You kind of have to justify your continued existence when you’ve been doing this for so long.
It’s a real pleasure to have BLM favourites Wild Beasts within our pages this month, as staff writer Rhys Buchanan speaks with drummer Chris Talbot ahead of their Bristol show this month. Kendal’s finest, they continue the theme kicked off with Drenge last month – great bands from strange bloody places.
Wild Beasts are back! How did you approach album number four?
Well I think you kind of have to justify your continued existence when you’ve been doing this for so long, we feel like we’ve always been progressing album to album. Certainly with the last record ‘Smother’ we started making a step into electronica and synths, but this is the album where we wholeheartedly embraced that. I don’t think any of us would profess to be masters of electronic music, but we do feel that to better yourself as a musician you have to explore these avenues. At first we didn’t want to put every single guitar on the record, we wanted to break the mould from that 4-4-2 setup of drums, bass, guitar. Hopefully we’ve done ourselves justice.
It was recently said that ‘Present Tense’ was more brash than past albums, would you consider it more readily accessible?
Well we always hope people are going to meet halfway with a band like us, we know we’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. We have a core fan-base who don’t like muted watered-down music. We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot and start making music to please people, that’s never been what this band is about, we’ve always made music to please ourselves. It is certainly a more brash sounding record, I think rather than using soft-synths, when a synth came in we wanted it to be in properly, and present as focal point. I do feel we sound more like a band again, if anything we’re saying it’s a bit of a sister record to our first album ‘Limbo Panto’, where we sound like a gang again.
That’s interesting because I read that the album was conceived on a computer?
Yeah that’s the funny thing, we started out in a little rehearsal room that we’d invested a lot of money in. It had been laying dormant for most of the ‘Smother’ tour, it’s a bit of a cupboard and we couldn’t really adjust as a four-piece arrangement in there, we were all working in the box and huddled around a computer. We knew we were going to have to open it out into a room further down the line, which we did; we moved down to underneath the railway arch in Deptford and that was where we brought in live instruments. When you’re working in a box it’s one person at the mouse at any one time, that’s not to say ideas aren’t always floating around but it does mean that you can’t do two things at the same time.
So where did you actually go into the studio, you came down our way right?
To record properly we spent some time up at Konk in North London which is owned by Ray Davies from The Kinks, I think they had their own nightclub there back in the hey-day of the 60’s when bands could afford to open their own club. Sadly we can’t do that these days. We did a fair bit of vocal work there with Lexxx [Alex Droomgoole] because he has a room there and knows that space inside-out. But for tracking we did come over your way, just south of Bath to a place called The Distillery, it was a beautiful brand new spec-built studio overlooking the Westbury White Horse. You can see that from the live-room and we’ve always said when you have that tracking time we have to be out of the city, we can’t really have any distractions. That’s when we do the most work. We spent three or four weeks out in the West-Country and then we finished it off back at Konk.
You changed things up in the production department with this album, why was that?
It was a massive wrench to leave Richard, it’s not that we’ll never work with him again, he’s still very much part of our DNA and he’s the reason why we’ve got to the place we are, he was the first person to ever put our band on record and that’s his mark that will forever be. We’re quite a nomadic band by nature and we felt we didn’t want to make the same record again, not saying that we would’ve done with Richard, but we felt having worked with Lexxx for a few albums he was probably a bit closer to where we wanted to head for this record. We also drafted in Leo Abrahams who’s much more of a classically trained musician, just so we didn’t go down the sonic rabbit hole with Lexxx as much as we could’ve done.
I heard that you wanted the record to be more outward looking as opposed to more intimate past releases?
I can only speak as a second party here because Hayden and Tom write the words on the record, but I think there is only so much you can perhaps write about sex. In a completely selfish manner I think ‘Smother’ was very much a consoling record, it was born out of a time where we’d been on the road for several years after ‘Two Dancers’, so in that respect your life is almost in-fluxed by that stage.
Tom was asking something quite reasonable of the tour driver and he just replied ‘I’m sorry Tom, you’re confusing me for someone who gives a f*ck’. We were all in the back absolutely aghast.
‘Wanderlust’ is particularly impacting, especially the closing lyrics…
It’s definitely a statement track, there’s no denying that. ‘Wanderlust’ was never intended to be a single when we first started batting it around the room. When we had the finished collection of songs it just kind of made sense to go with that. That line at the end, I hear it as something quite nonchalant in a way because I know what it was born out of. It was when we were mid-tour a several years ago and we were sadly stuck with not the nicest of bus drivers, and Tom was asking something quite reasonable of the driver and he just replied “I’m sorry Tom, you’re confusing me for someone who gives a f*ck”. We were all in the back absolutely aghast at what he was saying, even though he was supposed to be helping us. In the context of the song it’s supposed to be a nice twist, it is quite an angry sounding song but that bit at the end sticks the knife in and twists it a little bit further.
After four albums and now living in London, you must feel a million miles away from your original life in Kendal?
It’s weird because London is an ever changing city; it’s a very big city and it’s always on the cusp of the next big thing, whether that’s music, art, architecture or anything. It’s at the forefront and is a world city. Sometimes it’s nice to escape that and go back to a place that doesn’t pander to global needs or wants. That little sh*thole that you grew up in, not that it’s a sh*thole, but it’s always going to be that little place you spent your childhood in. I don’t go back there and feel angry anymore, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on growing up in a city. I think during your teenage years and in your early twenties you want to take more in. The more life goes on the more you take things at face-value, it is what it is up there, it’s a very beautiful spot and it’s nice to go back and see friends and have a bit of switch off time.
Wild Beasts play the O2 Academy Bristol on March 30th, with ‘Present Tense’ out now on Domino.
Watch the video for lead track ‘Wanderlust’ right here: