This weekend just gone, Vistas travelled down to Tramlines Festival in Sheffield from Edinburgh, where coronavirus restrictions are still in place. We chatted to the band about how they felt ahead of their first live festival show performing songs from their debut recording, Everything Changes In The End, as well as their forthcoming second album, What Were You Hoping To Find?, which is set for release on 20 August.
The Indiependent: You’ve described your forthcoming album as a ‘difficult second album’, and ‘Start Again’ is about writer’s block, so could you tell us a bit about your writing process? Is it lyrics first or music first?
Prentice: It does vary from tune to tune. ‘Start Again’ is as you were saying about writer’s block and it was just a matter of a little chord sequence that I was just playing about with over a couple of weeks. That’s where a lot of our songs usually start – with a little riff idea that catches my ear and then I go ‘that’ll work when it’s expanded into a full tune’. With the whole ‘difficult second album’ thing we were just sort of saying that it was tricky to get started. But actually I think that we all found the process of recording the second album so much easier than the first. It just felt really natural, getting in the studio and recording. I think because we’ve been inside for so long, haven’t done anything, haven’t played any gigs, we actually released our debut record while in lockdown, we went into the studio itching to do anything as a band, and it was just a total joy from start to finish recording.
The Indiependent: How does it work with the other guys in the band, do you then take the songs to them and they add to them and refine them? Or is the writing very much driven by yourself?
Prentice: I mainly do the writing, yeah. We do work out extra wee parts in the studio and just let it flow as it naturally occurs. Nobody’s really got a big ego about like ‘we’ll use this part’, ‘no, we’ll use this part’, whatever. It’s just whatever suits the song we just chuck in.
The Indiependent: Obviously your debut record was released during lockdown, and this new record was recorded in lockdown, with some of the songs tackling mental health. How have your own individual experiences of lockdown been?
Prentice: Mine was okay. I suppose we’re all very fortunate that we all still live with our families, we all get on really well with our families. Our families get on with each other as well. So we were all very fortunate in that sense. It took some adjustment from touring so much — because being in a band when you don’t have the ability to tour is a slightly weird existence because it’s like what role do you fill? So that took a bit of getting used to, but overall it was okay. I’m sure we were in much more fortunate situations than a lot of people to get through it.
Dylan: It was alright. It was as you said, a bit weird. It was just that thing of trying to do something every day that made you feel like you had a purpose. My family were working from home and I wasn’t doing a lot.
The Indiependent: So were you trying to practice music and your parents were like ‘keep it down, I’m on a Zoom call’!?
Prentice: Dylan was really busy for the first record, though, because he does a lot of our graphic design and little videos that we post. We’ve taken it in a slightly different direction for our next record but Dylan was really busy with that side of things for a lot of lockdown.
Dylan: First time it was actually quite good because it kept me doing something being at the computer and stuff, but this year it’s been more time trying to do gardening to fill the time.
Jamie: I’ve played a lot of PlayStation! Too much PlayStation. It was strange to begin with — the debut album came out and the rules had just changed in Scotland so you could meet with one other household. So when the first album came out, the three of us weren’t able to meet. So me and Dylan met at Dylan’s to have a beer to celebrate, which was amazing because until that date we weren’t able to meet.
Prentice: We decided not to push the record release back and we were quite lucky because we’d planned to put it out in May before anyone knew what Covid-19 was. So we had all our stuff, our vinyl and everything ready to share. The distribution was a big part of the reason why a lot of bands had to push their releases back, which is totally fair. So we were glad we just put it out and I think there really felt like a sense of community around Vistas in May. It was still peak lockdown, the weather was stunning.
Jamie: It was the hottest day of the year for Scotland when our album came out. In hindsight it’s good that we didn’t push it back — maybe releasing it in August or September.
The Indiependent: You had other bands like Bloxx releasing their debut album in the summer before they were due to play Reading & Leeds and obviously that never happened.
Jamie: It was awful, really awful.
Prentice: It was a weird time and nobody could predict anything — because we’d be like ‘Oh maybe we’ll play again in the autumn, or maybe the winter.”
The Indiependent: How did it feel for you guys — how did you measure the success of Everything Changes In The End without being able to tour?
Jamie: Online there’s a sense of community. Honestly, when we agreed to stick to the album date and we knew what was going to happen with the album, none of us thought it would do as well as it has done. People have resonated so well with it. As much as the three of us are so proud of the first album, with this new album coming out on 20 August we’re doing in-stores, we’re playing a gig the day the album comes out, we’re playing Brixton Academy so we have all this amazing stuff. So this sort of feels like we’re doing the album one cycle for our second album.
Prentice: It feels kind of hard in a way to gage how people are reacting to it sometimes because obviously you’re used to playing a gig and chatting to people after.
The Indiependent: Right, and you know if people know the words that it’s a good song!
Prentice: Yeah, exactly! Online the community around the first album was so good at the time because it felt like everyone was together.
Jamie: We had no idea what was going to happen, but the amount of people who got behind us was great. It’s pretty overwhelming, I’m so happy.
Prentice: When we started playing music together we were 16-17, and if we’d been 16 or 17 in lockdown when our favourite band was putting out a record we think it would have given us a big boost. So hopefully that’s what we did for people.
The Indiependent: In terms of the acts that you’re inspired by, are there any bands you’d make direct comparisons with, or do you have quite different tastes?
Jamie: I’ve been mates with Prentice since high school and he said to me about nine years ago ‘Have you listened to Kings of Leon?’ and I said ‘I know the two songs that everyone seems to know’. Then up until this year he was like ‘you should listen to the first two records especially’, and even back when we were in high school I can see where Prentice was influenced by them — from the basslines to the cool chords they were doing. So I would say Kings of Leon and the Strokes.
Prentice: Dylan’s favourite band is The Beatles — he’s a massive, massive Beatles fan. So yeah just a mix of influences, really — I think the main reason we got into playing guitars and into playing in bands is bands like Two Door Cinema Club, The Cribs, Wombats, Kings of Leon, The Strokes and particularly with The View being a Scottish band — like everyone at our school was really into The View — so it was hard to avoid getting really swept up in that.
The Indiependent: Are there any bands on the Scottish music scene at the moment that you’re particularly big fans of?
Prentice: The Scottish music scene seems quite buzzing at the moment, particularly in Glasgow. There’s loads of bands like The Ninth Wave and Walk Disco, who are doing big gigs.
Dylan: The Snuts are doing really well as well.
Prentice: Honestly there are hundreds of new Scottish bands at the moment.
Jamie: It’s probably the strongest it’s been, certainly since we’ve been around.
The Indiependent: You’ve got the two nights booked at The Barrowlands in Glasgow. Does it feel like you have a distinctly Scottish fanbase, or does it feel widespread because of releasing the record in lockdown?
Prentice: I think it’s both — we’re doing some big shows down south as well. I think it’s always the case that with a Scottish band you develop a very devoted Scottish fanbase. They do feel proud and they get behind you. The Barrowlands is the venue that every Scottish band wants to headline as well, so it’s so unebelievable that we’re doing two nights. When we sold out the first one we were like ‘that’s mad’ — again if we could tell our 16-year-old selves that we’ll sell a Barrowlands show out that’d be mad, so do two is very humbling, and really exciting.
The Indiependent: So to go back to the new record then, how does it move on from Everything Changes In The End, or is it more of a continuation?
Prentice: We didn’t want to be too drastic and completely change the sound. We’re wary of that different second album trope — it’s tempting to really change the sound and reinvent what our band does, but I think what a lot of strong second albums show is progression, and that you’ve strengthened from your debut release. So that’s what we wanted to go for on the second album. I think production-wise we’ve done a lot more cool things, and overall we’re just more confident as musicians and songwriters. We’re also more comfortable being in the studio. I think this record is very much the most direct version of what we were thinking into music, we’re dead proud of it. We all feel it’s a step up from the first record. As Jamie was saying, we’re all dead proud of the first record, but we really can’t wait for people to hear this.
Dylan: Because we’d done the first record, going into this album we knew what to expect going into this record — we knew how we would work.
Prentice: I would say it sounds more mature, we’ve tried out some different styles, and production-wise it’s another step up as well.
The Indiependent: In terms of how the two records translate to a live environment, is there a particular song you’re looking forward to playing live?
Prentice: I’m really looking forward to playing ‘Dayglow’, which we are playing today, and we haven’t actually played live in front of a crowd so I’m still excited to play that.
Jamie: ‘Start Again’ as well, that’ll be great.
Prentice: The first track on the record we’re all excited to play when the record comes out because it’s got a lot of cool parts and gets very intense towards the end.
The Indiependent: How has rehearsal worked — have you done Zoom practices?
Dylan: It’s been weird obviously because we didn’t have any shows first of all to rehearse for. When we could actually meet up and get together we were rehearsing in my garage for a bit before rehearsal rooms were open and we could rehearse with our drummer, we were rehearsing in the garage us with a backing track, which was still fun to do.
Jamie: It was really nice to get back into it.
Prentice: You do get out of practice playing with other people. It’s all well and good practicing your part alone in your room, but the dynamic completely changes when you’re playing with other musicians, playing your guitar and singing at the same time, and trying to change your pedals and stuff.
Jamie: At least half the songs on the setlist we’ve not played in front of an audience.
The Indiependent: How does that make you feel?
Prentice: You shouldn’t have brought that up! We’ve got eight brand new ones.
Dylan: We’ve not played any of the first album live yet either.
The Indiependent: So what are you opening with tonight?
Prentice: ‘Everything Changes In The End’ — we want to keep it as upbeat as possible, it’s an all-killer set.
The Indiependent: Is there anyone else on the bill this weekend that you’re hoping to see?
Prentice: We’d love to see Blossoms but we’re playing at the same time as them! So I think we’ll just be straight up back to Scotland.
Jamie: Circa Waves was yesterday unfortunately.
The Indiependent: So what’s the first date on your UK tour?
Prentice: It goes Bristol, Manchester, London, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle.
The Indiependent: If you had to sum up what fans can expect in one sentence, what would you say?
Prentice: It’s very high energy indie, non-stop tunes from start to finish — we’re playing loads from the first album, loads from the second album, and stuff that we’ve released before the albums too. We’re going to try and make it the best show.
Jamie: We’re going to need a lie down after the show, we’ll be shattered.
Dylan: It’ll be the longest set we’ve played as well because there’s a few album tracks we want to try and get in there.
The Indiependent: In terms of the physical release of the new album, you’re doing a pop up vinyl. How much say do you guys get on that side of things?
Prentice: We work on it with our manager. We’ve been working with an artist called Cameron West and we said ‘this would be cool’ and he said ‘I think I know how to get that down in a really cool format’. We hadn’t seen a pop up vinyl, but was just an idea we had because our artwork is based on the cube we thought it would work perfectly.
Jamie: Since we had the idea it was only a week or so until the idea was in motion. We’ve also got zines — it’s like a CD with a Vistas crossword
Prentice: Like an old 50s-style magazine.
The Indiependent: Do you guys like Manic Street Preachers?
Prentice: My dad loves them!
The Indiependent: James Dean Bradfield has apparently been making crosswords for the band during lockdown!
Prentice: That’s very cool.
The Indiependent: Clearly you’re on the same wavelength! That’s all from me guys, thanks for your time and good luck with the show tonight.
Prentice: Thanks a lot – have a great weekend!
Interview conducted by Beth Kirkbride
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