Guitar music is on the rise; 2015 has already seen a host of young bands starting to break through into the big time, including London’s VANT. With airplay from the likes of Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1 and a number of festival appearances over summer, we expect big things from the garage rock four-piece. Here’s what happened when I spoke to Mattie Vant, the band’s frontman and songwriter.
What do you think of the current situation for guitar music, particularly in an age where the charts are dominated by electronic and pop music?
I guess we’re definitely on the turn, if you look at recent successes of bands like Wolf Alice, Royal Blood and Slaves. Also you’ve got a number of bands that have been touring for years, like Foals getting to Number Two, and The Maccabees getting to Number One! It’s definitely starting to come back round again, as it always does. Next year should be the year where we really see an explosion on the scene. It’s good to see now that Britain is flying its flag for heavier rock music again!
“You can write a great song musically but if it doesn’t say anything then you’re missing a whole level”
VANT’s songs often have a political or social message, how important are lyrics to you and what themes do you often try to cover?
Lyrics are definitely the most important part to me, I think it’s an important platform to voice your opinions, and maybe some people don’t think about that! You can write a great song musically but if it doesn’t say anything then you’re missing a whole level, to make the song even more fully formed. Most importantly for me it’s the message of those lyrics, I stand for equality and against injustice and a lot of things that some artists tend to shy away from or ignore. In Britain we have millions of people using food banks and there’s a huge gulf in the classes. People tend to forget that we’re on the same planet as everyone else, with the migrants coming form Syria making an interesting talking point and people finally waking up to the point that we’re all the same.
As a band you are also prone to a guitar solo or two, is that a dying art in guitar music these days?
Maybe, I guess I’m lucky enough to be in a band with one of the best guitar players that I’ve ever met in my life. It’s kind of like a nice break, done in a humorous way, but at the same time a bit ballzy and full on. Border line Guns n’ Roses, with a bit of cheese and grit!
“if you don’t have a certain number of fans by a certain time, people start taking note”
What’s it like to get such high profile backing from the likes of Zane Lowe and Annie Mac at such an early stage in your careers?
It’s amazing and very overwhelming, because we’ve done everything in a backward fashion. When we started the project, we’d already recorded the whole album, before we’d even released anything and I think we signed our record deal when we hadn’t released anything online. Completely the opposite way in which a band traditionally works, so I guess we’re kind of playing catch up in terms of getting these really cool slots on daytime radio and Annie Mac and BBC Radio 6. But we don’t quite have the fans yet, so it’s helping us transcend but it’s a bit of a difficult situation to be in, because if we don’t start picking up fans fairly quickly then you know BBC might start dropping off a little bit, it’s quite scary really! Really it’s Catch 22 in terms of being awesome exposure, but also really having to gather up momentum, because unfortunately social media is such a powerful tool at the minute and if you don’t have a certain number of fans by a certain time, people start taking note. Gone are the days of what the record sales says, it’s all about the Internet. It’s juxtaposed, we couldn’t hope for anything better than what we’ve had but it also just adds more pressure to what we’re doing! To live up to the hype!
Recently you’ve been compared to the likes of the Strokes, the Kinks and Pixies, what acts inspired you to go out and make music?
I guess, I’ve sort of described as a cross between the Kinks and Pixies because for me that would be the ultimate band! I guess the thing that really got me back into guitar music again was Parquet Courts. I’d initially been inspired by bands like The Vines and Queens of the Stone Age, stuff like that when I was young and in a three-piece punk band modeled on The Subways. There was a period where I stopped making that music, and tried to conform to what was going on in the charts, with pop and electro, and it wasn’t until a few years ago when I felt my heart was in fat, heavy guitar music that I started writing the stuff that we’re doing now. The band that really launched that was Parquet Courts, because when I heard them it just clicked and I thought, ahh that’s what I should be doing, and it was the material I was writing when I was 16 that I think’s most exciting!
“you have to be obsessed by music and you have to be dedicated.”
You started as a solo act taking the band’s name from your surname, and then went onto form a four-piece band, what advice would you offer to anyone here in Exeter that wants to break through in the music industry?
I guess, its just that cliché that if you really believe in what you’re doing, then other people will start to believe in it. We gathered a group of people around us, whether that’s our band, our manager, our booking agent or our tour member, and they all just gravitated towards us because we showed such high levels of belief in what we could do that it made others follow that. I guess as well its that thing of not stopping, a lot of people when they’re really young, if it doesn’t initially work out for them in music by the time they’re about 21-22 whatever they get that push from their parents to get a ‘real job now’. Whereas I was 24 when I got signed, which isn’t old, but there’s a hell of a lot of musicians who dropped off at that point, or made it more of a hobby rather than an obsession. That’s the key, you have to be obsessed by music and you have to be dedicated. It’s so far and far between that people get a break. We’re in a position now where we can make music full time and it’s taken me ten years to get here, working in jobs that I didn’t want to do just for money. The bottom line is to work really hard to hone your craft because this is the thing you love and not just a bit of fun on the weekend.