Zach Hughes and Conor Giblin spoke to Mattie and Henry from VANT backstage before their sold-out show at Gorilla in Manchester, about their debut album ‘Dumb Blood’ and the state of global politics today.
Z: I first saw you when you were supporting FIDLAR over the road at The Ritz, how far do you feel you’ve come as a band since then?
M: Not that far! Not far enough to play The Ritz! [laughs]. That was one of our favourite shows, The Ritz is amazing. Since we played there, it’s become a goal for us. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there. We’ve come a long way since then, we played The Deaf Institute last year, and now we’re playing a venue that’s 3 times bigger. It’s been a mad 12 months.
C: You’ve recently released your debut album ‘Dumb Blood’, are you happy with the way the album has been received?
M: It’s been fantastic. You can notice it in the live scenario, there are some songs that people used to only move a little bit to, but now they’re mad for it!
C: You’re signed to Parlophone, which is a major label, how supportive have they been?
M: Good, it’s nice to work with a label that has belief in what you’re doing. They’ve put out records by some of the greatest artists of all time and some of those artists took a while to break through, so it feels like the label are up for doing the same with us. We’re already talking about a second record and where we want to go in the future. They’ve been massively supportive of our debut album, it’s been a very fruitful relationship so far.
Z: Do you have a favourite track on the album? Or any that you’re particularly proud of?
M: All of them!
H: Buy the record, all of them are the best! [laughs]
M: Seriously though, it’s really hard to pick one particular song because we all have our own personal attachments to all of them and they span a wide range of subjects as well. We do love a lot of the songs that haven’t been singles, like ‘Lampoon’, ‘Put Down Your Gun’ and ‘Time & Money’, just because now the fans can hear them in the same way that we’ve heard them for so long.
Z: The topics you sing about are extremely relevant at the moment, how long do you think people will be able to relate these subjects for?
M: I’d like the relevance of some of the topics to end tomorrow, to be honest. The one which has been the strangest for me is ‘Birth Certificate’, when we first put that out as a demo a long time ago, it was about my own experiences to do with immigration and having a girlfriend from a different country and her having to leave the country. The topics on our album keep becoming more and more relevant as time goes on, with things like Brexit, Donald Trump and the Muslim ban. People have been singing about some of these things for over 50 years and I see our songs losing relevance in the future with the way things are heading.
Z: How does this tour feel compared to your previous UK tours?
M: Quite mindboggling really…
H: We hadn’t played a show for a while, so we went from our own tour at the end of last year, jumped on a tour supporting You Me At Six and Nothing But Thieves. But then after having a bit of time off and focusing on the album, the tour has just creeped up on us really.
Z: You covered ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ in the Live Lounge for BBC Radio 1 recently, did you manage to get a reply from Katy Perry after that?
H: No, we’re still waiting Katy P!
C: Mattie, how was your trip to Washington for Trump’s inauguration?
M: Very, very, very surreal. Three of the most different days I’ve ever had, back to back. I went there on a whim really, I booked tickets a few days before to go with my friend who’s a film maker and we got there the evening before the inauguration. When we went to the inauguration the next day there was a very strange atmosphere, it was very subdued and it didn’t really feel like much of a celebration. It was met with a lot of animosity from protesters. We went to the Women’s March the next day, which was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever experienced. There was so much love and compassion. There was a massive difference in security, on Inauguration Day there was so much security but on the day of the Women’s March, there was nowhere near as much.
C: In ‘The Answer’, you talk about the ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK, so when Theresa May visited Trump a week later, did you feel like your worst fears were being realised?
M: The problem I have with Theresa May is her willingness to co-operate with anyone, she came into the position in the aftermath of Brexit and changed her position to be in favour of Brexit. I think that just shows how malleable she is, and how easy she is to convince that something will be good for her political career. The same goes for Donald Trump as well. I think she is more of a puppet than Trump has been for Putin. I just have this image in my mind of Putin as a puppet master over Trump and then Trump being the puppet master of Theresa May. Someone should draw that!
Z: On a more positive note, how did your slot supporting Primal Scream in Hull this summer come about?
M: I honestly don’t know, I’m not sure whether they personally chose to have us on the bill, but either way we’re really excited about it. Both them and Echo & The Bunnymen are legendary acts, so it’s nice to be sharing a stage with them, on hopefully a sunny day!
Z: You’re very interactive with fans on Twitter, is there a general philosophy behind that?
M: Well, we’re just dealing with real, actual people. I hate it when bands have this ‘prestige’ around them. I’m a person just like the people who listen to us. They choose to listen to our music because they like what we create, in the same way that I choose to go to a certain coffee shop because I like the way they make their coffee. But it doesn’t mean that I worship the barista! [laughs]. I don’t want those boundaries, that’s why we always try to meet people after the shows. I don’t mind signing things and taking pictures, but fundamentally I just want to have conversations with people.
C: In ‘Peace & Love’, you sing “we want peace & love, when they’re in season”. Is that a criticism of all the people who half-heartedly fight for a cause or cherry pick the causes that they want to support?
M: Yeah, absolutely. We’re all guilty of it. When something terrible happens like the Paris terror attacks or the Orlando nightclub shooting, we tend to notice it more. But terrible stuff happens around the world every day, often in cultures that don’t necessarily fit with the mainstream Western perception of what we should care about. There’s been a lot happening in Pakistan, Turkey and Syria recently but it doesn’t get covered as well by the media in this country. I think that people don’t use the words ‘peace’ and ‘love’ with the same meaning anymore, I think people don’t use those words with the same intent that they should. In the 1960s, those words had already become fashion statements and Coca-Cola even started using them in advertising. I think we need to reclaim those words and use them with the same importance that we did in the past.
C: Mattie, you’ve worked at the London venue Birthdays, where the band formed. So I’m guessing you’re an advocate of independent venues such as Birthdays? How important would you say they are to the music industry?
M: Definitely. We’ve been lucky enough to play in a number of great independent music venues. The last show we played in Belfast was at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, which also works as a charity that helps young musicians, provides rehearsal space and brings communities together through music. Up and down the country, there are great independent venues, when bands get bigger they’re forced to play bigger venues such as O2 Academies. But I think the best thing to do is something like what Slaves did, where they went from such a huge tour, to just touring independent venues across the country where they sold tickets for about £2. If we get bigger in the future, I’d love to do something like that.
Z: Are you starting to notice an upward trend of political lyricism in rock music nowadays?
M: I think it’s always been there, but it’s not always been at the surface. I think bands like Cabbage and Slaves are brilliant because they’re doing it with a sense of humour as well. The fact that ourselves and those bands are getting more light at the moment, it shows that there are people who want to listen to that kind of music and have something to hold onto with meaning. The hope that we have of musicians being more political in the future will only carry on if people actually buy the music that those artists release. That’s the next step. Make Cabbage number 1 when they release their debut album!