In conversation with Vessels
Interview by Shannon Lawlor
Vessels are an electronic band hailing from Leeds, UK. Since 2005, the band have released numerous singles, two extended plays and four LPs including their latest 2017 addition, The Great Distraction released via Different Recordings featuring guest vocals by John Grant, The Flaming Lips, Harkin and Vincent Neff.
Conceived from ‘mostly instrumental’ beginnings, the band’s sound has continued to progress from crushingly atmospheric sections to swayed, bleeping electronic dance movements. Vessels consistently continue to create thought provoking bodies of work, successfully encapsulating their journey of experiments together with their hypnotically inventive live performances. On March 28th, Parisian electronic artist Rone will join Vessels at London’s Oval Space for one of their most memorable performances to date.
We caught up with Tom Evans of Vessels on inevitable progression and setting the right mood:
For anyone foreign to Vessels’ entrancing mesmer, how would you personally describe the music you create?
Live electronica, or techno with the vibe of house music and the ambition of prog.
Vessels’ latest album The Great Distraction was released in September 2017 via Different Recordings. Could you detail this recording process, and how it might have differed to 2015’s Dilate?
It was similar to Dilate in some respects, in that it was recorded as it was being written, as opposed to our first two records where we performed the tracks live and recorded the performances. It was interesting to work with the vocal collaborators this time around, though we never actually met any of them face to face, but thanks to the wonders of the internet age we managed to create art together with these talented folk remotely.
Vessels are known for mixing both analogue and digital percussion, electronics and live instrumentation together, amidst brilliant light shows to create an immersive experience. How important do you feel setting is to a typical Vessels performance?
The setting creates the mood, which allows you to be transported by the music. Anybody who’s watched a soundcheck will know the change in vibe between that and the show – and even though the music’s the same, a room full of people watching a soundcheck would not create the environment for people to let loose and get lost in the music – which is what we’re all looking for when we watch live bands, no?
Are there certain aspects of performing live that you may favor over being in studio, and vice versa?
Performing live is more exhilarating than playing in the studio, not only as there’s more at stake but there’s also more feedback of energy in the room – from the audience rather than just each other. However the sound is often compromised for the performers on stage so it’s nice to be in the controlled environment of a studio to be able to hear all the details properly.
Are there any musicians, artists or producers you admire as a band? If Vessels could collaborate with anyone on the planet, who would it be, and why?
Yeah, loads – our tastes all differ but we’re all big fans of Daniel Avery, Caribou, Four Tet, Jon Hopkins, Radiohead, Nils Frahm, The Field, Modeselektor, Pantha Du Prince and James Holden, so collaborating with any of them would be mint. Also, I’m a huge fan of Hope Sandoval’s vocals so it would be amazing to do a track with her.
Where did the inspiration to write ‘Mobilise’ come from? And where do you usually turn to for ‘musical enlightenment’?
That started off as a one minute loop with an unprintable working title that sat in the ‘maybe’ pile for a year or so before Lee [Malcolm] dusted it off and changed everything apart from the beat, and it grew into the beast that it is now. Lee is constantly writing, so the problem is often signing off finished tunes rather than finding the initial inspiration. In terms of where to look for musical enlightenment, it really depends. You just have to follow your path and allow yourself to be open to inspiration when it comes.
How do you feel Vessels’ sound has evolved into what it is today, from the purely post-rock beginnings found on your debut album White Fields and Open Devices?
We always had electronic elements in our music, even from our first EP before White Fields, which had a remix we’d done of ourselves on it. As the years went by we just generally listened to more electronic music than rock, and by the time we’d finished Helioscope we knew that the way forward for us was going to be live dance music, although it took us to hang up our guitars in order to achieve it successfully. We still have some of the same sensibilities though, we’re interested in taking the listener on a journey rather than just satisfying an itch for a catchy hook.
What albums, or pieces of music would you say are collectively influential on Vessels’ music?
I think these ones have across the board approval. Chronologically:
The Appleseed Cast – Low Level Owl
Aphex Twin – Drukqs
Do Make Say Think – & Yet & Yet
Four Tet – Rounds
Nathan Fake – Drowning In A Sea Of Love
Battles – Mirrored
Caribou – Swim
Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner
The Field – Looping State Of Mind
James Holden – The Inheritors
Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Daniel Avery – Drone Logic
Are there any pieces of equipment, hardware or software that you feel is essential in achieving Vessels’ unique and distinctive sound?
The Korg MS20 has been a mainstay for the past ten years – and still holds it all together in many respects! It’s on pretty much every tune on the the last two records and about half of the one before that.
What does the future hold for Vessels?
A few little nuggets of goodness for your ears in the works, and we’re playing lots of festival shows over the summer, as well as our biggest headline shows to date in London (Oval Space) and our hometown Leeds (Canal Mills).
See Vessels’ upcoming tour dates below:
Thu 8 Mar – KiFF, Aarau, CH
Fri 9 Mar – Le Romandie, Lausanne, CH
Sat 10 Mar – Kaserne, Basel, CH
Wed 28 Mar – Oval Space, London, UK (with Rone)
Fri 6 Apr – Palac Akropolis, Prague, Cz
Sat 7 Apr – Sónar Istanbul, TR
Fri 27 Apr – Leeds International Festival Opening Party, Canal Mills, Leeds, UK
Sat 5 May – The Lantern, Bristol (with Warm Digits)
Sat 21 July – Bluedot Festival, UK
Order The Great Distraction by Vessels via Bandcamp
For more information follow Vessels on Facebook
(Image credit: Imogen Love)