VILE ELECTRODES need no introduction as one of the best exponents of contemporary synthpop.
Anais Neon and Martin Swan’s debut album ‘The future through a lens’ and its appended EP trilogy ‘Play With Fire’, ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Re-Emerge’ have set the benchmark for what is possible from a UK based independent act.
They played The Electricity Club’s inaugural live event TEC001 in 2011. In 2013, they completed a tour of Germany supporting OMD having been spotted by Andy McCluskey while he was perusing The Electricity Club. He said to TEC: “I enjoy your website and I’ve discovered some very interesting bands actually… one of them is going to support us in Germany!”.
That Deutschland stint with OMD has had a profound effect. Their debut long player ‘The future through a lens’ was voted Best International Album at the 2014 Schallwelle Awards in Germany; not only that but Neon and Swan also snapped up a second award in the category of Best International Act.
VILE ELECTRODES return to The Electricity Club fold and play TEC003 on SATURDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2014 at Hertford Corn Exchange alongside DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL and special guest DJ SARAH BLACKWOOD. The duo’s striking front woman Anais Neon spoke to The Electricity Club about a hectic 18 months in the land of Vile…
You supported JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in Brighton in June last year. How important was it to play in the UK so quickly after returning from Germany?
What we actually needed after the OMD tour was some rest and respite, not to get straight back on the road, but the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS slot wasn’t a gig we would ever have turned down!! We didn’t consciously think “we must play a UK gig ASAP”, it was actually just a happy coincidence that the OMD tour and the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS slot were so close together. Inevitably, of course, we managed to attract a good crowd because there was a bit of a recent buzz around us. It was a really great show and we made a lot of new friends there!
Hugely so… not just the tour, but also the intensive rehearsals we had in the run up to it. We’d been rehearsing here and there, but we block booked out a rehearsal room for the final 2 weeks, and often slept outside the studio in our van so we could work late and start early. In the past, we’d always be under-rehearsed for gigs, just because life gets in the way.
But we knew we had to smash it for the Germany shows, and prove that we were deserving of the amazing opportunity! I often mention my stage fright, but in the past I was constantly terrified I’d hit a bum note, or forget a lyric, and then everyone would point and laugh, and then we’d never get asked to play another show. I know it sounds absurd, and of course that would never actually happen, but I’m a real worst-case-scenario gal!
Anyway, having so much rehearsal time before OMD really boosted my confidence, so I was able to shed some of the nerves, and start enjoying myself when performing. Nowadays I still get nervous, but I manage it better, and I also know that I’ll still f*ck up even when I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m learning to accept that most people don’t care! In fact, they prefer it. As for Martin, well he’s a dab hand, and just gets out there and does it, arms flinging wildly, and knob tweaking furiously. He’s great, especially when he reminds me not to be such a drama queen.
How much of an impact did the German tour have on the production of ‘The future through a lens’?
We’d 95% finished ‘The future through a lens’ before going on the tour, but didn’t have that the time or the money to get over the final hurdle. So we decided to delay the release until we got back, as we had enough on our plate, after all! When we got home, we listened to the finished album, and pretty much looked at each other and said “well, that sounds sh*t”.
I’m no operatic diva, but my vocal strength and singing technique vastly improved with all the rehearsing and performing. We’d also made some significant on-the-fly track changes, off the back of playing them over and over. These changes had become so integral to the songs that we felt we had to try and include them!
If I’m honest, we’d have liked to re-record virtually everything, but we felt like we were trying everyone’s patience with our constant dilly-dallying. So we cherry-picked some bits to re-do, and then nervously put the album forward to the masses. There are still some tracks on the album I can’t bear to listen to. Roll on album two, so we can lay the ghosts of the debut to rest!
The German fans hold you very dear in their hearts and their appreciation for VILE ELECTRODES was clearly evident with you winning Best International Artist and Best International Album at the Schallwelle Awards. How would you describe the whole experience?
The Germans have a legendary love of electronic music, so we always suspected our music would be well received over there. However, to be nominated for awards was very overwhelming and genuinely surprising. We honestly never thought for a moment that we’d win, as our music was so different to that of the artists who’d won in previous years. Our van broke down a few days before we were due to drive out to Germany for the award ceremony and a subsequent gig. It got so stressful trying to arrange suitable alternative transport that we were *this* close to knocking the whole trip on the head as, ultimately, we didn’t really *need* to go.
But we felt so guilty about the fact we’d already been accounted for in terms of food and drink, plus Vile friends and fans had planned to drive and fly miles to support us. We didn’t want to look ungrateful, so we pulled out all the stops, and nearly all our hair, in order to get over there! When we were announced as the winners, we were flabbergasted. I gave a bumbling and breathless speech with a pounding heart and tears in my eyes. A lot of the time I’m convinced that fans are just humouring us and saying they like our music because we’re nice people, but that suspicion didn’t quite wash in this situation!
You admitted a while back that you’ve never been one for self-promoting the band, but promised that would change in 2014. Has this made a difference to getting more airplay and more gigs?
I didn’t stick to my vow in any way shape or form! The only promo I do is still via posts on our Facebook page, with the occasional email to people on our mailing list. And that isn’t even really promo – it’s more a simple matter of keeping in touch with folk and letting them know what we’re up to. I feel largely uncomfortable directly asking people to buy our wares, or play our tunes, so I prefer to let it all happen organically. I often wonder how much more we could achieve if I actually tried!
We have got plenty on before TEC003, but we have been making preparations already. Weirdly, and happily, TEC003 falls on the first anniversary of the release of ‘The future through a lens’, and our plan is to play the album in full, interludes and all. I hope Martin’s not going to kill me for announcing that! And, yes, it will be great to have the Vile Crew back together. I’m hoping for some dad dancing from Rob and Simon!
You’ve teased your fans on social media with mentions of ‘new material’ and dare it be mentioned ‘Deep Red’ on vinyl. What can we expect from VILE ELECTRODES before the year is out?
We are working on new material, and have recently outed a new song called ‘Last Of The Lovers’. In a perfect world, we’d be nearing the end of album number two, but that’s a long way off still. Being in a busy self-financed band is a constant juggling act. When we’re gigging, there’s no time to write new material… and when we’re writing there’s no time to prepare for gigs. But supporters understandably want gigs and new material all at the same time! We both have day jobs, plus it’s also very important that we make time to hang out as a couple, and not just as bandmates. Sometimes something’s got to give and, much as we wish it could be the day jobs, it’s more likely to be the band!
TEC003 featuring VILE ELECTRODES, SPEAK & SPELL and special guest DJ SARAH BLACKWOOD takes place on SATURDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2014 at Hertford Corn Exchange, 39 Fore Street, Hertford, Hertfordshire SG14 1AL
VILE ELECTRODES release ‘The Pack Of Wolves’, a special fur packaged 3CD set featuring previously unreleased tracks ‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Radiophonic Worktop’ plus a recording of their triumphant live gig supporting OMD in Cologne – please visit http://vileelectrodes.bigcartel.com/ for more details
‘The future through a lenss’ is still available as a download album via the usual digital outlets or direct from http://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/
Text and Interview by Karen Buxton
10th July 2014