The metalcore scene has been evolving over the past decade, and the drive to organize the world around us has given birth to terms like post-hardcore, new-core, and more. That’s what I love about the essence of metalcore – the numerous expressions within one sub-genre of one massive boiling pot we know and love as metal.
One band that has helped shape the past decade of metalcore is Sleeping With Sirens. They’ve released six studio albums, one live album, and one EP since 2010 where you’ll hear blends of pop/punk, emo/alternative, and metal all in the same song. Their most recent album, How it Feels to Be Lost, was released last year and is the leader in the clubhouse for my favorite product they’ve put on the market. There’s a contemplative tension in the music that resonates with the tension I have faced in my own life, particularly when it comes to my own struggles with anxiety and depression, that tension between the painful moments of life and the hope for a better future.
Kellin Quinn, lead vocalist for the band, is also always evolving. It’s rare to find people as open and vulnerable right after meeting them the way Quinn is. He’s a genuine individual in an entertainment industry often characterized as full of narcissism. Instead, Quinn has a vibe about him like we’ve known each other for a while, like he’s ready to talk life with anyone, anywhere. I resonate with those kinds of people. Quinn and I got together – virtually via Zoom, of course – to talk life, from the newest SWS album, stepping into an acting career, and his new-found life as a part-time teacher.
HM: I see that you’re in a small band called Sleeping With Sirens out of Grand Rapids, MI. How do you like the garage band life so far?
Kellin Quinn: (Laughs) Well, yeah. My band’s been doing it for like ten years, and we definitely started off as a really small band touring in a van and trailer, playing small clubs. Probably the first time we did Warped Tour is when the band started to grow. We started seeing big numbers of people at shows and seeing that this thing was bigger than we thought. It was a really exciting experience to see a smaller band grow into what it is now. We’ve had our ups, we’ve had our downs, but we’ve had a really steady fan base who’ve been super supportive over the years.
You and the guys from Sleeping With Sirens are coming off a 2019 album release of How it Feels to Be Lost. There’s new-found energy about this album that I can’t quite put my finger on. Did you feel different about this album than you did prior records?
Yeah. I think there are a few albums in our collection that are like that. I think the first album was like that because it was exciting and it was new. And then I think Let’s Cheers to This was like that because it was us finding out who we were rather than just emulating a lot of the other metalcore bands in the scene. I think the first album was a lot like that.
I came from an acoustic sort of world and background and was immersed into this world of metalcore. I was listening to bands like Dance Gavin Dance, A Day to Remember, and Circa Survive to kind of channel my energy there, so the first album feels a lot like those records whereas Let’s Cheers to This is kind of us finding our sound and playing with some pop/punk, some heavier stuff, and some acoustic stuff. We had made an album before that in Nashville that never saw the light of day, so we ended up going to John Feldmann to do a couple tracks and we ended up finishing this Madness album.
This new album is definitely like that for me. I think that the up-and-down-ness of being in a band makes certain releases more exciting. I think that after you go through that down period and you find that up period again, you get to the point where you’ve hit bottom and you’ve kind of let go, then you start to become more free to write something that’s honest and genuine. And I think that’s what all those albums have together. This album is definitely that for me. I was going through probably the worst depressive part of my life and was dealing with alcoholism and substance abuse stuff. Coming out of that and into this album and being sober and all that stuff has been really, really helpful and a blessing for me.
That’s awesome. Congrats on the sobriety. This album is your first on your new record label, Sumerian Records. They have quite the repertoire of artists. How has the experience been so far working with this crew?
It’s great. I think something that Sumerian and MDDN, our management company, have in common is that they’re in your corner and they’re your cheerleaders when you need them. Then, they’re also very hands-off and let you run your creative process. They’re stoked on the things that you do. They’ll give their insight. But, for the most part, they let the bands be who they are, and that’s something I really love about both the label and the management company. I mean, obviously, you just named it with like all the different styles of artists they have. I think the way that works is you let those artists be who they are; you don’t put them in a box or in a corner.
Ash (Avildsen, Sumerien owner) over there is super, super excited. And he gets stoked and he likes to involve his ideas when it comes to visuals and music videos and stuff. It’s always very welcome because I’m pretty controlling when it comes to Sleeping With Sirens and the image I want to portray, so it’s cool to have people in your corner that get it and then want to bring their ideas, too.
That’s the biggest thing when it comes to mental health and depression, you get stuck in your head and you feel like it’s you against everyone else and people don’t understand.
Did you feel like you had more creative freedom working on How it Feels to Be Lost than you did the previous albums?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve never really run into an issue where the label’s like, “You need to look like this or act like this or be like this.” I’ve never had that. But I think that you can tell when a label is invested or when a label isn’t. You can tell when a label cares and gets behind the record and actually enjoys the music. Whereas, there are labels that just put something out and they don’t really have a connection to it. That’s been a cool thing about Sumerian: They actually love the record and enjoy putting their time into it.
What inspired the song “Leave It All Behind”? As someone who also writes about mental health, that song hit me the hardest. What do you hope listeners can take away from it?
I think that the main thing from that song that I love – it’s in the bridge – is that “together we’re not alone.” I think that’s the biggest thing when it comes to mental health and depression, you get stuck in your head and you feel like it’s you against everyone else and people don’t understand. A lot of times we have conversations with people who don’t struggle with anxiety and depression and they say things like, “Well, why are you feeling that way?” or “You’ve got all these things that you’ve acquired. Life should be happy for you but it’s not.” It’s one of those things that it’s hard to explain unless you’ve gone through it. That song, for me, was wanting my listeners to know that they’re not alone and there’s somebody out there who understands it. I think that’s why that song connects so well with people. That’s what music has always done for me, so I wanted to be able to write a song in that landscape.
As a magazine, we like engaging the mental and spiritual side of artists, as well as their music. Does spirituality play a role in your life?
Of course, yeah, it always has. You can definitely tell in the first album I wrote a lot about my spiritual relationship. There’s been a time where I’ve kind of fallen away from that, but I think – now more than ever, especially getting to a place where I can be sober and be present in my life – it’s drawn me definitely back to a spiritual relationship.
I think this virus, this whole quarantine, and lockdown, has made me ask a lot of bigger questions. I think you can get consumed with everything that’s going on in your life and you start to forget about the bigger picture. Like, why are we here and where are we going? You think about your health and your family’s health and you want to know that there’s somebody out there who’s looking out for you. I always have felt like there’s been a relationship with me, whether I wanted to or whether I was involved in it or not, so it’s nice to kind of be back on that level playing field where I feel like I am having conversations with God about some serious stuff and sorting that out in my life.
You released your first album in 2010. It’s now ten years later with six albums, one live studio album, and one EP. Do you anticipate another album in the next few years?
Yeah, I mean, I’m not going to rush it. It’s funny because I was complaining to my band about how we’ve been going so hard for ten years that it would be nice to have a break, and now we’re literally forced to. It’s been really nice for me, but it was in a weird place because we were in the middle of an album cycle so everything got put on hold, and tours were canceled. Now it looks like when everything goes back to normal we’ll just kind of continue with this album cycle.
We have a couple of new singles that we’re going to release, but I’m a firm believer in not trying to force an album until it’s ready to be written. You asked that question, “Hey, what makes this album different?” And what made the album different was it needed to be written. I don’t want to go into the studio to write an album for the sake of writing it. I want it to come when it’s ready. I think there is another album at some point. We definitely owe another album to our label. I just don’t know when that will be done.
You recently posted on social media that you are trying your hand at acting in a new series called “Paradise City.” Your character’s name is Ralphie, and you are cast alongside a massive Sumerian Records artist list, including BVB’s Andy Biersack. Are you finished filming?
Yeah, it’s all finished. So, Ash – who owns Sumerian Records – is the one who put that show together and asked me if I wanted to try my hand at playing this character, Ralphie. And I had no idea what to expect. I did a little bit of acting in school, but nothing on the level of being in front of a camera and in front of other actors.
It’s really, really intimidating. I learned a lot about it, a very newfound respect beyond what I already had for making movies and for acting in general. I just remember many nights sitting up and memorizing lines and then talking to myself in the mirror and making sure that it sounded natural. It’s just a really, really nerve-wracking experience. It’s like going on stage for the first time. But I had a lot of fun and I grew a lot, I think. I’d like to do more of it.
What made the album different was it needed to be written. I don’t want to go into the studio to write an album for the sake of writing it. I want it to come when it’s ready.
Without giving any spoilers, what is the basic premise of the series for your fans who haven’t seen the teaser yet?
The show is literally a look inside the music industry. My character is an assistant. There’s like three or four bands on the show and it takes you on a journey of all stages of being in a band. So, like, a band first starting off to a band that’s pretty successful playing big rooms and stages to a band that’s literally on its way down in a fiery burnout but they still think that they’re like a big band – but, you know, they’re not.
I play an assistant to the band that Andy Black’s involved in. I basically just get yelled at the entire time by the manager and by the band and by other people (laughs). The majority of my scenes are spent on the phone taking pretty brutal phone calls. It’s really cool because you get to see the perspective of the team that works with the artists, the artists themselves, and the background and craziness that collides throughout it all.
So, I have to ask. What have you, Katelynne (wife), and Copeland (daughter) been up to as a family during quarantine?
I’ve been part-time teaching since I’ve been forced to. It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy getting on her level and seeing what she knows and being involved in school stuff. The teachers have done a really good job of making it decently fun and not super hard or anything like that for parents and for students.
And then my wife and I are going to start working on some gardening stuff in the back yard to get outside and get some sun. And I started a solo side project called DOWNER Inc. that me and my old producer, Cameron Mizell – who did our first album and he also did our album Feel – are trading back and forth. I’ve got five or six songs done for an EP, and, once the sixth song is finished, it will go to mixing. I’m trying to get it out as quickly as possible so that I can give our fans something to listen to while they’re sitting at home.
What kind of vibe would you say it is?
It’s very electronic like this band Crosses that Chino (Moreno) from Deftones fronts. And also there are some elements of City in Colour in there. It’s very nighttime, chilling background music.
Sounds like a project called Anchor and Braille by Stephen Christian of Anberlin.
Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of the same vibe. I talked to Christian the other day. I was listening to some of his new stuff; he sent it over and I sent him some of my stuff and we did a little call, too.
If you had to pick one album that you’ve personally had on repeat in 2020, what album would you pick and who is the artist?
Well, recently I’ve been listening to a lot of the Beastie Boys because of the documentary that came out. Been bumping a lot of that.
How can fans support you and the band during this pandemic?
I mean, I’ve been trying not to ask fans and people out there for a lot of stuff, because I know that everybody’s hurting in this time and it doesn’t make sense for me to be like, “Hey, buy all this stuff for me” and all that. I think, honestly, listening to our music and trying to be as happy as possible during this time would make me the most happy. And, you know, If you want to support this new project that I’m going to be putting out, definitely please pick that up. But other than that, just stay safe and healthy and then come to shows and have fun again when the world opens back up.
Kellin Quinn was posted on May 17, 2020 for HM Magazine and authored by Andrew Voigt.