“We’ve spent a career defending the question, ‘What the f-ck?’” Wild Beasts guitarist Hayden Thorpe says. He’s not kidding. Now on their fifth album in less than ten years, the British art rockers are accustomed to blurring boundaries, trolling the familiar and then bringing it all together in music that makes you want to dance and cry at the same time.
They do an awful lot of this on their new record, Boy King, released earlier this month on Domino Records. “Were trying to engage with the more problematic aspects of machismo,” bassist Tom Fleming says. Take “Tough Guy,” a Boy King song where Wild Beasts sing as sloshed pub-goers trying to keep it together. It’s a familiar feeling; the band hails from Kendal, a hardy farming community in the north of England, friendly to pubs, pints, and bar fights. They called themselves Wild Beasts to tease the local lads into expecting boorish, bluesy pub rock. Instead, they got the opposite: “People came to see these lads turn up with guitars and then they sing like women!” Thorpe remembers.
Thorpe and Fleming, the band’s dueling vocalist-songwriters, took Alt In Our Stars host Chris Payne inside the irreverent world of Wild Beasts. “We’re referencing feminist writers, using jazz chords and clean guitars,” Thorpe says. “But we’re also four lads from the North singing about sex.” They were down to talk about it, too, in addition to plenty more: how they once shared a bill with a 17-year old Adele, how Britpop never quite happened in America, and — also on the topic of U.S. versus Anglo culture — the difference between a bro and a lad.
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