London Calling

08.09.2011

MUSIC

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Tom Vek. The British musician spawned a rabid cult audience with his 2005 debut, We Have Sound—released at the apex of dance punk’s maturation into the likes of Bloc Party and LCD Soundsystem—and even earned a once-coveted Bait Shop spot performing on The O.C. And then…nothing. About five years of nothing, in fact. Vek had not only disappeared from the spotlight, but he’d also, more or less, disappeared entirely. This year’s LP Leisure Seizure is his surprise return—bold, intentional and precisely executed like the work of a true perfectionist. Here Vek takes our quick questionnaire and explains just what the hell he’s been doing for the past half-decade.

L+T: What can you recall of your earliest musical memory?
Tom Vek
: David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” echoing around the indoor-swimming-pool room of my parents’ first and only house with a pool, sadly.

L+T: What music do you first remember meaning something significant in your life?
TV
: “3 a.m. Eternal” by the KLF. I can still sort of visualize what it made me think of: It was the visual representation of excitement and infinite possibility, and I think prior to that, the chorus from “Once in a Lifetime” affected me as a kid, and I only discovered what it was years later.

L+T: What is the sexiest sound you can think of?
TV
: A well-compressed snare drum; [record producer and mixer] Tchad Blake is the master.

L+T: What movie always makes you cry?
TV
: Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain.

L+T: What’s something people might not know about your latest album, Leisure Seizure?
TV
: I designed all the artwork.

L+T: It’s been five years since we last heard from you. What strictly non-music stuff have you been up to?
TV
: I started reading properly for the first time since I was forced to read at school, hipster-fiction really. I started with Bret Easton Ellis, onto Jay McInerney, Tama Janowitz, Douglas Coupland, loved Mark Lindquist’s books, older stuff—John Updike, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson—and discovered an astonishing British writer Michael Bracewell. And [I’ve been] refining my tastes in product-design principles.

L+T: You more or less vanished completely from the public eye—Facebook groups and Twitter accounts have been erected in search of you. How easy is it and what does it feel like to, on a certain plane, disappear?
TV
: It’s harder than you think and more rewarding than you’d imagine, but isn’t really practical or fundamentally enjoyable. It’s hard to not take part in the evolution of the communication web that will one day immerse everyone into a single living organism occupying the Earth. Oh, I also read Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.

L+T: But really, what took so long for album No. 2? Has the album been in the works the whole time? Did you take a break? Writer’s block? Perfectionist tendencies? Are the expectations we put on bands to put out new music every couple years bloated?
TV
: I was working on it the whole time, with breaks—no problem with putting stuff down but the perfectionism element was there because I didn’t think it was good enough. You can believe it was if you like; fine by me. The expectations have come from the fact that the majority of bands manage to [release albums every few years], but there’s meeting idealistic deadlines so you can [gain] momentum or there’s thinking a little more artistically. Both ways produce valid and invalid output.

L+T: In Tom Vek biopic, who plays you?
TV
: Someone said I look a bit like Casey Affleck. Can you call him?

L+T: Complete the following sentence: “Being from London means I can always…”
TV
: Get a job in Little London, Las Vegas. Have they built it yet?

L+T: It’s a rock & roll dinner party. You can invite three rock stars, alive or dead. Who do you invite?
TV
: Currently it would be the three members of ’60s girl band the Cake.

L+T: What song do you wish you’d written?
TV
: “Knights in White Satin” [by the Moody Blues] is a song that I understood immediately and felt as obvious as breathing. That kind of response makes the more arrogant songwriter assume they could have written it, but everyone needs to learn that it’s okay to be in awe of something you propose to be a professional at.