Vladimir have been causing quite a stir since last Spring (writes Andy Wood). Previously they played a handful of gigs as Vladimir & The Mods before the Mods were dispatched into the dustbin of history and things began to move forward at a quite breathtaking pace.
The first gig I witnessed was in Dexters on a bill of five bands and they really blew me away, standing head and shoulders above the rest of the bands that night. Live, the sound is intense and enveloping, you can’t just stand back and listen passively, Vladimir suck you in to the maelstrom of noise. It isn’t just an unfocussed noise though, there are cracking songs lurking in amongst the feedback and ear-bruising racket. I can hear a lot of influences, some of which date back to points before Vladimir were even born but the end result is something very distinctly their own.
Last summer they released their debut EP. With it’s simple but distinctive and eye catching sleeve artwork (which seemed to feature on surfaces all over town in the lead up to the launch), it’s a cracking introduction to their music. Rather than just capture the intensity of their live set it’s a little more nuanced with the beautiful melodies underpinned by the inventive rhythms and passionate vocals.
Live, Vladimir have just kept getting better and better with the set incorporating new songs that sit just as well along side already crowd favourites such as ‘On My Wall’, ‘I Fight Fire’ and the epic ‘Mellow’ which live, brings their sets to a stunning climax, usually rendering audiences into a either awestruck silence or deafened rapture and quite often finds vocalist Ross Murray ascending inappropriate structures within the venue and drummer Sam Taylor hauling bits of his kit into the audience while guitarist Peter Mackenzie and bassist Josh Gray are joined on stage by various members of the audience and other bands members. At recent gigs the audience have been as much a part of the performance as the band, a factor that the band appear more than happy to encourage.
In the dead zone between Christmas and Hogmanay Vladimir played probably their best show to date, headlining at the Doghouse with a handpicked selection of excellent supports. There was no fear that they would be upstaged, just that they would have to up their own game following in the wake of excellent supports (Whigs & Rakes, Blindfolds, King Louie and Cha Cha Heels). I briefly worried that, this early on, they might have bitten off a little more than they could chew but just how wrong I was. They upped their game some, playing a longer set combined with a punishing, fantastic sound and brutal strobe lights and culminating in a frenzied end to the set that involved a substantial number of people joining them on stage and members of the band tumbling into the audience. It was utterly sublime.
If Vladimir had disbanded after that gig they would still have gone down as legendary at least locally but thankfully they have carried on moving. In recent weeks they have played their debut gigs in Norwich and London and played a wonderful set at the Reading Rooms which they pulled off with aplomb despite a total lack of sleep, having returned to Dundee from London where they played the night before. Despite looking knackered once they hit the stage fatigue was long forgotten as the collective creature that is Vladimir took over.
A new single ‘Cold Winter Grasp’ is due out soon. I’ve yet to hear it in full but I am very excited about getting a hold of it. The debut EP has now sold out. If you haven’t caught them live yet then I’d urge you to do so. Immediately. It’s an utterly elegant chaos performed by a band with utterly no fear, a band who seem to play every gig as if it was their most important moment ever.
Ross Murray kindly answered the following questions.
Can you tell me a bit about how Vladimir came together? What or who initially inspired you to start playing and form a band?
Me and Peter wanted to start a band, but we couldn’t find any other members until we found Sam, our drummer. Then eventually we found Josh.
We all really like the punk band ethics and listen to a lot of bands like ‘ The Jesus and Mary Chain’ and ‘Joy Division and newer bands like ‘The Libertines’
Why did you choose Vladimir as a name?
Me and Peter went through a stage of being obsessed with Russian politics.
In a previous interview you said that Vladimir had been a band since April of last year but you’d played a few gigs before that including as a trio. What happened in April that made it feel like the band was really starting out?
We kind of found our sound when Josh joined the band. It actually felt like we were onto something. It gave us more freedom to be what we wanted to be. The previous gigs before that were like a warm up.
What happened to the Mods?
They were killed in the Black Plague of 1348.
At the gigs I’ve seen so far I always feel a sense of nervous excitement, both in myself and among people in the audience, a kind of I don’t know what the hell is going to happen next. How do you feel on stage?
We kind of lose ourselves in the music and go into our own worlds. We just do what comes naturally to us when we play our songs on stage. This sometimes gets a bit out of hand.
What’s the best reaction you’ve had during and after a gig?
At our first headline gig in Glasgow a bouncer stood on stage next to the mic the whole set, chucking people off who were trying to get on stage.
One time after we played a guy ran outside of the venue and threw a glass across the street against a wall. He was a bit mental.
And the worst?
Some old women shouted at us to “get off the fucking stage” once. They wanted to see the cover band that was on after us.
Can you describe what your ideal gig would be?
Playing in a tiny, dark basement totally crammed with people.
Vladimir have just played their first gigs in England. How did that go down?
The sound engineer in Norwich cried after we played. Don’t think it went down well with him, but I think the people at the gigs loved it. People that saw us in Norwich came down to London the next day to see us again. We also had a girl from Norwich come to Dundee with us from London to see the last gig at the Reading Rooms.
Any good tales to tell from these dates?
Blair, our roadie, came home from a party the next morning without his shoes and instead monster slippers and pair of girl’s ballet shoes. Not realising he had to walk around Camden with them on the next day.
Then there’s the infamous stripper story. But you’d need to ask one of the band about that.
How was the response to your debut EP? Has it helped move things forward for Vladimir as a band?
The response was great. People have supported us a lot. It’s really helped a lot, but the E.P. was just an introduction of things to come.
How do you feel about the EP now?
It was good, but it was only a representation of what we were at the time.
Could you talk me through your new release? How did the recording process?
We went to Green Door Studios in Glasgow and recorded the single ‘Cold Winter Grasp’ it took about 3 nights to do. It’s hard to get it as close to our live shows but I think we have done a pretty good job on it.
When will it come out and in what format?
I’m not sure of the date yet early April I think. There will be a limited run of CD’s.
At the moment Vladimir feel like a bit of gang and it feels a bit like being a member of a cult with various people spreading the word and helping out. How do you feel about this?
It’s great, that’s exactly what we want. We want everyone to feel a part of it. You can’t just like Vlad’s songs, you instantly become a part of something a bit special. If we, one day, get signed or whatever it will be everyone not just the band.
When you become huge will everyone still be welcome in your gang or will it be stretch limos, private jets and high society friends and drug dealers?
Totally. Vlad’s not just the 4 of us who play the songs, it’s everyone who comes to see us and buys the CD’s and it will always stay that way.
You’re going to play at your first festival this year. Are you looking forward to it?
We decided to give that a miss. There were threats the council wanted to shut the stage we’d be playing on at 8.30! We’re just getting out of bed at that time! Seriously though, set lengths were getting cut and we can’t condense what we do into 15 minutes so we felt better to withdraw.
How big would you all like Vladimir to become?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about getting big because in every profession you want to be the best you can be and that’s the same in a band. So yeah, we aim to be the band of our generation
Finally, if any poor soul has yet to witness Vladimir live what can they expect at a gig?
Your life to be changed for better or worse I don’t think any words could come close to describing it or doing it justice.
Vladimir support Vic Godard and Subway Sect on Sunday 25th March at Beat Generator Live. Also on the bill are Edinburgh School for the Deaf and the Creeping Ivies. [Tickets] or from Groucho’s.
An idea of what to expect from the Vlad boys – a live version of the upcoming single from a couple of weeks back: