Kendal’s Wild Beasts released fourth album Present Tense last month. An early contender for album of the year, the four-piece now can’t wait to kick of their 2014 tour in Manchester on March 26
Wild Beasts couldn’t be from anywhere else but Britain – it takes only a few notes of their music to realise as much.
The places they namecheck in their lyrics and the eclectic nature of their songs give them away.
Few bands would mention the towns of Rodean, Shipley, Hounslow and Whitby in a whole career, let alone in one song, as Wild Beasts did in breakthrough single All The King’s Men.
The accent in which singers Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming deliver those lyrics are defiantly English, too.
In a musical landscape increasingly populated by mid-Atlantic twang, no matter the origin of the singer, this Kendal band stands out even more than they did when they released debut album Limbo, Panto in 2008.
It shouldn’t be such a big deal, but what started out for the four-piece (who are all in their late 20s) as merely the way they did things has, over time, become something of a talking point. Wanderlust, the first single from their new album Present Tense, even deals with the subject.
“In your mother tongue, what’s the verb ‘To suck’?” sings Thorpe.
Expanding on the issue with American music website Pitchfork, he said it was aimed at British bands singing with American accents: “As in, ‘How can you sing with sincerity if you’re not singing in your own tongue?’”
Of course, in light of Alex Turner’s apparent switch from broad Sheffield accent to Elvis-esque drawl, Thorpe’s comments were perceived as a slight against the Arctic Monkeys frontman, but Wild Beasts have since said they didn’t have Turner in mind.
The fact the bands share a label, Domino, and that Arctic Monkeys’ defiantly regional accents have been lauded as highly as Wild Beasts’, suggests they’re telling the truth.
Picking up the subject again today, Fleming, the band’s second singer, bassist and most intense member, says Wild Beasts sticking firm with their nationality works for and against them, depending where they are.
“In some quarters, what we do is lost in translation, I think,” he says, perched on the end of an armchair in the offices of their record label.
In some countries, he said, the band are likened to synth rock gods Depeche Mode – a band with whom they have virtually nothing in common – simply because audiences don’t ‘get’ them.
If their band is to succeed, Present Tense is certainly their best chance yet.
The fact they’ve made four albums – the second of which was nominated for the Mercury Prize and the most-recent charted at No 10 – means they’re not doing too badly as it is, but there really is something special about this latest record.
While the first three were written and recorded in relatively short succession with mammoth tours between, they opted to take a break before starting on what would become Present Tense.
After touring throughout 2011 in support of third album Smother, they played only eight or nine shows the following year and saw very little of each other.
Each band member did their own thing for a time, although when asked, it sounds as if they were twiddling their thumbs and eager to get back to making music.
Guitarist Ben Little, for example, worked his way through one of Paul Hollywood’s recipe books, admitting: “I baked a lot of bread. A lot...”
“We just met up for shows and it was lovely,” says drummer and chattiest Wild Beast Chris Talbot, or Bert as he’s known in the band.
“Don’t get me wrong, we get on amazingly, but you can tire of one another after two years together, every day.”
They worked out that they had enough money in the band’s shared bank account to live for a year and concentrate solely on writing.
They did so separately, meeting first in August 2012 in the rehearsal room they hired for a show-and-tell session, where they played each other everything they’d come up with, from fully written songs to interesting noises they’d discovered with the vast amounts of synth equipment they’d amassed during their time off.
Talbot continues: “We wanted to move on. Two Dancers and Smother are quite closely aligned records, like a brother and sister. I think, at the time, we thought we were breaking more new ground with Smother than we were, but this time around, having the time off gave us the breathing space we needed to think about it a bit more.”
Fleming adds: “This is not some rich man’s hobby for us. We want to do this and have done since we were teenagers...
“We’re not making albums for the sake of it.”