"It's a far more aggressive record, we've got our teeth out a bit more…" – hmv.com talks to Wild Beasts
Kendal foursome Wild Beasts have developed into one of Britain's most unique and quietly adored indie bands over the last few years. Their 2011 record Smother cemented their reputation as a band with a unique take on things and took them around the world on an exhausting two year tour.
After taking some time out to take stock, they're back with new album Present Tense, which is released on Monday (February 24). Recorded in London and Bath and produced by Alex 'Lexxx' Droomgoole and Leo Abrahams, the album marks a new chapter in the band's career, and, as bassist Tom Fleming tells us, it's a much more aggressive chapter…
Present Tense is about to come about, are you feeling a bit nervous about that?
"You always feel a bit nervous when you know people are starting to hear it and it's not out properly yet. I'm very happy with it, it's what it needs to be and what it should be, but it feels a bit like we're at the bottom of a very tall mountain right now. I just can't wait to get it out."
So when did you actually finish it?
"Back in August so it's been done for a while, Christmas basically got in the way, if we'd put it out then we'd have been competing with Michael Buble and we'd have got lost in the wash."
How long did it take to make?
"It's hard to say because it wasn't continuous, normally we go to a studio and get it done but this wasn't like that. It was recorded over a period of a year which included five weeks in a proper studio, but the rest was done on our own, in bedrooms and cupboards, our own little spaces."
Was that a good experience? Going and coming back to it like that?
"It was actually. You can't underestimate how good it is to go home, clear your head and actually review whether something sounded as good as you thought it did last night. There's a time for intensity and there's a time for reflection with everything, I feel like we've got the best of both worlds."
You've changed producers this time round, why was that?
"For that reason, we needed a change, we wanted to make something a little different. Richard (Formby, who produced their albums Smother and Two Dancers) is a wonderful talent and we'll work with him again but we wanted to branch out. We were aware of Lexxx (Alex 'Lexxx' Droomgoole) and Leo (Abrahams) and what we thought they could do for us."
What did they make you do differently?
"Richard is a very gentle soul and he's one to let things get messy before they get finished. Lexxx and Leo are much more forthright, more disciplined. Lexxx is very on it technologically and Leo is a very experienced songwriter, very used to collaboration. They didn't really cross over, but I feel like they completed each other very well."
This is the longest gap you've had between records, is that something you found uncomfortable at all?
"This time we really went in with the mantra that it'll be ready when it's ready. That said, we've always been a band that's done things on instinct and we've definitely had time to over think this record, but we wanted to be clear in what we did and not do the same old thing. We didn't want to spend the rest of our careers making good Wild Beasts record, we wanted to prove we had something to offer and push forward."
How do you think this album moves on from Smother?
"I think it's a logical step. It's more aggressive sounding; this is more rooted in electronics. Sonically we wanted to make the electronics more forthright, less textured and less layered. We wanted to be less polished, a bit more amateur. Electronics can make you behave very cerebrally, we've pushed against that."
When Smother was released it was billed as a very romantic record, does Present Tense move away from that?
"It does, there's a few romantic elements on here, but they weren't intended to be. It's a far more aggressive record, we've got our teeth out a bit more and we've looked to the world a bit more. It's less internal, less about how things feel, more about being forthright. Sometimes it's better just to state something rather than hint at it."
You toured heavily in support of Smother, for over two years, did all that time spent playing live inform how this record was written?
"I think it was probably a reaction to it, it made us want to go away and really think about it, take our time and work at the record. We spent as long on it as we could, basically until we ran out of money, because let's face it most records get finished when you run out of money."
"It's also true to say that a lot of these songs were written on headphones on a laptop in a plane or a van, but in terms of what we wanted it to sound like, we wanted to step away from all that."
What inspired the title?
"This record is about playing with now, people's inability to live in the present and not either dwell on the past or obsess about the future. This record is about memory and trying not to long for things that either didn't happen or will never happen."
You're about to head off on tour, how are you going to approach bringing this album to life in the live arena?
"We've spent a lot of time on it, being a live band is incredibly important to us, as far as we're concerned if you're not good live you're not good. It's back to the four of us on stage now, we're stripping it back a bit and really trying to put the band first, even with the electronics there."
And the summer? Is it wall-to-wall festivals?
"It is. We're plenty busy. I can't say too much at this stage, but you'll be seeing a lot of us, that's for sure."
Finally, what records were you listening to when you were making the album?
"Oneonix Point Never was a big touch stone for this album, I really like that A$AP Ferg record a lot, These New Puritans and Jon Hopkins too."
Wild Beasts' new album Present Tense is released on Monday (February 24). You can pre-order it now by clicking here.