The Haunt is a sticky place to say the least, and then Vant initiate their first of 16 unrelenting songs, ‘The Answer’ – a scrappy, post-Strokes track that has enough groove to get everyone moving early. The heat turns up. The Pits appear.
Arriving late at a Vant gig you could easily mistake it for a mass post-GCSE brawl (perhaps why Reading Festival was their biggest gig yet). Vant, a four piece who have been together for almost 3 years, are The Haunt’s latest indie offering: a collection of denim jackets, messy hair and 90s guitars.
Earlier that day, before the sweat and the riffs, I sit down with Mattie Vant, their surly Sunderland frontman and meet the rest of the band. They are approachable, nice guys – we find a room upstairs and Mattie and I sit down to talk. Immediately it’s clear to me I won’t need to work hard to get him to talk. He is naturally talkative, but not in a narcissistic, or self-indulgent sense. He is clearly passionate, but understatedly so.
Before long he delves in to political themes and ideas without me needing to prompt him. He talks at length about how “What used to be the conservative side of the government is now talking a liberal approach. If you look at things like Donald Trump and Brexit, it’s a vote against the establishment, where before the right was keeping control of the establishment and the left working against it”.
For all their thrashing punk on stage, in person he possesses a far calmer view on the world he writes about. Politics and social issues are important to him and his music, and he won’t let you forget it.
You can tell they get on well as a group, as he tells me they came together through “many drunken encounters”, as often the best friendships start. They work and write together naturally as mates and it is clear when I’m talking to him – “there was no pressure then, we all had jobs…it worked so easily and so naturally that it just progressed”.
Their supposed lack of pressure is an intriguing one, something he goes back on somewhat, later saying “There’s always pressure, no matter what stage you’re at – it’s all relative”, but if they are feeling it, it doesn’t show.
Brandishing their own version of, what Mattie self-diagnoses as, “Mature-punk”, they play with freedom and intent – “It’s all about escapism and having fun live, but there’s no reason why it can’t also mean something”. Even if his social criticism can erratically flutter between the 1975’s Matty Healy and the misfiring of Sundara Karma’s Oscar Lulu, it is refreshing to find a piece in the indie landfill that tries to be better than that. The right aim but sometimes they fire blanks.
Perhaps what Vant do best is their no-frills, no-pyro, no-backing-track approach to the show – the band play instinctively and spontaneously together, with a freedom that, hopefully, success wont infect. In an age where record sales don’t cut it financially, there is more pressure on bands to tour and to tour hard – they’ll have no trouble with this.
The closest Mattie gets to gushing is when he tells me, “We’re doing something that a million other people want to do, yeah you do get tired and a bit wound up by stupid things but we’re good enough mates to get through it”. Not only is their live show energetic and passionate to the last, but they clearly love what they do.
Even if it may feel monotonous, they find a way to keep it fresh. Beginning the set standing square to the mic stand with a smart coat on, Mattie finds himself in the middle of his own mosh pit for their last song, “Do You Know Me?”, a rousing, crashing piece of garage rock.
For all the talk and the intention, this feels like Vant getting down to business. “It’s all about being in the real world” Mattie tells me, “We love recording and writing, and playing live is the reward at the end of that”. Whatever we try to say about this band, they can work up a crowd and they can give a good show.
In such a saturated market, how does a British indie rock band set themselves apart? This musical landscape is painfully, impossibly busy. It is crowded and it is repetitive, and begs for something original or something meaningful to scream from the back of the room.
Vant find themselves caught between two great ideas: a great live show and a future of social purpose, and the middle ground does exist, they just need to find it.