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Interview: Wild Beasts Discuss Touring, SXSW, And Avoiding Insanity

ACL Interview Series: Postcards From Zilker

Throughout ACL weekend, Prefix had the chance to sit down with some of the festival’s more interesting acts for a brief 10 minute chat in a small tent which had unplugged amplifiers as chairs - press-area ambience at its best. One of my first talks was with Chris Talbot and Tom Fleming of the glossy, intangibly beautiful Kendal, England art rock collective Wild Beasts. Their music may sound detached, but they couldn’t have been more unpretentious, and seemed genuinely happy to be interviewed.

How’s the tour been going?

Tom Fleming: The tour’s been going great; this is our first night in the U.S., so it’s like a month ahead. But so far it’s been brilliant. Smother is on the same kind of curve in terms of the timetable with the U.K. release, and the reviews have been good, people seem to be responding to us. We are a touring band, this is what we do.

Chris Talbot: I think physically its harder coming out to the U.S. in terms of logistics. But I’m also excited to start playing in the day again. With a festival you just kind of get up and play, it’s almost like a practice and you get to work out any stupid little mistakes. We’re looking forward to getting musically fit again.

TF: Its always more interesting in the U.S. because people are more inclined to let you know what they think, which is actually quite cool.

But people seem to be pretty positive overall.

TF: Oh yeah absolutely, we did a little record signing thing after the show and people were really cool to us. It’s all very genuine. We actually had a little shocker onstage because we were playing during the first rainfall in Austin in months and it shorted out our keyboards and samplers.

And everyone started cheering for the rain.

TF: Yeah, it was like the only time you’ll see people cheer for rain at a festival.

Are you guys still thinking about the response to Smother?

TF: Well, we’re still touring Smother so I guess we’re thinking about it. We never really thought about the reaction, obviously we wanted people to like it and we thought it was good. There isn’t a big single, people had to kind of work with us which is rather nice. People are very supportive in an underground sense here, which doesn’t really happen in Britain. Back home we’re just beneath the mainstream.

Retrospectively I think the reception to Two Dancers was so overwhelmingly positive, I have to imagine recording something new after that was a little strange.

CT: Yeah but we needed to do it, we were very happy with the response but you have to stay creative. When you’re a band of our size you can’t afford everything under the sun, we’re built on concentration, we weren’t going to hide away for two years… of course we probably could and half-ass it. (laughs)

It doesn’t seem like you guys would ever half-ass anything. I’m not trying to flatter you, but the songs always sound very worked-over.

TF: Yeah, I wouldn’t say we’re perfectionists because a lot of stuff comes from accident, but we’re never a band that would throw stuff over our shoulder. We’ve been DIY, but we like to use everything in the studio. We spend time thinking about texture which requires some thought. And because we have a fluid line-up, we can’t go in and bash it out.

Do you ever lose your mind in the studio?

TF: Oh god yeah, absolutely, on tour as well. I think it’s fair to say I lost my mind when we were touring Two Dancers, because that was the first time for everything, even though we already had an album out. But with this we’re much older and wiser.

How does this time around feel different?

CT: It’s difficult to say, we came through during South By, which is obviously a difficult situation in itself. Austin isn’t always like that.

I don’t think many bands look forward to going to South By.

CT: Oh we all did, we were thinking about coming back this March just for fun.

SXSW is kinda like a fun nightmare. It’s insane and chaotic but enjoyable.

TF: Three shows a day, nothing works, straight on stage.

CT: There isn’t anything fun about having your hands covered in blisters while you’re loading gear out of a truck.

TF: Well, there’s something fun about that, but getting back to the question, I don’t think our expectations are that different. Things are different in sound or in tone, but in terms of what we expect from our shows, not really. Britain is really small and people know us better but here we’re a very different kind of concern.

Does it keep you guessing at all?

TF: Yeah, it does, which I think has to be good, I mean you won’t catch me saying that in three weeks time when I’m driving across the Rockies.

Do you do all the driving?

TF: No, we actually have a driver this time

CT: And we’re looking to actually fly across the Rockies this time.

Have you guys thought about new music yet?

TF: We’ve definitely thought about it, I think we made three concise albums in three years, and I think we’ve afforded ourselves a couple of more months break after, but we haven’t sat down and done anything yet.

You guys seem like you’re touring a lot, and when you’re not touring you’re recording.

TF: Yeah, we’re a working band. We don’t have a lot of money and we’re young and realize we can’t do this forever.

CT: I think we’re going to take the foot off the gas a little in the following year. There’s only so much time you can spend with the same people.

Before you all slowly start to hate each other.

CT: (laughs) No, no, I mean there’s always the danger of that, I think we get on better than most touring bands I’ve come across which is amazing.

That sounds like something that would come in handy.

CT: It certainly does.

 

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Foot Village, Marc Ribot, Neutral Milk Hotel, Oneida, Portishead, Silver Qluster, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - All Tomorrow's Parties 2011 - Preview Blondes, Kim Ann Foxman, Matthew Dear, Metro Area, Rub N Tug Beats in Space 12th Anniversary Festival (Recap)
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