“We wrote the album in Dalston, the epicentre of that whole hipster scene. It was slightly revolting, but also energising”
by the knowledge that they’d unearthed a new audience with the offbeat sounds on Two Dancers. Recorded in the wilds of Snowdonia with former Spacemen 3 collaborator Richard Formby, Smother’s sonic shift wasn’t down to any strategic design, but a subtle change of mindset and a cautious sense of self-confidence.
“I think it’s fair to say we felt empowered by the fact that people are listening, whereas beforehand we had to take a battering ram to the door to make people listen – so in that sense you can look forward to making things a bit deeper,” agrees Thorpe. “You don’t have to spend so much time on the superficial things. You know people are going to give it time to understand the deeper layers. And that was a really empowering, creative tool – to know that you have an audience who know your methods, who know your dialogue.”
“We don’t have to justify why we exist any more,” agrees Fleming. “There’s an element of ‘okay, you’re on your third album, maybe you weren’t chancing it’. And I think this record is a very positive record – they’re pretty much love songs. The sonic change is just our interests changing. With the first record, we thought it was controversial to even use a piano, but the second one was a bit more relaxed about things like that. And now we’re just desperate to extend that palette and just throw these kind of abstract things in. A lot of the sounds on this album are recognisable, others not so much. It’s worth saying that everything is very much at our fingertips, though; there’s very little programming, as such – every instrument and sound is played.”
Ardent fans used to the band’s endearing eccentricities needn’t be troubled by the fact that Smother is focused on matters of the heart. Songs such as the seductive Plaything (“New squeeze, take off your chemise and I’ll do as I please”), Reach a Bit Further (“You were devastatingly beautiful, I was crude, I was lewd, I was rude”) and Bed of Nails (“I want my lips to blister when we kiss”) pay testament to Wild Beasts’ shunning of conventional cheesy love paeans. Yet the result of airing such personal sentiments via such uncharacteristically candid lyrics is that the two writers have exposed their personalities like never before with this album. Thorpe, in particular, has written possibly his most honest track ever: skeletal opener Lion’s Share.
“I think too often love songs are these slick, all-encompassing beacons of ‘love is wonderful, love is great’, which I don’t think engages people truthfully. Personally, when I hear those sort of songs I just think, ‘Why are you lying to me?’,” he says with a shy smile. “You can be in love with someone but still hate them. We have this responsibility to be honest, I think – and it pays to be honest. At the end of the day, we have to explain ourselves and justify what we’re doing, and we had the option to make a big kaleidoscopic record about going around the world and seeing all these amazing things, but that would be an empty gesture, and a hard thing for people to relate to.”
“Yeah, I think something like Razorlight’s America is the absolute nadir of what not to do,” laughs Fleming. “I suppose it’s a credit to Domino that they trust us at this stage, but they have done since the beginning, really. It seems like Laurence [Bell, Domino Records founder]’s approach to us is: ‘Here’s your