Interview: Vaults

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3-piece Vaults are undoubtedly one of the most exciting electronic bands to emerge in 2014. The scene is already set perfectly for them; huge commercial and critical success for the likes of Alt-J and Lorde has resulted in widespread attention to electronic bands. Vaults’ members are from London; Blythe provides vocals and plays the keyboard, Barney is in charge of percussion, and Ben plays bass.

The band was born in a London pub over 3 years ago. All 3 members have been playing music all their lives; Ben and Barney had met at University and had been creating music together ever since. Before Vaults, the two guys had just “been experimenting”, playing dance music in clubs and other projects Barney is less keen to talk about. Blythe, having studied drama at university, met the other two through Barney’s girlfriend. It took a year before the band began in earnest, with Blythe laying down vocals on a couple of tracks, something which “just worked”. From there, the band threw themselves “in at the deep end.” Blythe explains: “we made ourselves work. We got ourselves signed and then planned to do quite high production stuff right away.” Vaults signed with Virgin records in November last year and have released a steady stream of songs over the last 12 months, culminating with the release of their debut EP, Vultures, this week.

The response to the songs released has been huge, garnering close to 2 million plays on Soundcloud, something Blythe “still can’t quite believe”, especially the response to their debut song ‘Cry No More’, which had the band hitting refresh every few seconds after its first release. Reflecting on their previous work, Barney feels they “sort of over thought (music) before Vaults, and the brief for this band was just to not have a brief and to do the best we can do and bring in influences from lots of different artists, which is a really nice thing to do. Having that freedom was great and it was great when people liked it because it could have been shit.” The band cites a wide variety of inspirations; Blythe highlights PJ Harvey and Kate Bush as big influences on her vocal style. They all have “similar taste in electronica” and are hugely influenced by Gold Panda. Comparisons to Alt-j have been persistent, something they understand as “they’ve got good electronica ideas, good vocals and a bit of song structure which is kind of what we do as well.”

The last month was been centred around live shows for Vaults; a European and UK tour supporting Paulo Nutini then their own headline UK tour. Having previously played festivals, the Paulo Nutini gigs were a “steep learning curve”. Blythe explains how she felt playing for 12-15 thousand people: “The first gig I was cacking it a bit – it was like automaton. I felt a little bit overwhelmed that first night, but we got through it without making a mistake and then that night we watched the Nutini show which was all massive lights and a huge band and he’s got such a charismatic presence on stage. So I was like “right okay, I’m going to do this, I’m going to make this happen. We haven’t got any lights or shit but we’re going to own this stage.” It was a fast trajectory of learning curve. You either choose to go “oh my god I don’t know what to do” or step up. After a while those huge gigs became more usual.” Then returning back to smaller gigs was enjoyable for the band; having an audience who was there to see them and recognised and responded to the songs was “really nice”. A short break and then another round of shows with Paulo Nutini is what’s coming next, after which they’re back in the studio to finish off their highly anticipated debut album.

Central to the way Vaults create their music is the fact that their songs have a “sense of continuity throughout the album” and that as much as it is a 3-person collaboration, they each have a distinct role. Barney is keen to point out that Vaults are “very new so we’re still working off what the public are saying”. The democratic response from music services such as Soundcloud and Spotify allows them to see which songs the public likes and allow thereby develop new material. Lyrically the band focus on “universal” themes. Blythe explains how they deal with everyman issues: “They’re wide concepts. We all feel it’s important that people can connect their own detailed story to that song. They’re very epic and emotional but a lot of the lyrics are very symbolic.”

The evocative cover for Vultures features Blythe looking out from a roof top, her back painted vividly which a ‘V’ appearing through the colours. The ‘V’ was based on their logo, something they feel “kind of summed us up somehow” and Blythe wanted to “translate that onto my back and create a sort of feral character”. A feral character whose story is told throughout the 3 track EP, as she explains: “’Vultures’ is two people falling in love, like that moment at the start of the film where the audience have something they really don’t want to lose and that sense of losing something you hold really dearly. The second song, ‘Poison’, is more focused around the protagonist and ‘Mend This Love’ is the aftermath.”

The band is relaxed about the future, the plan is just to “go with the flow”. Having said that they concede “the aim is to see how big we can get, without compromising the music. We want to travel and see the world.”

For Jamie’s review of Vaults’ gig at the Manchester Deaf Institute, click here

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