INTERVIEW: Vukovi (31/01/2019)

Credit: Cameron Brisbane

Scottish alternative rockers Vukovi have been cooped away in the studio for several months now, save for the odd tour here and there, and since the release of their 2017 self-titled debut, there’s been quite a few changes that have only recently been coming to light.

Most recently, it appears that the band have been reduced from a quartet to a duo and, with their now more minimal and compact line-up, they’re gearing up to the imminently pressing start of their sophomore album cycle.

Whilst on a sold out intimate UK tour to get the ball rolling and to grease the hinges for a hectic 2019, we caught up with vocalist Janine Shilstone to talk about the new record, line-up adjustments, and what the year has ahead for them.

DP!: You’re on a short headline stint – three dates – before you start your next album cycle proper. How does it feel to be back at it again?
JS: It’s really good. I think because it sold out so quickly it got us a lot more motivated again, which is good. We’ve also been so spoiled with support tours in the past too, like with PVRIS and much more recently with One OK Rock in Europe in big venues, so coming back to much smaller venues like this is an undersell. It’s like a blast from the past.

We’re only playing three new songs from the next album on this run, because we didn’t really do a post-album tour, so we thought that we may as well and we ought to play the album mostly. It’s just so cold at the moment, but that’s the only complaint.

DP!: You mentioned your run supporting One OK Rock at the end of last year. How did that go for you with their fans?
JS: It was really amazing for us. Their fans are great, and we fitted really well into the bill actually. They were lovely guys too. They had a sushi chef on tour with them too, which was class. We’re going back to Europe again later this year too when we’re supporting Set It Off. We only announced that yesterday, and we’ve been sitting on that for ages.

DP!: Awesome. Well, obviously you’re gearing up for the next album, and there’s also been a few changes recently, most notably with the line-up. Can you expand on what’s happened there?
JS: To be honest with you, with this new album, Hamish and I had written it. With Jason (Trotter, bassist) and Colin (Irving, drummer), it was like they were getting more and more of a back seat with the creative side of everything. It was totally a mutual decision, and it was kind of good timing because we’ve got a lot on this year with the new music.

Colin is finishing the album with us though, and we only have a few songs left to record, but writing-wise it was Hamish and I who wrote it. It felt like the right thing to do and the right thing to happen, but there’s no bad vibes. It was all very open and mutual.

DP!: Are there any plans to bring in other full-time members, or will it stay as the two of you for the time being?
JS: I think right now we’re just going to do it as us two. Obviously we’ve released the new photos and it’s just the two of us, so people are like “What the fuck is this?” and people are speculating, and rightfully so. It was just a really weird time. Like, Colin did the One OK Rock tour with us and he’s doing the album, but I think the way that we done it was like “Do you know what? We’ll be just us two,” because we had written the album, we’ve produced the album with Bruce Rintoul, and we’re really exciting in the direction that it’s going in.

We have Martin who is going to be our session drummer for us for the next six months. He’s a phenomenal drummer, and it was Colin that wanted him to replace him. He recommended him, and that’s what I mean; there’s no bad vibes between all of us. We knew Martin and we knew of his playing ability and he’s fucking phenomenal, so he’s going to session for us for at least the first quarter of the year, and then seeing how it goes I think we’ll maybe give him the offer to join. We played London with him last night, which was his first show, and he was super nervous. He was kind of thrown into the deep end and was like “What the fuck?”, but he totally smashed it and did so well. His playing style really works with our music; it’s very aggressive and it’s fun, so it gets us a bit more pumped too.

DP!: Were there any nerves on your side last night too, with it being somewhat of a comeback show and also being the first with a whole new member in the line-up?
JS: Oh, yeah, it was pretty horrible. Even though the tour was sold out, I knew that once I’d got London out of the way that I’d be fine, ’cause it’s just that first comeback show. I was absolutely shitting myself, but it went fine and it sounded great. With the new stuff we’re going in another direction; not a different direction but I just think that we’re evolving, so it was good to test the new stuff. It was also good to see how it sits with the fans, but also how it sits in a set with our older stuff.

I’m not as nervous about tonight. To be honest with you, I don’t particularly like playing in London. Don’t get me wrong, the crowd was great, but I just feel like the more north we get, the more wild it gets.

DP!: Well, we’ve touched on the new album a little bit already, and that’s what the fans want to know about most at the moment. How’s that all coming together?
JS: It’s all been written, and we have two more songs left to record. Our new single is going to be out next month, and that’s when everything is going to start up again. That’s when we put our foot back on the pedal, and we’re not going to be taking it off. We’ve changed management too, and they’re just negotiating an album deal with us – we’ve got a few offers – but, as it stands, we’re not really waiting around for that now. Next month is when it starts, and that’s it. No turning back.

We’ve already roughly picked the singles from the album. I’m just really excited about it. I’m so, so excited. I think this is the happiest that we’ve been with music. We’ve really come on with our music and songwriting and stuff, but time will tell and we’ll see what other people think of it. Hopefully it won’t be “This is shit! Bring back the riffs!” No, don’t worry, there’s riffs. There’s obviously lots of riffs. There isn’t a huge sonic change.

DP!: Sounds riffy. So, where does this new record pick up from where the debut left off?
JS: For next month’s single, our plugger reckoned that we should have a crossover single and nothing that’s too different. I feel like next month’s single sounds like it could’ve been on the first album, so there’s riffs and it’s a bit like ‘La Di Da’, and a bit of a mixture, and then the following single will be a bit more of our more current songwriting.

I sound like I’m explaining that we’ve gone in a sort of pure jazz like fusion direction or into avant-garde space pop, but it’s not. To be honest, it’s more like we’ve went a bit more pop but there’s also even more riffs: it’s riffy pop. We’re tying and building up one extreme to the other. It’s also a lot more synth based, kind of Twenty One Pilots and current Bring Me The Horizon vibes, and some super, super pop melodies. There’s hooks for days but you’re not losing any of the balls; Hamish’s guitaring and style is not losing its rawness.

DP!: Were there any particular lessons that you’ve learnt from the first album cycle and taken away into this one?
JS: Yeah. I think now that we’ve got a solid team behind us, management-wise, and I think because we never had a post-album tour, which we should’ve really, but that’s all already been sorted and planned – we’ve already got more shows booked this year than we’ve ever done in a year, even though we’ve got no new music out yet, so that’s pretty crazy.

Songwriting-wise we’ve just learnt so much, with what works and what we like and what our style is. I just feel like this new album is going to be a massive step up for us, and just more us. I feel like it’s going to be one-piece, and there’s a theme going through the album, like quite futuristic themes.

With the first album too we had some older songs. ‘Boy George’ was already so old. We did say that actually when we were recording it, that there’s a lot of old and new, but this album is so fresh. Everything is fresh, and it feels fresh. It just feels good, and I honestly really hope that the wait is worth it. Hamish and I do personally feel like it is; we were going to rush it and stuff last year, but we eventually went “No, fuck it.” People deserve to have the best that we can give them, and I really do feel like it is. I just hate sitting on it, but it only a few weeks time and then that’s it – we’re back!

DP!: Is there anything else that you can tell us about the album at all? Such as an album title, song titles, or anything like that?
JS: Not really, sorry. It’s definitely going to be out this year, in the last quarter of the year, but once the single campaign starts the whole thing will start. We’ve already got the artwork done, the song names are finalised, we’ve got our new branding colouring on our socials with the orange, black and violet, which is the same theme as the album artwork. We’ve also done the video for the first single, and it’s ready.

We’re just impatiently sitting on it and we’re so excited for folks to see it and hear it. With this tour, I did really want the lead single out before it so we could promote it and so that the fans have something, but we’ve got plenty more shows coming up. We’ve also got some bigger shows in May.

DP!: Sounds exciting. Other than the new album, what else is planned in 2019?
JS: Honestly, just a lot of touring. We’ve got the European tour supporting Set It Off, and then we’ll be doing our own bigger UK tour, and then in the last quarter of the year possibly quite a big support stint. Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of touring. Not so many festivals this year, but a lot of touring.

The band’s yet-to-be-announced sophomore studio album is expected to be released in late 2019, with lead single ‘Claudia’ expected to drop in the coming weeks.

You can keep up-to-date with the band and what they’re up to online via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.