It is with regret that this interview with the members of Mother Vulpine comes at a turbulent time time for the band and there is some question as to whether this interview is for premonition or posterity.
Based in Leeds(UK), the band have created a guitar-driven gothic fable which has been supported by their artistic talents, not least Matthew Bigland's direction of their video for "Keep Your Wits Sharp".
First off, would you each introduce yourselves and what part you play in Mother Vulpine?
Matthew Bigland - vocals, guitar, visionary frontman
Lindsay Wilson - guitar, backing vocals, renegade female
Tom Hudson - bass, backing vocals, uncontrollable driving force
Ben Waddleton aka Shakes - drums, disco-maestro
On your MySpace it says the band members are the “Vulpine Siblings”. Are you really siblings? And how did the band form and what was the first single you recorded?
Vulpine Siblings refers to the concepts the band is based on - a dark, mythical tale envisaged by Matt, where a woman is left on her wedding night by a man who is said to have the heart of a wolf. She gives birth to their four children, and the true form of these children is unknown - human, wolf or both. The concepts of the band are based around that myth.
The band formed over a period of about four years, where Lins and Matt played guitar together and began the sounds and concepts later to become MV. A while later, they originally enlisted Tom's help as a guitarist, but realised he fitted perfectly as a mean bassist. In April last year, they came across Shakes and decided to give him a try. The dance influenced beats were just what they were looking for to complete the vision.
Almost exactly one year later, we are to release our debut single called Keep Your Wits Sharp (her words are quick). It was released May 2007 on Leeds label, On the Bone Records. We were lucky enough to record it with Justin Lockey from Yourcodenameis:Milo - after we sent him a demo, he called us the next day and was adamant he would record some of our songs. We've gone on to form a good friendship with the rest of the band and we're expecting to play with them later in the year.
At what age did you get into music?
I think music is something that is instinctually built into you – everyone has as much passion for it and that passion has come about in a few different ways – from Shakes learning drums as soon as he could hit a pan, Tom going to see gigs with his dad aged 7, Matt learning guitar from a young age but asking to be taught how to improvise instead of playing someone else’s songs, and Lins, a bit later as a teenager being completely inspired by the sounds a guitar could make.
What are your plans in regards to an album? How far off before we get our mitts on it?
I think it’ll be a while yet – we’ve only been going a year and we’re really trying to get our name and live shows out there as much as possible at the moment, there’s a possibility of an E.P. or another single aimed for Autumn, again recorded with Justin from YCNI:M. We’re unsigned as well which means we’re trying to leave our options open and see how far we can get as an unsigned band.
You’ve written quite a few songs in the last year. Have these been songs you’ve had and only just recorded or are they entirely new? And what’s your approach writing music? Where do the ideas come from and how long does it take to pull it together?
We still play a couple of songs in our set that we wrote the week we became a band – one of which people say is our best song. We’re trying to take some time to write at the moment because oddly enough it sometimes takes a back seat with us doing all our own artwork/posters/videos etc. We’re intent on having a strong identity and all that is just as important, but we’ve definitely got to a point where we just need some solid writing and recording time. Our process of writing is still developing as we’ve still only written about 10 songs. Mostly Matt will head up the main riffs/vision and the band will build around it, or sometimes he’ll have worked on an almost complete song, including drum parts. Some can pull together in a couple of sessions, others can be trickier and we have to leave and come back to.
How has the touring been going? Anything surprise you while on tour? And how was it being the Eagles of Death Metal's main support act? Did you learn anything from EODM while on tour?
The EODM tour was amazing, more than any band at our level could wish for – I mean, we’d never toured and suddenly we were playing the likes of Manchester Academy and fucking London Astoria! I think for ourselves it was kind of how we expected touring to be, and for a pretty hardcore national tour I think we did really well, a lot of people told us we were the best support act they’d ever seen – a lot of the time you end up with a crap band you don’t pay attention to, but we played it like they were there for us and there were a lot of people who were into it. The EODM guys were great – we didn’t know if they would just say hi and that would be that, but they were good to us – made sure we had food and beer and invited us when they were partying. We learnt from them too, and Jesse is a real businessman, he knows the game and he plays it, which was his advice to us.
Matthew, you directed the video for the brilliant Keep Your Wits Sharp (Her Words Are Quick) yourself. Have you been interested in filmmaking for long and where did you learn? Would you tell us about making the video, the idea behind it, and how you settled on the look of it?
Hello. Yes I have been interested in film and the making of it for long time, for about as long as i've been listening to music. I didn't learn anywhere, and i've never been to any film school or anything. But I've always imagined images to music i've listened to.
I didn't really know how we'd managed to assemble it all, but we somehow had so I just kind of tried to grab the Camera Operators by the horns and really describe what i wanted each shot to look like. The video overall had taken a lot of planning, like organizing the wolf and its trainer, and quad bike's to film off of the back of and slow motion set up's etc, which took me, Lins, and Matt Maude (best buddy, great producer/co-director) a lot of time and stress, but it seemed like for a debut production I had set the bar pretty high with what i wanted, like wanting it to be outside, in unpredictable English weather and working with animals etc.
"I wanted to convey that panic and helplessness of the butcher and to try to really harness that uncomfortable energy throughout the whole video."
The idea behind the video as a whole was basically to convey a fairly ominous and intimidating persona or situation, and for the observer of the video to feel like they we're almost involved in the plot just by watching it. I wanted it to be unclear as to who we we're in the video, and the relationship between us and the wolf to be really blurry. I wanted to convey that panic and helplessness of the butcher and to try to really harness that uncomfortable energy throughout the whole video.
Some of the longer cuts, which would last up to 20 to 30 seconds (like for the verses for example) we're pretty tricky to shoot, and took a lot of rehearsal and a lot of takes to get right. I wanted the video to look washed out and dark. We we're really interested in the possibilities of colour correction that would be available in the edit. We we're thinking of films like 'Sleepy Hollow' and things of that nature, but obviously we didn't have the budget or the time to involved correction to that degree.
So after shooting, with the help of Jay Cover, our chief editor, we just gradually tried different ways to colour it until we we're happy with what we we're seeing. We wanted green to be apparent throughout the video. Shooting took 2 very long days, and editing took 6 even longer days, as we had to work pretty quickly as we had deadlines to keep to. I think as a first video we're all really happy with what came out.
Would you describe the music scene in Leeds as you see it? And what do you see as the differences and similarities between Leeds and Sheffield? Any other up-and-coming artists from Leeds to look out for?
You sometimes forget how good this music scene actually is after you’ve been here for a few years until you visit another city. You could stumble across a decent band almost every night here. We don’t really intend to be a ‘Leeds band’ because we’re aiming for something more timeless and conceptual, not fashionable – which is what some of the music scene is here. There are some brilliant bands though – Wintermute, Napoleon IIIrd, These Monsters, Sky Larkin just to name a few.
What musicians would you say inspired you and/or do you just admire?
I think we admire musicians that do what we intend to – to make music for the love of it and to create something we’d all want to listen to – I’m still not sick of the songs! (Lins) We love bands like QOTSA, Yourcodenameis:milo, Daft Punk etc. but then everyone has their own input – Shakes’ dance background, Tom’s energetic hardcore (i.e. Blood Brothers), Matt’s poppier background (think Grandaddy/Foo Fighters/Presidents of the U.S.A etc) and Lins classic rock upbringing and love for post-rock. You can hear all that when you listen to the songs and I really like that.
Okay, we know Matthew does video, are there any other arts outside music that any of you do? (writing, painting, photography, etc.) And what artists do you admire outside music? (filmmakers, writers, painters, etc.)
Everyone is really into their art in this band – Lins does a degree in Visual Communications (video production/photography/design etc.), the same course that Tom has just graduated from. He works alongside Jay Cover, the 5th member of the Vulpine family (was a major part of post-production on the video and designed the single artwork) – together they form the NousVous collective (see their website) where they do art for other bands, as well as other music videos/animations, they make zines and put on exhibitions. Matt quit his fine art course to concentrate on music but is very artistically inspired and has a hand in every detail of the band, including visually. Shakes is also on an art degree and gets involved in computer-aided design/animation etc. So we’re pretty busy all round.
What’s there to look forward to from Mother Vulpine in the future? And what does Mother Vulpine look forward to in the future?
There’s a strong likelihood of a tour around September with a big U.K act and potentially a small slot at Leeds festival, should we get through the competition!
A release of some sort in the autumn, then we’ll take it from there and set out for apocalyptic world domination.
Mother Vulpine MySpace
Drowned in Sound feature
BBC OnTheBone feature