Editors’ Notes Neck Deep is no stranger to a concept. While the Welsh band’s sound has snowballed over the years, furnishing their pop-punk template with eclectic influences, their subject matter has evolved, too. The band’s last album, 2017’s The Peace and the Panic, was a preliminary foray into overarching themes, examining the calm and chaotic duality of life, partly inspired by the death of frontman Ben Barlow’s father. All Distortions Are Intentional, their fourth LP, broadens and deepens that scope, immersing the listener in the world of Sonderland, where we meet Jett—a character Ben admits is drawn from his own experiences, but could just as easily be relatable for anyone who’s ever felt depressed, disillusioned, and unsure of where they fit in. Jett meets and falls for Alice, with the album telling the story of their developing relationship set against the backdrop of Jett’s mental health struggles. This is no clear-cut romantic tale, as Barlow explains in this track-by-track guide, but a nuanced picture of modern life, where changing the world means different things to different people, and happiness never wholly vanquishes sadness, and vice versa…

Sonderland
“There is a consistent theme throughout the record, which is Jett’s flirtation with death and the thought of wanting to jump off a cliff and end it all. Jett is conscious that he feels no connection to the world he’s in, or the people who are in it. This opening song serves to set the listener up with an insight into Jett’s mental state, but also into how the world he’s in is impacting negatively upon that.”

Fall
“Unsurprisingly given Jett’s negative worldview, he decides to go out and get wasted because he feels he has nothing else to do. There he meets Alice, and they have this crazy night together, which is very much inspired by a lot of my own teenage nights out and meeting somebody you feel you have this otherworldly bond with based on one evening, only for it to soon wear off. Jett is aware he’s made a meaningful connection that he wants to hold on to, even if he’s not met Alice in the most ideal circumstances.”

Lowlife
“This really is Jett’s song, where you get a glimpse of his personality that’s not his depressed side, pondering the world. Instead he’s happy with himself. This song was where the idea for the whole concept came from, and very much how I was feeling when I wrote it, on tour with blink-182 and having the time of my life. This is Jett saying: ‘I’m a lowlife but I’ve got it all figured out, it’s everyone else that doesn’t get it.’ ‘Lowlife’ isn’t by any means saying it’s healthy to live that way, but it’s glorifying Jett’s ‘fuck you’ attitude.”

Telling Stories
“I feel like this has the most ‘classic’ Neck Deep sound and wouldn’t have been out of place on [the band’s second album, 2015’s] Life’s Not Out to Get You. We didn’t ever really intend to write pop-punk songs this time around, but we wrote a banger of a pop-punk song so rolled with it. Jett and Alice have been spending some time together and opened up to one another. They find common ground and solace in the fact they’re both unhappy. It also introduces two minor characters, Jack and Emily, representing the Instagram-perfect lifestyle, showing the contrast and disconnect between people.”

When You Know
“This is Jett realizing he’s in love with Alice. They’ve had this whirlwind romance, which began in the haze of a nightclub, and have spent some meaningful time together. It’s a straight-up love song, highlighting that feeling when you first realize that you’re totally enamored with someone, which can be life-changing. It’s the juxtaposition between Jett musing his place in the world and figuring out that he might have found that place with Alice. It’s a happy song for once.”

Quarry
“It was an intention to have ‘When You Know’ and ‘Quarry’ next to one another, to highlight the fluctuations in Jett’s mental state. Anyone who’s been in the throes of depression or anything similar will understand how quickly your emotions can change. One minute Jett has gone from thinking ‘Oh my god, I think I’m in love’ to straight back to rock bottom. He’s thinking about his past and the people that he’s lost. There’s a quarry he drives past every day, and he’s debating if doing something drastic might be the answer.”

Sick Joke
“It’s probably one of my favorite tracks on the record. It’s Jett questioning if things are real, and whether all the terrible things that have happened to him throughout the course of his life is just some sick joke. His thoughts and lucidity are warped. It’s an existential crisis where Jett thinks that because life is so sad and so grim that it can’t be real—and if it isn’t, and this is some kind of fever dream, then maybe that’s for the best.”

What Took You So Long
“This is another development in Jett and Alice’s love for each other. I wanted reminders throughout the record that these two states of mind, being incredibly depressed and having glimpses of positivity, can run parallel to one another. The lyrical content of ‘What Took You So Long’ concerns Jett realizing this is the first shred of hope that he’s had in his life for a very long time. The big line in the song is ‘I was not me until I discovered you.’”

Empty House
“Listeners should note that there’s been a fair passage of time between these songs, with this story going over a period of a year or more. At this point in the story, like in a movie, I wanted to have some turmoil, with Jett and Alice experiencing a bump in the road. It’s Jett feeling utterly defeated, sitting alone in his empty house, wondering if things are ever going to get better now he’s potentially lost the one good thing he had going for him.”

Little Dove
“It’s the resolution between Jett and Alice. Anyone who’s been in a relationship of a good amount of time knows what it’s like to have that first fallout with someone, which is usually rectified by some honest conversation. They’re getting back on track, confiding in each other, and admitting they’re both messed up and that the modern world they’re in is disrupting their relationship.”

I Revolve (Around You)
“This uses outer space as a metaphor for a relationship. I find the idea of space to be romantic, particularly the bit in WALL-E when the two robots are dancing in space. It feels like this big affirmation of Jett and Alice’s relationship, with him having this epiphany that his life is Alice now. Rather than focusing on the bad things in the world, Jett realizes he can revolve around Alice. Just as the planets and solar system keeps on going, so does love, which means it’s able to conquer the trivial.”

Pushing Daisies
“It was important to us how we ended the album. I didn’t want to end it with this big, lovely, tied-up-in-a-bow ending. Yes, there’s a clear conclusion here, when Jett realizes he doesn’t have to stand out from the crowd to have value, but if one person cares about you and gives you perspective, that’s important. When you get to the end of your life, you’re not going to look back on what you didn’t do, but on what you did do. You don’t have to change the world, but you can change your world.”

SONG
Sonderland
1
3:39
 
Fall
2
3:34
 
Lowlife
3
3:09
 
Telling Stories
4
3:19
 
When You Know
5
3:09
 
Quarry
6
1:26
 
Sick Joke
7
3:47
 
What Took You so Long
8
3:33
 
Empty House
9
3:34
 
Little Dove
10
3:04
 
I Revolve (Around You)
11
3:38
 
Pushing Daisies
12
3:43
 

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