Kendal's flamboyant finest talk to Clash...

Four childhood friends from Kendal made an extravagant, flamboyant, uncompromising musical debut. Eight years, four albums and a Mercury nomination later and Wild Beasts are taking the world’s festival circuit by storm. Clash caught up with vocalist/bassist Tom Fleming and guitarist/keyboardist Ben Little to discuss their monumental plans for the summer.

Wearing customised denim clothing by Levi’s, which visually encapsulates the style and craftsmanship of their music, the band’s festival-ready style was created at the Levi’s Tailor Shop, available in their stores nationwide. Creating on-trend looks including leg tapering, original patches, artful distressing and quirky embellishments; the boys’ respective looks prove that clean cut needn’t mean disappearing into the crowd.

They’re literally traversing the globe, but when asked if there’s a favourite festival to play, Tom replies without hesitation. “Well, there’s Glastonbury, which is like Christmas in every sense. It’s almost too big and over-hyped, yet it’s still the one you want to do.” And this will be their third time at the mother of all music festivals. “We’re also going to Istanbul, Open’er in Poland and Unknown in Croatia, which is a great festival.”

Playing outdoors to enormous audiences is a different beast to touring. Despite the glamour of being flown directly to their destinations they’re unable to rely on an audience composed entirely of fans. “You need to win over the people at the back who have just wandered over to see what’s going on,” Ben admits. “It’s a totally different crowd; at festivals it’s holiday time, people just want to let go and enjoy themselves.”

They possess a healthy dose of humility coupled with an admirably steely streak of tenacity. A lack of complacency allows them to enjoy the challenge of not only retaining existing fans but also creating new ones. Playing their most recent songs to a less-than-captive audience isn’t a worry - Tom is confident in their new material. “I feel quiet bullish about it,” he says. “I think our earlier records were a little less accessible perhaps, but our songs have gotten stronger and more suited to that arena. I don’t think we’re a summer-festival-friendly band particularly, but we do have loud, big sounds now, which kind of helps.”

Wild Beasts are still inspired by festivals, the friends they’ve made and the artists they’ve discovered at them. Ben loves the element of the unexpected, like discovering treasure. “I do love it at a festival when a band wins you over. You may have written them off because they’re the cool thing at the moment, then you stumble upon them live. I remember seeing The Antlers at Treasure Island in San Francisco and that was a fantastic show. It makes you a fan for life something like that.”

Ironically they didn’t go to many festivals when they were younger because ostensibly they lived in the middle of nowhere, and their hothouse sound is probably in part due to that sense of isolation. They weren’t scene kids, but Tom suggests they did have allegiances of sorts: “It is probably fair to say that a little bit of the lad element in Manchester is probably the soil that we came out of. Obviously we’ve moved quite far from that but that element was the starting point, the grain of sand that everything is built around.”

They’ve certainly consolidated their wildly disparate influences and consistently aimed high. “It’s a great British disease to not try hard enough,” he suggests. “It’s better to try hard and fall short.” It’s an admirable sentiment that can only ensure the longevity of their very big adventure.

Words: Anna Wilson
Photography: Liam MF Warwick

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