We Celebrate Wild Beasts As They Tell Us How They'll Roger Their Semiotics In 2009
, December 11th, 2008 06:31
Luke Turner salutes Wild Beasts, and in return they tell him about their plans for a new album early next year. Live pics: Lucy Johnston
"We've just played in the Reeperbahn in the red light district," says Ben Little of Wild Beasts' recent wanderings. "We got cat-called by a bunch of English guys who recognised us, shouting 'ey Wild Beasts, shut the fuck up'. They didn't come to the gig."
It's an incident that perhaps sums up 2008 for this effervescent Cumbrian fourpiece. Their album Limbo, Panto emerged as a Quietus favourite after a series of beguiling singles on Bad Sneakers Records. It was a record at once strangely uplifting and naive, eccentric and brimming with insouciant confidence as Hayden Thorpe's dexterous vocals explored a kind of bow-legged, hat-doffing, weekend football Bovril, demob-suited Britishness - and especially a twist on male Britishness - that sounded like nothing I've really heard in recent years. Indeed, you could perhaps imagine those Reeperbahn ne-er-do-wells swaggering into a song on the next Wild Beasts long player.
Since the release of Limbo, Panto, Wild Beasts haven't left the road - the Hamburg concert was just one of umpteen this year at which they've left audiences dumbfounded, and divided - the tourist lads might not have understood Wild Beasts, but the Hamburgers themselves certainly did: "We're not just the standard English band who are rammed down their throats, these skiffle bands in leather," quips Thorpe.
Yet Wild Beasts seem perfectly comfortable with their position as beloved outsiders on the fringes of a bland British mainstream. "I think when we were making this record we saw the music industry as a meritocracy, and the more original and creative you are, then surely that should enable you to rise to the top," says Thorpe. "Lessons have been learned - it's not like that. But that has told me even more that we're doing the right thing, because those people who do feel that the merits of music should be originality, creativity, talent are the people who are on side with us, and maybe those people who don't aren't worth having anyway."
Their hectic touring schedule has led them through sordid quarters, all day drinking, German bunkers left over from World War Two, a triumphant homecoming gig in Kendal, falling in love with Portishead's Third and a lot of reading, but the band are cautious at revealing much outside of the world they've created for themselves. "there's an element of separation that we want to protect," Thorpe says.
They've also to keep themselves busy, for there's no time for these good old boys to put their feet up on the poof. "We can't afford a rest and we don't want one, we want to keep the impetus," insists bassist and (often ignored) second vocalist Tom Fleming. "We want to pressure ourselves". Wild Beasts will be writing over Christmas, before recording in a deserted farmhouse over the New Year, and then touring in February. Their aim is to get the next record out before Limbo, Panto has breathed 52 weeks.
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With talk of "more groove" and even more oddness than before, whatever emerges from the northern hills promises to be as wildly different from Limbo, Panto as that record was from the British landfill indie morass. "I think we've earned the right to experiment a little bit now," Thorpe says. "Having prided ourselves on doing things the traditional way with three guitars, vocals, drums, album, singles, b-sides, we've taken the standard as far as we can take it ourselves. Having done that, we can move on, we feel like we deserve to and we've worked to get to that point."
"It's time to take charge and fuck around with the semiotics of what we're doing," swears Fleming... by his own cock & balls, no doubt.