Interview: Wild Beasts


One Thirty BPM (Rob Hakimian): So let’s start off, where are you at the moment?

Wild Beasts (Ben Little): We’re in Detroit. We played in Canada the last two days, we did Montreal – that was amazing – we did Toronto last night and that was also good. Now we’re in Detroit, it seems like a bit of a ghost town from what it formerly was I think… It’s a bit desolate.

So this must be your longest North American tour to date, right?

Yeah, five weeks! Well almost five weeks. We’re halfway through it now and it feels like a bit of a slog.

That must mean you’re getting a lot more love from America these days then…

Yeah! Definitely, definitely. I think particularly on this tour. We’ve been out a couple of times before, but this has gone really well. Places up in Canada have been really great, lots of people, didn’t expect it. And the New York shows the other week, there were just so many people. It’s just strange that your music travels really and then we get out here… yeah we’re just pleased to be out here and people turn up to the shows, it’s great!

Was it noticeably different trying to win over America than the UK?

Yeah that’s the thing, the UK is like a British State really, isn’t it, compared to America? Texas is bigger than England, or whatever, so it’s a completely different ball game being here than in the UK. And even in Europe it’s comparatively a walk in the park, this is a bit of a learning curve for us. Every band that I speak to in America they always say ‘oh yeah, I love touring in the UK and in Europe.’ It’s just easier. But yeah, we love it, I mean it is hard, but you know you have to keep coming back and keep playing and keep plugging away. It’s good that people are turning out though, I think just by word of mouth and by the net people are just keep hearing of us. There’s not one big radio station like there is in the UK or… you know you just have to come and play a lot I guess.

Have there been any moments on this tour where you’ve sat down together and thought ‘yeah, we’ve accomplished something here’?

During this tour?

Or any previous tours.

Well, yeah. I think just as we finished Smother we did a few of the shows of our lives, playing the Park Stage at Glastonbury, we headlined a festival in Victoria Park [London] called Field Day, and obviously like the bigger shows with thousands of people and there was a moment where it was like ‘fucking hell, this is bigger than us now, it’s a bit of a machine.’ There was the moment when we did Field Day and looking into the crowd, which was just huge, and we just wondered how the hell it had happened. –laughs-

Does that feeling of headlining give you a drive to on and do more, overseas perhaps?

Yeah, you know, essentially we’re just making music because we love it and the music we make is the music that we want to make. It’s great that people are latching onto it, of course, and the recognition with the Mercury nomination a couple of years back, I think that helped us a lot and got our music out, and suddenly people are turning up to our shows and it’s crazy really! I mean, y’know, you can’t really get your head around it how people just turn up, people that you’ve never met, like after gigs when you meet fans and stuff and they’d like to know you, it’s just weird! –laughs- I just can’t get my head around how music travels.

Let’s talk about the recording of Smother; I always wonder with your music, which has such a distinctive tone and vibe to it, is that reflective of the atmosphere in the recording studio while you’re making it?

Yeah I mean, usually… well with our first record we got sent away to Sweden and we were on our own for just over a month, so that was quite isolating, just the four of us and a producer. I think we learned from that that it’s good to just get out and lose all the distractions.

We all moved to London at the same time, and we made a lot of the album [Smother] in 5 weeks in London in Dalston which is like a really cool area, you know it’s quite hipster-y, trendy, but to record it we really had to get away from that, lock ourselves away and get rid of the distractions. The month while we recorded we were getting up early, recording, mixing, editing until late on at night; it was a heavy few weeks. But I think that’s when we’re at our best, when it’s really intense. I think that’s my favourite part of being in a band really, recording.

I watched an interview with you from a couple of years ago where you said that your sound came to you naturally; was it pretty instantaneous or did it take some time to find the ‘Wild Beasts sound’?

Well, we grew up in a small town called Kendal, which is near the border of Scotland and England, and there’s really nothing going on there to be honest; I mean, there wasn’t a music scene like there is in London or Manchester or Liverpool that we could attach ourselves to. There were no other bands so I don’t think we were influenced by anyone in that way. I guess, being from a small place and having no music coming through – no gigs were there or anything – we just had to make our own; just kind of, almost, blossom from a young age. We were just trying to create our own little world really. When the first record came out, people were saying it sounded original and wacky and different; at the time I thought it was going to be the biggest thing ever! I just thought, this is like really good music! Then people were saying ‘it’s crazy,’ ‘the vocals are mad’ – I didn’t even think about it, but now I look back and we were pretty naïve I think. So yeah I think it just happened naturally and that was nice, that magic.

When you go in to record a new album do you still try to let the sound come naturally or is there a conscious thought that you’re trying to make something different?

When we did this last album, we had five weeks of writing, and after four weeks we were twiddling our thumbs, we just wanted to get into the studio. Getting an idea when it’s at that youngest state… it’s an epiphany moment. I think that’s the most essential time to capture it. We left a lot of it open, left the tweaking until we got into the studio. We didn’t have a lot of time in the studio so I’m surprised we have this album, really. So, yeah, I think we kind of do leave it until the last minute. We just try to keep it natural.

But you still had songs left over, like “Thankless Thing” and “Smother,” so you must have had plenty of creativity, even though you say you rushed it.

Yeah, I think it was a product of its limitations. We’re not a huge band; we’ve got a lot less money-wise. It had to be quite rushed. But I think for this next album we’re going to allow ourselves a bit more time; it’s been non-stop so far, just one thing after another. So for the next record we’re definitely going to regroup and take our time over it. It’s quite exciting really, just thinking about doing it differently.

So you prefer five weeks of writing and recording to five weeks of touring America?

Yeah, it’s weird, yeah… You record for five weeks and then you have to go and promote it for months –laughs- it’s a bit backwards really. We like recording. But it is amazing to tour America. If I was still in Kendal… god knows what I’d be doing.

I was wondering why you decided to leave the song “Smother” off the record Smother?

Well that word was just kind of a reoccurring theme on the album and we actually recorded the song “Smother” after the album was made. We did it a couple of weeks afterwards. I think that’s my favourite song actually, it’s a wonderful song, I love it! I wish it were on the album! –laughs-

You should start playing it live then!

Yeah, I know, we should! That was another rush job though really; we did it in two days, that and another song. So… yeah… I do like that song,.. we should start playing it live…

When you’re coming to the completion of an album do you guys disagree about which songs should be on the album and in which order?

We just work out what works best I guess… we don’t come to blows about it! The four of us do have big debates about what the order should be because it’s important for an album. But, it just happened so fast I don’t even really recall talking about what order they’d be in.

So you said you’re already looking ahead to recording some more, when do you think that will be? 2012?

Erm… I’m sure we’ll start writing in 2012 and maybe record at the end of the year or the start of 2013, I’m not sure. But we are definitely going to take our time about it, just because we never had the opportunity to do that really, and now we can do it. We can just sit around writing for a while, and that’s kind of exciting for us, because you can’t really write on the road. You know you have to travel in a bus and you’re stopping everywhere… there’s not like a designated work time, so you can’t just get down and do it. So we’re looking forward to just sitting in a room for a few months.

Do you get ideas about what the themes of the next album might be now, or does that come later?

Mostly later, but we’re all working on small ideas just on our laptops. You know, it’s a bit of a bug and if you stop writing you feel like you’re not doing your job almost. There’s always little sparks, little things going, but nothing like whole songs or anything like that. Yeah… we’ll just have to see what happens.