Indie music and Britain go together like milk and cereal. So we were beyond thrilled when we were able to snag Tom Fleming and Chris Talbot, of the band Wild Beasts, for an interview while at this year’s Lollapalooza Festival. Since signing with Domino Records—the label that also snatched up acclaimed British indie rockers Arctic Monkeys—in 2007, the Wild Beasts have grown in popularity. British music mag NME declared them one of the bands “tipped for the top,” and the group’s second album, "Two Dancers," was named “one of 2009’s indisputable masterpieces” by England’s The Sunday Times newspaper. (Good thing we decided to attend Lollapalooza this year.)
CM: Going back to when the band started—I was wondering what about the original art style of painters like Matisse, including contrasting colors and raw emotion, inspired you guys to embrace it through your music?
Tom: It was something we were kind of into. I say we, I mean, Wild Beasts was an entity before I joined. [Fleming joined the band as its full-time bassist in 2005, a year after the Wild Beasts officially formed.] Chris: We were originally called Fauve as a three-piece. Hayden [Hayden Thorpe, vocals and guitar], Benny [Ben Little, guitar], and myself [Talbot plays drums]. When I joined, I think there was only a year between me and Tom joining. We decided to move on and call it Wild Beasts. Maybe not smuck ourselves too much with the art work. Though, after all, the influence is there. The fauvist idea is doing something which is completely weird and wonderful from the outside looking in, but to them they’re just doing an ordinary thing. I think that’s where that originally stemmed from.
Tom: It’s kind of taking a new look at old stuff. You can paint your landscape one way or you can paint it this way. It’s a landscape so there’s a lot more for room than you might think.
CM: I was having a hard time figuring out the meaning behind Limbo, Panto? Could you tell me what it meant?
Tom: It’s a lyric from a discarded song. It’s kind of a play on the absurdity of life, life being a pantomime and you always being in limbo. You are always in between things. You never get where you’re going. It’s a tragic comedy really. It’s really brutal, but to anyone else it’s just f–king hilarious.
CM: After watching “Hooting & Howling,” I was wondering, when you create music videos, if you create the song first, then say it would be really cool if we did this or that in the music video? Or is there a separate creative director that pitches ideas to you?
Tom: We kind of give guidelines about what we think the song means and the sort of things we like, but ultimately we put our trust in directors. I suppose we talk some stuff out. Ultimately we are musicians, not visual artists. There is an element of trust, hoping people will get it, and there is a bit of back and forth. That video was . . . I’m a terrible swimmer, it was a folly experience.
CM: So, you guys were actually in the water?
Tom: Very much so. Hayden, who does pretty much all the scenes, was in there last, for reasons I cannot understand, with all the like clothing scum and panic sweat and stuff.
Chris: The water was 35 degrees [Celsius]. Well, probably hotter. It was like a hot bath and you got this huge 200-watt light hanging over the tank. If you flop around too much in the water when you come up for air, the water heating the heat of the light would shatter it instantly and you become covered in glass. Also, there was the risk of this dangerously hanging light right over the tank that could fall in any moment.
Tom: It looked like a trap from Saw or something. They just put us in a fish tank for six hours and that was the video.
CM: Wrapping up, I was wondering what you think makes your band appealing to so many different types of people? Someone from me on the East Coast of the U.S. is a lot different from a fan in the middle of Europe.
Tom: It’s a tough one. I don’t know. We should probably try and have a guess really . . . I suppose we are quite a human-sounding band. You can tell there is no myth to what we’re doing. The records really are the sound of us.
Chris: I think another part of it is intrigue as well as much of anything. Currently the last year we’ve had a lot of half-interested, just-interested people that just want to check us out cause they read [about us]. We are a bit of a blogger’s band as far as a lot of people have been writing about us, which is very nice. Certainly when we last came to America it felt really exciting and we were, like, getting looked at through a looking glass, but I think we won quite a few people over, so that’s slightly the idea of this trip.
Tom: Well the first show was in West Hollywood.
CM: First show coming to America?
Tom: Well, we been a couple of times before, but this was the first big proper, underground tour. It was just insane. It was like the coming of Christ, it was unbelievable. We never experienced that. We had great shows before, but that was like, what on earth has happened? How did this happen? We had never been to California before, and just being in front of all those people screaming—it was incredible.
Photos courtesy of Wild Beasts and stereogum.com.