(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Interview: Mattie Vant of VANT

By on Monday, 7th November 2016 at 11:00 am
 

A band currently on everyone’s lips are London-based VANT. Why all the hype? I think we can all agree that there are some pretty terrible things going on in this world, and yet there are few brave enough to say something about it. Judging from their recent shout from the folks at SXSW for next year’s festival, it’s a position the folks in Austin want to hear.

Frontman and primary songwriter Mattie Vant hasn’t shied away from damning of the government and their policies he disagrees with, making him one of the strongest young protest voices of the UK music scene today. Not surprisingly, he and his band will be playing a gig on the Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING autumn tour this coming Saturday night at Newcastle Cluny, not far from where he grew up. Ahead of what I expect is their rocketing to international stardom following their first appearances in America in the new year,

Tell us about your earliest memories of hearing music. How did it become a part of your life?
Music first became apparent to me whilst riding in my Dad’s dilapidated Rover 800. The fact that it was the main focus of the journey became really apparent to me. It was probably the first time I was aware of it’s influence and how it effects your state of mind, that was the hook for me.

When you did you start playing an instrument? Were your parents supportive?
It was a gradual process for me, I was rejected as a 7-year old when the violin / guitar guy assessed my class and decided I wasn’t ‘musically gifted’. I joined a recorder choir when I was 9 but was severely bullied so gave up. At 10, I tried Spanish acoustic but hated it. I begged my parents for an electric guitar aged 13. Eventually they complied, and I’ve never looked back since.

Seaham is a long way from Brighton and London. Has your upbringing in County Durham has affected your writing and point of view and if it has, how do you think it plays out in your music?
It probably has, certainly because it drove me to the point of escapism. I love aspects of that part of the world but it has never felt like home and I hate the narrow-minded nature of some of the society up there. Moving south enhanced my liberal beliefs and proved that there are a lot more people aligned with my mentality than I initially thought. Realising that ‘home’ isn’t necessarily where you grew up was a massive awakening to me.

I understand that it was through your management of the Dalston venue Birthdays that you met your future bandmates. Venue management is not experience most musicians have. What do you think were the biggest lessons you learned while manager? What advice would you give bands coming up now, knowing what you know from your time there?
I definitely learnt what not to do. It’s really important to respect the bar staff because without there dedication to fuelling people’s alcoholism shows wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun! I guess it’s about seeing all the cogs in a machine and appreciating there importance and influence on the overall event.

I read in this Team Rock feature on VANT that you respect the songwriting of Ray Davies and Frank Black, who are from very different decades of music. What makes them each special to you?
Ray Davies laid the foundation of honesty within music, commenting on his own life as he moved up the social pyramid. The Kinks to me are massively underrated. In a similar vein, Frank Black managed to take the format of vocals, guitar, guitar, bass, drums and turn into something completely unique – he influenced and continues to influence generations of artists. The Pixies are basically the equivalent of a non-commercially successful Beatles.

In the same article, there’s emphasis on your DIY roots and the self-release of your first single. How important is this ethos to you?
When we initially started, we recorded and intended to release our debut independently. By a series of inexplicable events, we ended up signing to the prestigious Parlophone label, which gave us the opportunity to share our music on a much bigger platform. The fundamental principles [on] which we built ourselves upon haven’t changed. Now we just have more of an opportunity to express those beliefs to a larger audience.

Were you excited / worried about signing to a major label, their having control over your music, etc.? You must have been courted by many labels?
Parlophone got us immediately, they understood where we were coming from and what our ambition was. They have never tried to mould us, and this was vital. We have complete creative control, they are just helping us reach an audience that was unachievable on our own. As a label, Parlophone have always allowed their artists to grow and change freely and this was something that was massively influential in our decision to join their ranks rather than the multitude of other labels we met with.

In August, you released your ‘Karma Seeker’ EP. Which of the EP’s songs is most important to you, and why?
I think ‘Birth Certificate’ resonates with a lot of people. Watching the meaning of that song develop over the last few years has been really interesting. Sadly, it’s has and probably always will be relevant to something whether that is visa control, immigration, refugees, the EU Referendum or Donald Trump the message rings true. [You can read more about this EP by VANT in Steven’s review of it through this link.]

VANT will be performing at the Cluny on the 12th of November for the Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING tour. Is this going to be a messy one, being back in Newcastle?
The Cluny is a staple of the North East community. It’s a great independent venue with a wonderful ethos, I’ve always loved playing there over the years and it’s the perfect opportunity to come back once more and showcase our new material! Most of my friends have moved away from the North East, so I can’t imagine it being anymore chaotic then any of our other shows.

You’ve toured with some pretty big names, including Royal Blood. What did you take from your time supporting other bands?
When you play a support show, it’s similar to festivals, it’s all about winning the audience over, which is a rewarding challenge when it goes right. Watching bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen, Biffy Clyro and Royal Blood work an audience of that size was really interesting, I’ve definitely got a few manoeuvres in my back pocket now for when the time is right!

Congratulations on getting a shout to SXSW 2017! What does the invitation for VANT to showcase in Austin and play in America mean to you? Does the spectre of performing a song like ‘Jesus Was a Conman’ in front of Americans worry or energise you?
It’s incredible, it’s one of those massive band bucket list moments. I just want to stir as much shit as I possibly can in America, to me they are a genetically modified warning sign to the rest of the world. I’ll be curious to see how ‘I Don’t Believe In God’ and ‘Put Down Your Gun’ go down as well. We’ll probably have to play them in that order!

There’s a rumour going around that your debut album is done and will be released next year. Is this true? If yes, what can you fans expect from the new release?
It’s [scheduled to be] out on the 17th of February 2017. For me, it’s a marker in history of where we are as a species. If an alien happens to come down in a few hundred years when we are extinct and all that’s left is one of our vinyls sticking out of the ground, I believe it will be a pretty good summary of how everything went wrong.

Here’s your chance to have a final word with our readers. Go for it.
Wake the fuck up, get out of your digital atmospheres and talk about important stuff in the REAL world. It’s the only chance we have of survival, it all starts with discussion. Peace and love.

Many thanks to Mattie for answering my many questions. Without a doubt, VANT will be one of the hottest tickets in town come March in Austin, so pencil them in your schedules now, SXSW-ers. Thank you also to Jamie for sorting this interview out for us. The Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING tour stops in Newcastle this Saturday night at the famed Cluny; at the time of this writing, tickets are still available and can purchased here.

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