Interviews: Vulgaris

On this new occasion, we have had the opportunity to interview the Black Metal/Sludge Metal/Doom Metal/Thrash Metal band Vulgaris from the UK. Check out this band and follow them on their FACEBOOK PAGE.

1. Where did you get the idea for the band name, you plan it or come out just like that?

Jonathan: It’s actually a pretty bizarre reason. When I started Vulgaris in 2017, I decided to take the name from two things that were pissing me off at the time. I was suffering from really bad acne breakouts (lol) which are known medically as “Acne Vulgaris”. It was also at the beginning of Brexit/Trump and the rise of a lot of right-wing populism - the “Era Vulgaris” we were living in. So I decided to take the same word out of both and use it for a positive reason. Also, it sounds metal as fuck.

2. Why did you want to play this genre?

Jonathan: Vulgaris hasn’t always been the same blend of Black/Sludge/Doom/Thrash metal that we are now, the sound went through a few different iterations. It’s more to do with everyone’s slightly different influences, but we come from the same bedrock of wanting to play extreme metal. We all love slow, heavy, dark riffs and cavernous drums. It’s been a happy accident of sorts!

Matt: Personally, I find it satisfying to have a balance between faster riffs that energize the crowd and band, and slower, meatier ones that you can really get stuck into and revel in the vibe of (particularly as a keen listener to sludge and post-metal); the material on our upcoming album has a satisfying balance of both, which we will want to maintain going forward.

George: I used to love drumming in math-y tech/progressive bands, but my listening habits have been way more into blackened post genres in the last 10 years so I wanted to join a band who fit this style.

Jess: Being a metalhead has given me community and a place to express myself, but frankly it’s just the most fun! When the beat is pummeling you there really isn't anything like turning up the gain and hearing the four of us land that perfect moment in a song together.

3. Did you know each other before the band was formed?

Jonathan: I knew Jess through our old bassist, and he would come to our gigs to watch us. He also recorded and produced our first-ever single, ‘648’, which was released in 2018. Shite song, haha, but he did a cracking job.

Jess: Yeah I met John through wanting to do some recording for the early version of Vulgaris, we really hit it off and it didn’t take long working on those songs before I think we both realized we shared a vision of what the band could be. Matt: The rest of us joined through online searches; Jon found me on Join My Band, while I found George on Bandmix when the previous drummer left.

4. Each band member's favorite band?

Jonathan: Of all time? Arctic Monkeys. Currently? Asunojokei, Sulphur Aeon, Wayfarer & The Stone Roses. I love a lot of extreme metal deeply, but also a lot of mid-90s - early 2000s British Indie Rock.

Matt: Sylosis has probably been my ‘favorite’ band for the longest time (although the newest album isn’t really doing it for me), but the bands I’m most enthusiastic about at the moment are Cult Of Luna, Dvne, and Elder.

George: On the tech side it would be Between the Buried and Me, Dillinger and Meshuggah but these days on the horrible side it’s Dragged into Sunlight, LLNN, Mourir, Cross Bringer, etc - than nicer gaze music like Cloudkicker and Soldat Hans.

Jess: Depends on the day, as a songwriter I idolize Trent and NIN, seeing Gojira live for the first time was definitely a defining moment in what sound and style of playing I wanted to do, but as for today? I’ve got the new Gatecreeper singles on the loop.

5. Who or what inspires you to write songs?

Matt: I think so much of songwriting comes down to being hit with a spark of inspiration, which often will come unexpected, whether by listening to another band and wanting to capture a similar vibe, or just getting an idea come into your head. Once you get that initial launchpad, it can be quite a quick and fluid process crafting the rest of it, but I find that I can’t force coming up with that first good idea, otherwise, the end result usually turns out to be poor.

Jess: For me, the riffs and music inspiration come from a combination of hearing something new and exciting, like another guitarist doing something I can’t figure out; and just sitting and improvising until I strike on something special. The ideas and compulsion to write tend to come from listening to music and going to gigs that hype me up to get involved. I’ll always have a backlog of idea fragments and as the song or album’s story starts to come together those ideas tend to organically find their home. It’s not something I can rush and the inspiration comes and goes!

6. Where was your last gig?

Matt: As of writing (11 April), we most recently played in Gillingham, which we had to do one-man light due to Jon being stricken by illness, but we’ve got a few shows just around the corner in April and May, including our album launch show on 26 May, and we’ll be back at full strength for those.

7. Where would you like to act?

Jonathan: I’d love to play Bloodstock, or Underworld in Camden. We’ve been fortunate enough to play some great venues. To be honest, I’ll play anywhere, I love playing live.

Matt: My favorite festival to attend is ArcTanGent, which would be great to play at (although I’m not sure we quite fit there). It would be a dream to play a festival like Bloodstock or Damnation or to play Brixton Academy now that it’s open again.

George: I’ve played in some cool venues with Vulgaris and other bands but the next step for us would be ATG and any grim kvlt festival in Europe, like Roadburn or Brutal Assault.

Jess: I’m with the others, we would love to get onto the bigger UK festival bills like Bloodstock and ATG, as well as head out to meet the metalheads around the UK in the Cities we haven’t yet visited. And if people are liking the new album over in Europe we would love to come to play it for them.

8. Whom would you like to feature with?

Matt: Does feature mean ‘collaborate with’ or ‘tour with’? For touring, you’d want to choose a band you’d be happy to listen to every night for a couple of weeks, and at the moment, I could easily do that for Dvne. Opening for Conjurer was also a great experience last year, I could’ve easily seen their set a few more times as part of a tour. In terms of collaborations, I’m trying to think of who would have a style that would complement us particularly well, and I’d be interested to see what we could come up together with an act like Kurokuma or Wolvennest, trying to mix our sharpness with their gloomy, ritualistic vibe. I’ve always felt Regarde Les Hommes Tomber is one of the acts we most closely resemble, and their collab set with Hangman’s Chair at Roadburn 2022 was really great.

George: I would echo Matt with wanting to play with Kurokuma or RLHT. There’s also a very good post-metal scene in Bristol with great bands like Row of Ashes. I’d love to support any extreme or post-band touring the UK from abroad - especially the Belgian collective bands associated with the Church of Ra.

Jess: There are just so many we would jump at the chance to play with, dream scenario might be sharing the stage with a Septicflesh or Amorphis type who have all the bells and whistles that come with a stage show.

9. Whom not?

Matt: That’s a risky question to answer! Without wanting to name anyone in particular, I find more experimental acts can be quite hit-and-miss; some have delivered really interesting live experiences, but some others, unfortunately, miss the mark completely, and I would not look forward to playing shows with them. 

Jonathan: I will also give a diplomatically vague answer; we have played with some bands previously that I personally would not choose to be on a bill with again. That’s all you’re getting out of me!

George: A very pretentious answer - I love bands who put on a serious, solemn, and contemplative performance so I wouldn’t choose to play with bands who were tongue-in-cheek.

Jess: Haha, no comment.

10. Have any of you ever suffered from stage fright? Any tips for beginners on how to beat that?

Jonathan: I used to get INCREDIBLY nervous before gigs. As for beating it, a combination of a few pints and also being ready, rehearsing, and trusting each other and our chemistry as a band is a massive help. Self-belief is a big one, I don’t get fazed by wondering if we’re “good enough” anymore.

Matt: I expected to find it more of an issue than I ultimately have since I’ve not been a confident public speaker, but aside from perhaps the first show or two, I’ve not had many issues with it. A pint or two helps, but as long as there’s a reasonable number of people watching (really sparse crowds can be a bit demotivating), I’m confident enough in what we’re doing to go out there and knock out a set.

George: Nothing serious luckily! I’ll have one drink to calm my nerves and add some confidence but I rather look forward to and get excited playing live. I’ve written drums for Vulgaris that allow me to hit hard and give a workout, and I love going to that different place in my mind to music.

Jess: I can be quite anxious generally but feel lucky to also say no I don’t really get nervous about performing. I think for us, knowing that we drill the set list religiously and are fans of the music we’ve made, there is a level of confidence in the performance we have before getting on the stage that helps. There are some cases where I know other musicians I really respect are watching and that can throw you off a bit, but focus on the song and stay in the moment, listen to your drummer you’ll be fine!

11. What bands have inspired you the most?

Jonathan: I take inspiration from several bands, both metal and otherwise. I love the off-the-wall experimentation of bands like The Velvet Underground and Acid Bath, the ability to take risks and evolve like Arctic Monkeys, and creatively heavy bands like Portal and Blood Incantation. Bands who try to do something a bit different and take metal away from being heavy for heavy’s sake.

But my biggest influences as a guitarist are J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr, Stephen Carpenter from Deftones, James Hetfield from Metallica, and Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys. Vocally, Jon Nodtveit from Dissection, Attila Csihar from Mayhem/Sunn O))), and Buzz Osborne from Melvins are my biggest influences.

Matt: When I was trying to push myself to the next level as a bassist, there were a few songs I learned from Between The Buried And Me and Periphery that helped improve my abilities. In terms of writing, I’ve taken inspiration from bands such as Neurosis and Cult Of Luna for songs I wrote before joining Vulgaris, but given the blackened edge to the band, I’ve looked more towards Enslaved, Schammasch, and Regarde Les Hommes Tomber since to try and find the right sound.

George: My biggest drumming influences are Blake Richardson from BTBAM and recently Darkside from MGLA.

Jess: Growing up it was always the guitarist I wanted to be, to name a few Slash, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Tremonti. These days I love technical and extreme bands that really combine lead and rhythm energy in their playing, so you might hear flavors from bands like Gojira and Gorod coming through amidst the more post/sludge elements. I also really love bands experimenting and twisting up genres so I’m currently really inspired by acts like Zeal & Ardor or Code Orange for the innovation.

12. What's the weirdest thing a fan has ever asked you for?

George: Care to answer this, John? When I toured with a prog-folk band I was asked to sign fans’ vinyl covers. That was surreal.

Jess: We've had some weird run-ins that's for sure, I don't think we've been asked much from people exactly but I've had some interesting characters catch me after!

Jonathan: A couple of us have received certain offers, which, yes, we’ve had to turn down!

13. What do you think of your fans?

Jonathan: It’s strange to think of us as having fans, particularly for something I started in my bedroom in 2017. But to anyone who’s listened to our music, come to our shows, and come up to introduce themselves, thank you - we love you. 

George: I love my mum and all our mums.

Jess: Honestly we get so much love after the shows and it's such a warm surprise every time, people who will trek around the UK to catch us, or people who came to see us time after time for the M2TM competition last year are just the best. I think when people get what we're doing and mosh out at the shows it makes all the hard work worth it, so thank you.

14. What do you think of our site?

Jonathan: I love zines that have a real passion for the underground and the music that comes out of it, focusing on what motivates people to do this in the first place, which is clearly a massive focus! It’s a great resource for discovering new music, but also for new music to be discovered. Top-notch stuff!

15. Something to add?

Jonathan: We will be releasing our new album “Seat of the Fire” on 24th May 2024. It’s about Prometheus the fire bringer. who is finally unbound after centuries nailed to the mountain; he steps forth into the rising waves to behold the destruction Man has wrought onto the world. His gift squandered, his flame this time brings wrath and vengeance. His new mission: conquer and destroy.

We released the first single “Siege” a couple of weeks ago, with the next one, “Swarm” coming out soon! Stay tuned to our social media for updates!

We will be playing (the time of writing being 11th April) at the Cart & Horses on April 20th, Signature Brew as part of the London Metal Coalition on April 27th, and our own album launch gig on May 26th at New Cross Inn. After that, we will be playing London Metal Coalition’s CoFest 2024 on August 31st - September 1st, which promises to be an absolutely superb event!

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