By Patrick Wall, with reporting by Jessica Selby
Photo by Paul Phung
Though it may not be noticeable, the beginnings of dream pop quartet Wild Beasts front man Hayden Thorpe’s musical career started in an unlikely place – sitting in the back of his nanny’s car while listening to 90’s dance music.
“[The music] was emotive and energizing to me in a way I couldn’t quite understand.” Thorpe said. “It just felt really, really good and I wanted more.”
Since childhood, Thorpe has had a difficult time buying into conformity. “I was always terrible at getting out of bed.” Thorpe said. “[I was] always terrible at being told what to do and I always had the most fun doing what I like, which after a certain point became playing music. I think it was that rule-less and limitless feeling of music that drew me to it.”
It’s this sense of independence that led Thorpe to create his current band. “My parents made me learn piano, which I hated, because again I was being told what to do.” he said. “But from there I started making up my own pieces.”
Wild Beasts started as a duo between Thorpe and guitarist Ben Little in 2002 and ended up in its present form, rounded out by bassist Tom Fleming and drummer Chris Talbot three years later. The group immediately garnered significant buzz from the English press, released its debut album Limbo, Panto in 2008 and Two Dancers the following year.
For the new album, Smother, the group wanted to create something beautiful and encompassing. “The concept was to create this immersive little world, a whole head space as it were.” said Thorpe. “We wanted to make something of beauty. That was the only mission statement we had. The title Smother relates to that “too much of a good thing” scenario. As if to say, ‘I love you too much.'”
And it worked.
Smother has a dark and dreamy feel. Throughout the album Thorpe’s borderline (and classically trained) falsetto drifts over delicate piano and subtle electronic elements. To achieve this, Thorpe said, the band bared it soul more thoroughly than on previous albums.
“[Smother is] more refined, more considered, more knowing of itself.” he said. “We perhaps reveal a little more of ourselves in the record and tend to invert inward rather than outward for source material.”
Ultimately, though, Thorpe feels the band is best experienced live. “Performing feels like stepping into a sort of ulterior world.” Thorpe said. “What goes on and happens on stage doesn’t quite qualify as relevant everyday life. It’s as if you shed a skin onstage. Which does mean you can feel pretty raw afterward!”
The band is in the middle of a summer tour taking them across Europe and the Americas. Thorpe and his band mates have been keeping busy building a studio in London so their hands don’t get, as Thorpe put it, “dangerously idle.”
But if Smother is any indication, Thorpe and Wild Beasts will be in high demand for quite some time.