Wild Beasts: "We're alumni of the Leeds music scene"
Wild Beasts are coming home to headline Live At Leeds.
Published: 9:28 am, March 31, 2017
'The North''s premier all-dayer Live At Leeds is back, with a line-up that boasts just about every buzzy new band around right now (Black Honey? Check. VANT? Check. The Magic Gang? Check. Fickle Friends? Check...), and some long-time favourites too - including Wild Beasts, who're currently touring in support of latest album, 'Boy King'.
What about mishaps? You must've had some of those.
So Tom, you've been announced as headliners for Live At Leeds, what else is on your radar?
Tom Fleming: We've got loads coming up, but I'm a bit out of the loop as to what's announced and what isn't. For Live At Leeds, I guess you could say we're alumni of the Leeds music scene. All four of us are actually from a small town, but it's definitely a great place for us to go.
It's great to see smaller festivals doing so well.
It's a funny cycle because there was a time not that many years ago when loads of festivals opened but then they all seemed to close again, and now we've got a new cycle of festivals. It seems like they're thriving. It's always difficult for me because I'm so involved, it's hard to judge where it's at in that regard, you know what I mean? People want the new thing, and they do change quickly - these days things move quicker. People don't wait around for records anymore. People seem to like change constantly.
Festivals are pretty much an expectation for the summer months, though.
This is it, they're expensive, and it's essentially a holiday. A holiday to go and listen to some cool stuff and have a good time, and that's okay, everyone's allowed to do that there's no guilt involved - you're allowed to be a music fan and care about everything else.
Not enough people in the UK consider European festivals, too.
The UK is a little bit of a micro climate in a lot of ways; you always have bands who are big in the UK but aren't big anywhere else - British bands, I mean. For American acts - like, thinking back to The Strokes and Future Islands - it was always the UK first and everyone else following suit. We'll play in Poland, for example, and a band will be on their fifth record and the biggest band in Poland, and they're from Essex - you know, I've never heard of ‘em. The world's a big place, and we're very fortunate that we get to travel a lot and you get constant reminders that the UK's not the world and it's not the same everywhere. You've got take that kind of devotion seriously as well - if all these people are into it, you have to take note of that.
What's the reception like for Wild Beasts in Europe, compared to the UK?
It's very hard to gauge where you do well until you actually go there. We do really well in Portugal, in Turkey, in Mexico, in Spain... I think there's a language barrier in some places. It varies a hell of a lot by country, and festivals can be very different from one another as well - they can be like huge corporate sponsored things or they can be run by anarchists on reclaimed land, they're all on the circuit.
It's a whole other world of festivals.
Absolutely, there are some really good ones out there, and ones I would never have heard of unless I was playing them. When I was younger I pretty much never went to a festival, only club shows. I guess being in a band has kind of ruined festivals for me because you're on the other side of the fence, you've got showers, you've got a solid roof over your head, you get paid. It's very different going in as a performer, and it is a lot of fun because you get to see loads of cool bands and also you see all your friends, people you don't get to see because you're always on fucking tour. You have to remind yourself to not take things for granted, if you have an audience at a festival, whatever you may be doing.
What have been some of your highlights?
The obvious one that springs to mind is Primavera, playing the amphitheatre by the sea. That was 2011 or 12, that was really awesome. We headlined Field Day that year as well, which was a really huge show for us at the time, and there's also one in Switzerland which is really amazing, pretty small but it's really really gorgeous. I've been in this band pushing ten years and the amount of festivals that we've played... some don't exist anymore, some we're playing for the first time, there's just so many! So many people as well, you need to remember that they've come to see shows. At any one festival, you're playing shows bigger than you warrant on your own, pretty much whoever you are, unless you are literally the headliner.
Festival crowds must be entirely different from your own shows?
It's an amazing thing to have all those people. Obviously, you do set yourself up for a battle because when you're playing your own headline shows people come deliberately to see you. You still want to be the best you can be, but you know they'll stay with you - whereas at festivals you've got to shout, bang bang, bang bang, look at us, this is good. It's just different, there will be people who come deliberately to see you but I think for most people you'll be an extra and again, it's expensive - people want to see the hits. Not that we have any hits, but people want it to be short and sharp and effective. That's fine, I think a lot of bands forget that it's a part of your job.
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I remember last time we played Glastonbury there was an electrical storm which meant that all the stages had to be cleared, so the entire festival was shut down while this storm passed. I think it was Rudimental, this is how long ago it was, who were on before us and they pretty much lost their whole set. They were on for something like ten minutes because they had to clear up the stage - you know, to avoid death. I mean, it was the right thing to do. On a much darker note, I remember we were booked to play Pukkelpop in Belgium - there was a horrible stage collapse, and a couple of people died. We were due to play the next day. That was really sad. It's not really a funny story, but that is something that can happen. But mainly it's like exploding equipment. I remember at a now-deceased festival - it was pretty enormous; I think Eminem was headlining or something stupid - we had two amps go through a song, it was amateur hour. I think every band goes through it when frankly shit hits the fan.
It's a rite of passage.
I do think every band fails that test once and never does it again. That's why people like live music because there's always the high wire, an element of ‘You're standing in front of me, can you do this?' That's why it's fun and exciting and always going to be around. Whatever else happens, people are going to see people perform. I think if you handle it with charisma and grace, that's the best you can hope for. If you have that attitude, you go out and just deal with it, then I think that's even more impressive.
Finally, your fantasy lineup?
Oh, Christ. Well I mean it is a fantasy because of how many people are dead. Even just people who died last year - David Bowie, Prince, Motorhead, Van Halen. I'm going through a hair metal phase at the moment so I like Van Halen, Def Leppard. I remember taking my friends to see this metal band and they quite patiently stood, I came back to them after twenty minutes and they were still on the same chord. I'm not sure how realistic my putting on a festival would be, but you can guarantee it'd be worth the ticket price!
Wild Beasts play Live At Leeds on 29th April.