Gig preview: Vessels at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

Vessels. Pictue: Giles Smith & Jacek Zmarz
Vessels. Pictue: Giles Smith & Jacek Zmarz
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For most bands, a ‘new direction’ equals a minor tweak to the tried and tested plan. Vessels aren’t like most bands, however.

To anyone whose last exposure to the band was 2011’s second album Helioscope, the total overhaul the Leeds five-piece’s musical touchstones and templates have undergone since then may well be initially perplexing.

On new album Dilate, the loud/quiet dynamics and steeply ascending, guitar-led crescendos have been swapped for electronic pulses and the hypnotic repetition of dance music. It’s a culmination of a gradual change that started with a cover of Nathan Fake’s The Sky Was Pink and picked up speed with 2013’s Elliptic EP. In a way, the outcome truly is Post-Rock (the genre Vessels have been most commonly associated with), in the sense that it has rejected all the trappings of the genre whilst holding on to a highly unique take on rock ‘n’ roll dynamics, resulting in music that is of equal interest to the brain and the body.

Listen closer, though, and it’s clear this is still the same band. Their ability to gradually build up a fearsome momentum and, most importantly, a firm grasp on songwriting, something of a rarity for a band operating in areas that often favour texture over melody, are very much intact. Dilate has earned the Leeds five-piece their most enthusiastic reviews yet, but the stage remains the band’s natural domain; this album release show offers a great opportunity to witness a genuinely exciting live band bring a stylistic transformation to a fruitful conclusion.

Vessels’ Tom Evans spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post about the new album.

How did the stylistic change come about?

We’ve always been interested in electronic music and we’ve been writing it on the side of Vessels the whole time. It’s only in the last few years that we’ve really worked out how to translate this into music which we can perform as a five piece. We wanted to move out of our comfort zone and play some more upbeat fun stuff!

To a casual onlooker, the shift from what could be called Post-Rock to electronic sounds might seem quite drastic. How did the change come about?

We’ve been talking about it for years, but only really started to succeed once we put the guitars away. I think Post-Rock and Dance music share some characteristics; they’re both more about the journey than the catchy chorus, and both rely heavily on build-ups and breakdowns, and at their best they can both be transcendental in their own ways.
How have your fans reacted to the change?

Mostly well, although we’ve had a couple of disgruntled messages online from Post-Rock purists.

How do you feel about Dilate?

It’s nice that it’s finally out there! It feels like it’s been a long birth, but it’s great to share something you’ve put a lot of love and time into and to have it received well.

How has the new approach affected your live show and songwriting?

The live show is now a bit more of a party than it was before, and we’ve got a bit of a light show to go with it now. There’s also a whole load more cables than there was before! In terms of songwriting, it’s moved away from the slow and arduous process of jamming out every possible idea to decide which we all agree on and towards demoing tracks, deciding which ones to pursue, finishing the sketch and then adding the detail when learning to play them live. It’s a faster process, as it’s infinitely easier to tell if something’s good or not when you’re not actually playing it there and then.

What do you hope to achieve with your live shows?

We hope that we send people home happy, and that we can translate the music from the new record into a memorable and fun experience for the people watching. If we can move people emotionally and physically then I think we’ll have achieved what we set out to do.

You’re from Leeds. What impact has the city had on your music?

It’s given it a grounding and an aspiration due to the amount and quality of music makers in the city, as well as some love (that magic ingredient) seeping in through the friendliness of the people involved in the music scene here.

Vessels play at the Belgrave Music Hall on March 18. For details visit https://www.facebook.com/Vesselsband