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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024  

Wild Beasts

In Search For The Male Identity

Oct 21, 2016 Wild Beasts Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share

John Congleton, producer of Wild Beasts’ fifth album, Boy King, has an oversized dildo and a plastic Jesus guarding over the mixing desk in his Dallas, Texas studio, Elmwood Recording. Hayden Thorpe, central figure and one of the two vocalists for the British group, interpreted these items through the medium of the recording process as self-gratification and unwavering belief. During Wild Beasts’ time with Congleton, Thorpe never asked him about the significance of the two items, choosing instead to move forward with his own inference, which leant itself nicely to the underlying driving forces and dark themes of Boy King.

Until now, Wild Beasts, and Thorpe in particular, have avoided the ominous shadows lurking in the corners of their lives, trying to block them from entering their music. “Boy King became about embracing the nasty side,” says Thorpe. “There is a real energy to that, like previously running on diesel and now having some rocket fuel, that’s where the powerful stuff is. Over five albums, I’ve reached the realization that I can’t run anymore. It became a cleansing experience to let the shadows become me. My hero is Leonard Cohen. What an absurd, vile man he is in some waysand what a hero and a brave man he is to allow himself to show that.”

The dabble Wild Beasts had with electronics on their acclaimed 2014 album, Present Tense, served them well. For the angst and anger on Boy King, however, the heavy and hard sounds of their rock ‘n’ roll youth were what were needed to express the intensity of emotion. The ongoing question of the changing male identitysomething Wild Beasts have been grappling with from the startcontinues to be explored in the context of the Internet, which Thorpe refers to as “the universe,” within which the male’s role has yet to be identified. This is heard on the visceral rumbles of “Alpha Female,” the apocalyptic crescendos of “Celestial Creatures,” and the alternating wails and grinds of “He the Colossus.”

Interestingly, Boy King got its start when Wild Beasts were brought in by dance music megastars Disclosure as potential songwriting partners. A first for Wild Beasts, the band (which also includes singer/bassist Tom Fleming, guitarist Ben Little, and percussionist Chris Talbot) had to develop a way to communicate the idiosyncrasies and nuances of its working process to outsiders, in order to make the product digestible on a first listen. This forced the group to strip itself down, condensing what it was presenting while opening its range and reaching beyond its usual realm. This was not only freeing, but also a catalyst for the ideas that started flowingeven if what was written with Disclosure was never used by the duo. “I was relieved,” says Thorpe. “I felt ownership over what we created and was quite attached to it. Those little meetings and instances are the subplots that created a grander narrative. It became a fundamental part of our Boy King story.”

“The title refers to the weight of the crown,” he continues, “about trying to carry the majesty and power of your position with none of the emotional tools. What we do requires a level of presentation, a kind of front, the album is about the emotional hinge of that. Sometimes, to get that façade to sit right, you have to hammer it in pretty tight in places you’d rather not be hammering.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s August/September/October 2016 Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]



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