Interview by Euan Prentis, Deputy Photo Editor
On their new record, “Boy King,” Wild Beasts embrace the “hyper-masculanism” of rock artists they previously disliked. In preparation for their two shows in New York, WSN sat down with frontman Tom Fleming to discuss how the band embodiment this masculinity, and the influence it’s had on their live performance.
WSN: So, I should start my asking, you’re coming to New York soon, to people who’ve not seen Wild Beasts live before how would you describe the show?
Tom Fleming: It’s quite an intimate show, the venues aren’t enormous and we’re quite personable, but I guess it’s a little different this time around. It’s much more of a rock show to reflect the kind of more gnarled, synth-pop, trippy new record. Now, our songs are more of these big rock and roll gesture sort of things. It’s supposed to be a party show, whereas in the past it’s been more of the kind of night where couples would come and have a romantic evening. I don’t think we’re that kind of band anymore.
WSN: Would you say this change is typical following the release of a new record or is this unique to Boy King?
TF: Well I’d say this time there is certainly a palpable difference. I think there’s this sense that our last fuck flew away. We’ve been around for a little while now, and previously our tours have very much been a studio record put on stage, and this is very much a band performing in a room. It’s more performative these days. It just feels like we’re leaving a bit more on stage.
WSN: Does this more rock oriented performance tie into the “hyper-masculanism” — as you’ve called it — you’ve embraced on the record?
TF: Yeah, I think we’ve kind of embodied that a bit. Frankly, as straight, white, males from Europe we’ve look at our position in the universe and seen how fucked up it is. The record in a lot of ways is about that; its kind of a satire about the struggles of masculinity, but a satire we’re intimately involved in. There’s a lot of self-loathing on the record, reflecting the uglier side of what you become as you age into proper manhood. A crisis goes on between having to embody that masculinity and also be a good person, and they’re not necessarily compatible.
WSN: So, you’ve maintained your skepticism of this masculinity, but in embodying it are able to attack it in a new way?
TF: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. I think a lot of our work has been about discomfort in gender and discomfort in what is expected of you, that kind of thing, so I think there is a kind of gender performance going on. That’s very much what the show feels like. It’s a rock band for sure, and it’s not something we would have felt able to do when we were younger. We made it in a very turbulent period of our lives, and a lot of it, honestly, is us. I don’t want it to feel insincere, there is a kind of examination going on.
WSN: You recorded the new album in Texas. Would you say the location in which you record influences the final product or the process?
TF: I think it does, yeah. I mean, I’d like to say we’re immune to it, but I really do think it does. Certainly working with John Congleton, who was based in Texas at the time. His approach was really influential. But we work really well when we’re taken outside of our normal situation. It’s like a little canvas we can go away to to do our thing. And really, there is a sense of place about it which I find you can hear in the record. There’s the experience of not necessarily being in the States, but being in Texas. We have a reputation of being an English art band, so there is a willful diversity to making a record in Dallas, Texas — not even Austin. I find it really fun.
WSN: Lastly, now the new album’s out, what are you excited for for the coming year?
TF: Of course the U.S. tour, which isn’t quite as big as the European one but will be awesome I think. Honestly, it’s wonderful putting the new record on stage. Apart from any real commercial or career stuff, I’m enjoying going out there, looking people in the eye and doing this.
Wild Beasts will be in New York City for two shows this week: Nov. 14 at Music Hall of Williamsburg and Nov. 16 at La Poisson Rouge.