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Vessels Interview

Maria Turauskis


When we found out that Leeds-based band Vessels were releasing their second album and about to tour the UK (including Ireland for the first time!) we decided to catch up with guitarist and singer Tom Evans to talk about these progressions.

MTTM: Your new album, Helioscope, is due for release in February – what can we expect from it?

Tom Evans: A tidy slice of toe-tapping, finger-snapping, chin-thrusting postprog with some instrumentals, some songs, and lots of ridiculously massive endings.

MTTM: The new album was recorded in Dallas, and your first studio album was recorded in Minneapolis. Why have you chosen to record your albums in the U.S.?

TE:  Partly because that’s where the producer lives, and partly because you can get a better studio for less money in the States, especially one big enough for us all to lay the tracks down together in the same room. We like to capture everything as live as possible, as opposed to recording everything separately.

MTTM: Both your studio albums were produced by John Congleton (who has produced the likes of Modest Mouse and The Walkmen in the past) – what is it about his work that you’re drawn to?

TE: We were big fans of his work before we did the first album, especially the Explosions In The Sky and Appleseed Cast albums, so we were chuffed he wanted to work with us as well. He always captures a very natural sound, and he doesn’t compress the shit out of everything so the recordings have a lot of personality. His work also never sounds like a generic Pro-Tools rock production, which is good as that is something we’re definitely not going for. He also makes the loud bits sound monumentally big.

MTTM: You’re doing a pretty intense, compact tour throughout February and March – do you like to tour? Is it an exciting adventure or tedious and stressful?

TE: It’s great to get out and share the music with people, as opposed to being holed up and only playing it to each other. It’s also a lot of fun meeting everyone and building relationships with the people who keep coming back to see us year after year and who are the reason we can keep doing this. It is 90% tedium though, but usually worth it for the 10% awesome release of playing the gig We have a lot of gear (about a tonne) to lug around before and after every show, and soundchecks are generally a headache, so I guess the answer is that it’s all of the above – a tedious, stressful exciting adventure!

MTTM: Your European tour diary reads like a real diary – you cover everything from the gigs and the music, to the beauty of what you saw and the complexities of what you felt. Do you take such a conscientious, poetic approach to life in general or just in regard to your art?

TE: I don’t know – I think that the more you find art in everyday life, the more appreciation you can have for life in general. And the only way to find it is to keep your eyes open and look for it. Allow yourself to be inspired by things that you wouldn’t expect to inspire you, or angered by the things that you could ignore, or saddened by things that don’t affect you. It all matters. Not that any of us are creative and poetic all the time, of course, but you need food for the soul as well as the belly sometimes.

MTTM: Much of your work has a collage style approach to music creation, with lots of layered sounds, yet is still essentially indie based. What do you find is more of an influence on your work?

TE: Recently, we’ve been writing a lot of the music on sequencers, recording ideas and messing with the structures on the computer (as opposed to developing jams into full pieces, which is how most of the first album was written). Lee writes a lot of the music, and he’s been obsessively writing techno and electronica for the last 8 years, so that’s had quite an influence on our sound and approach. I certainly wouldn’t call what we do dance music, but it is definitely possible to dance to some of the new stuff.

MTTM: Your music has all the trademarks of the cool alternative scene – lo-fi production, haunting soundscapes, low mixed vocals – are you excited with the way the UK scene is progressing, and your part in that?

TE: I’m a big fan of low mixed vocals, although I get in frequent arguments when it comes to mixing vocal tunes! I’m really most excited by three specific bands in the UK at the moment – Errors, Three Trapped Tigers (who are playing at our album launch) and Zun Zun Egui. They’re all incredible live bands.

MTTM: Your work seems to trump for more natural timbres over overtly electronic fare, yet I really liked The Errors’ remix of your track An Idle Brain and the Devil’s Workshop. Do you think there could be room in your work for more electronic experimentation? Does this feature perhaps in your new album?

TE: We’ve always tried to embrace electronica influence in our sound, but we’ve never had enough money to buy the equipment necessary to take these ideas to their full potential. We’ve got a few more keyboards on stage nowadays, so it’s definitely heading in that direction. The new album also kicks off with some rinsingly-phat analogue synth-bass, so you’ve got that to look forward to if you’re planning on buying it.