Earning plaudits left, right and centre, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby talks to one of Alan Wills’ final discoveries about the GIT Award, movies and what we could learn from the scene in Europe.
Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia has proven year in, year out that there is a large, dedicated audience for whacked out experimental bands in the city and beyond. Right now, The Vryll Society are near the top of the pile. But, of course, you know that, right? The band are making such serious waves that any regular readers of Getintothis know exactly who The Vryll Society are.
One of the last discoveries of Alan Wills, the man who brought us The Coral, The Zutons and Miles Kane, The Vryll Society – or Lewis McGuinness, Lloyd Shearer, Benjamin Robinson and Mike and Ryan Ellis – are already making waves. In fact, our meeting was put off while the band were in Europe. “It’s better out there,” Mike says. “They know how to do it properly. Look at European architecture, and the food. They put the same into the music. The venues are beautiful. When we played in Hull, it was like playing at Phoenix Nights or something. The audiences are more into it too. We can learn from them, definitely.”
That’s not to say they didn’t run into problems. “The coach that was taking us to the airport left about 25 minutes early so I missed the plane,” laughs Ryan. “I went to the information desk and told them what had happened and they just looked at me and said ‘what do you want me to do about it?’
“There’s a lot of British bands doing great in Europe right now though. Lapsley is really going down well over there. She’s got that European art-house thing.”
Knowing he was on to a winner with them if they were given time to hone their craft, Wills locked the boys away until they were ready, and it’s only fairly recently that they have been making their mark; “We’ve only really been putting releases out in the last twelve months. Our first release was last July, that was Deep Blue Skies, and we’ve had an EP since then,” Lewis tells us.
That EP – Pangea – was undeniably one of the most exciting released of 2015. An 18-minute kaleidoscope of baggy brilliance that led several reviewers on blogs up and down the country to proclaim that the third coming of the Stone Roses was entirely moot when we’ve got The Vryll Society knocking about, and tour mates Blossoms referred to them as “The best band in Britain at the moment“.
There are probably some who see that kind of reaction as mere hyperbole, but the progression between the EP and the basic blues of aforementioned debut single Deep Blue Skies is undeniable. If The Vryll Society keep this up, there is no telling what they could achieve.
The band are certainly pleased with the reaction, with Mike contending; “People are starting to see the bigger picture.”
The progression, then, looks set to continue. The Vryll Society look set to be a band that constantly look forward in their art. Mike tells us; “We’re hoping to be getting an album underway soon, and we’re halfway through a double A-side called La Jetée, which is named after a Chris Marker film”.
The track has since been completed and released, and can be heard below. La Jetée is a 1962 French science fiction short film that tells the story of the fallout from a nuclear war, almost exclusively made up of still photographs. It is archetypal of our conversation that they should compare themselves or their situation to a movie. Throughout our chat, we kept coming back to the subject of films. When we first sat down, we were talking about Leonardo DiCaprio eating liver for The Revenant despite being a vegan, and when asked where they would like the band to be placed in the pantheon, Mike responds “Like Tarantino or Scorsese”, and not another band or musician. Is film therefore as much – or maybe even more – of an influence on their work as music?
“I prefer writing in that kind of cinematic style,” band lyricist Mike says.” I like films and artists, rather than the Alex Turner thing of writing about realistic everyday stuff. We prefer surrealism, we want to switch people’s brains on. Labels think that the general public are morons, but if you give people better art, you’re going to make better people. If the music industry decided to release quality, people would still buy it.”
When we ask why they think the music industry don’t promote this quality, they answer almost in unison “it’s easier”.
Despite all their experimentation and committal to the art, The Vryll Society are also smart enough to know pure experimentation gets you nowhere. Throughout their music, the band maintain a level of accessibility that many bands in their position might be quick to dismiss, but Lloyd is adamant; “You need the hook. You can’t just go out there and be weird. You can, I suppose, but not if you really want to reach people”.
Benjamin agrees; “When Beak> played in town, there were about 40 people there. They were amazing, and it was great to see them in the flesh, but you need something more if you want to capture a bigger audience. I mean, we definitely like pop music, at least for the melodies; doo wop, Motown, The Beatles’ early stuff.”
Mike: “There’s still some great pop out there, like Fleet Foxes are amazing. But I think the days of the Top 20 being good are over.”
When we suggest that something like punk could come along and change things one day, they are split down the middle. Although they don’t even rule out being one of the bands capable of making it happen, they also say real, zeitgeist-capturing scenes are a thing of the past. Mike passionately exclaims; “This” – pointing at the rest of the band – “is my scene”. The message is clear; the only scene that matters is the one that exists within your own band. Concentrate on that, and everything will work out.
That certainly seems to be the case here. The future seems solid for the band. They are fast rising through the ranks and into the heart of the gig going public, and winning plaudits at every new turn.
This sadly means that currently The Vryll Society are so busy that their appearance at the GIT Award ceremony itself appears to be in doubt. “We’ve been to the last two. When are the awards? May? I don’t know if we can make it. Maybe we can send a video message, ” Mike jokes. ‘We’re sorry we couldn’t be there to accept the award tonight…!’”
The GIT Award 2016 take place at Constellations on May 14 – and The Vryll Society are playing. Tickets are available here.