Vukovi are back in town

vukovi-band-2We caught up with Janine Shilstone, lead singer of Ayrshire-based quartet Vukovi on the set of their latest video shoot at G2 in Glasgow.

Vukovi are making a bit of a comeback from what’s been a minor hiatus due to pretty horrible luck and circumstance in the last year. That hasn’t stopped them from producing some new material that we’re very much looking forward to hearing in the coming months.

Here’s what Janine had to say about the band’s experiences to date and a look forward to the new material and tours we can expect from Vukovi in 2014.

It’s been a while since Vukovi have released new material, is there any reason behind that?
Yes, Jason the bass player shattered his pelvis on a mountain biking trip and he was out for a long time, so that really hit us hard. As well as that, we’ve been recording a mini album down at Chem 19 with Nick Lawrie (our producer/sound engineer) and that took us a while but we really just wanted to do it right.

I think that’s why we were a bit nervous about it, we’d been away for too long and folk get bored. We’ve just signed contracts with a new agent (Free Trade) and a new manager which is all positive. Can’t really give anything else away at the moment unfortunately.

Going back a little, how did you guys get together and form Vukovi?
The three boys, Hamish, Jason and a previous drummer were in a band with a guy singer and it just didn’t really work out, they were called Wolves.

I went to school with the drummer and he said “why don’t we try to get a girl singer, I know this one girl from school who sings” and he messaged me on Facebook pure randomly and asked if I’d be interested in coming down to a practice and just seeing how it goes. So I went down and it was good, just sort of clicked and then we wrote and recorded our first song in the studio and it was on Radio 1 the month after. I think when that happened we thought we should take it seriously.

What song was that?
It was ‘Get Hot and Feel the Butterflies’. From then on we started to take things a bit more seriously.

What about influences, when I listen to Vukovi I hear funky bass. Guitar, even down to the way Hamish holds it is all about Tom Morello…
Oh yeah, that’s his idol.

…Drums sound like the guy’s got 3 arms…
Well, we actually got a new drummer, but he’s been here for a while, Colin, and his ability is amazing, he just plays all this shit and you’re like ‘you MUST have 3 arms…’

..and yourself
I just love everything, I like the Björk thing, I love Florence Welch and PJ Harvey. I do love pop but also heavy stuff too. Just hunners of folk, Skunk Anansie as well.

You’ve done a cover of Katy Perry’s ‘Part of Me’, is there anything else you’d like to take a stab at?
We were actually thinking about maybe doing another one. We done a cover of ‘Earthquake’ (Labrinth ft. Tinie Tempah) just for our live shows but it’s just at the end of a song. It’s good fun, it sounds like heavy shit. It’s not like rocket science but it seems to go down pretty well. We were thinking about trying to do another cover, Hamish said ‘Take On Me’ by A-ha, but I don’t know, there are loads to choose from. I like going for pure pop to try to turn it into a more alternative version.

Today, you’re shooting a video, what song is it for?
‘Shattered Chances’. It was between that and another (new) song on the album but the label and the agent were like “you need to do ‘Shattered Chances’ so that decided it”.

You demoed that a short while ago, is it a straight up shoot of that, what’s new?
We’re going to take that video down now as this is nothing like the original. Well, it’s nothing like the new version…

..would you be better off leaving it there for comparison?
We’ve kept it private just now until we release the video then maybe put it back up once that’s out. I think when you listen to it (the new version) it’s quite an aggressive song and you’ll probably agree when you see the video for it.

Judging by that and your ‘Target Practice’ video, you’re quite an aggressive bunch
Aye, the same guys who recorded that are here to shoot today, they’re amazing. We’re really good friends with them as well and we’re genuine fans of their work and they’ve been working with us from the start and we totally trust them as well so that’s good.

The ‘We Are Robots’ video, was that shot backwards?
That was Hamish’s idea, it wasn’t shot backwards, what we did was sped the track up by 50% and then he played it back in slow motion. I was singing really fast so it looks like it’s in slow motion but it’s in time with the music. The bit in the breakdown when I’m dancing, that’s reversed. The reason why we did that was Jason was in hospital and we’d already planned the video with these guys.

It’s genuinely one of my favourite videos, the simplicity of it and it turned out better than we thought it might. I think it’s an underrated track, we really underestimated it.

You posted on Facebook that you were performing a track called ‘Boy George’, anything you can tell us about that?
I think you need to listen to the lyrics when the song comes out (on the album) and you’ll be able to understand it a bit more but it’s actually about a groupie that I know who’s just a total bell-end and she looks a wee bit like Boy George.

Hah, sounds like someone’s going to get the message loud and clear. What’s the name of the new album and when can we expect to get hold of it?
We can’t give away the name at the moment, it has seven tracks on there, one is of the same name as the album and is a bit of a slow track but it was all of our favourite. I do think it stands out and I thought it was cool. We’d like to think that it would be out this summer. I’m hoping the summer anyway, it’s all ready to go.

Your previous work on the EPs sound really polished, how did you go about making those?
The EPs we did with Bruce Rintoul, who is an engineer but is also producer. Bruce is especially an amazing drum engineer and we were in the studio with him for about 5 days recording the tracks and he would mix them. We mastered them through a guy in New York called Mike Douches (pronounced doo-shez), who actually worked with Frightened Rabbit amongst others, he’s really good at what he does. For the new album, Nick’s done everything and it’s head and shoulders above, soundwise. It sounds a bit more raw, capturing our live sound better.

Speaking of playing live, what’s your favourite song to play to a crowd?
You know, I still like ‘Schwagger’, it’s just fun. At the end we always have a laugh with it and do a wall of death or something. ‘We Are Robots’ is good, it’s fucking hard to sing with the vocal effects on it, but I like doing that. It helps that Nick is totally on that with the reverb and delays, he’s got that perfected. It’s a lot of work but worth it in the end. There’s so many songs I like doing, a lot on the new album, but I think because it’s fresh and new we’re enjoying them. ‘Boy George’, I do love performing that live!

Do you have any gigs lined up in support of the new album?
We’ve got Napier Uni through in Edinburgh on Thursday 23rd of January (since the interview this gig has been cancelled due to Hamish dislocating his knee at the video shoot) and we should be in Glasgow around April but we can’t announce that yet.

..what about support bands for these gigs, anyone in mind?
I think it’s good to use bands that are a bit unknown instead of asking the same bands to support you. I’d rather have a band where folk come along and discover something new, it’s not just about us is it?!

You’ve done some TV work already with BBC Alba, how did that come about?
When I featured on the Scarlet Shift track (‘Clouds’), that was because our old manager knew their manager and after doing that he mentioned that he worked for the BBC and said he could get us an opportunity with that.

..have you played anywhere interesting?
Yeah, Belladrum Festival not last year but the year before. It’s amazing, I went last year as a punter and it was the best weekend ever. I think it’s probably the best festival in Scotland by far. The setup is amazing and it always sells out. You’re in the middle of these ruins and you’ll be walking back to the campsite and there’s these little secret gardens and you’re like “what the fuck’s going on in there?” And there are bands playing at midnight, it’s just magical.

I’ve got one silly question here, how much do you HATE the comparisons to Paramore?

(There’s a bit of a pause where I think I might get lamped here)

See at first, I hated it, it really pissed me off but, we’re a band with a female singer playing a similar genre of music so it’s hard not to compare. I do personally think it can be lazy sometimes from journalists to say it and it’s constant, all the time. You do get the odd really good review where they compare us to more bands that we’re like but in another way it’s a good comparison because obviously lots of folk like Paramore.

I do like Paramore, but I wouldn’t say that it was a massive influence of mine, which can get a bit annoying because singing-wise I imagine we have different influences. I kinda just brush it off now, it’s going to happen but it’s not the worst.

We once got called a shit version of System of a Down. That was so funny, but it’s the only really bad review I’ve ever read but it was funny though. It was after the Liverpool Sound City gig, he went on like “the singer is like a crap Toni Braxton or Tori Amos impersonator” something like that. Yeah, I don’t think we’re like that or System of a Down though.


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