cementing their status as one of contemporary rock’s major players. Theirs is a true metalcore crossover success story, and for Noah, it’s now a case of simply bettering what they’ve already done, rather than looking to emulate the achievements of others.

“I feel like we’re now at a place where I have my own North Star when it comes to creating – I have this newfound respect for myself,” Noah begins. “I don’t mean it in an egotistical way, but I just want to make music that I don’t hear other bands making. It’s difficult to reinvent the wheel when making a rock album, and The Death Of Peace Of Mind is very all-over-the-place, very experimental, to the extent that if you were to hear some songs in isolation, you’d never guess that we were a rock band, and vice-versa. I’m in a cool place right now where I feel like it’s up to me to make new music to raise the bar.”

Noah is genuine when he says his desire to raise the standard in rock isn’t about ego. Despite having a rock radio hit in the U.S. – the massively anthemic Just Pretend – he pays no attention to airplay or chart positions. His studio time isn’t spent searching for Bad Omens’ next banger. Every move he makes is in service of the music and his constant desire for self-improvement. He is, “My own template, my own guiding light,” he says.

“It’s just me trying to impress myself,” Noah explains of his approach. “I don’t care about what’s popular – I just like making music that I’m proud of. I’m my own biggest fan. Making [the music] perfect and better than the thing I did before… I think that’s Bad Omens’ secret weapon. All the other things that then happen are a result of that. People can see that it’s authentic, that we’re just trying to have fun and do cool stuff.”

The Death Of Peace Of Mind and its subsequent success has, Noah says, “solidified my confidence in myself as a songwriter and singer”. The way he speaks – being his own North Star, wanting to raise the standard of rock music in general – certainly backs up those statements of confidence. But Bad Omens have been no overnight success story, nor has Noah always been so self-assured in his frontman status. The emergence of this enigmatic rock star has been the result of painstaking work, long bouts of creative isolation and a firm commitment to being the very best.

Noah hasn’t always been a vocalist, nor does he consider himself a natural singer. His first instrument was the guitar, which he picked up as a teenager, playing in a handful of local bands. After turning 16, he began to pay more attention to what was going on in the scene, and decided he wanted to do something different to what he was seeing and start a project he could truly call his own. But he didn’t want to just be in a band. He wanted to record and produce the material himself, and have the freedom that he felt wouldn’t necessarily come when at the mercy of outside producers and engineers. Nor did he want to be limited by how much time he could afford in a professional studio, given the hefty costs involved.

The timing was perfect, because ‘bedroom studios’ were just emerging as a realistic alternative for cash-strapped artists. The only problem was that Noah had no experience in this field, something exacerbated by the fact he was now looking to branch out into being a vocalist as well as guitarist and producer. A lack of ambition has never been his issue.

“The idea of recording music myself was really appealing,” Noah remembers. “But at the time I had no experience or competence as a vocalist. I was vulnerable in that regard, and I was anxious at the prospect of me trying to sing or scream in front of someone else. So I prioritised learning how to produce and record, and built my confidence that way. I spent countless hours on YouTube watching tutorials, researching staging equipment and learning everything I needed to record and engineer music myself. At that stage, it was very much a one-man-band bedroom project, but it made me realise I could do it.”

The touchpaper was lit, and inspired by David Draiman, Chester Bennington, Oli Sykes (more on him shortly) and pop superstar The Weeknd, Noah set about forming Bad Omens armed with his newly-developed skills in vocals and production. He was determined his new group would be difference-makers, not only in terms of their music, but the very idea of what it means to be a rock band emerging from the Warped Tour circuit. As Noah rather bluntly puts it, “the heavy side of the music industry was like a joke” back then.

Keen to stress that he’s “not talking shit on any bands that have more fun than us,” Noah was and remains nonetheless steadfast in his view that to get ahead, Bad Omens need to operate smarter, tighter and with more discipline than most. He and his bandmates have always been “reclusive, shy dudes”, channelling their personalities as “boring nerds” to devote as much energy as they can to creating a healthy, positive working environment.

Ask Noah how that attitude has seen him grow as a person over the course of Bad Omens’ career, and he’s typically quick to move the spotlight from himself to the development of the band more broadly.

“I tend not to think about it from just a personal perspective,” he says. “Bands only get one good first impression, and with our newest album blowing up the way it has and our recent tours selling out, we’ve needed to make sure we’re going out there and doing a good job. There’s so many extreme dynamics, different styles and techniques to the way we perform now. It’s difficult, so something I’ve changed about myself to help with that has been improving my health, both physically and mentally. It’s just mundane stuff like going to the gym, and not drinking and partying, but it’s a critical newfound discipline we all have in the band. This is our job, it’s our priority, and we owe it to the people who depend on us to not just fuck it up every night. We’re not going to do anything to compromise this.”

UK fans will get to see Bad Omens’ uncompromising approach in the flesh this January, when they embark on a mammoth arena tour in support of Bring Me The Horizon. With a bill that also includes the effortlessly cool Cassyette and Static Dress, it’s a run of shows that will kick 2024 off in style. For Bad Omens, and Noah in particular, it’s somewhat of a full-circle moment. On their first couple of albums – 2016’s Bad Omens and 2019’s Finding God Before God Finds Me – there was, Noah acknowledges, a “running joke in the scene” that compared the band somewhat derogatorily to Sheffield’s finest. And now here they are…

“I totally understand it,” Noah says of the early resemblance. “The vocal style I was doing before sounded a lot like Oli, and we were inspired by them musically.”

Now, though, Noah is taking inspiration from Bring Me The Horizon in a much more philosophical way.

“It’s about the mindset, rather than the music itself,” he outlines. “It’s being fearless, not caring about genres or being confined to what rock and metal is doing right now. It’s doing your own thing and making a sound of your own – that, to me, is how we’re now inspired by them.”

These UK shows will be the biggest they have ever played, but given the confidence with which Bad Omens are now operating, you expect they’ll take it all in their stride. Hot off the heels of their celebrated Concrete Forever tour which has smashed its way through North America, the rooms they find themselves playing in are only getting larger, but you’d imagine reverting back to being the support might come with a fresh set of challenges, both practical and mental. Crossing the pond while riding a wave of hype and supporting one of our country’s biggest and beloved rock bands, does Noah feel like Bad Omens have something to prove all over again?

“No, not necessarily,” the frontman affirms calmly. “We’re there to impress people, but we’re so dialled in now from touring the past few years and playing long headline sets that we feel confident and locked in about our performance. For us, it’s a fun challenge and project to put together a great show for every tour we play.”

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