WILD BEASTS INTERVIEW
Since we reviewed and praised Wild Beasts’ third and latest masterpiece, ‘Smother’, the group have been relentlessly touring the USA and gigging wherever and whenever a possible opportunity arises. Now as they arrive in the back in the North of England they chat to Louder Than War about just how hard it is being working musicians in today’s modern financial climate.
“Being on tour is just not a normal existence for four twenty-four year old lads really,”Â drummer Chris Talbot explains, “I think it’s pretty exceptional on anyone’s standards. You do feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s not like we’re a huge venue, world-beating band either, but we’re still professionals. The weird thing is knowing that as soon as you’re away, life and people carry on without you. That takes some getting used to.”Â
Guitarist, Ben Little sits to the right of me with his heads in his hands, pondering his thoughts on the subject of touring. “I find it weird that when you record an album for say a month, and you leave that forever. It’s an impact your band will make forever. And now we have to tour because with record sales going down in the industry, we’re not making our money from that anymore. The only way for us to make a living now is to play all the time. It’s really hard to balance all that whilst trying to record.”Â
Even established bands like Wild Beasts do struggle in the current financial climate. Now with record sales at a shockingly low amount, new bands have to go through a tough time of being broke in order to eventually make worthwhile material. Not only are Wild Beasts known to dedicated music fans all over the world, but they have fans across the USA travelling for hundreds of miles just to see them play. “We live in a very small country and you can be anywhere in a couple of hours on the train. But in America, people travel coast to coast to come and see you. I love that. In Atlanta there were these 12 really preppy boys who you wouldn’t usually associate with being Wild Beasts fans, and they’d travelled 12 hours to come and see us. It’s really unbelievable. It’s heartening. It’s puts things into perspective of why we do this in the first place.”Â
It’s a shame that bands now have to have a hard time working out their finances and balancing their studio time in order to earn a living off their art. This pressure on artists limits the idea of creativity and unless album sales are earning a sufficient amount of money in order to fund an artist’s living, the concept of studio musicians such as Harry Nilsson, Nick Drake or The Beatles (post-1966) will soon be obsolete.
“I suppose you create better art when you’re confined and in a small space”Â Talbot suggests “When you don’t have that much money it can be stripped down and the product at the end may just come out better than something with a larger budget. Having said that, it’s not like it was 7 or 8 years ago.”Â Bands like Wild Beasts are quite simply reliant on their studio albums, and it’s apparent that they’d quite like to take some time producing the next record.
“We have a little bit of money to sustain over the next record. So hopefully next time we can take our time and get back into writing a little bit. It would be nice to take our time and be able to listen to it over a bit. Last time, it wasn’t rushed, but we had to sort of go with the first time a lot of the time”Â Little explains.
As working musicians it’s proving hard for new bands to build their way up. With next to no money, the members understand and can relate to new bands with their struggles. “We’ve made a couple of mistakes with tax and we’ve been in problems financially. I mean, some of us have been signing up to the dole at some stages. I think it’s really hard for new bands to even exist and function.”Â
At the end of the day, are bands really having such problems, or is that just the price to pay for one of the best jobs in the world? “We can moan all we like but we have the best job in the world. Yeah, we have to always have one eye on the future, but it’s worth it.”Â
For modern bands and bands of the future it’s quite worrying that the industry is soon to be a difficult climate to be in. With fewer people buying records, action might just have to take place. As long as we have artists like Wild Beasts who are willing to be out of pocket in order to fund their material, then we have artists with the right attitude. Studio musicians are obsolete, and so the gigging work ethic is more prominent. Is this an unavoidable evolution? Or a working class musician extinction? It’s an apprehensive future. But can it be changed?