“A collection of profound and epic album reviews and musical articles by former astronaut and brain surgeon, Alasdair Kennedy. Reaching levels of poetry that rival Keats and Blake, the following reviews affirm Alasdair to be a prodigy, a genius and a god whose opinion is always objectively right. He is also without a doubt the most modest man in the universe.” - Alasdair Kennedy
They’re a wacky indie rock duo from Manchester, regularly known
to perform live shows in boiler suits and make-up, musically influenced by the
likes of Everything Everything, Animal Collective and tUnE-yArDs. According to
their press release, they write ‘sci fi
ballads about the mechanization of labour and quiet hymns about failed
is their latest exciting EP, instrumentally brimming with
chorus-effects-slathered guitars, cinematic synths and cowbell-heavy
percussion. Their lyrics alternate between poignantly political and brilliantly
bizarre – occasionally meeting somewhere in the middle: ‘just keep me tranquilised with tea’.
From songs about apples and anti-Semites to songs about coming
out as transgender, most of the EP seems to centre around the duo’s arrival at
adulthood and the realisation that it is all rather confusing and shit. But
instead of being a bunch a whiny millennial musings, their insights come across
charming due to the humour and eccentricity that the pair are able to pour into
their music. Perhaps one of my favourite songs is ‘Body Bag pt.1’, in which Flora seems to lose it at the end lamenting ‘If
only I could spell my name!’, following an eerie detuned synth kind of
similar to the THX sound effect in reverse.
Given the chance to interview the band, I decided to get into the duo's psyche and better understand the minds behind the madness. We
hooked up and dined on cake, pizza and Brexit and here is the result…
If The Vanity
Project was a pizza what toppings would it have?
Flora: It would be covered in
chocolate sherbertglobes, roseberry fizztwizzlers and everlasting gobstoppers.
But as you bit into it you’d find the juicy sweet tomato puree was actually
Your new EP is the
dog’s bollocks. For a duo, you guys play with a lot of exciting instruments.
Who plays which instruments?
Rob: Thank you! We each play a bit of
everything, except Flora can't drum for shit and my keyboard skills are
non-existent. A lot of the weirder sounds come from an Ultranova Novation synthesiser
and a Roland Handsonic 10 drum pad. While it’s difficult to get synthesised
drums to sound right, it does allow you to put timpanis and santoors on an
indie rock record.
I quite like the
line ‘we all become tories in the end’ in Graduation Blues. Would you consider
yourself political lefties? Is this a social comment on the fact that the older
generations seem to have all turned right wing (it would certainly seem that
way from the demographics that voted for Brexit and Trump)?
Rob: Yeah, we would call ourselves
lefties, but when we explore political issues in our songs, we don't tend to
push a particular agenda explicitly. That's mostly cos we don't have any
answers, we're just acutely aware that everything is going to shit. That lyric
comes from a particular experience I had when a woman asked if I’d voted
Labour. When I said yes, she responded 'of course you did, that's because
you're young.’ Truthfully, I have become less left wing as I've gotten older –
I was an anarchist for a bit during my teens. The whole song is about the death
of idealism: politically, and the idealistic dreams you hold for your own life
*cough, like trying to make your indie band work, cough*. Idealism is all well
and good when you're young and looked after by your parents, but when you’re
older and have bills to worry about, you do get a bit more money driven. I
worry that socialism is a luxury for the middle classes and I think Brexit and
Trump have shown that.
I watched your music video for
Graduation Blues. I’m sorry no-one came to your B-day bash. Did you enjoy your
Flora: The cake was, in a word,
dogshite. It was dry and the icing tasted of doorknobs. When I ripped it apart
in my hands it was pure catharsis, not just on account of the bad experience I
had had with that cake, but as a purging, a violent cleansing, of the trauma
incurred from all food that appears precious yet tastes of despair. I asked Rob
if we could get Sainsbury's Finest but by that point he'd spent all the budget
on disco lights that DIDN'T EVEN MAKE THE FINAL CUT.
You have red stuff
on your boiler suits. What happened? When are you going to put them in the
Rob: We had one of our pizzas.
What music have you
guys been listening to recently?
Flora: The extent to which I've only
been listening to PC Music for the past month is unhealthy. I'm only just now
coming out of the phase with a lovely EP from serpentwithfeet called Blisters,
very soulful, quite Antony and the Johnsons. Best album of the year was The
Colour In Anything by James Blake, and for once me and Rob are agreed on it!
Rob: In terms of when we were making
the EP, we were rinsing XTC's Skylarking and Hjaltalin's Terminal. Both records
are orchestral and grand but have a ton of unexpected sonic flourishes, which I
think you can see reflected in the EP.
Jonathan Higgs of
Everything Everything likes your music. Have you met him personally?
Flora: Strap in Alisdair this next
part's a rollercoaster. There's a lyric on Fortune 500 that's a bit of a
riddle. If you check its Genius page it's been annotated by the band with some
cryptic comments. I posted about it on Reddit, then started receiving a lot of
strange anonymous messages there that were even more puzzling. I eventually put
two and two together after he tweeted the words ‘grotto fail’ at us… keen
readers will note that it’s an anagram of “Flora got it”. We happened to be
playing a festival they were headlining around that time, so I sent back a
coded message that they should come see us. And they did. I won’t say what the
answer to the riddle was.
What are live shows
like? I understand there’s lots of loop pedal
Rob: The loop pedal is something of a
necessity, as there’s only two of us, so we loop various sections to get a full
band sound. We don’t like to think of ourselves as loop artists though, I feel
like the stereotype there is layering various affected guitar riffs on top of
one another and mumbling into a mic. Our shows are pretty manic – lots of
swapping instruments, running around and hitting things. At the moment they’re
birthday party themed to go along with the EP. We bring party poppers, balloons
and, very often, cake.
Flora: I guess you’ll have to come to
one of our shows (George Tavern, London 10th Jan; Zombie
Shack Manchester, 24th Jan) to find out!
Rob: …or you can watch a video of it
But come to the shows as well. Please. What does the future hold for The
Vanity Project? Any New Year’s resolutions?
Three words: big brand deals. I’m talking Coke. I’m talking Pepsi. We’ll do
We’re planning to play as many gigs as we can, particularly in Manchester and
London. We have two more singles planned for release this year… let’s just say
Trump and Brexit are a recurring theme.