VANT are a British indie rock band formed by frontman/songwriter Mattie Vant in 2014. Formed in London, Mattie played in many bands before finally settling into VANT, who are now signed to Parlophone Records. The majority of VANTS lyrics have a political theme and this year they have played festivals through the summer, including Glastonbury Festival, 2000 Trees, Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, Reading and Leeds Festivals, plus one off dates with Biffy Clyro and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Annie Mac is a huge fan and has cited the songs ‘The Answer’, ‘Parking Lot’, ‘Fly By Alien’ and ‘Karma Seeker’ as Annie Macs ‘Hottest Record in the World’ on BBC Radio 1.
How has the festival season been so far what’s been your highlights?
Mattie: It’s been crazy, Japan was definitely a massive highlight, Fuji Rock. British festival wise Ynot was pretty great, The Truck, and Reading yesterday was amazing. Definitely, the rowdiest crowd we’ve had so far. It’s been enjoyable and busy which is definitely what you want as a band.
Where do you gather your songwriting inspiration?
Mattie: The world in which we live and how fucked up it is. I don’t think I have a choice but to write about a lot of the problems we are facing as humans. I’m appalled and shocked that a lot of other people are not writing about it anymore. I started writing about that because I was frustrated by the lack of coverage, particularly in rock music, when it’s always been a massive platform for people to voice their opinions so it was inherent anger really, so instead of sitting in my bedroom just thinking about it, I put it down and paper and put it out to the world. That’s the main drive for us.
What’s the songwriting process? Are you Mattie, solely responsible for the lyrics?
Mattie: I write all the lyrics but musically it’s a lot more equal now between me and Henry. It started off as just me and then Henry brought more to the project, then we started writing together, so it’s quite a mutual thing. More recently Billy and Greeny make up their own parts so it’s more of a band contribution and its a lot more enjoyable as we all take ownership of what we’re doing and are really proud of the individual thing we each bring to the project. It’s definitely a nice team we’ve got going now.
Henry: Yeah a family.
How important are the lyrics and themes of the songs to you as a band?
Mattie: I don’t feel like I could get on stage every night and justify what I was doing if it wasn’t incredibly important to me and also something that other people are thinking. If I was just writing about an ex-girlfriend or feeling a bit depressed or popping pills in a club, I’d feel like a twat. I mean what would I be doing with my life. Like what’s the point, I don’t understand? I used to do that when I was younger I used to write about those things but it’s very self-indulgent. The only person who’s getting anything from that is the individual. Obviously, some people need to write about emotion, it’s important. I don’t just sit and listen to political music, I need music that makes me feel something as well. For me when there are world events going on like the Paris bombings or more recently the shootings in Orlando or like anything because every time we go on stage every line of every song means something and it comments on all of these things that consistently keep happening. Our songs remain relevant even though they were written four or five years ago. That helps me in some way and helps others, it also starts discussion, and discussion is the most important thing, if we can talk about these things then we can actually move forward a bit and actually try and deliver some answers instead of shutting our eyes to the world and pretending everything’s alright, because it isn’t.
“You need to enjoy life and that’s what our live shows are about, we use that as an excuse to lose ourselves for half an hour and let everyone else have a great time. We use our lyrics and our interviews to say what’s important to us. It’s the only thing that keeps me going as a human really been able to have a platform to say what I want and see the majority of the people who you meet agree, it justifies what you’re doing”
Harry: It also allows you to play with conviction as well, there’s a point to what you’re doing. That feels good.
Staying on that subject is there any political activists in the industry who you admire?
Mattie: The majority, unfortunately, are not from rock music. Bjork, Beyonce more recently, if you go to someone who has been prevalent throughout his career is Neil Young and I saw him recently at Montreux jazz festival and it like blew my mind, the whole point of his latest record is it’s saying I’ve always written about the same thing but its still relevant and that’s really inspiring to me as its shows you can still have a successful career and still say things that are important.
Henry: Absolutely. The thing with Neil Young is too you wouldn’t look at him and see him as a political singer/songwriter, that’s an amazing thing it’s such a broad spectrum. So many people can enjoy that, but the message is usually political and social commentary.
Mattie: That was kind of the point of his latest record, the record he did before that ‘The Monsanto Years’ people criticised him for him been overly political and he was like I’ve always been political my entire career, you’re just actually listening now! That’s the difference, so the new record was showing in a live environment, songs that span his entire career. Showing everyone he has always had these themes. Yeah, there are so many brilliant artists but unfortunately, there’s not enough using their voice and their platform, so that’s what we’d really change.
Your new single ‘Karma Seeker’ has been praised by both fans and critics for those who haven’t heard it yet, can you tell us a bit about it?
Mattie: It’s our most philosophical song to date, it’s sort of a song that I wanted to be open to interpretation, a lot of our stuff is direct and you can’t avoid the subject or what its about but with karma seeker it’s more about kind of allowing the audience to come up with their own conclusions, it’s about enjoying the present, and not looking too much into the future whether it’s in your career or your life or your relationship, your life or whatever. Too many people spend their lives thinking about an unforeseeable goal and you miss the present you miss the enjoy of Reading and Leeds festival where you know we played yesterday one of the best shows we’ve ever played. Maybe a younger version of me would be constantly be looking for the next thing, you can sit back and go woah that was amazing and you know I think that’s how everyone should live their life because you know you might die tomorrow.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Mattie: I think we’re quite lucky to an extent because we started this we had no intention of signing to a record label or doing any of the things that are expected of a band should do we just wanted to put an album out that encaptures the world in which we live and I was going to put it out no matter what happened. It’s just along the way people slowly started to gravitate towards us and eventually that resulted in a major label bidding war. It was out of nothing, there was no tension. the main thing it boils down to is if you believe in something enough other people will start to believe in you too. I have and we all have such a belief in what we do, it doesn’t really matter.
“I can’t see any hurdle that we can’t overcome because we’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s not about money, it’s not about a fancy car or having the hottest supermodel on our arms. There is so much bullshit in this industry, people lose sight of what’s important. Surely the most important thing is trying to strive for a more equal society and an equal world. That’s the point of what we do, we are incredibly ambitious as a band in terms of the belief that we can actually make an impact on this planet and bring positive change”
To answer the question, I think we are constantly overcoming hurdles because people are so used to bands not saying anything that when they are introduced to us they are thinking shit are they actually singing about important things, it can a bit of a turn on to some people because music is a form of escapism, they want. It a way of blocking out what’s happening in the world and if a band is talking about it then its like is their any respite. A lot of people like us purely for our music and the lyricism may be an afterthought and that’s how we’ve overcome it, writing good songs it’s not just about the lyrics. The enjoyment side for us is creating melodies that are memorable, songs that we’d like to hear despite the lyrical content. It just also happens that the content is incredibly important to us.
Your new album is out early 2017, what can fans expect?
Mattie: It’s a marker in history (laughs) that sounds a bit ridiculous but its a moment, for me the album covers so many different topics and so many different subjects but for me again it’s where we are, is it the teenies we’re calling them this decade? So it’s where we are as a planet in the teenies. It’s what all of my favorite bands did, like The Clash they encapsulated that moment in time and they wrote about everything that was happening then and I think if it was put in a time capsule and an alien found it when we’re all living underwater in the year 3,000, and their great grand-daughters doing fine, then great they’d be able to listen to the record and all the problems in the world we are having as a species and that’s the point of an album for me. It can be about one subject but its kind of like a stream of consciousness and everything that has been bothering me for the last five years in one small little package and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
What advice can you give our readers who are already in bands or starting out in a band?
Henry: Be real man!
Mattie: There’s so so much fake shit and everyone knows when its fake, you can tell, I can tell. You must believe it, so whatever it is it doesn’t matter the genre or whatever just be yourself. Honesty is the number one important thing, when I started making music when I was like 14-15 I did music entirely for me and its some of the best music I ever wrote, then I spent a few years trying to conform to what I believed at the time to be popular at that moment in time and it was only when I started writing for myself again and made music that I believed in and I wanted to hear other people became interested.
Henry: I believed in it, the first time I heard it I was like wow shit this is really cool. It wasn’t like on trend.
Mattie: It was no longer about what was expected of a band, it was entirely about how I wanted to portray myself. The music I wanted to play, because at the end of the day any form of success your going to have to play these songs every day or as long as your career lasts. So you might as well be playing and stuff that you love. Also, belief is what dictates this entire world. Whether its corporate business, religion, Rhianna , whether it’s a football team, whatever it is you need to instil belief in the followers, the customer, in the audience you do that by leading by saying this is what I’m doing, this is what I’m offering, join or fuck off.
“The only people who have that true success are the ones who have that belief from the very beginning. With this project when we started that was the belief we had and have continued to have. It can easily be mistaken for arrogance but its not, it’s just self-belief, it’s about knowing what you want to do. Its like this is my life now and I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity to play music every day”
At the crux of it is not going to change who I am, or what I write about, or sing about because of that is the most important thing to me. Don’t let other people taint your vision, it’s easy for people to comprise.
Henry: It’s sometimes hard to do what you actually want to do.
Mattie: We sort went into meetings with labels and the reason we went with paraphone was because they didn’t want to influence the creative output they wanted us to grow and be the band that we wanted to be. There are so many yes men in this industry, and so many people saying why don’t you do it this way, or that way and it’s like that will only get you so far and it will crumble and get pulled out from beneath you.
Henry: Because the foundations are shit! So be yourselves, man!
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Interviewed by Rachel Brown/Imogen Thomas
Photography by Imogen Thomas