Leeds-based four-piece Vessels are a tough outfit to accurately categorise using conventional and accepted critical pigeonholes. While the band are clearly able to craft epic post-rock soundscapes, their electronic-sourced influences blaze proudly from their sleeves. But they’re no 65daysofstatic wannabes – this band is stirringly unique, operating at a more cerebral level than the foot-tapping beats of said Sheffield glitch-rockers.
Made up of Tim Mitchell (drums, beats), Martin Teff (guitar, bass, synthesizer), Tom Evans (guitar, vocals) and Lee J Malcolm (guitar, vocals, laptop), Vessels recently wowed onlookers at the Latitude Festival – DiS was there to witness them and penned a praise-full piece here. DiS is pleased to have them performing at our once-monthly DiScover Club show, at London’s Notting Hill Arts Club, this Saturday (July 28). Also playing on the day: Lovvers and Herra Hidro. Click here for further details.
And before then, DiScover Vessels…
First up: when and where did the band get together? Had members been involved in other bands prior to Vessels? If so, were said acts of a similar ilk at all?
Tom: We played together in a band called A Day Left for three or four years before reshuffling and renaming at the end of 2005. It can still be listened to on MySpace, here. Check out 'pre', it's pretty decent.
Martin: The singer from that band now screams in a rather vicious outfit which goes by the name of White Boys for Gay Jesus, who are definitely worth checking out, mainly for being both horrible and excellent at the same time. (Their MySpace is here.)
Just how often do you get the opportunity to play/practise right now? Are you approaching the point where you might have to quit jobs, etc, to concentrate on Vessels?
Tom: We try to practise at least twice a week, though three or four times is preferable. When you're writing stupid tunes with nine sections in 13/8 time it kinda helps to keep things fresh in your heads. Also, the more you play together the tighter you get, and we try and keep our playing standard as consistently high as possible. There's more than enough sloppy bands doing the rounds these days. We'll quit our jobs when Vessels stops being a massive money hoover and turns into a money hat instead.
Martin: Quitting the day jobs would definitely be great when the money starts rolling in. But even bands like Neurosis have ‘proper’ jobs – in between tours one of the guys is a school teacher. We're pretty lucky to have flexible jobs (parcel delivery, guitar tuition, sound engineering and civil service). I don't think the jobs get in the way too much but they do mean we can't follow the 65days route of semi-permanently touring every single venue on the UK toilet circuit - which has certainly reaped rewards for them.
Just how do you go about describing to a complete outsider the sort of music you make? It has elements of electronica, for sure, but also of rocks post and indie. Where would you rack a release in a discerning store: indie/rock, dance, ecclectica?
Tom: I guess we're essentially a post-rock band in many ways, but the genre's become a bit stagnated with boring slow-core bands. To be honest, writing a post-rock tune is a piece of piss. Three chords, a massive build-up and then a phat drop to an awesome fourth chord. Job's a good’un. It's been done to death, though, so you gotta mash it up. Bit of Battles, bit of Cinematic Orchestra, bit of Four Tet, bit of Psy-Trance, bit of Do Make Say Think and then some singing for good measure.
Martin: When people ask what our music is like I usually try to suss out their reference points before unleashing musical jargon on them. If they're not too clued up I usually go with ‘experimental rock music’. If they're ‘in the know’ I'd say we're a cross between Do Make Say Think and Battles with some electronica (Warp, Four Tet) and maybe a touch of Broken Social Scene and Radiohead thrown in. That's what I'd like to think we sound like, anyway. But not everyone sees it that way... We played the Moor Fest last week and someone complemented me on the set. I thanked him. He went on to say that we sounded a bit like My Chemical Romance and Sum 41. I'd like to think we don't sound like that.
‘Yuki’/‘Forever the Optimist’ is your most recent release - what's cooking for the next release? Is an album in the pipeline? Is there anything else available now, other than the seven-inch and the self-titled EP?
Martin: We are about to put a track called ‘Happy Accident’ on the next Dance To The Radio compilation, which should be out in September. We're also currently in the process of finishing a mix of the next single, ‘Two Words And A Gesture’, which should be out on 7” on Cuckundoo Records (link) in October. At present, we only have the EP and the first single, so the next big step is the album. Work starts on that in early August. We're aiming to finish writing and recording by the end of the year.
You just recently played Latitude. A number of my friends in bands say it's great to play, and friends who've been as punters love it, too. What was your experience like? Have you had the opportunity to play many sizeable shows in the past?
Martin: Latitude was fantastic, in every way. We had a good slot and a nice crowd. We also managed to blag loads of tickets for our mates (including a crew of eight and an expanded band of seven members including five guitars for the last tune in our set). Our sound engineer Scott did a great job of organising us and making it sound good. Our show was a hell of a lot better than the one we did at Leeds Festival the previous year, where the power of the stage died about four times during set. It's also a much nicer festival in general. Good size and fewer drunk 13 year olds than Leeds Festival. Highlights for me were Wilco and Arcade Fire. The only downside was the lack of techno or good electronic music at night time. Probably the personal highlight of the festival for me was the artist catering. I can still taste the food.
The DiScover show is part of a tour for you, I see - do you book all your own shows at this point, and how should a promoter get hold of you for a show?
Martin: At moment we do book our own shows. Jen from Oh Verona booking has helped us with previous tours and one or two shows for this one. I handle most of the booking which definitely has up and down sides. Getting on the roster of an established booking agency would be great for some things like festivals, where big agencies tend to block book slots for bands on their roster. For that to work you definitely need to be a priority with your booking agent though... if anyone wants a Vessels show I'd recommend they message us on MySpace (link below) or via Hotmail - firstname.lastname@example.org.
You've been able to play with/support some very fine acts indeed, such as Mono and The Appleseed Cast. Who's been your favourites to play with to date, and are there some bands out there that you'd absolutely LOVE to play on the same bill as?
Tom: Appleseed Cast is a shared obsession for all of us, so that was really special. I can't think of anyone who could top that, to be honest. Maybe Broken Social Scene or Radiohead
Martin: I'd be most happy to play with Do Make Say Think or Battles. Mogwai would be nice, too.
This DiScover show features some quite different acts - have you had the chance to check out either Herra Hidro or Lovvers?
Martin: To be honest I've only listened to both of them in passing. I loved The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg (RIP), so if Lovvers (who feature ex-members of The Murder Of) are even half as good as they were, they'll be great.
What does the rest of 2007 hold in store for Vessels?
Tom: Write and record an album that people will still listen to in ten years’ time.
Martin: The rest of this year is really all about the writing and recording the album. This will hopefully be good time to sort some decent festival appearances for summer next year. The main goal for 2008 is to get the album licensed in Europe, Japan and the US - and to follow that up with touring in those places.
For more information on Vessels, and to hear a selection of their songs, click to the band’s MySpace site here. For more information on July 28’s DiScover Club show, featuring Herra Hidro and Lovvers, click here.
Photograph by Danny North