Over the last few days I’ve been emailing back and forth with Wild Beasts‘ lead singer Hayden Thorpe about everyone’s favorite or least favorite subject: sex. A year ago, in an interview with The Guardian, the group’s bassist Tom Flemming described the band as “sex obsessed,” stating “We say things really bluntly at times – we like to be earthy. The effects of sex and sexuality are really interesting.” We were intrigued, so we asked Hayden Thorpe to explain more before their performance tonight at The Independent.
Thrillcall: What does it mean to be sex obsessed?
Hayden Thorpe: I think it’s important to acknowledge that we, along with the entire animal kingdom could be described as sex obsessed, using every recourse be it energy, time or territory to attain some kind of order in what is a totally illogical and primal need. I think what we do on a personal level is kind of slightly unravel the confusing knot of sexual morals within our own society and therefore within ourselves and everybody else.
The thing is a song is like a memory; you naturally censor or edit certain elements to reveal truths that are either too painful or hidden to really view properly in the everyday. We’re bottom dwellers, if you’d excuse the metaphor, we’re kind of scanning the murky waters to find a truth buried in there somewhere.
Thrillcall: I enjoyed that pun. Is there a song that personally draws memories or feelings for you? What aspects of the song resonate with you (lyrics / acoustics / period of time in your life)?
Hayden Thorpe: Leonard Cohen’s “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” is a song that I used to listen to religiously at the age of around eighteen. It seemed to me such an “adult” song in that it almost had a code only someone of a certain character could decipher. That’s kind of the beauty of Cohen’s songs. You come to feel like they belong to you, they’re cliquey. “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” is a lonely song, but it’s happy in it’s loneliness if that makes sense? Many songs that appear to be sad are in fact in my mind at least, very positive and even life affirming. Your own hurting comes to be echoed back at you and you come to realize it’s not you alone who is persecuted but everybody alike. I think loads of great art works on that level.
Thrillcall: How has touring, coming from a small town, affected your viewpoint on sexual norms?
Hayden Thorpe: I think we started from point of realization that there are no norms, we kind of acknowledged that great big elephant in the room from the offset so it’s rare to be out-rightly shocked by much from the that point on. I think what does make me tense up a little is the angle at which sexual norms in our society are sold. I’d like to think I’m pretty un-squeamish and open, but the way the human, as it were, has been stripped from sex is pretty tragic in many ways. That lack of engagement with the emotion of sex is an utter turn off.
Thrillcall: What about how sexual norms sell music? I see Lil Kim or Madonna as opposites to say early Britney Spears, Hanson or Jonas Brothers.
Hayden Thorpe: I feel when big time pop is sexy it is only ever to a point. It works on a base, slap and tickle superficial level. There is never an acknowledgement of the emotion and dark forces, which lurk and move us to often brave and illogical actions. So to my mind it’s safe, I’m not stirred, sometimes I think put your trousers on and say something you really mean.
Thrillcall: Do you feel your music is sexual? How so or why not?
Hayden Thorpe: I’d like to think our music was intimate, close, even sensual perhaps. If it was sexual then it’s in a very human, warts and all sense. Our songs don’t exist in some elaborate velvet clad room, they exist amongst the spit and sawdust. It’s about finding and revealing the beauty in the everyday, because it’s there.
Listen to their track “Albatross” below.