Interview by Chazz Cheron
Many have braved the near-torrential rain to come and see London-based indie risers VANT play at Fibbers in York. Before the show, I caught up with frontman Mattie Vant and guitarist Henry Eastham, in a dimly-lit (and empty) strip club above the venue about their recent tour with You Me At Six, their punk influences and what the recent US election result might mean for political music.
The last we heard, your debut was finished and ready to come out in 2017. Any update on that?
Mattie: Yeah, it’s coming out on February 17th. It’s all done, it’s ready to go. Just a case of sharing it with the world now which we’ve been waiting to do for a really long time.
You recently went on tour with You Me At Six. How was that for you?
Henry: Yeah, it was great. It was an amazing opportunity to play to so many kids who were just completely open to us. It was really great and You Me At Six, as a whole, were so good to us on tour and really look after us. Yeah, it was really fun. Great exposure for us.
How does a tour like that, where you’re playing for an audience who might not have heard of you, compare to a tour like this where they’re here to see you specifically?
Mattie: Well, if someone is there to see you, then they’re more willing to enjoy it – they WANT to enjoy it – because they’ve paid money to come and see you so it’s a much easier battle to win. But, I quite like the challenge of ‘the support slot’, purely because when you do win over an audience, it’s rewarding in its own way. But it’s amazing to be able to be able to play our own headline shows and we’re having so much fun. It’s only day four of the tour but it’s been great so far. Yeah, I definitely prefer this.
Most bands tend to find that they find success after their debut has dropped. Whereas with VANT, you have enjoyed a lot of commercial radio success with just a handful of singles and an EP. Did you expect this level of buzz BEFORE your first record?
Mattie: It just depends how you measure success really – I guess. I don’t see it as success. I see it as an amazing gift of support from the BBC, which has been, y’know, amazing and key to us getting to the stage that we’re at now. But success to me is sustainability. Until we guarantee that, we’ve just got to keep our feet on the ground and keep taking it step by step – and enjoying it as well. So yeah, the whole thing has been very surreal but I think we’re just trying to not get ahead of ourselves.
You mentioned the BBC there. You think played a big part in this exposure you’re receiving?
Mattie: Yeah definitely. The best possible exposure you could possibly get is national radio. It’s the biggest platform for new music so I’m sure we wouldn’t be sitting here in a strip club with you now if it wasn’t for the BBC.
Your most recent single, PEACE AND LOVE, was named ‘Hottest Record In The World’ by Annie Mac – the fifth in a row for you. How does that feel – to get that level of support from someone as prolific as Annie?
Mattie: Yeah, it is amazing! Every time we get ‘Hottest Record’ it’s a big achievement. You can’t really launch a record in any better way than that. It’s the thing that most bands hope for before they start making music. And Annie has always championed us, and she continues to do so and I think she’s a great DJ and we’re really glad to have her on board.
A lot of the lyrics that you write are quite political. Is this a massive factor for you when you write songs – the message?
Mattie: Definitely. It’s the whole reason we’re doing this. We’re not doing this just to make money and get laid. We’re trying to change the world in some way or at least make a positive impact and get people talking about important things again. And I think having direct lyricism at the forefront of our music allows us to have conversations like we’re having now. It’s not a topic that people are allowed to shy away from. I’m sure a lot of bands would like to talk about the things that we talk about but, unfortunately, if they don’t write those sorts of lyrics then, a lot of the time, journalists don’t give them the time of day to do so. So that was the one mission statement – let’s talk about the things that need to be talked about. ‘Cause people would rather look at cat videos and watch Kesha so I think it’s kind of important to continue to talk about these things and I think our debut is a full-rounded body of work that’s about the state of humanity in 2017.
With the political aspect of your lyrics and the noisy guitar tones you tend to use, you guys draw a lot of comparison to punk. Do you think this is a fair comparison? Is that an influence on you?
Mattie: I think that’s great. It is massively an influence on me, yeah. Punk music – the whole reason it started was to be against the establishment and to be against the constructs of the corporate world that we live in and that is very much our ethic. We might not necessarily be what is classed as ‘punk rock’ but definitely at least the ethic of it is there with everything that we do. I don’t have any stigma – you can call us whatever the f*ck you want really – but punk is good enough for me.
With the recent Brexit decision here and the election of Donald Trump as president in the States, do you think there’s a lot more of public call for political music?
Mattie: I’m sure there will be. We’ve been screaming for years about things that are important to us but I guess we haven’t really had any real political disasters with the magnitude of the EU referendum or Trump within our lifetimes. There’s been a lot of controversy obviously with people in charge but the transparent nature of everything now, and the fact that politicians can no longer hide behind their faults with fake personas, has got us to a point where we have a fascist dictator in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the world. And I don’t, for a second, think that that’s not gonna influence people and influence their art. And it’s kind of great in a way, but at the same time there’s plenty of stuff that’s been going on for years. But if it takes something like that to provoke a movement, then fair enough. So I think it will influence. I think we have to see a rebellion against this because it’s going to completely split opinion in America and it’s gonna make it very difficult for a lot of minorities. The minorities are bigger than they have ever been so, in itself, that conflict could be very scary.