“When we feel we’ve got an opinion that is worthwhile to express, we’ll say something about it.”
On Saturday 26 November I sat down with the suitably grunge-styled Vant frontman, Mattie Vant and guitarist, Henry Eastham in the performers chill room in Kasbah – an hour before they took the stage. This marked their first time in Coventry since the London band formed in 2014. “I used to just write because it was a solo thing”, Mattie says, “then Henry joined the project so now we write the majority of songs together.” Walking around us are the other members of the band – bass guitarist Billy Morris and drummer David Green (or, ‘Greenie’). “The more we grow, the more the other members are involved in the process” Mattie adds, “we know our group so now we know most songs that will be on the second record.”
2016 has been a big year for the four-piece, having seen five of their songs featured on Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World on BBC Radio 1, including the crowd pleasers Fly-By Alien and Parking Lot. After releasing their first tracks in 2015 and signing to Parlophone Records, Vant are continuing to build a larger fan base worldwide. “It’s building all the time,” Mattie says when asked about touring, “last time we would play to three people and now it’s a couple of hundred kids, then hopefully in 12 months it’ll be a couple of thousand kids.” With the future in sight, it’s safe to say that the band have their foot in the door of the industry and have a clear trajectory in mind. “Those three kids that came to your show the first time are the most important people,” Mattie reflects, “because they’re the ones that bought the tickets and they’re the ones that will go away and tell five of their mates, then the next time you’ll have five times as many people.”
But ultimately, the band see touring as “the reward for the writing process…there are a lot of people that have started coming to a lot of gigs and following us down the country… I feel like the pied piper with his rats,” Mattie jokingly quips to which Henry can’t help but laugh. The most memorable gig this tour has “got to be Bath” Henry says with Mattie agreeing: “kids crawling up the walls and over our pedal boards – it was mad”.
Vant have certainly been busy this year, performing to a large crowd in Japan and supporting the likes of Biffy Clyro and Catfish and the Bottlemen, as well as appearing at several festivals including the legendary Glastonbury stage, which they describe in one word: “amazing”. “It’s really great to play support shows and play to completely fresh ears a lot of the time,” Henry says, “but playing to your own fans (he has to admit) is awesome.” However, “it was the morning of the Brexit results” Henry reminisces sadly. Having “been political for three years”, the band felt gloomy gloomy atmosphere on the day. “I wrote a lengthy Facebook post about it at the time,” Mattie recounts “when we feel we’ve got an opinion that is worthwhile to express, we’ll say something about it.”
Never the ones to shy away from a political message or two, Vant’s repertoire of songs are bound to raise critical discussions. “That’s why we do this,” Mattie continues passionately, “so we can have conversations about important subjects.” On the night, the band open their performance with the guitar-heavy, politicised and confrontational The Answer. When asked about the meaning of the song, Mattie laughs, “when we were deciding who we were going to sign with, the guy heard that song – and obviously it has a pretty aggressive line at the end of it – and this song finishes and he’s like ‘that’s a single!’, and we were like ‘no fucking way’, this is who I need to work with.” Regarding the song, Mattie explains “I was trying to put myself in the position of a leader answering a question such as ‘should we go to war with Syria?’, because it was at the time they were discussing whether to deploy troops or not and it’s obviously an impossible question to answer.” But simply put, The Answer “comments heavily on the relationship between America and the U.K., and the fact that essentially, we’re just America’s little bitches.”
Thinking more about how they fit into the multi-layered prism of punk, the front man says “I always describe our music as mature punk rather than just punk.” This follows a seemingly adult logic; “original punk was anti-establishment vibes whereas we find ourselves in this weird situation where liberals want the system to work, rather than to destroy it.”
The band like to think of their sound as unique, adding: “Musical scenes change; you just can’t jump onto a band wagon because that band wagon will change.”
Vant’s latest single Peace & Love is first performed in an stripped acoustic style, accentuating Mattie’s raw and honey-dew vocal cords, then later the band perform it again in its usual polyphonic grandeur. “It started with the last chorus: we need peace and love all you mother fuckers,” Mattie reflects on the song-writing process for the single, “I was quite angry at the time because it’s something so obvious, it’s what we need in life.” That’s something we’ve always been fixated on, the idea that we’re not from Britain but we’re just from planet earth,” Mattie continues, “because it’s complete luck that I was born where I was, so why should I have any more privilege than others that don’t – especially because I’m straight, I’m white and I’m male – it’s something we need to change and shake ourselves out of.”
“Peace & Love is about waking up to this reality, and the strong connotations of those word’s meangings given what they used to mean and how they’re just throw away phrases now,” the singer concludes. The single’s newly-released video contains footage from a Ukrainian war and a protest in Jordan which “were two stories (the band) really wanted to tell”.
“The more powerful our voice becomes; we can hopefully change things outside of music.”
Birth Certificate was performed with impressive reception from the rowdy yet intimate Saturday night crowd. On the origins of the song, Mattie said “I wrote it because my girlfriend was Australian and she had to go home because of the visa situation. At the time we were both around 21, so it was an impossible situation – the idea of us either getting married or me moving to Australia.” “That’s where the whole ‘we’re from planet earth’ thing stemmed from,” the Vant star adds.
Vant released their first EP, Karma Seeker, in June this year featuring the eponymous song title and Birth Certificate amongst a collation of four songs. “We put those songs out because there wasn’t enough space on the record for them, but we loved all of the songs so we just wanted to give them a chance to have their moment,” Mattie beams proudly. “It was nice to give people a taste of what’s to come.”
Vant finish their encore with the electric Do You Know Me? after inciting another mosh pit, they are accompanied by a group of hyper-fans that jump over the barrier onto the Kasbah stage, all the while managing to crowd surf with the frontman. Whether this measures up to the night in Bath, I can only hope so.
And as for the origin of the band name, seemingly just taken from Mattie’s surname? Henry jokes: “He’s going to change his middle name to ‘From’”. Mattie replies he likes it as “my second name is ambiguous”.