VANT at The Magnet: An Interview
With their debut album on the way, a series of incendiary live shows and stints supporting Royal Blood, VANT are set to hit the UK indie scene with the force of a Rock ‘n’ Roll meteorite. Robert Parry catches up with frontman Mattie to find out more.
One of the most important things to do before an interview is to make sure that all your equipment’s in working order before you arrive, so you’re not wasting any time dealing with faulty gear. This comes back to me as I sit in the basement of Magnet, trying to replace the four-month-old batteries in my Dictaphone before Mattie Vant, lead singer of London-based punk group VANT, comes back from the bar. The light on our table’s gone, and I can’t see which way new batteries should go. I stuff them in blind, pull the switch, and nothing happens. Mattie comes back with a glass of water. Got to keep him talking:
Ellipsis: So you’re Eddie, right?
Looking back I can see how I got Eddie from Mattie, but Jesus Christ. I flip the right battery, pull the switch, and nothing happens.
You’re supposed to spell VANT in all caps, aren’t you?
Like the name of the band. It’s supposed to be in capital letters, isn’t it? Wouldn’t want to get it wrong in the article.
Yes, but it doesn’t really matter.
Smiling pitifully, I try the left battery. Mercifully, the light blinks on. I fish out my notes:
So you have an album coming out?
Not for a while – we’re trying to build a fanbase first, so we’re not releasing an album yet. We’ve got to build some foundations, release a few more singles, and then we’ll drop it sometime next year.
And you’ve moved to Parlophone, but you’re releasing the first single yourself.
Yes, we just wanted to release it through our own label to keep some sort of integrity – it was a bit of a mission statement, since we’d always intended on doing this without a label because we believe in the meaning of the music so much, but it just helps to give yourself a bit more exposure when you’ve got a platform like Parlophone to work from.
Is this the first large tour you’ve been on?
We toured for pretty much three months at the start of the year, doing three or four days a week and then coming home, but this is the longest we’ve been out without a gap. I guess this is the first proper tour we’ve been on as this band.
Have you had anything go wrong on stage yet?
No, not really. Everything’s been really great – we had a stage invasion in Bristol, we played an awesome house party last night. That was really fun. So yeah, it’s been all good so far. There’ll always be little technical issues, but that’s just stuff that happens when you’re touring. There’s not been any catastrophes as of yet, so hopefully you haven’t jinxed us. Touch wood.
[He knocks on the table before realising that’s made of an acrylic material, reaches behind him and taps on the seatback instead.]
So you played a house party last night – how do you feel about smaller, more unprepared gigs like that?
It’s awesome playing in a proper venue, with a proper sound system and time for a sound check, and that’s obviously going to have a much better sound, but you can’t really beat the intimacy of just doing a spontaneous show in someone’s house. It’s more ‘raw’, it’s more real – it’s just you and the amps, just everything as it is. I guess there’s pluses to both things, but we want to play to as many people as possible and make sure people have a fucking amazing time.
And has playing festivals over the last summer required a different type of approach?
We’re still playing relatively small stages, so it’s not like we’re suddenly headlining. We played the main stage at a place called Bingley Music Live, there were probably 6,000 people there so that was really cool. I guess the good thing about festivals is that people are more willing to try out bands that they’ve never heard of before – if your mate’s told you something’s on, you just go watch it because you’ve already paid. I think it’s a really good way of exposing yourself to a new audience – at least half the audience don’t know much about you, so it’s an opportunity to win over new fans.
You’ve been talked about a lot as a “political band” – do you feel comfortable with that label?
I guess there’s a lot of stigma attached to the word “political” now, almost like a curse word, but I don’t mind it. I guess calling us that doesn’t really say much about the bigger picture, since we’re much more than a “political band” –we stand for equality, we stand for justice – but we’re not in it to complain about stuff, we’re in it to change things, so if people want to say we’re a “political band” that’s fine.
And you’ve talked in other interviews about music becoming less political than it has been in the past.
I don’t think it’s become less political, I just think that [politics] have become less associated with rock acts. I think it’s more hip-hop now that has any sort of voice in terms of what’s happening in the world. It used to always be the punk bands, whether it was Fugazi or The Clash or Rage Against The Machine. It goes alongside the music – if you’re playing heavy, loud music that’s angry than that definitely fits with having a statement to make. It’s completely up to the individual whether you want to write about [political] stuff or not, but I think as a lyricist you should be writing about stuff that matters to you.
You’ve experimented in the past with a lot of different genres – can you see any of that coming back into the music you’re playing as VANT?
I think it’s more about slow evolution now. The first couple of albums, we don’t want to stray too far from the sound we make now and confuse our audience, but at the same time we don’t want to get pigeonholed into just being a Fast Rock Band. We already play songs that are completely different to the heavier stuff in the singles, there’s much more to the band than that. There’s not really an end goal –whatever I write is whatever it’ll sound like – but you probably will see evolution on the second or third album.
You’ve got quite a long-term plan then?
Oh yes, I want to do this for the rest of my life.
Wanna hear more from VANT, download their newest single, Parking Lot, on itunes now!
And if you like what you hear, you catch them on their tour right up until the end of November. For further details, check out the band’s site: http://www.wearevant.com/