Dilating talk with Vessels
A good friend of ours introduced us to Vessels’ cover version of The Sky Was Pink and we immediately loved their style while discovering the band’s entire discography. Their album Dilate constitutes another chapter of their musical experimentation and is already our favourite album of 2015 so far. Reason enough to catch band member Pete Wright for an EDHID chat.
Hi there. What role did music play during your adolescence?
Music played a central role during my adolescence, as it has done throughout my adult life. Socially, connecting with people through shared love of the same music was the main way to make friends and find where I fit in, especially as an awkward and confused teenager; and emotionally, listening to and playing music was one of the main ways to explore and channel all that I was learning and feeling about myself and the world at that time. When I look back at those years, every image and memory can be paired with a song or a band.
Leeds constituted a significant electronic music legacy during the ‘90s. How did this musical heritage influence you?
I wasn’t around in Leeds in the 90’s, although I’ve come to understand that the club scene was particularly special. I think it has influenced us in all sorts of ways, but perhaps more indirectly than if we or I had been there in person. For instance of the five of us in the band only one of us is actually from Leeds and the rest of us came here to study, but it was undoubtedly the awesome music scene, rock shows and club nights alike, that played a part in persuading us all to stay. Many veterans of the ’90s clubbing scene are still all knocking about in various guises also, for instance my next door neighbour Double-Decker-Dave (so-called because he survived being knocked over by a double decker bus a few years back) was a regular fixture at the Orbit in Morley, (a now legendary ’90s techno club) in its heyday, and has played his part over the years in introducing me to the music and artists of the era.
Who is in charge for the Vessels DJ set and how would you compare it with your live show?
Vessels DJs is handled by Lee J Malcolm and Martin Teff. It’s a very different idea to our live show but what it has in common is that because the two of them are DJing together, then when one of them perhaps is curating and mixing the tunes, the other can bring a live performance element to the set using loops and effects and other live production techniques. In this way, they can continually react to the crowd and curate the show minute by minute as a response to that reaction – and in this way it could be argued that they in fact have more freedom to improvise than we do when we do our full band show.
What extent of discipline does the organisation of a five-piece band require?
The five of us all have a lot going on in our lives outside of the band, so everything from rehearsals to shows are booked in well in advance to make sure we’re all free. We don’t tend to rehearse in short bursts like we did when we were younger, we now tend to block off whole weekends and then just play solidly across a couple of 10 hour days. Given the kind of music we make, the repetitive loops and beats, are quite well suited to the long form rehearsal format, with ideas growing and changing as we play with a loop or groove across the course of a day. And no question about discipline and organisation would be fully answered though without saying that without the influence of our highly organised manager Ben, we’d probably have imploded by now.
How does the evolution of music production technology impact your way of jamming in the studio?
The increased processing power of computers, and computer software in recent years has certainly had a big effect on what we’re doing. Five years ago, we couldn’t have used this setup even if we’d wanted to, where a central computer, running Ableton Live, is augmenting, processing and effecting a good chunk of the individual sounds we’re all making, but then feeding the processed signals back to our engineer still on individual channels. We’ve always used a laptop in our setup, but ten years ago, it was like an instrument on its own, providing one or two textures or layers, whereas now it is the central hub.
Dilate is your third album since 2008. Does the narrative of your music fit better into the conceptual long player format compared to EPs?
I’m not sure that it does actually. The last two singles we’ve released (Elliptic and Echo In) have both been receiving hundreds of thousands of plays on streaming services such as Spotify, but not necessarily as part of our album. I’d say they’re certainly less immediate than a three minute pop song, and perhaps if folks online aren’t listening to them as part of our albums they’re enjoying them as part of other people’s long form mix tapes, but the beauty of online music distribution at this time is that a listener can discover the component tracks of a long player in isolation to start with, and then graduate to the full album at their convenience if they want to explore it further.
Do you think that the attention span of people for albums decreased in times of mass releases?
I can only speak for myself and the folks around me, but from over here it looks like the album continues to endure. If I hear a track or two by an artist that captures my attention then the next step is to get hold of and listen to their full album to really start enjoying them.
Does the festival boom benefit also more independent musicians?
Yes I’d definitely agree with this one, In the UK especially the last ten years have seen so many new smaller festivals come and go that provide a platform for independent artists to reach new audiences, and pretty much all of my favourite festival moments of the last ten years have been at smaller festivals at the more niche and bizarre tents and stages. This is in evidence right across Europe as well, as Vessels are asked more and more to travel to yet another new amazing festival to reach a whole new crowd.
How important is social media, video and the selection of the right distribution company for music promotion nowadays?
These things are obviously important, but can perhaps be a double edged sword, in that the challenge on social media these days is to be heard above all the noise, which I suppose is when word of mouth promotion really come into it. It’s great if you’ve got a hefting new single and video and you get it to all your fans through your social channels but its really great if those fans are so into it that they then send it on to their friends and peers direct, who then send it on, and on and so-on etc. Social media really comes into its own when it gathers its own steam.
What’s next for Vessels?
Vessels has been a slow build project for ten years and will continue to grow and expand as long as people are interested. This year we’re spending our time honing our live set, playing at festivals, and writing our next album and we’ll get to the business of recording it as soon as we can pin all five of us down in the same room for longer than two days. One thing that’s really great about this project is that even though we’ve been doing it for ten years, as we delve further and further into electronic music it feels like we’re only just starting.
Vessels’ album Dilate is out via Bias since March 02nd, 2015.
Vessels on Soundcloud