Vant’s political punk rock plays dumb at The Wedgewood Rooms

Vant with Mattie Vant, far right.
Vant with Mattie Vant, far right.
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Like Bon Jovi, Vant have taken their band name from the frontman’s surname.

But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Since forming in 2014 the four-piece have built a reputation for their outspoken views and fierce live shows.

From Syria, to environmentalism, sexual assault, inequality, racism, religion, social media isolation and the all-out self-destruction of mankind, Mattie Vant’s lyrics tackle things head on. And it’s all wrapped up and delivered through the medium of punk-tinged grunge rock.

The Guide caught up with Mattie on the week their long-awaited debut album Dumb Blood was released, to largely favourable reviews.

‘It’s nice to finally have our album out, we’ve been enjoying the response to it,’ says Mattie.

‘It’s been pretty positive. You’re always a little apprehensive when you release a record, but the majority of people are loving it.’

I made it our mission statement as a band to be conscious of what is going on in the world and comment on the societal and political circumstances we’re facing at the moment

Mattie Vant

One review in particular stuck out, though – The Guardian gave it a single star.

‘You can’t have entirely four-star reviews, I guess. There’s always going to be one or two people who review it without listening to the entire record and still manage to have an opinion about it. To be honest though, I’d rather have a one-star review than a two or three-star review because that means you’ve really annoyed them.’

He also gives a wry nod to someone else who gave them a glowing write-up.

‘It seems strange that the only left-of-centre broadsheet in the UK gave us one star, and yet the home of racist, homophobic, sexist, bigoted values can give us four stars. I read The Guardian quite a lot and I hate The Sun, so I don’t know where I’ve gone wrong.’

You can almost hear the ‘whatever’ shrug down the phone line.

His band’s political stance is clearly important to Mattie.

‘I felt like I was at a point in my life a few years ago where my music was very self-indulgent. I was writing about my own issues and my own problems in life – not that there’s anything wrong with that, we need those emotive songs, everyone does at times – but I got to the point where it wasn’t bringing me any joy and I didn’t really feel like I was helping anyone else. The first and foremost thing for me about music, is that if you can help one person, it’s worthwhile doing it.

‘For me there weren’t a lot of musicians writing about important subjects – certainly not in rock music, but historically it’s always been a massive platform for writing about political instances. So I made it our mission statement as a band to be conscious of what is going on in the world and comment on the societal and political circumstances we’re facing at the moment.

‘That was the starting point. Once I’d written a couple of songs and realised I could make them catchy and full of melody as well, we realised we were on to a winner. Now we go out on stage and we can sing every line in every song with intent, rather than feeling like an idiot singing about your ex-girlfriend or whatever.’

He also appreciates that not everyone will get the message when it’s wrapped up in a catchy tune.

‘I’m sure there’s a lot of people that don’t understand it on initial listen and that’s kind of the beauty of the album. Once you’ve lived with it for a while, the words start to seep into your consciousness, and those people who don’t realise the importance of what we write about initially will come across it over time.

‘There’s nothing wrong with that, if people like the song on the basis of the tune, that’s brilliant.’

He credits American alt-folk act Bright Eyes with having a similar impact on him growing up.

‘It might only be a few lines in each song, but those references to things infected me subliminally, and made me the person I am, so I don’t think there’s any harm in it being something that’s discovered at a later point.’

Likewise, he’s aware of the power, positive and negative, of some well-placed swearing.

‘It grabs your attention doesn’t it? And that’s the thing with a song like (early single) The Answer, which does have an incredibly expletive line in it – but it pricks the listener’s ear and makes them want to know what it’s about, or you can take it out completely out of context and make it look terrible.’

They’ve also been garnering a reputation as an impressive live act – something Mattie is justifiably proud of.

‘I think that’s because it’s actually real. There’s a lot of artists now who rely on playing to a track and trying to sound exactly the same as on the record, but that’s not for us.

‘My favourite bands managed to play and make songs sound great without relying on magic tricks – it just hits you in a way that’s way more powerful – that everything you can see on stage is what you can hear, and it’s not a computer doing the legwork for different people.

‘For me that connection is massively important – that’s the sort of thing that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It’s authentic and I think that authenticity is what has developed our reputation as live act.’

The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Tuesday, March 7