Wild Beasts were one of the many, many highlights of Live At Leeds earlier this year, and this August they're back onstage for LeeFest.
LeeFest Presents: The Neverland takes over John Darlings Farm near Tunbridge Wells this weekend for three days of magical fun including mermaids, pirates, hot tubs and tiki bars. A bunch of Dork’s favourite bands are also heading over, including Fickle Friends, Shame, Catholic Action, Fish, Kagoule - and Wild Beasts, who've also not long released new album, 'Boy King'.
Hello Tom from Wild Beasts. You've had a quiet start to 2017, how does it feel to be back on stage?
We've had a few months where we've been quiet but last year was really fucking full on, which it should be. You release a record, we made it in January, it was released in August, and then we were on the road the whole time. Now we're getting the whale back in the water. It's nice to be out. Different members of the band feel differently about this, but I always feel like I leave part of the real me onstage. That's the release valve for all the petty pressures of life, that's where I found it
Did you take a chance to look back on ‘Boy King'?
Yeah, it was a lot more divisive than I thought it would be, I thought it was an obvious step. The idea of being an indie band thankfully died, because it never felt like we were that. Obviously, we had similarities, but we wanted to make our differences obvious, it was a record we had to make. ‘Present Tense' was the apex of what, intellectual synth music and this one was the sound of our final fuck flying away. It was a hugely fun and cathartic record to make, I think maybe we've lost a few fans and gained some others, but that's what you've got to do. We can't make five more ‘Two Dancers'. That can't happen.
It might seem more shocking to the audience ‘cos they don't see all the little steps that took you from A to B?
It's a fallacy that that record is a snap judgment when really, it's hundreds of tiny micro-decisions, and suddenly you've got this thing. John Congleton [producer] brutally simplified the arrangements, and that's what we should have done anyway, why did we spend all that time composing these really delicate parts, the record is basically vocals, drums, guitar and seasonings which is a breath of fresh air for a band like ours.
It's a record designed to be fun. Has that carried over into the live show?
We do a lot of stupid guitar gestures, it started out tongue-in-cheek, but it turned more cathartic. All the macho guitar gestures are looking in the mirror and hating yourself. That's what it feels like playing live, there is a release, and all those bigger gestures and the shitstorm that Chris is kicking up on the drums, it feels like we're actually expressing what the record is about, that self-loathing and self-flagellation, but it is fun. It is a sunset strip record in a lot of ways. Lads from the north of England, going to America and making a processed rock record, that's what it is. It is a lot of fun to play live, and I do think we're the best we've been. We've hopefully taken our experience and married it to a new impetus. Rather than standing onstage and playing the songs, something is happening.
And where do you take it from here?
I feel like we've cracked something open that we're yet to explore fully. That sense of aggression and the new sounds, I guess you'd call this an unlearning. I can do all the intricate finger picking, or I can go smash, and that's what we're trying to do. You have to be encouraged, you have to be dragged kicking and screaming into relevance, and that's the job. We're very fortunate to do what we're able to do and that requires constant vigilance not to disappear up your own arse.
I'm past thirty now, and I've been doing this longer than most of our peers. It's still fun. I feel like we've just made our best record, there's still stuff ahead, and I want to feel like that for a lot longer, but it does require constant vigilance and a constant attention to what you're doing. It's important not to second guess yourself or have anxiety about what you're trying to do. Think about it and trust your instincts but don't try and play to the cheap seats either. Keep revolving.
Have you still got things you want to achieve?
As a musician, always. I love songwriting, it's a big part of all our lives, and also new things arise, certainly ‘Present Tense' was about getting into midi and programming, and this has been, ‘How does that Van Halen song go?' I think if you're a good band, you can make a good record on a mobile phone. It's the ideas people are listening to. Production, sonics, fucking forget it. It's a method of cooking, you still need to grow the vegetables, and that's what I'm interested in. I like production, but that's not music. The core idea is music. I'm still playing with that in my head, but commercially with the band, we've already done way more than I expected to do when I was 18. You always want more, but this isn't terrible.
And how's the rest of the year looking?
A busy summer. It's going to be good. It feels like there are things with this record we haven't done yet, in terms of getting it out to people so we'll be doing the usual suspects and I think it's going to be great. I don't have anything intelligent to say about it other than I really like playing this record live.
Taken from the August/September Dork Festival Guide - order your copy below. LeeFest Presents: The Neverland takes place from 10th-12th August. Visit leefest.org for all the info.