With a successful debut album under his belt, a couple of well-received UK tours and a trek across America currently in progress, things are currently looking bright for Tom Vek, the home recorder and multi instrumentalist from Essex.
His unique blend of rock, funk and dance have earned him plenty of plaudits in the music press, not to mention a hugely devoted following. In the middle of his recent end of year tour, musicOMH caught up with the man that many have labelled the ‘new Beck‘…
Outside Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms, Vek and his band have just arrived in their Ford Transit van from Portsmouth. Glasgow is scheduled for tomorrow evening, before the tour continues to Edinburgh then Hull – the regular grind it seems for any artist hoping to make that vital commercial breakthrough. But how exactly has he found himself in the position he’s in today?
Vek assures us that this was never his original intention, stating that making music was a mere hobby on the side, something that he’s been doing since his early teens.
On getting a record deal, he explains: “I’ve never been much of a demo sender. I just really loved making music, it gave me a lot of joy. In my studies, I was starting to specialise in art and knew I wanted to go on and do design. So I didn’t think anyone owed me a record contract.”
But this all changed when a friend of his father got in touch, demanding to hear some of the compositions that were being churned out in the family garage. A tape got sent to an independent label called Tummy Touch, and suddenly Vek had a recording contract on his hands.
- Becoming a recording artist was never Tom Vek’s intention…
He says: “I’ve been with them for a couple of years, got the record done, they introduced me to a producer that I ended up working with, in studios that weren’t being used on weekends – we went in there and did it on the cheap. They were going to release it three months afterwards, and then for some unknown reason some other labels started finding out about it.”
One of these labels was Island, who Vek latterly secured a licensing deal with, in an effort to get the music out to a wider audience. His creative freedom was never going to jeopardised, however: “I made sure that they understood that they weren’t touching the music, as the record was completely finished. So I was in a great position, because I could just say ‘take it or leave it’ – and Island records fully understood that,” he emphasises.
The next step was finding a band to tour with, to help him transport his homespun efforts into the illustrious live arena – something which was borne more out of necessity than anything else:
“I’ve never felt the need to form a band around the music before. The magic for me is writing the music and stuff. It’s something that Tummy Touch suggested after we’d finished the album. They didn’t have buckets of money to throw at session musicians or anything, so I just kind of phoned up some mates that I’ve been in bands with in the past. We did a couple of gigs, and then they kind of got taken on as the live band – and we’ve been doing a lot of shows!” he informs.
As far as musical influences are concerned, I asked if there have been any particular bands that have contributed to his hugely eclectic sound – something which he describes loosely as ‘funk rock.’
- Tom Vek doesn’t seem to understand the Beck comparisons…
“I guess I must have been influenced by my favourite albums – for a long time I was a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, that kind of melodic, slightly angsty rock aspect to it. I got into a lot of the alternative American indie stuff around the mid/late 90′s, like Eels and a band called Soul Coughing and a little bit of Beck,” he muses.
Which leads us on to the next point – what does he make of the numerous claims that he is Britain’s answer to the venerable Mr. Hansen?
“I don’t really know what they mean…I don’t think that musically it’s similar. Saying something sounds like Beck is kind of not really saying anything. The man spans so many genres – do you mean Odelay Beck, do you mean Midnite Vultures Beck, do you mean Sea Change Beck?” he enquires.
Perhaps they mean that both artists aren’t pinned down by one particular style of music. “In that sense, it’s very flattering – if it’s meant to be said like that!” he responds. “But you’ve always got to be something, even if it’s Pixies and Electric Soft Parade in a fight in a bar!” he continues, alluding to one of the many descriptions of his sound.
Vek’s quirky lyrical content has often been the subject of interest – do his words relate to anything in particular? “That’s the most kind of subconsciously natural instrument. I’ve never really thought about it too much, I’ve always taken great care over them and wanted them to be cool lyrics and stuff that I found interesting, but it’s never very immensely specific,” he remarks.
- Tom Vek on success in 2005…
The new Beck or otherwise, people have nevertheless been more than willing to embrace Vek’s music, something which has seen his debut album We Have Sound become an unlikely commercial success.
“It’s certainly done a lot more that we could have ever done on the independent label,” he remarks. “It’s perfect – the tour’s getting bigger, and the record seems to have reached a lot of people, so it’s very exciting,” he continues, visibly pleased at how everything’s turned out.
Along with the album’s success, Vek can also count well-received shows in America and an assured Glastonbury performance on the famous Other Stage amongst highlights of 2005. But he tells me getting the record out was perhaps the most special moment – “Seeing hundreds of them in a box was nice, and actually seeing it on the shelves in the shops and realising this is actually happening – I’m actually a bona-fide recording artist, because I’m now next to Velvet Revolver!”
On plans and ambitions for the future, Vek explains he’s very much focused on the here and now – “I’m really proud of the tour, it’s going well so far, so make this a really great tour, and then go to America and do the same thing! Nothing But Green Lights is coming out as a single, we’ve got some brilliant remixes done – everything’s just very exciting!”
With such a focused work ethic, it’s safe to say that we’ll be hearing plenty more in the future from one of the most promising ‘recording artists’ Britain has produced for quite some time. Nothing But Green Lights? It would be hard to disagree.
Tom Vek’s album We Have Sound is out now through Island.