Tom Vek is nervous. In his position, you might be too: last time he announced a new album, the internet caved in on itself in excitement after a five-year period of silence following his powerful debut, We Have Sound. Right now, he’s preparing to release his third studio album, Luck, on June 9 on Moshi Moshi Records. “It’s always a strange time,” he says with a grin. Over the past two years he’s been kicked out of his studio – “the endless redevelopment of north and east London meant that it was doomed to be bulldozed and turned into flats” – and, partly due to this enforced downsizing, he’s been rediscovering a love of creating music entirely alone. “With the first two records, in some form, I’d worked with somebody else,” he says. “But with this one I thought right, I’ll try and get it completely done on my own.” If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have heard a teaser of his latest work on iTunes in the form of “You’ll Stay”.
We met Vek for a chat about what to expect from the new record and why he wants you to imagine him rolling his eyes after every word he sings.
Dazed Digital: Your last album, Leisure Seizure, took about five years of suffering for your art. Was it easier this time around?
Tom Vek: I think so. There’s pros and cons to working on your own and with other people, but with this one I thought, right, I’ll try and get it completely done on my own. It gets closer to this idea that you’re expressing a singular – not even a vision, because I’m not sure I have a vision, but a character. That’s always been the deal with this project, with these Tom Vek records. Everything has to have been done by me. There are no samples, and everything has to have been made from scratch. It’s about capturing something that might be a bit shambolic or something a bit scatty, something a bit imperfect.
DD: Is there a central concept or idea behind this record?
Tom Vek: I think that my point of reference for a lot of music is still the music I was listening to in the 90s – a lot of grunge, essentially emo music. I think I wrote so much grunge stuff that it’s ingrained in me that a song has a certain sentiment that's slightly abrasive, slightly confrontational. There’s a sort of love song in disguise on the record, but I’m trying to push it to make it a bit unrecognisable or a bit cryptic. But thematically, there's a song called 'Pushing Your Luck', and that seems to me to sum up a sentiment that is like, the way that I’ve tried to develop emo and melancholy into something that’s not sad for sadness’s sake. Because I can do that – it’s very easy to make minor, sad music. But it’s not joyous either. It’s kind of like this smart-arse, questioning character that’s enjoying being a bit undecided, or enjoying throwing out some questions. A sort of sloganeering, sneering character.
DD: How would you sum up the character behind this album?
Tom Vek: A bratty smartass, I guess.
DD: It feels like quite an angry, frustrated record.
Tom Vek: I think that’s the DNA of a lot of music that I listen to, like rock music. There are lines in this record where it’s not me saying them. I’ve always liked that about lyrics. You sing something, and you have this luxury... Because you don’t see any punctuation, it might be a question, or it might be sarcastic, or this person that you can’t see might be rolling their eyes. I would encourage people listening to this record to imagine somebody rolling their eyes the entire time. One of the tracks, 'Sherman (Animals In the Jungle)', is influenced by having read The Bonfire of the Vanities last year. To me it metaphorically fitted in with some of the themes of the record. I guess it’s about a lack of control and maybe being angry. Everything’s got a maybe in front of it. It’s like, maybe it’s about being angry, or maybe it’s about presenting how silly it is to be this angry. The context of your emotions is a theme. First-world problems, feeling sorry for yourself and that kind of thing. It’s about exploring forms of anxiety that should be dispelled somehow. And sounding like a cool song on the way, hopefully.
DD: Why Luck?
Tom Vek: I’d written 'Pushing Your Luck', and I thought the word in itself was interesting because it can mean lots of different things. There’s good luck, bad luck...it’s an intangible thing. People can use it as an excuse for things, but they can also use it to be modest about things as well. It’s like, do you even want to be a lucky person? Or do you want to be someone who earned their fortune? It’s like love, there’s all these sides to it. And people use it so often. I thought it would look good on a t-shirt as well.
Luck is released on June 9 on Moshi Moshi Records; pre-order it here. Tom Vek plays XOYO, London, on June 11 (tickets go on sale at 9am tomorrow), Paris Flèche D'or on June 12 and Latitude Festival in July
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