Music & clubs

Five questions for… Vessels

INTERVIEW. Martin Teff, of post-rock electronic band Vessels, talks about the band's change from cerebral to dance music. Don't miss them play Foreign Affairs on July 9 at Haus der Berlin Festspiele.

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Photo by Mathew Parri Thomas

Formed at Leeds University in 2005, Vessels is an experimental-electronic and post­-rock band, that went from mathrock to electronic music as they got tired of overly cerebral music and eventually just wanted to make people dance.

Vessels’ bass, guitar and synth player Martin Teff sat down with us to talk about the band ahead of their show at Haus der Berliner Festspiele on July 9, 11pm as part of Foreign Affairs.

You’re a Leeds band, a city that has quite a legendary scene. What is it about the place for you?

The Leeds music scene is really quite special. There is, and there always has been a strong community and spirit between the different venues, promoters, bands and people. And that exists even though, for much of the time we’ve been playing music in Leeds, we haven’t actually had that much in common with many of the other bands there.

So if not from fellow Leeds bands, where do you get your inspiration?

I suppose loads of wide and varied things. Caribou in particular has been really influential. John Hopkins and some of the stuff that he’s done. I’m a big Nils Frahm fan, I think Moderat as well, certainly some of their earlier stuff is quite influential for us. 

And then, Tim [Mitchell, Vessels drummer] and I both DJ techno, so we listen to a lot of techno, so there’s a lot of producers and artists we listen to that way. That’s definitely something that has shaped the band. It’s always been about enjoying electronic-techno influenced things that also have a party vibe and can be played by a band rather than someone pressing a few buttons on a computer.

Can you describe how Vessels has evolved since it began in 2005?

We started out being very introspective and reflective and quite serious. We were much more into epic atmospheres and things that are on the slow side – pretty heavy sounding guitars influenced by a lot of rock and experimental rock music. Gradually we just got a bit bored with that. I still love to listen to a bit of post­rock but I guess at some point we started to feel we didn’t have much to add to what those bands were doing. In the early days we were inspired by math­rock, trying to make something sound as complicated as possible.

So you went down a more cerebral route at one point?

We did for a while, but then I think we just kind of grew out of that. I think it is slightly childish. We became more interested in stuff that is catchy and makes people want to dance a bit because it’s more fun that way. You get more engaging performances and fun crowds. The whole thing became more about having a good time when we played live, rather than having people stare at us and think, “Oh my God, how’d you do that?”

What do you want people to take away from a Vessels show?

Maybe it sounds a little bit cheesy but I guess some kind of transcendental experience. Something that takes people out of the ordinary things that are going on in their lives, whether or not it’s for the whole time or just for some of the time, you kind of get completely caught in that moment. The most fun that I can think of is when I go to a show and see a band that completely blows me away, so hopefully people get to experience that.

Foreign Affairs: Vessels, Sat, Jul 9, 23:00 | Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Schaperstraße 24, Wilmersdorf, U-Bhf Spichernstr.