“It Sets A Nice Intention!” Yoga With Bob Vylan

The duo discuss their eagerly-anticipated new album...

“I can’t remember how it started,” says Bob Vylan front man, Bobby Vylan whilst pausing for thought. “And I can’t remember where it started”. We are discussing the ritual Bob Vylan have started at their live shows where they begin each performance with some yoga and meditation over thunderous drum beats. He looks to his drummer, aptly named Bobbie Vylan, for his input. “At the end of shows, we would go into the crowd and do group hugs,” Bobbie adds. “But that was before any of this”.

“Yeah and then at some point we started playing the intro song that we have and it started to become stretching and meditation.” With no other bands (to our knowledge) beginning their shows with punky meditation and stretching, Bob Vylan seem to have started this completely on their own. Bobby continues, “I remember why, maybe not why it started, but I remember why we continued to do it and that was because we wanted to make the crowd aware that they are there for a show but its gonna be a show that we set the pace for. Obviously you get people heckling sometimes, shouting ‘play this song’, which is fine. But I think going out on stage and not being vocal for two and a half/three minutes where we just play and stretch – I feel like it sets a nice intention.”

The band and I have just finished a one hour yoga meditation session at Doom Yoga. For someone like myself who has never experienced a yoga class before, it was daunting being next to both Bobby and Bobbie, two people who practice yoga and meditation in their spare time. With their back catalogue pushing the boundaries of punk and grime whilst riling up their audiences, this new album feels like it’s taken inspiration from their yoga practice and is aimed towards inner healing as a form of protest. Including words of affirmation on the record, “You are loved. You are not alone. You are going through hell but keep going”, it seems Bob Vylan are taking a different approach to change. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no intention of Bob Vylan slowing down and the record is still as angry as its precursors, but their revolution is now starting from within.

“It’s always what needs to be said at the time,” Bobbie begins. “The first album addressed what needed to be addressed. The second album, ‘Price of Life’, addressed the cost of living for people in this country- it needed to be addressed, so it got addressed. People need to know that in times like this, you can keep a positive outlook, you can keep going. What was it you said the other day ‘There’s no use being a broken soldier?’”. 

Bobby adds: “We are wanting to work towards a community amongst ourselves. You see it in the form of protest and different things where people come together to voice an opinion. If we are serious about what it is we wish to see and wish to achieve, then that is a revolution (for lack of a better word as there are different connotations attached to it). If we wish to see a revolution, then that revolt has to start within ourself before it is a wider change. So there is no benefit to anybody or any collective if the individual members are broken. We have to heal, be strong in ourself first and then we can be strong together”

Their third album, ‘Humble as The Sun’, was written over the course of a months whilst the band also got to experience multiple countries through their touring. Speaking fondly of Switzerland and Romania, the pair also reminisce about the 24 hours of daylight they experienced in Norway. “It’s a trip”, says Bobbie. “It was wild” Bobby adds. “Getting to experience that stuff as two guys that come from areas where there are no mountains and not much nature, it’s quite an incredible feeling and not one we take for granted”.

With a new friend of theirs, Rex Roulette, heading away for a two month tour with Eagles of Death Metal, the band were handed the keys to his London studio, Windy Ridge. “It was pretty cool but unheard of,” says Bobby when talking about being trusted with the keys. “I suppose where we come from, people don’t trust you with that stuff”. Luckily this relationship came about at the right time,as this studio became part of the inspiration behind the final album. “I found myself getting out the studio and into the garden and using that space to sit, meditate and watch nature within the city we are living in”.

“Just that process and experience, sitting in the sun at summertime and meditating in that, I was figuring out what it is that as a lyricist I want to say. [I was] taking cues from the nature and all the things I am surrounded by and that we’ve been fortunate enough to experience as a band”.

This new relationship with Rex turned into something more fruitful with him ending up co-writing ‘I’m Still Here’ as well as his guitar expertise being scattered across the final release. With the tracks featuring input from Rex as well as Johnny Breakwell on production duties, it meant Bobby could take a step back from all of this and focus on the creative process in it’s entirety. “It’s nice to not have to think about that part of it. You can focus more on the actual content, the creative side of it”.

“It just meant we had to sit with the music for longer and live with it in the state that it’s in…”

There are similarities between the first two records and Humble as the Sun within the lyrics and song titles. Going from tracks like ‘We Live Hear’ to ‘I’m Still Here’, from ‘Big Man’ to ‘He’s A Man’ from ‘He Sold Guns’ to ‘Get Yourself A Gun’, there’s surely some link between the albums? Bobby explains, “I think when you listen to the albums from ‘We Live Here’ to ‘Humble as the Sun’, you’ll see the progression of of Bob Vylan. ‘We Live Here’ is quite a hard song to perform. It’s one of those things, right, because it’s probably the biggest song that we have, the one that people know but it’s also one of the most personal songs and, kind of, I suppose, describing certain, things that happened as a kid. It’s pretty heavy to relive every time on stage, night after night after night after night.”

In previous records, the guys never took to other musicians for advice or approval. Revealing that they make the albums for themselves first, Bobby also says that he still listens to his own music in times he needs it- admitting that he makes an album that he needs to hear. However, the band did seek the reaction from friend Amy Taylor (Amyl and the Sniffers) for single ‘He’s A Man’. With the lyric “The G-spot don’t exist mate, that’s just feminist propaganda”, the guys wanted to see if the line landed in the way they hoped. “When Amy came to the studio and I played that song for her, I was like, ‘do you mind if I film you listen to it?’ And she was like ‘Yeah cool go for it’…well she was more like *Australian accent* “go for it, ya cunt’” Bobby laughs. “Sorry Amy, love you Amy. But I was kinda listening and watching and when that line comes in, [I wanted to know if] it was landing. We don’t play the music for anybody you know. But I looked over and she burst out in laughter and I was like cool, it lands.”

Releasing through their own label Ghost Theatre, the guys explain that this was initially due to necessity. After being ignored for a massive part of their career, or with industry still to apprehensive to support something igniting conversation and change, the guys are hoping to one day put out other artists through their label. In addition, their self-release approach has proved successful with the band remaining independent and in control of their narrative, even picking up a MOBO award along the way. But this begs the question, will Bob Vylan ever be humble? 

“If you look at the dictionary definition of humble, it’s just not something that I personally have any interest in being, right” says Bobby. “As an artist, people kind of expect you to have a ‘happy to be here mentality’.”

“We’ve gone on to achieve incredible things in punk and rock music, which is not a genre where we usually see people from our backgrounds achieving such things. So it would do a disservice to anybody on the outside looking in for us to be just happy to be here and be humble and be meek. I know that I have taken inspiration and found strength in people that have been vocal about the things that they’ve achieved in the face of any adversity they’ve had to go through. So if they never spoke about that, if they never spoke about their achievements, then I wouldn’t have that to look to. Where would we find that hope? I think that’s what we wish to do”. 

Finding inner peace through the means of meditation and using this as a form of protest, Bob Vylan are sharing this with their fans through not only their forthcoming album but also their live shows. It’s no secret that they are continuing to ignite flames in order to burn down systems within our society, it’s just this time round, the flames are igniting from within.

‘Humble As The Sun’ will be released on April 5th.

Words: Jazz Hodge
Images by Paul Grace

Special thanks to Kamellia at Doom Yoga

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