VANT has made a strong return today with their cogent Karma Seeker EP. The title track has seen steady support from BBC Radio 1, premiering as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record, featuring as Track of the Day, and rotating its way up to the B-list. We sat down with the band at LeeFest to talk about traveling, social media, and James Bond theme songs.
You guys have had a busy summer, what’s been the highlight?
Mattie Vant: Fuji Rocks, hands down. It was just amazing for many different reasons. Obviously getting to go to a different continent for the first time is incredible.
Did you experience any culture shock when you went to Japan for that festival?
MV: I just loved it.
Henry Eastham: Do you know what, it wasn’t shocking, it was just amazing. We just embraced it.
MV: I really like how peaceful and respectful everyone is. You know, like nodding at your police officer instead of yelling “cunt” at him.
HE: Yeah, everyone smiles at each other.
Billy Morris: They’re really good at recycling as well.
HE: Yeah, there’s no rubbish anywhere.
BM: Anywhere at all, and every bin is so particular.
MV: Their insects sound mad
HE: They sound like robots.
MV: This is like a list now, but yeah the other thing is that the show was amazing. There were like 10,000 people there. We had no idea what to expect but it was just amazing.
Are there any countries you haven’t played in yet that you really want to?
MV: I think we just really want to travel wherever we can. I think South America would be really exciting, and America as well, and Australia, basically just everywhere. I’d love to go to Africa and India, although I don’t know if they do too many shows in India.
HE: They do in India now
BM: Yeah, they have some festivals
HE: That’d be really cool
MV: Yeah, I think just anywhere we get the opportunity to go is great, you know? We’ve seen so many places, like since Greenie joined the band we’ve been in… how many countries?
David ‘Greenie’ Green: I think that was our 14th or 15th in a year. That includes the UK.
MV: Yeah, and we’d probably done three or four before he joined us so we’re just sort of gradually taking over the world. That’s the major perk of being in a band I think, that you get to travel the world and do what you love.
Why do you make the music that you do? Is it because you see injustices in the world that you feel need to be discussed?
MV: For me it’s just inherent now, I can’t not write about important stuff. I was sat thinking the other day like, I couldn’t believe I used to write songs about love and stuff like that. Not that it’s something we couldn’t do, but I think that the thing that keeps us going and makes us able to get on the stage every day and be serious and put everything into what we do is that every single word in every single line of every single song means something important. It stands for something. We played the day after the Paris attacks when we supported Fidlar, and when we went out on stage that night there were so many of our songs that related directly to those kind of atrocities. It felt justifiable that we were on stage doing a performance and it was cathartic in a way. I think if we had gone out there like “my ex is a fucking dickhead” then it would’ve just felt like we were twats, like we weren’t doing anything about it, not that we’re directly doing anything, but conversation is so important. I think particularly with social media today I can’t believe that bands aren’t talking about this stuff, it’s an opportunity to be as punk as bands like The Clash and Rage Against the Machine and all of those bands, but now there’s a digital platform where it can be shared so much quicker.
You use your music, and usually interviews, as platforms for expressing your political ideals. What’s your opinion on musicians or just people with any level of celebrity status who stay silent on current events and politics throughout their music, interviews, and social media?
MV: I totally get it. I mean, music is a form of escapism regardless of whether the subject is important or not. When we play a show, we want people to have a really good time and dance around and have fun, which fortunately they do, but for a lot of artists it’s just about the music and not much else. At the same time I think it’s to do with selfishness. I think a lot of people are in it because they want to make a lot of money and they want to have a lavish lifestyle, and they don’t want anything to rock the status quo. They don’t want to risk losing 1,000 followers. We’ve seen that ourselves, I’ve had to learn now just to ignore people because every now and again you say something that’s a strong opinion, and naturally people don’t like that.
What’s an example of that happening as a response to something you’ve said?
MV: With the Brexit thing, this guy basically trolled us on Facebook and it was really frustrating because he kept deleting his comments after he’d posted it. So he was trying to get a response from us, which he got, and then he deleted his comments so it just looked like we were insane. So now you learn from that and just go fuck it, this is my opinion on my platform, I can say what I want. If you don’t like it then fuck off basically.
Speaking of Brexit, during your set at Truck Festival this year someone held up an EU flag and you said that it made you cry, why was that?
MV: It wasn’t so much because it was the EU flag, or because of Brexit really, but it was just the fact that our fans have clearly connected with us. That was their way of sort of acknowledging that they were in support of something. I think it’s just the fact that a lot of our young fans didn’t even have the opportunity to vote on something that’s going to impact the rest of their life. Someone has to be a voice for those kinds of people, and that’s what we try to do. We try to be a voice for everyone, I think most people do agree with what we have to say. There are people who disagree, but the right way to do it is saying you’ve got your opinion and I’ve got mine, and I respect your opinions and the arguments you’re presenting, but for whatever reason we disagree. That’s kind of been the way it’s been with most of our fans that disagree and it’s fine because they love the music. There are two sides to the coin, there’s the musical side and there’s the message. Inevitably there are going to be some messages that people disagree with, that’s just the way the world works.
Has anyone ever told you that your music has changed their opinion on a topic?
MV: I think it’s more just acknowledgement and saying that a song resonated with them because of some reason, which is amazing. We speak to a lot of our fans after our shows and it’s just nice to see how engaged the youth is today. I think a lot of it is because of social media, because when I was growing up there’s no way I’d ever pick up a newspaper and read any articles in it, but now you can’t help but be aware of things that are happening in the world. So in that sense it’s amazing because kids are so much more educated and informed because of the internet, unfortunately not because of their schools. I think when I started this it was out of a place of frustration and disbelief and kind of like, this is totally fucked and I can’t believe the world is the way it is. Now, there’s a long way to go for us as a band, but every stage where we gather new fans and meet new people and we realize how many people think exactly the same as us and want to make a positive impact on the world, it’s really encouraging and it feels like there is actually light at the end of the tunnel. For a long time I felt like that tunnel had been filled in and exploded.
“Karma Seeker” has been put on the Radio 1 B-list, and it’s drawn a lot of comparisons to Nirvana. What’s your opinion on that?
MV: I had no idea when we wrote the song that it sounded a bit like “In Bloom” to be honest. Obviously I’ve seen the comments and I’ve gone oh, right, because there are only 12 chords and 12 notes. I don’t think it’s ever a negative thing, but it’s a very different song. Nirvana are great, but we were just trying to write a Bond song when we wrote it. It was around the time where Sam Smith had been announced as the Bond theme and we were like oh my god, that’s going to be awful. So we wanted to write our version, but then we thought we weren’t really going to be in time for it, so to whoever’s directing the next movie, we’ll write you a better song than that shit song that Sam Smith did. You fucking idiot, Radiohead made a song for the film and you fucking gave it to Sam Smith! Fucking morons. They’re not going to give it to us now are they?
HE: Maybe they’ll be impressed by our fiery attitude
DG: That’s what James Bond would’ve said when Roger Moore played him.
MV: Yeah, and then he would’ve gone, “Where’s a girl’s bum I can slap? Give me a vodka!”
What track should people listen to if it’s the first time they’re hearing you?
MV: “Do You Know Me?” I think. It kind of was one of the first ones we wrote and recorded, so I think it gives a good beginner’s guide
HE: It’s a good introduction to us
What’s next for VANT?
MV: We’ve got a new EP coming out on the 12th, and then we’re going to have some more music in the autumn, and the album will come out in the spring. We’ll be doing a lot of touring, there’s headline shows and a lot of support tours that we can’t announce yet. We’re basically just going to be in this van for the next, well hopefully for the rest of our lives.
HE: Hopefully eventually a bus.
MV: Yeah, definitely. It’s just all going to be exciting.