AN INTERVIEW WITH VAGUE
“You just want to be there along with them while they’re doing it because it’s special,” Dillon Backhouse said. The clock about to strike 11, beer in hand, waiting around for Vague to finish the interview so they could continue with their night. I marveled at his patience but couldn’t help wonder why he’d sacrifice his night to sit around the telephone to make one quick comment about the band. Listening to his friends discuss music he had no hand in creating and no formal role in the band beside dedicated fan he seemingly had nothing invested in it. However almost two hours later he was still there.
It seems anyone exposed to Vague quickly contracts that infatuation, becoming absolutely enamored with them and desperate to be a part of what they’re doing in any way possible. A feeling even I wasn’t immune to after listening to their debut EP, Bored. Something about their post 90’s hybrid rock combined with thought provoking motifs and scrutiny disguised as satire is exhilarating while embodying their boredom. They are an enigma of all the realist bores of everyday life escalated by their intense riffs and overdrive into a romanticized daydream no one can resist. During my chat with the boys one thing became increasingly evident just as Dillon had said: these boys and that music is special.
HUGO: lead guitarist
SAM: sing, guitar
TELL US ABOUT THE BIRTH OF THE BAND!
SAM: From the very start I’d been writing songs for a while, mostly just in secondary school or high school I suppose, and I started listening to stuff like Oasis and kind of the obscure side of britpop in England and I just always wanted to be in a band, like the whole romantic side of it. I just wanted to be in a band and we’re from a very small area in the north of England so it's really hard to find people to be in a band with, but I asked Bryn who's the bassist, and we started writing stuff together. Then things changed and Bryn went to a different band and then we came back in October of last year and that is what Vague is now.
HUGO: I mean Hayden wasn’t even a drummer we were just like ‘Hayden can you learn the drums?’
SAM: We live in a small town so there's not many people around, there's only like 2 drummers, one we already pissed off and one we’d told to leave so Hayden didn’t play drums at all but then we asked him and he did. We started gigging in November and we recorded the EP in December and really it wasn’t even meant to be a full EP.
WHAT’S THE MUSIC SCENE LIKE IN THIS SMALL TOWN IN ENGLAND?
DANNY: Hull is a half hour away from where we live and it’s kind of the hub so then everyone that's a cool looking kid kind of has their own band and 9 times out of 10 it’s like ‘oh we’ll try to do something kind of like Radiohead.’ It’s not really bandy anymore it’s more like ‘we’ll just fuck around and scream and cry into the mic a bit and not really make songs’ it’s kind of like noise. Vague was slowly doing there own thing and then one time I was like ‘yeah I’ll go watch Vague…’
HUGO: I wasn’t even a part of the band yet but it was at O’Rileys and about 7 other people were there and I was one of those 7…
DANNY: Yeah it was a full on dead gig, the only people in the audience were the other people performing so you were basically just performing to the other bands so as soon as you were finished you’d go watch the band that took your place and it was dead but I fucking loved it. I knew they had something, so as soon as it was done I was like ‘hey do you need someone to just tag along and take photos?’ From there I worked my way into more. The music scene around us is literally ‘I’m in a band’ ‘oh that’s cool.’ People try so hard to be different that it just sounds like shit.
HUGO: The whole music scene is full of bands and it’s like “oh only really cool people can listen to my band because if a lot of people listen to my band then it’s not cool anymore” and at that point it's like what do you want? Why don’t you want people to listen to your music?
SAM: Stylistically there's a big grunge scene, a big punk scene, but we’re completely different from that.
ON YOUR EP COVER AND AGAIN IN “SHE’S SO SWEET” THERE’S A LOT OF REFERENCES TO LIPSTICK. WHY THIS RECURRING MOTIF?
SAM: I think all of our songs from a writing perspective are supposed to be theatrical...so the idea of lipstick and that theater and dressing up is just a real strong statement as well as a real recognizable statement. Lipstick is really striking, real visual, you can see it so that perspective was kind of for that. I was fascinated by bands like Suede and Pulp who are really different alternative bands that have their own sexuality and that's how the lipstick goes. You’ll notice in the lyrics and the songwriting the things in Vague are quite simple, but they’ve usually got a kind of creepy twist to it and that's what lipstick is like. The whole image of that was quite literal and in the song “She’s So Sweet” that whole “you’ve never worn lipstick” is the line. I just got real conscious that every song ever seems to be about a girl and instead of it being a real personal experience it was a way to push it onto someone else. You’ve done that, you’ve done this and I thought when we went to record the EP what if I turn it on it’s head and what if I’d worn lipstick? It’s a real weird image...
YOU MENTIONED THE SHOCK VALUE OF YOUR MUSIC. DO YOU THINK THIS HAS BEEN LOST IN THE MAINSTREAM INDUSTRY? DO YOU THINK THAT’S WHAT DRAWS PEOPLE TO VAGUE?
SAM: Yea I do, I don’t even need to contemplate. I think shock value in bands is lacking. I don’t think it's for the wrong reasons, shock value in bands to me is being kind of being overused. There's a big big punk scene, and I love punk, but there's punk and there's shouting and swearing and doing things just for the fuck of it just to try and make a statement.
HAYDEN: If I had to say anything about the shock value of music nowadays I think music is way too commercialized and so much music is just revolving around charts...the shock value is gone because you’ve got to play the same game in order to fucking get somewhere.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE “BORED” AS THE TITLE TRACK FOR THE EP?
HUGO: Cause we’re all fucking bored!!!
SAM: Just saying bored is the perfect way to describe where we are and where we come from and where I personally write from. We’re not in a very poor place, we’re not in a very rich place, we are in the most normal easy going most stereotypical place you can imagine, like suburbia. We’re four very different people that write music with immensely immensely different influences but the one thing that we all are is bored. Absolutely fucking bored of where we live and how we are.
HAYDEN: In “Bored” we touch on it in a literal sense, like how all the doors are the same color. Which is true, if you look around all the doors here are exactly the same color.
SAM: Vague’s artistic style is really simple, it’s just about taking normal everyday things everyone can relate to no matter what country, what age, and just adding on a little bit of drama to it. Bored is the most beautiful encapsulation of it, really normal everyday things: doors the same color, people cutting lawns, and that’s normal but suddenly the music kicks up and it just starts to push it a little bit. These normal things with the added theatrics to it, that's what it’s always been and what it probably always will be.
YOU PLAY A LOT OF GIGS. DO YOU THINK THAT MAKES IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO CONNECT WITH YOUR MUSIC?
HUGO: The recording doesn’t really do us justice...if you hear it live it’s completely different...the atmosphere, everything is going on, it’s loud, it hurts your ears, it’s amazing, it gives a different air and a different feel to it not just because it's live music. A recording will never compare because there’s no atmosphere there, it’s just what you make of the song, what you hear is what you think the band is.
HAYDEN: If you’re just playing in a studio or to a glass wall essentially to yourself through a pair of headphones, if you’ve got an audience in front of you, you’re so much more inspired as a musician - you’re giving them something and they’re giving you something straight back. It makes it all worthwhile.
SAM: Playing live gives you the assurance it’s working. For example, the first time we went to play London at the O2 Academy, a big gig, we’d invited a producer to come down and see us, and he didn’t show up and we’d lost a lot of money going down and we were going onstage this is the worst thing we’ve spent so much money to get down here.
HUGO: We got on stage and had the mindset of this doesn’t matter we can do whatever we want.
SAM: Boys! What I was trying to say was that it was a shit day but the second we got onstage and played the crowd for the first time at our first gig just transformed. You could see every single person no matter the age going ‘what the fucking hell is he on about?’ But they were like, I don’t get it but it’s really good, and they were all jumping and we knew it was working.
DANNY: We went to London and we were like let’s just get it over with have a good time do whatever and by the end of it, it was almost like something from a fucking movie. I called an uber and the uber guy turned up and we were swarmed by girls. There was about 16 people around the band saying ‘can you get a quick photo?’ So I was taking a photo with one phone getting out another phone, another phone, another phone, whatever. And the uber guy was like ‘I’m going to start the timer.’ So I had to tell them to fuck off, get Vague into the uber like ‘get in the fucking car! I’m paying for this!’ it was something out of a dream where you see people mobbed and it was so bizarre to see….That was 17-19 year olds and they were loving it - mosh pits, bouncing around... The next day we were at the Priory, it was a Lee Jeans 50th anniversary...and on that night we had mosh pits of ages 20 to 50 year old men going nuts. We went from girls age 16 to 25 absolute losing their shit to our music to then the next day having mosh pits of 20 to 50 year old men like it couldn’t be any different!
MOST SURREAL MEMORY OF THIS JOURNEY SO FAR?
BRYN: Where we live is such a desolate place. We write songs about it and we’re bored, but at the same time the thing that made me really happy was playing at Priory and seeing all these people, it was almost like a coming together, a subculture of sorts - everyone had come together for this Priory gig not to let loose but to come together and listen to music. It was just real warm I thought, it was both people I’d never seen and people I’m close with. I was seeing Dill and 40 year old Steve in the background. It’s warming to have that sort of feeling.
HUGO: Most surreal moment was when we played London and we went on stage with that ‘fuck this attitude’ we’d had the worst day and we were at least 100 quid each just to get to this one gig we had to pay for the hotel, the transport, all this I was lugging a fucking 25 pound amp around London and then we got on and we were expecting it to be the worst thing ever. But the crowd just absolutely loved it. We’d never had a crowd move to us before because it had always just been like ‘oh they’re our mates on stage, we’re not going to dance to them fuck that I’ll look like a dickhead.’ So we have all these people who are complete strangers, never heard of us, never seen us, we’re from Yorkshire so they just laughed at the fact that we had a different accent and then they were absolutely loving it. We went outside and there where all these females swarming towards us. All these people we thought were going to think we were crap came out and absolutely loved our stuff - it was an eye opener to see that people were loving us when we weren’t expecting that they would.
HAYDEN: The most surreal moment was when you told everyone to shush and get down and literally the whole audience just lowered. It was like we had full control over the audience and we’d never had that before.