Scottish alternative rock group Vukovi ventured on their first ‘grown-up’ tour last week, playing shows in Leeds, Birmingham, and Chester before concluding in London for the mammoth Camden Rocks festival. I was invited to Leeds with the intention of interviewing the group but I found merely hanging out with them provided much more insight into the life of a young touring band and the adventures they lead.
When I arrived at the Brudenell Social club I was immediately recruited into organising Vukovi’s merchandise. “Can you carry this box?” lead singer Janine asks me, as she picks up another. Dutifully, I follow her backstage to meet the rest of the band and suddenly we were rolling up t-shirts across the floor of the dressing room.
“Shall we get some food?” Dave (tour manager/band dad) asks, anxious to keep the group alive for longer than just one gig. Janine suggests the food van parked outside but no one hears her; she tried 4 more times before someone mentioned it was closed and the asian supermarket next door was the only option.
Once in the supermarket, each band member runs off in different directions; “where’s the chocolate?” drummer Colin complained, whilst everyone else was trying to decipher the hot food menu and Janine finds the strawberries. “I’ll have what that guy ordered,” says guitarist Hamish, looking thoroughly pleased with himself as everyone else copied him. The boys found 6 packets of custard creams for £1 and were suddenly asking their tour manager for the money to purchase them. Dave looked defeated as he went to buy the tour treats; “I feel like I’m their dad.”
As soon as dinner was prepared we went back to the dressing room; “5 Snickers bars for £1! Can you believe that?” Being on tour is like going on an adventure with family; living, playing and sleeping in close quarters with your bandmates forms a mysterious bond that is in decipherable to any outsider. “If this is day one, we’ll be dead by the weekend.”
Friends arrived backstage to congratulate the band as their support acts began playing and Colin started handing out the biscuits. The atmosphere was very relaxed and cheerful as the band reconnected with with old friends. “This is my favourite venue!” one person shouts, “…in the world!” All too soon it was Vukovi’s turn to take the stage and the excitement in the main room was palpable; the Yorkshire crowd had enjoyed local bands Fizzy Blood and FURR but everyone was buzzing for the headline act who had traveled all the way down from Scotland.
Vukovi stormed the stage and began with ‘Limp Bizkit’ before going on to a more familiar ‘Bouncy Castle’. Energy and spirits were high from the get-go; Janine danced around the stage, taking cameras from peoples’ hands to record videos from her perspective.”I had an accident with a mic stand once… I spun around it and it didn’t end well. Let’s get rid of that,” She tells the crowd, as she hands the offending equipment to her tour manager.
The band’s new song ‘Weirdo’ was well received as Janine dedicated it to everyone: “It’s about being different and weird and not giving a fuck about it!” The 1975’s ‘Love Me’ was covered with a punk rock twist as Vukovi sped up the tempo and gave the song a harder edge. It was a fun night as the band gave way to their inhibitions and made the most of being on stage.
“How are we doing, Wednesday Club?!” It might’ve been a school night but the Brudenell punters were having a blast, hearing a band who excel at live performance. Their latest single ‘Animal’ has been playlisted on BBC Radio, Kerrang and even Topshop, and it was a clear favourite of the set.
The night ended on a high with ‘Boy George’, one of the best tracks to come from this group. The crowd screamed for encores but all we heard was Dave-the-tour-manager’s reply: “They don’t know any more songs!”
“We may be recording in August,” Hamish tells a fan after the show. “It costs so much to get an album recorded these days. We can get an independent label to fund part of it, we just need to work on the rest. We’re not rushing it.” The entire band were by the merch desk, greeting fans and thanking them for coming to join the party. If I learned anything from this night, it was that bands on this level work hard and play harder; their relationships with their fans are priority and they’ll do anything they can to stand above the rest. And with bands like Vukovi, well, it’s about time you became their friend.