Wild Beasts interview

Hayden Thorpe, falsetto frontman of Wild Beasts talks about the band’s fourth album and the future of pop

Wild Beasts

Earlier this year, the critically-acclaimed Kendal rock band (no ‘indie’, please, as they ‘kick against that’) released ‘Present Tense’ – it’s pared-down and synth-heavy, but still as wonderfully weird as they’ve always been. Ahead of their first show in KL on November 9, we had a chat with Wild Beasts’ Hayden Thorpe, and even got him to make us a mixtape of his favourite songs.

We read that, with your fourth album ‘Present Tense’, you’ve tried for it to be more ‘translatable’, and ‘not to be so coded that it’s almost arrogantly niche’. How well do you think you’ve succeeded with that?

In honesty, on the most part pretty well. We often remind ourselves that if we think something of our own sounds like a cheesy radio hit, then to other ears it probably sounds like some quite odd abstraction of an ’80s pop star’s lost B-side. By nature, our work is a contortion of mainstream sensibilities; it is a little stranger that the politer palates, but we're happy with that. Nobody needs normal music in their lives.

At the same time, the band has always been (somewhat) on the outside looking in. There’s a strong ‘us versus them’ theme, we think, but what do you think?
I think the ‘us versus them’ rule has been essential in inspiring us to go forward. We've never been cool enough, or accepted into the fold enough to have to uphold any fixed notion of what we are. We're free to confound, surprise, and dare. As a creative person, that's a beautiful position to be in.

But if you’re drawing battle lines, are you battling then for the future of pop?
I guess so, I still believe in pop as an extraordinary format for ideas and invention. I hope it is allowed the breathing space and fluidity to remain something apart from the mundane businesses that tend to run it. I guess we're of that group who shouldn't exist, who maybe don't make sense as a product, who cannot be easily figured out.

‘A Dog’s Life’ is a song about, well, a dog, but we’re sure it’s symbolic of something else. Tell us more.
I think a dog is a beautiful metaphor for a human being. Dogs as a species are in fact human inventions. We tamed the wolf so we had a companion, something fluffy which would love us for us, something loyal and dependent upon our existence. The array of dogs of all varieties we have created say more about us than they do of the animal.
With the single ‘Wanderlust’, you sang ‘Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck / In your mother tongue, what’s the verb to suck’ – which seems like an attack on bands that sing in fake accents, or more specifically, a jibe at Arctic Monkeys. What’s that about?
It's nothing to do with Arctic Monkeys, that was a total invention that some lazy journalist set up as click bait. That line at heart is about authenticity. It asks of the artist: speak to me from your very being if you want to move me at all with your work because I'm not interested in the shiny facade, I want your blood and guts.

[Guitarist] Tom Fleming stated ‘I think it'd be fair to say we've managed to distance ourselves from… British indie bands’. Why the distance at all?
The term indie feels like a bit of an extinct creature now. I guess we have never felt an affiliation with the leather jacketed, beer rock of British indie; we have in fact responded in opposition to it in our work. But our northern heritage, the fact that we are four guys and the fact that we play guitars sometimes lead to us being lumped into that world. We kick against that.

We saw a video of you at New York’s Other Music, covering Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’. Will you be doing that again, here in Kuala Lumpur?
No, we won't be. I've forgotten how to play it for a start! That was something that felt good at the time, a song I was compelled by at that moment. Though I still love that song and the way it was put together, we'll be too busy choosing songs from the four albums we have for our first ever show in KL.

We also liked your super dancing and suit from the video for ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’. Please say you’ll be doing that for your KL set.

You know what, that's a great idea, though one of us may faint from the heat.

So what can we expect from your KL show?
Blood, sweat and tears at the very least. We're thrilled to be playing a show in KL. All we can do in return for being there is to give our all.