Wild Beasts: ‘In terms of Hogmanay parties, it’s either Edinburgh or Sydney’

THIS will be the first year that Kendal-formed indie outfit Wild Beasts have sampled Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party, but they’re no strangers to the city. As the band noted at a wonderfully received set at the Liquid Room in November, in fact, Edinburgh holds a special place in their collective heart.

“All four of us consider it our favourite city to visit in the UK,” says the band’s drummer, Chris Talbot, who experienced the band’s tour manager’s stag party in the city earlier this year. “It’s perfect, it’s old meets new, so this is the ideal showcase event for us to play in the best city. We certainly know the reputation of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, I think that’s the main reason we said yes when the opportunity came along. In terms of world parties (on 31 December), it’s either this or Sydney, really.”

It’s also another milestone on their slow but steady ascent to being accepted as a band of enduring quality and longevity, a journey which began in earnest with the debut album Limbo, Panto on Domino Records (home to luminaries like Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and King Creosote) in 2008 and continued with Two Dancers in 2009 and Smother earlier this year. Their music is hook-laden and memorable, but there’s a lightness to the instrumentation and Hayden Thorpe’s delicate falsetto (he, Ben Little and Tom Fleming share guitar and keyboard duties) that lends a ghostly and intimate air. Perfect music, then, for cold city streets in the midst of a Scottish winter.

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Their slow-burning success in that time has brought them critical acclaim and a loyal, growing following, if not quite mainstream fame and adoration. A Mercury nomination for Two Dancers album was followed by the more modest prize of strong showings for Smother in 2011’s end of year polls.

“It has cemented the place we reached with Two Dancers,” says Talbot of the latest album. “I don’t think it’s particularly furthered us commercially, but it’s becoming increasingly hard for bands to create a buzz about themselves with each album. Then again, we always think we’re making a world-conquering pop album, and it’s not until afterwards that we realise we’ve made something a bit more peculiar.”

Among Talbot’s highlights of the year are playing Glastonbury, Field Day, and making the band’s first visit to Mexico. “Touring-wise it’s been our best year. We’ve been back to towns in the UK where we would have played to only about 200 people before, and this year there have been 2,000 people there. It’s fair to say we were bashing our heads against a brick wall for a while as a young band coming out of Kendal, so for people to finally be taking us seriously these past two years has been a bit of a release.”

It’s not fair to say, though, that because Smother has sold only around the same number of copies as Two Dancers, that Wild Beasts’ success has plateaued. It seems more accurate to say that they’re a band like Elbow, one which seems set to keep plugging away as a relatively low-level concern, until one day the media and their public wake up to the fact that they’ve created a catalogue of enduring quality filled with a range of hidden musical gems, and they promptly find themselves propelled to the next level.

“It [sales] certainly never bothers us,” says Talbot. “If there’s one good trait that we all carry, it’s to not give a toss about what happens because we know we’re right. We’re in a unique position in that our albums are critically well-received, but the wider public don’t tend to agree with that on a big scale. That’s not what really moves bands like ours forward, though. It’s that we believe we’ve created something that will be remembered and talked about in 30 years’ time, rather than wanting to have our day in the sun and then going away.”

If there’s one music industry convention the band have bought into of late, however, it’s the inevitable move to London from their relatively sedate Lake District home following the recognition that Mercury nomination brought them.

“For four or five years we’d be going down there maybe twice a week,” recalls Talbot, “and it became just too much of a burden on our back pockets. Also, as artists, you have to leech off the environment you’re around and there’s only so much you can suck blood away from something before it becomes stale.

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“So it was London for this album, it’ll be London for the next album and I’d be pretty surprised if we’re still living in London after that.

“There have already been people talking about getting out. None of us dislike it and it’s easier to do it when you are young, but being in a band for the long term, there are four people’s opinions to take into account, and then four girlfriends too.”

At present, the Wild Beasts’ album number four exists only as individual ideas sketched out upon each member’s laptop, although the plan is to start work on it this year and release the next chapter of the band’s ever-developing catalogue no later than spring of 2013.

“We’ve been doing this solidly for four or five years,” says Talbot, “so the gig in Edinburgh will signal the start of three very well-deserved months off.

“Then again,” he laughs, “we have been pretty skint for all that time as well, so we’ve been used to working pretty quickly while the banks are breathing down our necks. So who knows? We might get an album finished by the end of this year, after all.”