“This record is about feeling paralysed by the enormousness of planet earth.”
We caught up with Mattie Vant in the middle of VANT’s UK tour to reflect on the making of his second album and talk self-criticism, political unrest and trying not to get too hung up on mistakes.
Having returned from their year long hiatus in 2018, London rockers VANT are one of British independent music’s finest exports, with their politically-charged, hook-laden tracks capturing audiences across the country. A product of perseverance and passion, the band released their second album, ‘Conceived in the Sky’, in January 2020 to formidable praise, with frontman Mattie Vant fearlessly steering his project in a new creative direction.
With a period of self-reflection and discovery having given him a renewed faith in VANT’s legacy, Mattie is ready to take his music wherever it needs to go, even if he has to knock down a few barriers in his path. Currently touring the UK in support of the new album, we sat down with the frontman to discuss everything from his qualms with social media to the overwhelming complications of planet earth and what the future holds for VANT.
It’s been just over a year since you brought VANT back. How are you feeling about the project at this point in time?
Mattie: Really positive. It’s been a long, difficult road to get to the point where I’m putting an album out, but the response has been overwhelming. It feels like all the hard work is starting to pay off and I’m really engaging with the fan base and hopefully looking towards a long career. This feels like the first big step away from being a band on a major label to one that is now a DIY project.
Your new album, ‘Conceived in the Sky’, came out earlier this month, which is the first full-length you’ve released since you came off hiatus. Where did the inspiration come from?
Mattie: I didn’t actually intend on putting another record out as VANT. When I was creating this album I wanted to do something completely different and so I spent a lot of time trying new things. I eventually settled on the direction you hear on the album and during that process I realised that it still sounded like VANT. It has the same voice and lyrical approach as my first record and although it’s sonically different, the attitude is still the same. I was in this strange position where not only was I frustrated about events in the world like Donald Trump and Brexit, but I felt hopeless to change anything. This record is about feeling paralysed by the enormousness of planet earth.
Was the reception to these new songs the same as you expected after taking a break?
Mattie: When I put the singles out there was a mixed reaction from fans as the music was so different from the first album. But I hoped that once people were able to hear it as a full record they would understand it. That seems to have been the case, and now people have a whole body of work to listen to it makes much more sense in it’s own little world. A lot of the people who were uncertain at the beginning have started to get on board with the new direction and it’s set me up to be able to do whatever else I want to do creatively beyond this. I don’t want to be somebody that people find predictable.
One of the key differences between the new record and 2017’s ‘DUMB BLOOD’ is the topics you cover. It seems like you’re focusing a little more on your personal issues this time around rather than leaning wholly towards political/social issues. Did that come naturally?
Mattie: Not at all, and in hindsight I think it’s been quite detrimental. In the past I’ve always said that I find it easier to write about world events because I don’t need to self-analyse. With social media we’re constantly analysing and comparing ourselves to other people, and quite often that leads to poor mental health. I got myself into a self-perpetuating loop where in trying to write more about myself I became more insecure and self-deprecating. It has been a learning curve, but I don’t think I’m going to concentrate on myself moving forward. I don’t want to sing songs about being in a bad place because it makes it harder to get out of that place.
What message do you want fans to take away from these new songs?
Mattie: It’s an incredibly difficult time to be a young person and ultimately we can’t lose hope. When the mass population becomes so frustrated with the situation they’re facing it will lead to change, and it feels like there’s more and more momentum. It’s also important to know that no one can hold the weight of the world on their shoulders, and that’s something I did for a long time. It’s okay to feel shit about the state of affairs because most of us are in the same boat.
You’re going to be heading off around the UK to tour the album this week. How does it feel to finally be playing these new songs for a live audience?
Mattie: It’s going to be a really special tour. The band has now expanded to a five-piece, which means we’re able to play everything live with no backing track. The way that we’ve managed to blend the old and new songs has also made it a really compelling show, there’s a real arc to it. If anyone was unsure about the new album or still getting their head around it, seeing the live experience will cement any doubts that they had and hopefully leave them feeling like VANT still makes sense.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since you started playing shows?
Mattie: You can’t get hung up on mistakes. A lot of musicians that I’ve played with will self-analyse their performance after every gig and if they made one tiny error it will ruin the entire experience. When you’re playing, it’s only you that knows you’ve made a mistake – unless it’s an absolute horror show! But I feel so comfortable onstage and it’s all about enjoying the moment and not letting any distractions or imperfections alter your experience.
What upcoming bands are you listening to that people should be checking out?
Mattie: Demob Happy are killing it right now, they’re a band who I actually went to college with. Another guy I went to college with also has a solo-project called Nancy, which is like a strange cross between Frank Sinatra and Beck – it’s really cool.
With VANT now back and with new songs out in the open, what are your goals going forward?
Mattie: If I can become an artist who can sustain themselves in the model that I’ve got right now then I’ll be happy. I want to do this for the rest of my life because I don’t know how to do anything else. Maybe it won’t be tomorrow, but maybe in forty years time I’ll play an arena – Nick Cave is a massive inspiration for me in that. I just want to be someone that constantly puts out good music and then hopefully people will recognise that.
VANT’s UK tour is already in full swing, don’t miss your chance to see the band playing songs from their latest album, ‘Conceived In The Sky’. Get your tickets here.
Sold out? Twickets have partnered up with VANT as their official ticket resale platform to protect their fans from being ripped off by profiteering resale sites that encourage ticket touting. If you’re looking for tickets to a sold out show, make sure to check the band’s Twickets page, and set up an alert to be notified of any new listings.