Ventenner have been carving their own path through the UK and international music scene for some time now. Disregarding the traditional approach whenever they can and creating their own sound, scene and limits. We caught up with Charlie Dawe, lead singer and producer, on what’s been going on in 2019 and what is coming up on the horizon.
So, what’s been happening?
We’ve been simultaneously taking it easy and being really busy. If I’m not constantly rehearsing or playing shows it feels less hectic, but the reality is I’ve just been spending all my spare time writing and managing the other areas of the band and developing my label and music agency, Syndicol Music. So busy, but with a laptop, not a microphone.
There’s mutterings of a new album underway. What can you tell us?
We are most definitely working on a new album. In fact we are a lot further along on it than I thought we would be at this point in time. It can be a daunting process sitting down with all these scraps of ideas at the beginning. It’s like tipping out a brand new jigsaw puzzle and looking at a chaotic pile of pieces. But this time the process has seemed to flow a lot smoother. We already have about eight fleshed out songs, maybe more. We’ve streamlined our process, we know what works for us much better now. So taking something from conception to realisation is a lot less painful than it was in the early days.
How have things changed for the band since the last album?
Well we’re always on a learning curve. Everyone is, or at least they should be. So whether it’s co-existing in the same space with each other or just developing personally as musicians and creatives we are always moving forward. We recently wound up our first headline tour which was rewarding, humbling and terrifying. We’ve had a line-up change too. And I think overall Ventenner is more sure of itself. As a whole, it feels like it’s on solid ground now.
After the last album we toured the whole year on and off, and we definitely learnt a lot.
Invidia was yet another musical direction for Ventenner, is this something you aim for on each release?
I think we simply try to push ourselves a little further each time. We may not be great at recognising our own individual faults, but we’re good at pointing out each others, in a constructive way of course. So if something seems familiar we’re instantly “nope, we’ve done that before. Keep going.” We do have a lot of common ground though and our small, 4 person hive mind is on the same page more often than not nowadays. Invidia was the band in 2016/17, and it was great. We had a blast recording that album, and we took this angry guitar driven metal album on the road with a whole host of industrial bands and it worked really well. That was the snapshot of us then, and this is now.
Musically this new album is a pretty hard hitting and dark sound so far. I’m not sure how exactly it will evolve over the coming months but right now it is existing in quite an ominous place.
What’s the creative process for the band?
I tend to wallow in the ideas for ages before even a note is written. I’d been thinking about this new album for about a year before I even started writing ideas. Making image boards, coming up with concepts, exploring film and music and writing and my own thoughts. If I do it that way my mind is fully loaded with ammunition as soon as I sit down in the studio and it all starts pouring out as soon as I start pressing buttons. I hate going in and thinking “I need to write a song”. I just end up drinking 4 cups of coffee and then leaving.
The actual logistics of it is a certain amount of back and forth, but we do tend to present fully formed ideas to the other members and see what sticks. I’ve already scrapped about 6 tracks that didn’t make the cut. Other times it’s more “that riff sucks, but that drum thing you’re doing right there is really interesting. Let’s build on that”. We know our process now and taking things into a live room to start playing them is happening a lot quicker this time around. We make sure we get in a room together and do the work that needs to be done. Having Cat (bassist) on board this time around has been a breath of fresh air too. She’s a machine when it comes to new ideas.
You had some unusual releases in 2018, in Fragments and the Version 1 and 2 EP. What was the background behind these musical outputs?
Someone once told me that their favourite Ventenner track was on This Is The Reason. And I remember thinking “really? I think that album is far from my best work”. But it got me thinking about what we put out there in the world. Something I write off as a bad idea could be someone else’s favourite song, and it may never see the light of day. So the idea of Fragments started to take shape. All these little pieces in between songs and albums. All part of the same mosaic of our career so far, but they had been held back or tucked away for whatever reason. So I thought hey fuck it, let’s put them all out there, see what people get from it. Maybe it will be awesome, maybe it will be a disaster, maybe it will become a random oddity that no one hears. Personally I.m really happy that we released it.
The EP was something completely different altogether. We had done these two singles in 2018, just stand alone tracks to play live and release and whatever. And we also had this track we had written with our good friends Cold In Berlin a while back. Eventually I had the idea to bundle it altogether. We added in a few remixes, recorded a new track called Down and suddenly we had an EP. I decided to release it only on CD just to be difficult. Hopefully people will be trying to find them on eBay years from now as there was only 100 made and no digital release.
You’ve got a tour coming up shortly with White Ring too. How does your studio work translate to the live stage?
The live versions of songs always come out slightly different to the studio versions. Whether it’s the textures, tone, speed, swapping a synth for a guitar or changing the arrangement slightly. It’s a process that we have to figure out each time we’re bringing a new song into the set. Sometimes tracks we really liked on the record just don’t translate to the live stage very well at all. But I think that has also influenced our writing slightly, even if we’re not always aware of it.
We also pick our set lists depending on who we’re playing with, so sometimes a new track or a cover or something older will pop up in the setlist. There’s always new challenges and new ways of dealing with them. Technology is changing that too, new gear means new ways of doing things.
Any last words?