Let’s flash back to a year ago…
“Have you heard the new VUKOVI track?” my best mate asked me as we sat outside work on a smoke break.
“I’m not sure about it… it’s not the VUKOVI I know. Hold on, I’ll put it on.”
And with that, we sat outside listening to Animal on her phone.
“Hmm. I see what you mean.”
“I know, right?”
I went home that night and listened to it a few more times. A couple of days later VUKOVI were in session with Uncle Vic on Radio Scotland, and I messaged my pal.
“Y’know… Animal’s really, really growing on me. I’ve had it on repeat quite a bit the last few days.”
“Haha, me too, I can’t get enough of it!”
And with that, we were both throughly hooked on “new” VUKOVI.
The band are Jason Trotter (playing bass), Hamish Reilly (playing guitar), Colin Irving (playing drums), and Janine Shilstone (vocals, and playing the fool).
I sat down with them in their dressing room on Friday 10th March, just ahead of them playing a sell-out show at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut which kicked off a UK tour and marked the release of their debut self-titled album, which is at the time of writing sitting at #3 in the Official Rock & Metal Albums Chart.
Q: Okay, we’ll start with some easy ones. Cats or dogs?
JT: Used to be dogs, now cats.
HR: Same for me, used to be dogs, now cats.
JS: Fucking dogs, no need to even ask… not fucking dogs… obviously.
CI: We stayed in Nottingham with Hamish’s aunt, and there was this cat, The Chairman—Chairman Miaow—and he jumped up at me, really friendly, and then he literally sunk his claws into my chest and wouldn’t let go, evil little thing
Q: And you’re judging an entire species on the basis of that?
JS: We’ve spent a lot of time with that cat.
CI: And then a dog comes in, and they’re a bit “grrr”, and then opens up and you’re best friends and it’s great.
Winner: Tie! This inter-species war is obviously not going to get resolved today, but we did all pretty much agree that both are better than people.
Q: What is the best Disney film?
JT: Aw man, there’s so many! Are we gonna go for straight-up Disney, or Disney-Pixar?
Q: Oh, straight-up Disney…
Q: Aye, classic Disney.
JT: Hmm, okay… I’m gonna pull a…
JS: I know exactly what yous are gonna say!
JT: … Moana, the new one — it is incredible.
HR: Uh… Mulan.
CI: Emperor’s New Groove!
HR: Ohh I meant to say that! That’s actually what I meant to say!
CI: Mulan is amazing though.
JS: Mulan is good (Janine briefly breaks into song to prove the point).
HR: I’ve got more memories of Emperor’s New Groove, but there’s something about Mulan.
JS: Mulan is amazing. Mulan’s all about girl power!
JS: Oh, erm… Little Mermaid. Fucking classic.
CI: What did you say yours was, Jason?
JT: Moana, the newest one.
JS: Oohhh it’s fucking amazing by the way… oh my… see that soundtrack, it was up for an oscar
Editor’s note: it was the song [How Far I’ll Go]
Winner: Strong female lead characters
Q: Now… tea, or coffee?
JT: Hmm. Coffee.
CI: Hmm, neither. But if I had to choose one, I’d choose tea.
JS: See it’s weird because coffee is great in the morning, but you know when you’re feeling quite down, a cup of tea just makes everything better… so… eh, I’m going to sit on the fence with that one.
HR: You can’t… you can’t… pick a side!
CI: Yeah, pick a side Janine.
JS: Coffee… the dark side.
Winner: Coffee. The one true choice.
Q: Okay, so… new album, out today—very exciting. There a few songs that have been re-recorded, and some people listening to those are used to the original versions may be a little “hmm, I’m not sure I like these, I think I prefer the old ones”
JS: Who likes change? Nobody likes change!
Q: Exactly, and the question is: are you like “we’ve got the album done, and it all sounds great, and it’s with the old and in with the new”, or is it a bit more nuanced than that?
JT: So in a way it was “out with the old, in with the new”, but we did quite a thorough pre-production process where we went through our old songs, and compared them to our most recent songs, and decided which ones kind of stood up and went with them. We had to be quite cut-throat, really, there were a few where we were like “oh we’d love to have it”, but we’re… well, I am very happy with all of the ones we’ve chosen for the album… I think it’s pretty good. We’ve evolved—the re-recordings have evolved nicely as well, they’re still definitely the same songs, but with a bit more, like, attitude.
Q: You can definitely hear the differences… the level of production’s higher, which means they also sound more polished… if you’re used to an unpolished version, you can fall in lovewith that: a little like vinyl to CDs, you can fall in love with the cracks and pops on the vinyl record, and then you put on the CD and it falls a little flat…
JS: Because it’s not the song you fell in love with.
JT: Are you saying you don’t like our new songs?
Q: Haha, no, no, not that at all!
HR: I think they had to be re-recorded to fit the album, I like the old stuff a lot, though… because that’s what I sort of fell in love with originally. But you see any bands that I’ve grown up listening to, and they’ve re-recorded stuff, I hate it. I hate it when bands do it, and we just did that. The first message I saw on Facebook today was someone saying “I love the album, but I prefer the old versions of the re-recorded stuff”, and I totally understand that.
Q: But they wouldn’t have worked…
JS: Aye, and we knew that… but even like, Fatherson, who we love their EPs and stuff, and we’ve always been fans… and the new album, we heard the re-recorded songs and you listen to it, and you’re like “oh! that’s changed, I don’t like it!”; I don’t think people really give it a thought, it’s just a “I like what I like”.
CI: It just reminds you… you form an emotional attachment to it.
JS: Aye, you do, and it’s like smells and music, it like… triggers things.
HR: It is weird how you form that emotional attachment… it’s amazing.
JT: I think what we tried to do was make sure that the new recordings had enough of the qualities of the old songs… they’ll pass over to new fans, but our old fans will get something new out of it. We kept the tonality of them all, for example… I mean, you hear some re-records where they actually change the pitch, they transpose it and that’s just like “woah there”… yeah, I think we’ve just tried to evolve them a little bit, as we’ve evolved over the years.
HR: We owe a lot to the old recordings, don’t get me wrong, like they laid the groundwork.
JS: That’s the subtext isn’t it… the only reason we’re recording an album is because of them… and it’s not like we’ve gone deliberately “we need to make this sound cool and put loads of synth on this because…”
JT: …Because it was missing something?
JS: Aye, and it wasn’t, it honestly wasn’t. Bruce (Rintoul, the producer) played a big part in that, I think he’s done well in trying to keep this theme in the album; I feel like he’s set this really good standard, that the album kind of coalesced together around that.
Q: If you’d just dropped those songs onto the album, they wouldn’t have worked at all
CI: For me it was a really simple process of literally going through all of our songs and picking the best, and once we’d picked the best—it didn‘t matter if it was old or new—it got the Bruce Rintoul treatment.
JS: Yep, and the hing is, we’ve all come along a lot since then… I mean, fucking hell, Target Practice was one of the first songs we recorded.
CI: See if you put the old Target Practice on alongside the new stuff…
JS: …we would be cringing. We’d be listening to it going “I don’t like the way I’m playing that”.
Q: So it gives you the opportunity, with some of those, to go “actually, let’s tweak it and make it more into the song that you wanted it to be”?
HR: When you tour songs, you add these wee bits, and the song grows as you tour it. We didn’t have much opportunity to do that with Bouncy Castle, but there are a couple of bits we threw in during touring, and then when it came to re-recording, I was happy to re-record it because I could get those wee bits in.
CI: That’s going to be the same with the new songs, too, we just haven’t had the opportunity with them yet.
JS: Aye, when we’re back from this tour, we’ll listen back to them and be “I fucking hate that song, why did we record them like that?!”
Q: I was kind of fascinated by the fact that Animal got re-recorded…
JS: I know, but I love the new version.
HR: Animal was the most different.
JS: See the hing is, Bruce says that Animal… he thinks that’s the best song he’s ever mixed, ever…
HR: See, I thought Boy George sounded the best.
JS: Aye, he’s tried to explain it to me, he said “Janine, I’ve listened to them over and over again, and I’m trying to work out what it is…”
Q: As in, technically?
JT: See when we had the Animal recording, we did it really quickly, but I remember being blown away by how it sounded… and so we were like “ach, it can’t really get much better”, and then when I heard the final version, I was like “fuck off!”
Q: What’s your personal favourite track from the new album?
JT: Mine’s pretty tied up…
JS: (Hit Me Baby) One More Time?
JT: haha, it’s really close… Prey is going to be my overall favourite, and And He Lost His Mind for pure self-indulgence.
JS: It’s just so fun to play live.
JT: But Prey overall, it’s a bit of a showcase of us, it’s got a bit of everything in one song.
HR: Prey’s mine too.
CI: And He Lost His Mind for me too.
HR: Favourite to play live; Prey’s my favourite to listen to .
JS: That’s interesting… favourite to play live versus just favourite…
CI: See when the stream came out for Kerrang, I remember people saying And He Lost His Mind is just mindblowing..
HR: And I’m Wired, there are a few folk who picked that too.
JS: I’m Wired is mine.
Q: I’m Wired’s mine.
HR: It’s Bruce’s as well.
CI: It seems to be the one that has the most… instant appeal. Anyone I play any of the tracks to when that comes on they’re like “Holy… what the fuck is this?”
JS: I’m Wired with the album, like… I was kind of being a bit sneaky, but… I said to the boys “I think we should all have one song that we have to have on the album”.
HR: It would’ve made the cut anyway!
JS: The thing is, we kind of wrote it, and just… ignored it.
CI: It took us a long time to do the pre-production, deciding the order…
JS: That’s when I said to Bruce, “this needs to go on the album, I feel like there’s something about this song, please tell me you get what I’m saying?” and he was like “I totally get it”.
JT: What I find funny is that you thought you’d actually have to convince us, because we all f*cking love it as well.
JS: I think it’s because we’d stopped playing it live…
CI: …we never quite got the structure down…
JS: …and we just put it on the back-burner, but then there was something niggling at you, like “this needs to be on the album”, we knew it wasn’t where it needed to be, but thankfully Bruce and his pre-production, he was like “you should try it like this”, having someone who isn’t in the band come in, and we were like “how the fuck did we not think of that?”
Q: Let’s say you’ve got room for one more that you can squeeze in; what would it be?
JT: There’s a song we had, we nearly released it… we actually had a video, recorded live in session, called (Shattered Chances). I was genuinely pretty torn up that it didn’t get onto the album… I think it’s one of the coolest songs we’ve ever done, dark, aggressive, fucking sick solo in it…
HR: A Girl Called Jade for me.
CI: A Girl Called Jade here too.
JS: Shattered Chances was the one for me… in pre-production I really liked what we’d done with it, how we’d changed it, and they were like “nah, let’s do Who Wants Me Not”, I was like “that’s cool…”
HR: Who Wants Me Not?!
JS: WHO WANTS ME NOT?! I remember Bruce was like “we should probably go with a majority… what do you think?” and looked at me, and I was “that’s fine, but I want Shattered Chances on the second album” .
At this point, the VUKOVI family descended upon the dressing room, and the interview drew to a close.
And then… there was the gig itself, and it was stand-out awesome! You had to be there.
But if you weren't, check out Andy Mills’ highlights video to see what you missed:
And don’t worry — they’ve just announced a second tour round in May and June across the UK: tickets are on sale now from http://www.vukovi.co.uk/