Musicscan: For those who might not know, please give a brief description of Vessels to the best of your ability.
Vessels: We are a 5 –piece experimental rock band from Leeds, UK. We have been playing loud music in the vein of bands like Mogwai and Battles since 2005.
Musicscan: The first thing people probably notice about Vessels is the absence of a singer for most of the time. Was it always the intention for you to be kind of an instrumental band with only having rare vocal parts?
Vessels: I am not sure we have ever wanted to be only an instrumental band. It is true that we formed the band with a mutual love of intelligent instrumental rock music. However we have always been interested in bands that use vocals as an extra texture/instrument (for example Broken Social Scene or The Appleseed Cast) and as such have always wanted to be able to use vocals in our music whenever we felt it was necessary. As such, the new album ‘Helioscope’ has vocals on a number of the tracks.
Musicscan: What influences you to make this “crossover” Vessel are playing? Does most of the influence come from personal experiences and moods, or from listening to similar bands?
Vessels: I think it comes from having an open-mind towards music and being influenced by more than one style. We have never wanted to be pigeon-holed solely as a post-rock band which is why we have tried to experiment with different styles, use vocals, electronics and so on. We have certainly taken a lot of inspiration from bands such as Do Make Say Think and Battles but hopefully we are not just imitating them… it is very easy to do that in the post-rock genre, so we are always careful to make sure that what we are doing is not too derivative, and has a certain sound of its own. I hope we have taken a step closer to that with Helioscope.
Musicscan: What is the writing process like for you guys? Do a lot of songs come out of jamming or are they consciously constructed from one person's idea?
Vessels: Both. Certainly we used to write songs from playing together as a band for hours and hours. It was in this way that we learnt to play together as a group of musicians and become a tight unit. Some great songs came out of this process but it has also held us back as well because it can be a very labour intensive way to write. Much of the material for the new album was written from one person’s (Lee) ideas with input from the band at a later stage. Not only was this a quicker process but I think it means that the songs sound more coherent together.
Musicscan: How do you know when the song is finished and ready for recording?
Vessels: Most of the material for Helioscope, because of the way that it was written, was demoed right from the beginning so we had recorded versions of ideas right from the start. This made it quite easy to analyse the progress of the song. We would listen back to the tracks, adding new parts here, deleting parts there, until the song made sense sonically from start to finish. I remember that some really good ideas were deleted because they didn’t make sense or fit in the context of the song. We played a lot of the songs live before going in to the studio to record them finally, and this helps to figure out if the song is completely finished or if it still needs some work. It also helps the song to grow and develop dynamically so that the performances are better in the recording.
Musicscan: Are there any unifying themes to the songs Vessels have created so far?
Vessels: I don’t think there is any grand, unifying theme to our music. On a vocal level the lyrics tend to be impressionistic and intimate rather than overblown or conceptual. The rest of the time there are no words and I would prefer to think that listeners develop their own themes and ideas from the music. That is certainly what I do when I listen to music, regardless of what the explicit theme might be.
Musicscan: Of all the songs Vessels have made, what is the one you’re most proud of? Why?
Vessels: Probably ‘100 Times in Every Direction’. It is the song where we most successfully employ the use of two drum kits which is something I have wanted to do more of but is a complete nightmare logistically. I think it is the song where we most successfully combine vocals with a post-rock structured song. It is also a lot of fun to play live!
Musicscan: How do you feel Helioscope differs, if at all, from your debut album? How did you guys approach production this time around as compared to the debut?
Vessels: I think Helioscope has less of the formulaic post-rock stuff on than White Fields and Open Devices. Of course we still use a number of the recognizable tricks of the post-rock trade but I think that there are a number of other things going on this time as well. It is certainly a much more dancy record, more synths, less mathy time-signatures and more 4/4 grooving.
Musicscan: As an artist, it seems that you have no limit to the ideas that you are able to make. Do you see yourself taking on more and more musical opportunities in the future? What are some of the goals and things that you'd like to see happen down the road?
Vessels: Something that is exciting at the moment is an interactive video that one of our highly talented friends is designing for us and will be available soon. It would be interesting to see how we could develop the visual side of the band in the future.
I think we will continue to make music for as long as it is viable, certainly we are excited to see what we could do with a third album. It seems that people are starting to take notice of what we are doing which is amazing. I think we really want to build on this and take our music to as many people as possible. I would also like to see us become a financially as well as an artistically viable enterprise as this would help to sustain our longevity - it is a very hard business to stay afloat in!
Musicscan: Do you care about fitting into a certain scene or genre? Is there a genre or scene you feel connected with?
Vessels: I don’t think we are too bothered about fitting into a scene or a genre – these are things that understandably get pushed on you in a desire to categorise music but it is often more limiting than helpful.
We are, however, very much a product of the Leeds music scene which has supported us a great deal and where there is a great sense of community.
Musicscan: What current artists or bands would you recommend to someone looking to check out something new?
Vessels: Cougar, Three Trapped Tigers, Thee More Shallows, The Octopus Project, Holy Fuck, The Berg Sans Nipple, Adebisi Shank, Zen Zen Egui.
Musicscan: What is it that Vessels offers you personally and what are you trying to accomplish with it?
Vessels: I have always played in a band since the age of 13. I am not sure I can imagine what life would be like without it – probably a lot easier! Certainly, I appreciate being involved in the musical world of Vessels, we get a chance to play music and meet like-minded people who are passionate about music. One of the great things about being on tour (at our level) is to arrive in a city where you may know no one and immediately feel a connection with people and find out about the local music scene from people who are directly involved in it. We have had some great collective experiences as a band – playing festivals, going on tour and recording in America. I hope we can continue with these experiences, continue to write music and to play to as many people as possible.