“It’s been a crazy year” declares As It Is guitarist Ben Biss when asked to sum up his band’s year. And he’s not lying, as the Brighton-based pop punks have had a busy 2015. With a non-stop touring schedule and UK Top 40 Album under their belt, it was a substantial year for the quintet.
Debut album ‘Never Happy, Ever After’ was released last April to positive reviews and an even bigger response from their growing fan base, landing at number 39 in the UK Album Chart. A number that seemingly is of significance to the band as Ben explained “We got number 39 which is weird as that is a number that randomly crops up a lot for us. We’ve never really spoken about it before. It appeared on the door on the back cover of our first EP that no one knows exist, and then on our first promo shots it’s on a wall in the background. Our 39th show was with our permanent bassist [Alistair Testo].”
Nevertheless, for a band that only formed four years ago and has been touring for half of that time, breaking into a chart full of commercially-friendly artists and firmly established bands is an achievement for the young five-piece. “The Top 40 is so dominated these days by commercial music and to see bands that can break into it from our scene is great” declares Biss. However, it’s success achieved through guts and graft, rather than something that happened overnight: “We’ve done the grind” states Ben, “it has been a slow burn but we’re more appreciative of that.”
There’s no doubt As It Is are the latest success story from the UK underground, pushing through the ceiling alongside fellow pop punks Neck Deep, who achieved a Top 10 album last summer, and the ever-evolving metallers Bring Me The Horizon, who narrowly missed out on a Number 1 spot weeks later.
The changes to listening habits, driven by online traffic and social media sharing, means music fans are no longer being spoon-fed what to listen to reflect this surge in underground popularity. Yet traditional sources, such as BBC Radio One’s Rock Show with Daniel P Carter, are still as important as ever, says Ben: “He’s [Daniel P Carter] just so in the know and so supportive of everything. He’s been massively supportive of us. I remember one week it played whatever was number 1 and then he [Daniel P Carter] opened the show with us. So anyone who’s in the car tuning into the Chart Show would hear the next thing played. I think that is an amazing slot.”
Following on the success of ‘Never Happy, Ever After’, As It Is did what any band should do – tour, tour and tour again. With festival slots throughout the UK, a two-month stint on the Vans Warped Tour along with additional UK, US, European, Japanese and Australian runs, it is safe to say Biss and company clocked up some miles in 2015. Having played over 180, Biss has seen a transformation in the bands live shows; “At the start of the year we didn’t think we were a good live band. If we’re not better now, then we were at the start of the year, we should probably take a look at ourselves. It’s just been constant. You just get better and the shows get better.”
With such an extensive run of shows, they’ve been lucky enough to play alongside bands they consider as influences. When asked about recent US tour mates Mayday Parade, Biss said: “They were one of my favourite bands growing up so watching them every night and getting to talk to them in a natural setting, learning from them.”
For any successful band, especially a young one, it can be far too easy to be swept away by the non-stop lifestyle yet Biss and company have kept their feet on the ground, being grateful for everything they’ve achieved so far and benefitting from every moment.
“I think the tours we’ve done this year and the bands we’ve played with, we have learnt so much from. Those are the things that are most beneficial; learning from other bands you have looked up to.”
“We’re really appreciative of the years we’ve had and not taking it for granted.”
While they’ve been lucky enough to play with bands they grew up listening to, they’ve also seen some depart for one reason or another. In various music circles bands can be “in” one day and “out” the next. It’s a concept that Ben and his band mates are aware of; “We come from a scene that has a history, perhaps, of being quite fickle. Bands come and go quite fast. For us, we’ve had a great year but if it all ends tomorrow, we’re really appreciative of the years we’ve had and not taking it for granted. It could all end just like that.”
While you get the impression As It Is are very much living in the moment, such feelings are sharply brought into focus when Biss talks about meeting up with The Ghost Inside a day before their horrific crash: “That was weird for us,” says Ben. “The day before [that crash] a couple of us went to go and see them in Texas. We played and then went to that show. We drove off in the opposite direction and then that happened the next day. It was one of those moments that shocks you. We could of going in the opposite direction, so it makes you realise not to take anything for granted and really appreciate everyday even when a show is not good or whatever happens. It is really hard to get demoralised when there’s a bad show because it is important to remember you’re living the dream.”
“It is really hard to get demoralised when there’s a bad show because it is important to remember you’re living the dream.”
With the combination of chart and touring success, As It Is are slowly becoming one of the gatekeepers to an ever-growing UK pop punk scene, something which struggled only a few years ago. Defunct bands like Save Your Breath served as an influence to the quintet yet Biss understands why a band sometimes has to call it a day; “It is always sad to see those bands go but in the same breath, I feel it’s better for a band to know when the appropriate time to stop. Before the likes of Neck Deep, bands weren’t breaking out of the UK. It wasn’t really heard of. It was tough and now these bands are coming out of nowhere and getting signed to US labels.”
Nevertheless, the pop punk scene continues to thrive and not just in the UK. Having toured all around the world, As It Is have come in contact with countless up-and-coming names such as Australia’s With Confidence (“I expect big things from them”) and Philadelphia’s Greyscale (“They’re just great songwriters.”) alongside UK peers Boston Manor, Milk Teeth and The Gospel Youth. Biss continues: “It’s a good time for the scene. They will be some really good bands coming through (in 2016). I hoping it’s not just UK bands but other places like Australia. There are some really good European bands coming out as well. Hopefully they can make it over to our shores, and America is very accepting of bands from overseas now. It’s an open field.”
Having now wrapped up a UK tour with Lower Than Atlantis, Biss is able to reflect on the past year and when asked about his stand out moments his two examples given put into perspective how far As It Is have come in such little time.
“Reading Festival was unbelievable. We walked on stage and the tent was packed. We were just blown away. I had a little cry afterwards. I’m not ashamed to admit.“
“The other show, where again I had a little emotional moment, was our Tokyo show. It was a small 200 cap venue but we were literally as far away from home you could get. I think that for me is what bought it home. Those kids don’t even speak your language and they’re there singing along. The passion I felt at that show was an unbelievable for us.”
“We don’t want to write a record about what it is like to be on the road, so we are going to really dig deep on this one.”
You would think after over 180 shows in 12 months As It Is are ready for a break. However that is not the case. “We’re going to take a little bit of downtime and then start writing again” says an upbeat Biss. “We’re very much a band that likes to block out a whole load of time, sit in a room together for weeks on end and write. We’re going to take the same approach (as last time) and play together normally. We’re pretty excited. We’ve done so much touring this year, we’re excited to get creative again and look to what is coming next.”
For a band of As It Is’ type and style, you can easily be misled to think they will produce ‘Never Happy, Ever After’ part 2 but when asked what he had in mind for the bands writing sessions, Ben gave the impression that they are band willing to push themselves; “We’re going to try some new things. We’re definitely going to explore new lyrical content. I feel lyrically ‘Happy’ was quite cohesive and captured a moment in mine and Patty’s [Walters – lead vocalist) lives. We were new to being away from the people we loved, we weren’t used to being on tour and away writing. That record captured all of that. We don’t want to write a record about what it is like to be on the road, so we are going to really dig deep on this one.”
With 2015 in the history books, the next chapter for As It Is seems to be one of promise and optimism. If one thing is for certain, they’re not going to disappear anytime soon.
‘Never Happy, Ever After’ by As It Is is out now on Fearless Records.
As It Is will be supporting Sleeping With Sirens on their UK tour alongside This Wild Life and Beach Weather soon.
29 O2 Academy, Bristol
01 Rock City, Nottingham
02 O2 Academy, Glasgow
04 O2 Apollo, Manchester
05 O2 Academy, Birmingham
06 Roundhouse, London
Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)