When you’re on the cusp of an ending, sorrow is besides the point. In September this year, British art rock quartet Wild Beasts announced that it’ll be playing its last shows in February next year. Make no mistake: That, in a few months, we’ll only be able to speak of the band in the past tense is bad news for anyone invested in template-averse, boundary-blasting music. This is a band that has always existed in opposition to the prevailing winds of rock history – if rock has a super-ego, it’s the Wild Beasts, even if the band’s moniker implies otherwise. Last year, the group unraveled its final LP Boy King. And while its electronic mores underscore the band’s self-correcting rep, its narrative of unfettered masculinity’s descent into fear and trembling affirms its stature as its makers’ most urgently era-defining work.
And ahead of the Wild Beast’s forthcoming Wonderfruit Festival stint, and in the last interview we’ll have with anyone from the entity that is the Wild Beasts, we’re joined by bassist Tom Fleming, for some poignant stock-taking of what it all means.
You’re due to play the Wonderfruit Festival very soon. Since this will be one of your final shows, what are your thoughts going into it?
Well, we’re just enjoying it while it lasts. Obviously, it’s a bittersweet sensation, but I think we can feel good that we’re leaving things on a serious high. We’ve given it a lot of thought, and we’re delighted with what we’ve achieved up to now.
In Hayden’s last interview with NME, he said that rather than “huddle around the glowing embers [of our story arc], we decided to extinguish it”. But why exactly do you see the great Boy King as the end and not the beginning of a whole new chapter of the band’s journey?
To be honest it could have been, but while Boy King maybe cracked open a few things that we could have pursued in the future, in another way, the five records we’ve made have a sealed logic to them, and this record represents a sort of closing of the circle we started with the release of Limbo, Panto. The two records share a sort of indomitable spirit and a togetherness that we weren’t sure we could continue for another 15 years or so.
“There will be life afterwards and there will be more music and art from us, but right now we are still Wild Beasts. I see this as the closing of a door and the opening of a window!”
How would you spend your first post-Wild Beasts week?
I have absolutely no idea! I’m considering going to Disneyland, in all seriousness. It’s going to be an emotive time and an escape might be necessary.
“Maze” is a great song. Where does it stand in Boy King’s narrative, or do you see it as existing outside the context of the album?
Thanks. The reason “Maze” didn’t make the record was that amidst all the muscles and grit on Boy King, there just wasn’t space for it. It does, however, represent where we were at the time of making, and I think we’re all very proud of it as a recording. It just came from a slightly different place from the other tracks on the record, and as such wasn’t part of the album’s narrative overall.
“Maze” captures the confessional-yet-universal songwriting that’s come to be one of the most beloved aspects of the band. Was that song particularly difficult to write?
It actually existed in a few forms before we put it to record, and it has a fairly close relationship to some of the others on Boy King, but I wouldn’t say it was harder to write than any other. Certainly, as a singer, I had to summon up the monsters when recording it, though!
In the same NME interview, Hayden said that, “[t]here is a sense of ‘what will I do without the gang”. Has there been any form of reassurance since? How do Hayden and the rest of the band feel now?
I think it’s still a little raw and scary for all of us, to be honest. There will be life afterwards and there will be more music and art from us, but right now we are still Wild Beasts. I see this as the closing of a door and the opening of a window! It’s all on good terms and we’ll all remain close friends, we just need time to establish new directions and identities, I think.
Lastly, how would you like to close out 2018?
Looking forward – always looking forward.
*And on a personal note, I’d like to thank the band for all the lovely, challenging music it’s given us over the years. “Hooting & Howling” and “All the King’s Men” are two of the best songs of the last 10 years. If this is the end, please know that you’ll never be forgotten.
This sort of thing is what it’s about. On a personal note for me, there’s no way to thank you enough. Please keep listening!