Since they first appeared on the gig circuit a couple of years ago, VANT have snowballed in popularity, supporting the likes of You Me At Six and Royal Blood, whilst repeatedly featuring on Annie Mac’s Hottest Record In The World. It is rare nowadays that a band so loyal to their interest in politics can maintain such prosperity, in a musical landscape that promotes increasingly bland acts that stay clear of controversy in a bid to appeal to all audiences.
We met VANT as they geared up to support You Me At Six at Shepherds Bush, in an effort to discuss the group’s ever-growing fan base and what it means to be a politically outspoken band in 2016.
As their month long tour with You Me At Six comes to a close, frontman Mattie Vant spoke of how the group were itching to return to headline performances.
“I think that the combination of playing a summer of festivals and this tour has made us eager to play our own shows for as long as we want and as loud as we want,” said Mattie. “But equally, this has been wicked for us, You Me At Six are really nice guys and we’ve reached a different audience that might not have listened to us otherwise.”
It does appear that VANT have mastered the art of supporting acts; having toured extensively with many bands over the past few years – e.g. Royal Blood and The Kooks, but what does this say about their musical direction? Although the group has many pop-punk elements in their music, they are a far cry from You Me At Six and they don’t incorporate the same lovesick lyrical content that you can find in tracks from The Kooks.
“We’ve always known what music we wanted to make,” Mattie told me. “But you can’t underestimate the audience, purely based on the fact that they’ve come to see the headline act; nowadays there are kids at grime shows that’ll go to rock shows as well. We’re very set on what we want to play, what we want to represent and what we want to talk about.”
Mattie and guitarist Henry discuss how easy it has been to hold onto these values as VANT have grown in popularity; has record label input and media attention (especially from the politically impartial BBC) not added pressure to dilute the opinions that the group convey in there music? “The bigger our audience gets, the bigger the influence we will have and hopefully we can go on to change things outside of music,” Mattie remarked.
The vocalist has a point; what is the function of a musician with a message, if you are willing to compromise your beliefs as soon as you reach a large enough audience to really make a difference?
The band’s commitment to their mission statement is unwavering and their shows are as much demonstrations of their poltical zealour, as they are musical events. “All of our shows are a direct form of activism and protest, they’re about connecting with people physically instead of just digitally and it shows in our growth that people are interested in these things and are genuinely excited by the prospect of someone giving them a voice,” he said.
Having formed in late 2014, VANT may have arrived at just the right time, as the political climate of the world has changed vastly in recent years; with Britain voting to leave the European Union, Syrian refugees dividing opinion worldwide and Trump vying for presidency. “People are so much more aware of politics now, major events that divide the young generation & the old timers of a nation, like Brexit, gives us more value,” Mattie remarked.
The vast changes in the political landscape of Britain are never more prevalent than when listening to one of the band’s older tracks, Birth Certificate, written about an Australian lover in the midst of being deported. “The opening line is: ‘Our legislation is so black and white. Immigration laws can’t change overnight.’ But since the referendum, the immigration laws have completely changed overnight! That song was very much about my ex, but the song has morphed into a totally different thing after Brexit.”
It seems that, in a modern political climate that is stranger than fiction and a lack of trust in politicians since the EU referendum, our youth may be in need of political bands more so than ever before. Too many of Generation Y are making political decisions based on celebrity endorsements and Facebook memes, which defeats the object of a democracy and leads many young voters to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to making decisions.
“It’s important to let people form their own opinions, we just kind of say ‘well this is what we think; kind of fucked up isn’t it?’”
When I asked Mattie if he was happy for VANT to be considered a political band in a modern music scene that does not generally welcome political outspokenness, he assured me that, however you classify the band, their message is not all doom and gloom;
“I don’t really give a fuck, you can call us whatever you want, it’s not only about being angry, it’s about remembering what it is to be alive!”
VANT headed to various places across London on Tuesday as part of their #DontDoABrexit shows, and head off across the UK on tour later this month. For a full list of dates and tickets head over to VANT’s website.
Words by Matt Ganfield (@mattganfield0, Images by Patrick Gunning