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Wild Beasts

The Kendal homeboys on artistic conviction, homegrown mythology and the timeless wisdom of Marvin Gaye

With their second album Two Dancers flying off the shelves, Kendal homeboys Wild Beasts are being lauded by broadsheet critics as one of the most credible bands to have ever graced the airwaves; although non-believers remain adamant that they are the most preposterous squealers to have ever swiped a record deal.

Whichever side of that particular fence you are on, one thing is for sure, Wild Beasts make a sound that is genuinely unlike anything else that has ever come before, and whether you love it or hate it (and most love it), you have to admit that’s pretty damned special. Considering their supposed penchant for seriousness we met chief crooners Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming in the fittingly austere surroundings of St Luke’s Church, and set about trying to discover exactly who or what is driving their emotionally charged adventure…

Dazed Digital: The arrangements of your songs are incredibly intricate. How does it all come about?
Tom Fleming:
 Hayden or I will bring the seed of an idea to the rehearsal room and then it becomes a four-way thing – it becomes a series of kind of, ‘I'll see that and I’ll raise you this…’ We started to realise that a lot of small sounds can still sound full… we’ll start with four chords and then take stuff out, and we’ll keep taking stuff out until it sticks – sometimes we have to bring it back because it can get too minimal.

DD: It’s a process of deconstruction then…
Hayden Thorpe:
 In a lot of ways I think it is quite futile to try and explain exactly how it works because it is unexplainable, you almost want to be wrong-footed – I think that’s when we probably feel most alive with what we are doing, when we take ourselves by surprise. I think a good standard is probably to feel like it doesn’t come from you, because if it feels very much like it comes from you it’s probably a bit obvious. I suppose it’s like Marvin Gaye said: ‘I didn’t write what’s going on, I’m just sort of channelling it.’

DD: It must help that you are all very old friends…
 I think that’s quite a unique aspect. It’s not often that you grow up with people, go to the same school, have similar experiences and continue working with one another into your adult life. It’s quite a surreal thing. I think the fact we’ve all had that shared experience allows for a lot of things to be taken for granted that would otherwise have to be forged. Our core understanding is there; we don’t really have to work at that. The things that could be time-consuming and take effort are all assumed, in that if Tom brings a song to the table we will all have an idea of what he is talking about.

DD: It’s very much a melting pot of ideas then?
 Definitely, and I think that what a band should be, you hear a lot about all sorts of deals going on where somebody is signed and the rest of the band isn’t, or whatever, and it just was never an option that everything wasn’t shared. It’s just such a collective thing and everyone has something to say within it. I think we lead each other in different directions as well and we are continuing to do that… That’s what makes the band tick.

DD: So you are interested in perpetual change...
 I think so. I think it would be a mistake for us to try and make a definitive Wild Beasts album and try and pin down what we are. I don’t think the best bands do that, I think they always have different sides and diversions.
H: We are working towards something we just don’t know what it is.

DD: What’s the significance of the title of your next single "All The King's Men"?
 It’s kind of a joke but it’s not smiling. It’s the Humpty Dumpty thing as it sounds – 'number my babies and my broken body' – the egg thing and the hatching thing, the feeling of not being able to be put back together. I tend to favour abstraction over description and myth over history, and that’s something we’re getting at as well. Coming for a small, humdrum town we felt like we didn’t have a mythology to cling to, so we wanted to kind of create our own.

DD: What kind of perspective does it give you to come from such a small place?
 Everything is quite eye opening – we go at a lot of things in a very unassuming way. We don’t have a seen-it-all, done-it-all attitude. There’s definitely a real eagerness to learn and to be influenced, and not be closed books and enjoy it. This is a great thing to be able to do.

DD: There’s a lot of depth to your music and you have talked about channelling something – is there almost a metaphysical or spiritual aspect to what to you do?
 It’s interesting you mention that because the thing that hit me about working with tape was that you are actually physically affecting something; you are actually interacting with time, know what I mean? When you hear yourself on record, especially on tape because it’s coloured and changed, it becomes something else, something more than the sum of its parts. Listening to the first record we realised we had become kind of characters and that’s something we ran with on this record.
H: It’s really a greedy thing. It’s greedy in the way that sex is greedy. It’s an impulsion that really needs to be controlled and used wisely. We can’t live in the world that we create, we can’t be the characters we create on record in the real world because then we would just become parodies, which is what a lot of bands become… which is worrying. At the end of the day, I guess you just have to have this real compulsion to do it – why would someone paint a picture, why would someone write something down? It’s something you need to do because you can see a void or a gap for yourself. That’s not something that is everyday; it’s something unique. I think that’s why we are happy to have come together. Saying you want to be in a band in Kendal is very unusual in ways that I think kids in London probably would never appreciate.

DD: Do you feel like you have had to work at it more?
 I feel like we have really had to decide whether we really want to do this, especially on this record, and the answer is yes because it’s its own reward – it’s fun, it’s a joy and we are enjoying this aspect of it as well, we are enjoying talking to people about it.

DD: How does it feel to now have that voice?
 It’s amazing. Whenever we get frustrated by a niggle we think, ‘Fuck’s sake… we could name dozens of people who would give blood to be in this position!’ I would if I wasn’t in this position. Have you ever seen the documentary about that band in Iraq? We thought that we were isolated coming from Kendal. They had to move to Jordan together because their practice room was bombed, and then two of them got US visas and two of them didn't. They’re a band separated by war. It’s ridiculous.

DD: Do you think it’s fair to say there is an apocalyptic feel to some of your music?
If that’s a bigger question then I think there is definitely a sense of something impending about our music, I’m not sure where that comes from. In terms of where music is going, I think it’s a very interesting time. It’s an interesting limbo period to be working within, I think things are much less set in stone than they were a year ago.
H: Thare’s a sense of urgency. Definitely. Our career is probably quite similar to that of a footballer. There will be a point where our legs go and we are not going to be taken as seriously. Hopefully, we will become like a Giggs figure – a guy who used to have pace and raw energy to give. I feel we’re in a very advantageous position because we’re young, but we’re not going to be young forever. I think The Smiths are a good standard in terms of making your point, making it with conviction and then going… and I hope they never rekindle because it would be a tragedy.

All The King's Men is released October 5 on Domino Records