Sexy Beasts

With a new record packed with carnal energy to promote, <strong>Wild Beasts</strong> frontman Hayden Thorpe wants to celebrate Britain's sensuous side, he tells <strong>Duncan Forgan</strong>.

Feature by Duncan Forgan | 30 Jul 2009
  • Wild Beasts

“It’s what this country was built on,” laughs Hayden Thorpe as he reveals the fuel driving his band Wild Beasts’ remarkable new opus Two Dancers.

Thankfully the record is not replete with chest-beating references to monarchy, inverted snobbery and the glory days of the British Empire. Instead it taps into a seam of sexual energy and carnality unharnessed by a young British guitar band since the days when Brett Anderson bestrode the indie scene like a bum-slapping behemoth.

“We were aiming for an illicit kind of feel – kind of tender and erotic, but with an underlying sense of sexual aggression,” continues Thorpe in quiet Cumbrian tones that are more dormouse than alpha-male lover-man. “Sex is a universal subject. Everyone loves talking about it and everyone loves doing it. It made it easy for us to immerse ourselves fully into the record because we knew we would be touching on something that everyone can relate to.

“We approached Two Dancers in a classically pop sense in terms of that boy/girl dynamic. The songs are about lust and love, heartbreak and ecstasy. Those are the typical kind of pop calling cards.”

Yet while they might be reiterating themes that have been a staple of mainstream pop fare since Elvis started having problems keeping his hips in check, Wild Beasts are a long way from your standard chart proposition.

First of all, there’s Thorpe’s sky-scraping voice. Flamboyant and unmistakable, the singer’s oscillating tones are, for better or for worse, the first thing you notice about the band. Then there are the bookish lyrics which may already have been consecrated as poetry by true believers, but will strike others as irredeemably pretentious. It’s safe to say that this is not a band that will fail to move fence-sitters.

Having grown up in the Lake District town of Kendal, the band relocated to Leeds and released their debut single, the interestingly-title Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants on a local independent. They were snapped up by Domino in 2007 and their debut album Limbo, Panto was released last year to a host of critical garlands.

Thorpe himself doesn’t seem to be unduly bothered by his voice’s divisive potential – “It’s not our selling point, it’s not our downfall, it’s just what we do,” he says – and reveals that the passionate reactions to their debut album provided the band with more licence to heed their own instincts with the follow up.

“It reaffirmed our own belief in ourselves,” he says. “When you meet people who openly admit to loving and adoring your music for its individuality, it gives you impetus. On the other side of the coin we were met with some fairly aggressive cynicism from certain quarters which meant that we had to develop a thick skin. But you build yourself some armour and with this album what we wanted to do was to ensure that we created something that we could stand by 100 per cent.”

If Thorpe sounds confident, that’s because he is. It’s not, however, the cockiness of someone who has emerged on a wave of nostril-clogging hype. It’s the quiet assurance of someone who has had time to take stock.

“We’ve always had the freedom to do whatever we wanted,” he explains. “Growing up in Kendal, there was no slipstream, no scene, for us to fall into. We just hunkered down and formed our own little club.”

With an album freshly in the can, the last thing many bands want is repeated exposure to the songs they have been toiling over for months. Thorpe, however, is relishing the prospect of taking Two Dancers to the masses over the coming months.

“It’s been great playing them live and buzzing off the reaction that we are getting to the songs from audiences. The songs are strong and there’s a depth to the album that we are still discovering ourselves.

“There aren’t a lot of things that have come out like our first album. Surprises are very few and far between these days. So in that sense, we did create a bit of space for ourselves for this one. People wouldn’t know what to expect of us next. So we gave ourselves the opportunity to surprise people in a positive way.”

And a sensuous way? “Yeah, that as well...”

Two Dancers is released via Domino on 3 Aug.

Wild Beasts play Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh on 30 Sep.