THE VANITY PROJECT
WHO YOU ARE
Party music for the damned. Artsy freakpop anthems. Apocalyptic. Fun.
Rob: The times when you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, dance or write a 12 page dramatic soliloquy.
Flora: People who cried when Tim Smith from Cardiacs died.
Where From: Grown in York, prepared in Manchester, currently cooking in London.
Started Performing: Late 2015. Ten year anniversary tour coming soon.
Story: We met in theatre club as kids and bonded over a mutual love of 80s synthpop impresario Thomas Dolby. We’d been working on music together for quite some time but hastily threw together our first live performance in late 2015 for the now defunct iSessions battle of the bands. Because there’s only two of us, we used a loop pedal to perform our songs; we’ve since learnt that looping literally every part of the song is needlessly time-consuming and prone to set-destroying mistakes. Naturally, we now use two loop pedals. Despite these early shows being charitably described by Marc Riley as ‘overly ambitious’, we emerged victorious from the competition so figured we should probably stick together. Now, eight short years later, we have an album under our belt, releasing 29th September.
Q & A.
What influences your musical style?
Flora: Any music that exudes equal amounts of pop charm and mild terror.
Rob: We love songs that are completely bizarre and yet somehow won’t leave your head.
Which bands and artists have inspired you.
Rob: On the scarier side of things, Black Dresses, Cardiacs, Everything Everything – on the artier side you’ve got XTC, St Vincent and Tune-Yards.
Flora: There’s bits of the album that owe a lot to PC Music and SOPHIE too. It’s all that combination of strong melodies with a certain wild energy.
Notable more recent influences are ?
Flora: I’ve been listening to a lot of East Coast hip-hop recently. Classic stuff, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy. Not sure I’m best suited to make that kind of music yet. Need to my Queens accent down.
Rob: Jellyskin released one of the best albums of the year so far. Their music sounds a bit like Broadcast being whacked over the head with a 909.
Share with us an interesting anecdote behind any of your songs
Flora: If there’s any song that went through the most radical transformations in the recording process, it’s Craters. It started out as a vague demo named for an Animal Collective song it was trying not to rip off.
Rob: And it ended up as an epic synthpop/prog opera about aliens planning a holiday in post-apocalyptic Manchester. If that’s not odd enough, we were almost finished recording the song when our wonderful producer said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, “right then guys, time to start work on the Hawaiian section.”
Flora: As with all of his suggestions, we thought it was a terrible idea. And as with all of his suggestions, it made the final cut.
We are anti bullying – What’s your advice for victims of bullying ?
Rob: Well if you’re an adult, contact HR. If you don’t have HR, join a union. If you’re a child… form a children’s union?
Flora: Unlike you Rob, I was bullied as a child. I didn’t know what the fuck to do. Still don’t. Sorry.
If you are to be described as an animal, what would it be?
Rob: People used to say I looked like a frog at school. For the record it wasn’t bullying, it was a game I started and *thoroughly* enjoyed. People usually took their animal comparisons really well, until I compared one girl to a sloth.
Flora: I’m always told I look beaky.
Rob (immediately): Yeah, you do.
Flora: If you’ve got to peg me as a specific bird, what kind of bird?
Rob: Mmm… sparrow?
Flora: Things haven’t really changed since school then.
Your favourite music venue in the UK:
Rob: Hebden Bridge Trades Club! Hebden Bridge is a strange place. Definitely one of those everybody-knows-everybody situations. Always a full room of genuine music lovers, the sound is great, the building’s majestic and the programming is top-notch.
Flora: I broadly agree with Rob, but in the interests of manufacturing conflict, I’m going to say that my favourite’s actually the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. Cap’n Socks who runs the show there has been very kind to us, and it’s a wonderfully kitsch place that puts on every Londoner worth their salt.
We are proudly Subculture inspired. How about you ?
Rob: I’m a little skater boy. No, *not skateboarding*, I rollerblade of course. To be specific, aggressive in-line, which was very popular in the 90s, then almost completely died out.
Flora: And you do look like a little skater boy, for what it’s worth.
Rob: It’s basically doing tricks like grinds, spins, flips on roller blades in skateparks. The community in London’s amazing, probably my favourite thing to do with my time along with music and, increasingly, Zelda.
Flora: A lot of the music I love was born from subcultures that have since faded, so I always feel a bit like an outsider. Or even an archaeologist. Or James Murphy in Losing My Edge. But I do think of the transfem community as a subculture right now, especially as we’re pushed ever more into the margins by the media and government alike.
You are sent to Mars, no check in baggage and you can take one record- which one ?
Rob: Skylarking by XTC. My favourite record of all time, but appropriately given I’m being shoved on Mars, it’s a very earthy record. Extremely lush, lots of little chirpy percussion.
Flora: It doesn’t say it’s a one-way ticket, so I guess whatever I’m most into at the time. Right now that’s Vylet Pony’s Fish Whisperer: Can Opener’s Notebook. I’m assuming the trip’s pretty lengthy, and that album is dense enough that I could spend months just getting to the bottom of a single song. Maybe the most phenomenally mixed album of all time.
A guilty pleasure number?
Flora: If there’s any song I love beyond explanation, sense and good taste, it’s Closer by the Chainsmokers. Don’t ask. I don’t have answers.
Rob: I’ve always told people that I want Saturday Night by Whigfield at my funeral. They usually laugh, so I grab them by the wrist, look them deep in the eye and tell them it wasn’t a joke.
The first music your bought
Rob: ABBA Gold. Simple as that.
Flora: Mine’s a bit more interesting. I’m pretty sure it was Congratulations by MGMT, after already having Oracular Spectacular bought for me as a Christmas present. I remember the Flash Delirium video dropping a month or so before and watching it on loop.
The first live gig you attended.
Flora: With utmost regrets, it was Lostprophets. I was five years old, and it was a free gig at the Virgin Megastore in London. My family took me to a lot of live music when I was young, heck, at seven we went to Leeds Festival.
Rob: Mine was Rush, I was eleven. I was learning drums at the time, so my dad wanted to take me to see a good drummer. He was hoping that on return I’d leap straight on the kit and practice for seven hours straight. In reality, I just went on the Gamecube. At least it was Donkey Konga.
Is there a song you wish you had written?
Rob: Yeah, fucking loads!
Flora: I’ve genuinely had an existential crisis after hearing a song and realizing I could never write anything as clever. Fish Whisperer by Vylet Pony’s the most recent one. BTSTU by Jai Paul, pretty much any Richard Dawson song…
Rob: First answer is Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes. Throw some Everything Everything in there too. No Reptiles, how did they do that?
Photos – Credit Jamie Chapman
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