In Conversation with VANT
It was a rainy Monday afternoon in November when I met with Mattie and Henry from VANT, fitting, given the election of Trump only 2 weeks before – a key theme for our discussion. This seemed unsurprising given the politically charged message the band is aiming to spread with their debut album ‘DUMB BLOOD’, which comes out in February.
We began on a more positive note, though, with free scones leftover at the hotel by a funeral party, leading to a ‘scone but not forgotten’ pun by Mattie which I must applaud, as well as looking back on a positive 2016 for them, being on the new PES and leading up to the new album. The name, ‘DUMB BLOOD’, they tell me, is a comment on the “silent generation” that we are: “not using our voices in society, which means we don’t lead to any actual change. It’s just figments of our imagination on the internet… it’s about waking up.”
I enquired about their labelling of their home town as ‘Planet Earth’ on social media and they explained it’s about not seeing borders, and how narrow-minded patriotism is, saying “you just happen to be born where you’re born, what your privileges are, what the colour of your skin is and your gender; there’s nothing you can do about that but you’re still fundamentally exactly the same. Just because you happen to have been born somewhere that’s not as prosperous as somewhere like the UK, why should you not have the right to live a better life for yourself?” Politics has been at the centre of VANT since their conception, “it’s more than a band to us, we want to change things, we want to shake things up”, they see themselves as representatives of the portion of the population that “know what it’s like to be in poverty… that doesn’t have a voice at the minute.” They note the importance in political lyrics over the decades and the lack of it today, citing the “consumerist market” as part of the reason, “we’re all about our own enjoyment and no one else’s, but obviously a lot of people don’t have the privileges most of us do.”
The band recently posted a passage on social media about writing their song ‘PEACE & LOVE’ around the time of the 2015 Paris attacks, when asked whether they’re more hopeful now, a dejected Mattie says “unfortunately, the right wing movements of the world seem to be winning at the moment, preying on people’s anxieties and exploiting terrorist attacks, using them as a way of scaremongering people to vote for their bigoted beliefs.” He also notes the generational divide when it comes to politics, with the right wing elderly generally making decisions the younger, more generally left wing, population has to live with. Despite this, he doesn’t think that that means a change is due as “the older you get, the more cynical you get and the more involved you are in your own life… you don’t think about the general population”, on top of this he believes younger people are switching to that mind-set at an earlier age. There is a notable air of frustration in their voices, especially in the lack of understanding of the usefulness of taxes; the “absolutely stupid” assumption stopping immigration would create jobs; and the nicety of the left wing movement. Of the latter, they take the view that you can’t get anywhere in politics being too nice, and that “using your voice in a peaceful manner, in mass numbers, is the only way that you can change anything, people power’s always won, but unless people aren’t using their voices, then nothing’s going to change.”
The next question I posed was: “are you optimistic for 2017?”, which was followed by a long silence.
“Not really, no”, Mattie finally answers, “I’m optimistic for us for what we want to achieve in getting a record out and enjoying ourselves but no, I’m not because Trump’s coming into presidency in January, chances are Marine Le Pen is going to get elected in France, there are 5 or 6 other major elections coming up with, potentially, a lot of right wing nationalists getting into power. It’s terrifying.” He worries about the lack of care for the environment, proper education, and especially equality; the issue in trying to change things, he claims is the internet, “everything just gets shouted about online in this fake world.” The dangers of social media, in particular, are brought up, despite it’s usefulness for education there remains a lack of politics classes in schools, his main lesson is “it’s just all about power and money basically.” They continue to slate social media for retracting from real experiences, with people travelling the world to post on Instagram, “we don’t connect with the real world anymore, we don’t enjoy those experiences”, they also note the danger it causes to mental health with the desperate search for likes, even though “it’s literally just a stupid thing.” Mattie threatens to start making up stories like riding a shark across the ocean, so look out for that one on Instagram. He concludes shortly after: “so yeah, no, really pessimistic, 2017.”
2017 might not look good politically but it’s certainly geared up to be a good one for VANT.