VANT aren’t ones for the polished, dead-eyed promotional campaign that so many breaking bands submit to. Their mentality turns its back completely on that kind of red-tape constraint and lets them freely discuss pretty much whatever they like: opposition to success within the music industry, failings of education and their desires for VANT to become a platform. A few hours before they took to the stage of Plug, Sheffield, we grabbed some time with Mattie and Henry to break down all of this and more.
As a band, do you feel you’re trying to portray a certain message or something that comes across naturally?
I think it’s a bit of both. The songs come from a very natural place, I wasn’t trying specifically to write about world events, but the reason I wrote them was because I was frustrated about the lack of protest regarding the state of the world we live in and there’s not enough bands who use their voice to get across their feelings. Rock music has been previously used in such a direct sense, where it was very easy to understand and it hits you in a place of aggression and with bands like The Clash you instantly get the frustration and you understand why they write about what they do. For me that’s been missing for a long time and I can’t really remember the last band who said anything of value. Obviously you look at bands like the Arctic Monkeys, who look at things like social injustice and life as a young person, but it’s not on a global scale. I’m not massively interested in local politics, I’m more interested in global politics and the state of the world that we live in. We want to be a band that starts a platform for change, or at least gives people a voice that hasn’t been heard.
Do you think bands with large followings should do something with their fan base? Couldn’t they bring about meaningful change?
Absolutely. But I think if someone like Kanye West had a political voice then he’d lose that support. Alternatively, if you don’t start a mission in the right way then you may be viewed as jumping on a bandwagon rather than bringing something to the plate as a result of your own actions. Trying to capitalise on a problem rather than actually help it, if you get me? There are a load of high-ranking artists who say a lot about issues that are becoming less of a problem, but we want to focus on other issues. I mean there’ll be other things that I’ll never understand. I’m a white, straight male from the North of England, I’ll never understand what it’s like to be a black, female, homosexual from the South of Texas. You can empathise with those people, but you’ll never truly understand their situation and you have to be respectful of it. So we try and and write about things that we have some level of knowledge about or at least feel that our beliefs are correct.
Do you think in the future, if your stock were to rise meteorically, you’d like to do something on a mass scale?
I’m constantly formulating ideas to what we can do. For me, education is huge. And we need to change this embedded idea regarding how kids are educated. I think we live in a generation that relies too heavily on statistical analysis. Children just become numbers on a page and thick kids get dumped into thick bands and intelligent kids get dumped into intelligent bands. I think the kids should be able to explore themselves and find out what they’re good at, rather than having some person in a uniform who they’ve never met before tell them that they’re going to be a plumber.
Mental health awareness needs to be heightened incredibly. Surely knowing about your own wellbeing is more important than knowing about some obscure math’s equation that you’re never going to use in the real world? I know in Scandinavian countries that sort of thing is welcomed with opened arms, whereas here it’s almost like people try and shy away from stuff like that and are afraid of mental illness. Mental health isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it’s a massive issue that effects so many people and more needs to be done to allow people, not just kids, to go and talk to anyone when they need to.
So you’re big on conservation and related matters then?
Oh definitely. I feel slightly hypocritical though, as I’m still learning a lot about it myself and I want to be a better person. There are so many aspects of life now where we’re so selfish and the problem is that most of Western society is in a very comfortable position and even the poor people in the UK have some sort of housing.
We need to start thinking how we can improve the world as a whole and ensure the same standards of living across the world. If we spend our lives blowing each other up and fighting over who has the biggest nuclear weapons then we’re fucked and me putting a bit of paper in the recycling bin is going to do fuck all if we don’t fix more pressing matters. Eventually, we want to change the world but we’ve got to get to a certain point before we can do that.
Do you think starting as a ‘bottom of the food chain’ band makes you work harder than someone who’s fortunate enough to be blessed with contacts?
One hundred percent. I’ve got a friend who made a comment to me along the lines of “all bands that are successful are just middle-class white kids in the UK” and I just laughed at him, but then we started reeling bands off and then the realisation hit. Those kids don’t have to work in call centers; they don’t have to work in bars. They can spend their time rinsing daddy’s pocket for equipment when a lot of the stuff you need these days is fucking expensive. If I were in the same position, I’d have done the same thing, but there is a massive voice in music that hasn’t had the chance to speak out because of this financial void and that’s wrong.
It’s a tough life being a musician. You just never know when the next pay cheque is going to come in. You just do all the little bits of shit to get by and having the spare time to indulge in your own creativity undoubtedly allows you to push forward, which is what I think we’ve been fortunate enough to do. There was a festival in Norway at the start of the year and we were toying over whether to do it or not, due to the fact we may lose money. In the end we thought ‘fuck it’ and we ended up getting two massive festival offers afterwards, which we wouldn’t have got otherwise. But the only reason we were able to take the risk of going there in the first place is because we had the money. It’s weird going from barely even being able to afford to play a gig in London, when you live there because the cost of rent is so fucking high. So you can see why many bands do pack it in.
Steering away from deeper issues related to music, is there anything musically related that you want to achieve as a band?
We all want to be as big as we can, from a non self-indulgent perspective because we all believe in our music. But at the same time there’s no better feeling than watching your crowd grow from tour to tour and just having that interaction with people because to me music isn’t just about the message, it’s a tribal thing. It’s the oldest form of art amongst humans. It’s something that resonates within practically every person that you’ll ever meet. To get slightly philosophical, music is in everything. Just random noises you hear in your day-to-day life that resonates within you. At the end of the day we don’t expect everyone to get what we’re trying to achieve straight away and if they just listen to us because they like how we sound, then that’s fine. Hopefully after a few listens then they’ll start to focus on the lyrics more and be able to understand the underlying meanings and they can discover a new level to what we do. You can be a great songwriter, but if you don’t write lyrics that have some form of meaning then essentially you’re missing a trick, another layer of music that you can tap into.
So yeah, we have a message but fundamentally we do this because we love music. We want to make people dance; we want them to have a good time. It’s such an important release and escape from reality and it’s a better escape than sitting alone in your room, on your little computer mulling over when the next like on your status is going to arrive. Is that a good way to live your life?
See our photos from the night here.