I get to review and interview a lot of bands…
with all of them offering something a little bit deferent. The Vex are a very different proposition. The boys release their eponymous E.P. on 21st April but have given us a taste glimpse in the form of Living In The. Being a pedant and obsessive; I wondered what that title meant – and whether there should be another word following ‘The’. The guys explain the inspiration behind the song and what it is like living just outside of London. They discuss how they all got together and the significance of Moscow. I was keen to look into the future: we get a first-hand account of plans for the rest of the year. The band are renowned for their dirty beats and big riffs: they provide intelligent lyrics and songs that get listeners hooked and thinking. I was interested to know about the inflicted of their latest single and whether it looks at technology’s hold over the people – whether are too reliant on phones and computers to provide information and company. The Vex are one of the best and biggest bands on the U.K. circuit. I ask whether they are touring this year and whether, after their E.P. is out, they are planning any more music.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Good evening. We’re split across the world right now as Jack and Andrew are on a spiritual journey in Peru whilst Josh and Josh are holding the fort in the U.K. Our latest single, Living in The, has just been released and the vinyl for our upcoming E.P. is in the pressing plant. As of next week, we will start rehearsing for our headlining gig at The Finsbury (London) on April 22nd – so, collectively, it’s been a great week for us as individuals and a group.
Thanks for asking!
For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?
We play heavy ‘Rocksteady’ music that could also be described as boxing-music. It’s heavy music that could be the soundtrack for the production line of every individual’s definition of ‘cool’.
You are based on the outskirts of London. What is the music scene like where you are and how important is London to all of you?
We’ve had loads of great times putting on nights in Lewisham and Deptford; the crowds want to stay out all night which creates a lovely drunken unity. But, we’ve had a lot of venues close down and none open. S.E. London is lacking a killer venue right now which means everyone’s heading North or East to put on nights. I’ve recently moved to Gravesend in Kent. The potential is huge: there’s quite a few musicians living on my street and living is cheaper down here so people have got space to create.
But we need a few more bands to get a scene going, everyone! Move to Gravesend! It’d be great! The pub covers-band-circuit is strong, though. Beergut 100, Scam 69; Modraphenia – all the classics.
I believe you all got together, oddly, in Moscow. Can you tell the story of how the band got together and when it all sort of clicked?
We were playing in a band before. We were doing pretty well; we bumped into Adam Ant in Camden, approached him; became friends, toured together and he ended up wanting to manage us.
He’s been a very famous performer since he was young which means he was pretty out-of-touch with how to manage and break a guitar band in 2013 – so his management proposition wasn’t ideal. He drafted some ludicrous proposition that would dictate the band’s wardrobe, take all our money; be extended indefinitely at will, those kinda things. This caused a divide in the band between those that wanted to go with this and those that didn’t. We were booked to play at Blastfest in Moscow, and we’d got to a point where the band couldn’t continue. So, in one evening we got together, formed The Vex and called Moscow to tell them that’d we’d still be coming. Three days later we played our first gig as The Vex at Blastfest and it was wicked. Thanks, Adam!
Your music has roots of Jamaican rhythms and British-Rock. That is quite a rare blend. What is the reason behind mixing these nations and sounds?
Well. It’s like how Pete Seeger says in Turn! Turn! Turn! that there is a time for everything. We feel there is a time for big heavy riffs and that there is a time for huge Reggae rhythms – and we mostly feel that their time is at the same time. We all grew up listening to Punk music and Jamaican music and we simply love those sounds.
Talk to me about Living in The. It seems like there should be an ellipsis there – Living in The … Modern World/City? What are the inspirations behind the E.P.?
There’s no time for an ellipsis when you’re living in the present. No time for such literary suspense.
It’s about living now, feeling things now and enjoying that; being satisfied with that, feeling wholesome; celebrating the lack of focus on the what-ifs and the could-haves.
Again, there is a time for everything and a lot of the time you’ve gotta get some dirty guitars on the go. Get your kick-drum going four-to-the-floor and just shake it!
It seems like it addresses modern technology and how disconnected we are becoming. Do you feel there is a need for people to dispense of their phones and get back into the world?
So many humans in this country are addicted to their mobile phones to a point of lunacy. Not only do they dominate every spare moment that people could have – as we log in so we don’t have to think our own thoughts – but people, now, cross roads whilst looking at their phones (and it’s absolutely insane). Living in The is an attempt to prevent the human race from looking at their phones whilst skydiving. Look up and see the cherry blossom.
The music has a vibe of The Clash’s best and most righteous albums. Are they are a big influence for all of you?
Yeah. We’re fans of The Clash: they had edge and style; the real deal.
The Vex is your new E.P. How does it differ from your previous two and what kind of topics are discussed on the E.P.?
This one differs because we’re putting it out ourselves – hence it being a self-titled. It’s very satisfying to be free to do what we want with this one. Musically it’s more upbeat than our last one, Heavy Rocksteady, so grab a partner.
Lyrically, this time we’re taking on freedom of speech, freedom to be educated; freedom to eat your words and accepting the fact that you are going to die.
There’s definitely some stuff to sing along to!
You worked with Jim Riley (he engineered it) on the E.P. What was that experience like?
Working with Jim is great. If you’re in a band and you want your record to sound like you do live, go to Ranscombe Studios. Jim gives you the space to play it your way and the know-how and the top vintage gear to make it rock.
Any plans for more music in the pipeline?
Yeah, we’re not wasting any time. We’re writing the next E.P. right now. We’re all back in the same country soon so we’ll start putting ideas together and we’re gonna (sic.) record in July. This time around we’re renting a warehouse space and, with our friend Pete, we’re gonna turn it into a studio for the week and record there. We’ve not done it this way before so we’re looking forward to exploring the unknown.
The Vex play The Finsbury on 22nd April. Any more gigs coming up? Do you guys love getting on the road and reaching the people?
The Finsbury gig is gonna be our big headliner before we focus on writing the next record and then recording it. In the past, we used to gig non-stop and rarely record which meant we rarely released anything. Whereas now we’re really focused on recording and releasing, so that’s taking a priority over touring.
But touring has made us who we are: it’s only from hitting it so hard live that we feel ready and confident enough to take a more studio approach. It also gives us freedom to have our own lives as well.
Jack has been travelling South America this year; Josh had a daughter last year. Andrew is getting quite serious with his cycling and both Joshs are studying. Those things could never have happened if we were still trying to spend our lives on the road. We’re at a point where we’re comfortable enough to do what we want to do and make the band work around that, which is great.
Which albums have meant the most to you as musicians?
Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come
The Congos – Heart of the Congos
Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home
The Beatles – Beatles for Sale
Yabby You – Beware Dub
In your view, who are the new artists you recommend we connect with?
We’re the ones who need to connect with new artists: please tell us!
Have you any advice for new songwriters emerging at the moment?
Listen to The Kinks.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of your own as I’ll do that).
Thanks very much. Let’s have…
Conquering Lion – Yabby You
The Kinks – Afternoon Tea
The Dubliners – School Days Over
Metallica – ManUNKind
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