Architects’ Sam Carter on tackling Sexual Assault in Live Music
On Saturday 3rd February, Architects will play a sold-out show at Alexandra Palace to 10,000 fans. The band have invited Safe Gigs for Women to attend to promote their work raising awareness of sexual assault and harassment at live music events. SGFW’s Sarah Claudine caught up with lead singer Sam Carter in the run up to the show to talk about why the cause is so important to the band.
Rewind to August 2017, and Architects were performing at Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands. The band were mid-way through their set when frontman Sam Carter spotted something in the crowd: a female crowdsurfer having her chest aggressively groped by a male audience member. Furious, Sam interrupted the show to tell the audience what he had just seen and condemn the man’s actions to cheers of support from the crowd. Footage of the incident was posted online and went viral overnight, with international coverage in the press and on social media, leaving the singer inundated with responses from the media and fans alike. ‘The morning after, going on my phone, it blew my mind just how many messages I had from people saying that it meant so much that I had said something, because they often felt at shows that they were alone and trapped. That’s when it really hit home for me. It was a real eye opener. I surround myself with like-minded people, so it’s very easy to fall into a place where you feel like things like that don’t happen at shows’.
As well as being shocked at the overwhelming number of people who shared their experiences of assault and harassment following the festival, Sam described feeling uncomfortable with the praise he received, seeing his actions purely as: ‘a normal human response to seeing someone assaulted’. He explained: ‘I didn’t know I was being filmed, it wasn’t a case of: “oh, I’m saying this to be the good guy”- it was the angriest I’ve ever been onstage.’
Since the incident at Lowlands Festival, the world has been shaken to the core by the #MeToo revelations, with accusations of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct emerging against several prominent musicians and others working in the music industry. I ask Sam how he feels reflecting on the assault at Lowlands, seeing it now not as an isolated and shocking incident, but as indicative of a wide-spread problem of misogyny in live music. ‘It makes so angry, physically angry, that people will abuse other people. I don’t understand how you can live with yourself. It made me aware of a whole other side of the industry that I just wasn’t aware of. I’m glad that I know about it now, because it means that I can look out for it- both in the industry and in gig crowds.
I say every night on stage: if you see something wrong in this world, you have to fucking do something about it. There’s so many people that turn a blind eye to everything. If we don’t all start realising that these things are wrong and we don’t start doing something, we’re not going to be able to fix it.
A few days after Lowlands Festival, the band attended the inaugural Heavy Music Awards where they scooped the award for best album. Safe Gigs for Women were proud to have volunteers at the night by invitation of the organisers; a group of representatives from all across the industry with the shared vision of a future free of sexual assault and harassment in live music. The environment at Heavy Music shows is a highly contentious topic with reference to women’s safety, with many arguing that (generally) male-dominated moshpits pose a greater risk to women. Sam is quick to challenge this attitude: ‘Live music shows are a place of expression; people use music as an escape and a place of empowerment and being around those who share the same ideals as you. When you come to a show, you don’t come to be assaulted. You come to express yourself. There’s a difference between being accidentally hit in a crowd and someone grabbing at you, at your chest and your bum. That’s something that is completely deliberate and that person has gone there with the idea in their head that they’re going to do that to someone. What I want people to understand at our shows- at any fucking show- is that no person has any more right to be there than anyone else. We’re all human and we’re all there to watch musician’s play and to express ourselves- and if you see someone being assaulted while they’re expressing themselves, how can you not be outraged?
It’s an intimidating thing to go to a show and to let your guard down, but it’s so beautiful, and I think that’s what makes it so tragic- it’s so horrible that someone would take advantage of your guard being down’.
We discuss the power of community in live music, and the need to encourage gig-goers to look out for one another in crowds and report any inappropriate behaviour that they see. ‘If you see someone touching a girl inappropriately, and you see her upset, how the fuck can you sleep at night if you don’t do something about that? I would like to think that, because we’ve spoken about it now, that if anything happened like that at any of our shows, people would put their hand up and they would get security to sort it out straight away. That’s what people need to know-if you go and tell a security guard that a sexual assault is happening, they will not take that lightly. People should not feel scared to speak up, because it’s something that is being taken very seriously.
Whilst security teams and show crowds are on the front line in handling and trying to reduce incidences of sexual assault or at least increase reporting, Sam agrees with SGFW’s view that artists, labels, festivals and the entire industry need to unite to tackle the problem and create a more positive live music culture.‘The responsibility lies with these people. They have a massive role in it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You have everything to gain in helping people feel safe. People that put money into buying gig and festival tickets want to feel safe. Why would anyone want to go to a festival where they think the organisers don’t care about their safety? Musicians, artists, everyone needs to stand up and say that this shit is still happening and that it’s not okay.
Image Credit: Ed Mason
Words: Sam Carter & Sarah Claudine
SGFW would like to thank Architects and their team for their support.