ATP: Wild Beasts: ‘It’s Reminded Us Why The Album Is The Way It Is’

Wild Beasts prepare to play ‘Smother’ in full at this weekend’s festival.

When bands play an album in its entirety, there’s always a feeling of a real event. And, well, when it’s Wild Beasts playing their magnificent ‘Smother’, there’s even more of a sense that you’ll be witnessing something pretty damn special.

And, luckily, that’s exactly what the band will be doing at this weekend’s National curated ATP (as well as The Lexington before then if you’ve been lucky enough to get tickets). It promises to be spectacular. ‘Smother’ was always an album in the best sense; a body of work with a sense of narrative and flow. It also showed the band reaching a creative peak, creating a record which was both ambitious and restrained, something rich, dramatic and engaging.

We spoke to Wild Beast’s Tom Fleming, to ask where the idea came from, why his year’s highlight has been playing smaller venues than headlining festivals and what a Wild Beasts Christmas is like.

How has 2012 been for Wild Beasts?
It’s been good thanks. A little less touring than the preceding few years, and we’re finally finding the time to get together and really write again, which feels great.

What have been your highlights?
I know I should say Coachella or something, and I did enjoy our headline slot at Latitude, but in honesty, we did a week-long tour including smaller towns that don’t get a lot of music through, and that was wonderful. It’s not something we’ve always been able to do, and the response was just amazing.

What does it feel like headlining big festivals?
Well, good, of course. Obviously it’s not quite the same as playing small, sweaty clubs, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good. You get welcomed, rather than given a crate of warm Carlsberg and told to shut up.

What prompted you to decide to play ‘Smother’ in full?
We’re just marking it passing. It’s not something we’ve attempted before, and I suppose it’s a little indulgent, but it gives us the chance to present it as a ‘thing’, rather than it just being a usual rock show. If anything, it’s reminded us why the album is the way it is.

And you’ll also play a ‘sprinkling of other classics’?
Nice phrase. Do you work for ITV? In seriousness, most probably.

Do you find it hard to play songs out of sequence when you’ve created a record as a ‘whole’?
Initially, yes, but we’re pretty used to playing live now, being well, well into the hundreds. You have to let that go, you’re more doing things on a whim, which is fine too. And anyway, we’re sort of doing both here.

How excited are you about the Lexington and ATP shows?
Very. We’re delighted to be asked by The National, and similarly delighted to be in a small venue, within touching distance of people who want to see us play.

Are you friends with The National?
We have met a couple of times and they’re cool gents, and a great band, but we don’t know them well or anything. They make fantastic records.

How did it come about that they asked you to play?
I’m really not sure, they just asked, and we bit their hands off.

I heard you’re currently working on new material? How’s it sounding?
Rough. We are writing, but we’re very keen to take our time, which isn’t something we’ve ever done before. Our listening habits have got more and more electronic, but equally the real joy is making a mess in a room, amps blaring and the rest. And we always have considered the drums as the lead instrument, so maybe we can do more with that.

And finally can you tell us what a traditional Wild Beasts Christmas is like?
The trick is to disregard the cold. And only brown drinks are allowed. And no presents before getting dressed. One has to have standards.

Wild Beasts will play ‘Smother’ at the London’s Lexington on Friday 7th December, and ATP Curated By The National at Pontins Camber Sands, 7th - 9th December.