Totally Against The Ropes – Vladimir interview (part 2)


In the second part of his epic interview Andy Wood discusses the ups and downs of being a young band in Scotland with Ross and Sam from Vladimir.

You’ve both mentioned becoming ‘a proper band’ a few times now during this conversation. What do you mean by that and when do you feel that happened?

Sam: Leading up to ‘Come Over’.
Ross: I would say at Tramlines [Festival] in Sheffield last year. Before that it was totally, we felt totally against the ropes and discussed splitting up. If things didn’t start to change by September it’s not going to happen for us. We didn’t ever want to be one of those bands that are struggling to try and make it and put on a show like ‘ Oh we are trying to do this so hard’. I mean if you are not enjoying it any more you should stop. We all said, well if September comes and things aren’t any better we’ll stop. We got asked to play Tramlines , went there, just totally smashed it and played ‘Come Over’ for the first time and everything seemed to go our way. Then after that, it’s just got better and better.
Sam: This is crazy that we were going to… when you think about it. Five, six months ago we were talking about packing it in and now we’ve had a new single premiered on Radio One and stuff. I can’t get my head around it. It’s the most humbling feeling that people actually enjoy the music I’m making and stuff. It’s a complete honour really.

It all seems quite surreal now. There you were last summer contemplating packing it in, now you’ve a new single out, a lot of gigs coming out and the small matter of an English tour with The Twilight Sad.

Both: Yeah, totally.
Sam: That’s not hit us yet.
Ross: I don’t think we’ll understand it until we are actually there.
Sam: See, by the time we get into the middle of May that’s when we’ll look back and be just like, wow, that’s a complete step-up.
Ross: One of the gigs in London has completely sold out. Any gigs we’ve played in London before, it’s been to about fifteen people. Then we’re away to play in a venue that holds 800-900 people and it’s sold out already.
Sam: It’s a big venue. A lot of good bands have been there.
Ross: Two nights in London. Before we couldn’t even have paid to get a gig in London if we’d wanted to so it’s totally mental.

Is the thought of doing these dates pretty nerve-wracking?

Ross: No. We’re so happy to do it. It’s exciting.
Sam: I wouldn’t say nerve-wracking. I’d say we’re raring to go. By the time we’re in London and we’ve done our soundcheck and we’re away to go on we’ll be – assuming there’s a good crowd – we’ll be, not scared but excited and nervous about it. Not so much in a bad way really, we just want to get on and do it because it’s… I’ve said so many times before, it’s such a step up from what we’ve done before. We’re going to play London to a sold out crowd. It’s ridiculous.
Ross: I think after that it’ll probably make us be like… either it’ll be ‘that was a total nightmare’ or it’ll be ‘this is what we want to do for the rest of our lives’.
Sam: Even then I think most of us have already made up our minds about that…
Ross: But I think this will really sink it in. It’s mental. It’s still not sunk in yet, I don’t feel it’s happening yet.
Sam: I think it’s good that we’re at a stage where I think any of us would do anything for the band.
Ross: We’re all in that mindset.
Sam: With some bands it would be ‘I can’t practice, I’m going away out to see my pals’ or ‘I can’t play this gig as I can’t be bothered’. We would do anything for this band, we’ve all totally clicked.
Ross: You see a lot of bands around and I don’t think everyone is on the same sort of wavelength.
Sam: It’s like they are just a ‘band’ but I like how we’re a band and we’re also best mates as well. I couldn’t think of any people I’m tighter with, it’s more like a family thing, friends as well. It’s a total cliché but it’s true. You couldn’t think of anyone else you could go on stage with and play a set as well as you can and get on with them so well. We’re away to drive from Dundee to Bristol and stuff, I mean there’s not many people in the world in everyone’s lives that you would be doing that with. That’s a lot of hours in a van.
Ross: I couldn’t do that with my family.
Sam: No, I couldn’t either.
Ross: We owe a lot to Twilight Sad as well. We couldn’t imagine any band asking us to do that.

Yes, how did it all come about?

Sam: Just totally out of nowhere.
Ross: Totally out of nowhere. Bands play on things like that: ‘Oh we didn’t know it was going to happen’ but actually, the week before they’ve been told and they’ve been begging and begging. We never even asked. We knew they were going on tour soon but we didn’t even know which dates they were playing. I was at work one day and I got an email saying ‘The Twilight Sad have asked for you to come on tour’ from a booking agent. I thought it was just to ask us to play a Dundee date and thought, ah cool, I’d love to play with them again. Then I looked at the dates and thought, Jesus, that’s the whole English tour. That’s mad. It took a few minutes to sink in.

It was funny how I was told about it. Peter told me then said not to tell anyone he’d told me, then Ross did the same. It didn’t seem to have sunk in on the day as everyone got ready to head through to Glasgow for the Radkey support at King Tuts.

Sam: That was a really good day, as a day on its own, that was a brilliant day. I got woken up by Ross phoning me and saying, ‘You’ll never guess what’s happened’. I mean, none of us knew it was happening. A couple of hours later I got on a bus to go down to the studio and hop in a van and we were playing King Tuts and that was a brilliant gig. That was really busy. A fantastic show. And that was a really good day for us as well.
Ross: Things seem to just be getting better and better but we’re always waiting for it to fall apart. That’s the type of people we are.
Sam: We’re not getting ahead of ourselves.
Ross: Someone said to us last week, you’ve got so much ahead of you but we’ve seen so many bands that got everything they want, took their foot off the gas and it just fell apart. It’s over before it started. I mean, obviously we’re like, yeah, we’ve got the Twilight Sad tour but we still keep on doing what we were doing before. If we hadn’t got that we’d have had the end of April, start of May with nothing on and would have played our own gigs. We’ve just got to keep focussed on doing our own thing. That’s just an extra bonus.
Sam: The way I see it is when we wake up to a wee email saying, for example, the Twilight Sad tour, there’s more to live up to. It’s just taking care of itself, everything else will fall into place. I like how we think awww, this is another thing, we’re going to have to step up again. We have to be better than we are for this. Even in practice we were saying we have to be better than we are now, even a month down the line. We’ve got to be so much better than we are just now because we want to be. We don’t just want ot go down there and be as we are now, we want to get better every single gig and we think we are. We’re getting tighter, playing the songs better, we’re writing better songs.
Ross: We’ve got five nights playing places we probably wouldn’t get to play if it was just our own gig, to bigger audiences so we’ve just got to go out there every night and totally smash it and play the best set we could. We’ve got to go down and play our hearts out.
Sam: There’s nothing more I like than playing gigs. If you ask any one of us what would you rather do – go away on holiday to America for a month or would you rather play five nights in England with one of your favourite bands – and everyone of us would say we’d rather do that every time.
Ross: it’s the first time we’ll have played that many shows in a row.
Sam: It will be a test for us as well, going away for five days, it’s a first for us.


It’s probably a good thing that you’ve got a run of gigs before the tour?

Sam: Yeah, we’ve got a lot.
Ross: I can’t wait for them. It’s weird how it’s worked out. Playing a festival in Sheffield the week before then we’re back down in Leeds. It’s weird as the venue in Sheffield will be the biggest venue that we’ve ever played. For the last few months we’ve built it up like ‘Yes, that’s going to be the biggest venue we’ve ever played’ then we’ve just got all these gigs after it and it’s like woah! We’ve went from never playing a venue that size to playing like five or six in the space of a month.
Sam: It’s a weird feeling. My birthday is in April and the gigs have totally overshadowed my birthday. I don’t even care about my birthday any more I’m so excited.
Ross: I can’t wait for the headline shows as well. We’ve not played a lot of headline shows I think. The last one must have been the Dundee one we played last September.

The Dundee show will be your first since then as well.

Sam: It’s not that we don’t like doing it, it’s more we like making it a rarity because we like changing it so much. I mean, if you went to see us at our last headline show in Dundee, the one we’re away to do will be completely different. Similar vibe obviously but there won’t be much going on that’s the same. Everything will be different. And better. Hopefully.

How important is it at this stage to do the headline shows?

Sam: You’ve got to test yourself.
Ross: You can keep doing support slots playing 25 to 30 minutes but it’s a step-up to go out and play 45 to 50 minutes, playing just to your own crowd, the whole crowd is there for you.
Sam: It’s a weird feeling for the headlines shows. It’s a weird feeling that people are spending their money to come and see you. They’ll get some great bands as well as us but they’re coming to see us and that’s literally, there’s nothing more… I wouldn’t welcome anything else. Actually, it’s the most humbling, amazing feeling that people are actually giving up their Saturday night to come and watch you play your music and hopefully enjoy it. It’s really the best thing ever.

Things seem to be going really well for Vladimir at the moment. Has their been any backlash from people in bands you know or have people generally been pretty pleased for you and supportive?

Sam: I don’t know, everyone seems to be really nice about it.
Ross: I think we’ve always done our own thing, we’ve never been in any cliques ever and I think people realise we’ve pretty much came from nothing and built the band up to where it is so I think everyone is like, on you go, and pretty happy for us.
Sam: Even if we go out on a Friday night in Dundee and we bump into people in bands they’ll stand and chat away to you and it’s amazing. Some of these people are a lot older than me and they’ll ask me for advice and that’s scary.
Ross: We’re not one of those bands who have just came along over night and got this.
Sam: It takes a lot of effort.
Ross: Everyone has been really sound about it. I guess if things keep carrying on some people will be negative but we’re not the type of people who give a fuck. They can say what they want.
Sam: That’s what happens. As soon as you do well there’s always people in the world who want to shout you down, call you crap and that. Not everyone’s going to like you.
Ross: We’re kind of used to that. When we were at school we were totally brought up with that so it doesn’t affect us now.
Sam: It’s like still being at school [Laughs]. Being in a band is like being at school.

We talked earlier about things being a struggle but at this stage with all the gigs coming up doesn’t that make it even more of a struggle financially.

Ross: Totally. A nightmare.
Sam: Don’t get us wrong. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s like paying for a holiday.
Ross: But more expensive and a lot harder.
Sam: People go off to Magaluf for two weeks and it costs them £600 or whatever. If we do that, we’re more than happy to do that and we do it as much as we can. It costs a bit but…
Ross: Costs a bit? It’s cost everything we’ve got. I work about forty hours a week and every single penny goes into the band. So you’re working a full-time job to pay for the band. It’s like how I imagine owning a football club is, just putting your money into it and it goes to someone else and you never see the money again. I don’t think people see that. I think people think you’re going to play these gigs and you’re going to make an absolute fortune and you’ll come back so well off. It is a total struggle. I know how many bands split up for that reason but you’ve just go to bite the bullet.
Sam: I think a lot of people in a lot of bands think they can do amazing things without putting anything in. They think everything will come to them, they won’t leave their own city, they won’t have to pay to take their gear on a Megabus to London and stuff. We’ve been there and done that.
The band is like a job but it’s not a job at all. It’s like having a hobby that you really love more than anything else, that requires a bit of money. By no step of the imagination is it a job. There’s no way we wake up in the morning and go ‘Oh no, we’ve got to go to Glasgow’. We all wake up and we’re totally buzzing or we can’t sleep, go out the night before and we’re all totally excited and it’s all we talk about.
Ross: You wouldn’t do a job if you were paying to do it.
Sam: Yeah, exactly. At the end of the day a bit of money helps. You feel bad needing it but you do need it. It’s a touchy subject.

Around the time of ‘Come Over’ you seemed to do quite a lot of interviews. Do you ever get bored of them?

Ross: No. I could talk for days.
Sam: It depends on the questions. I mean, sometimes you notice the same questions. It’s good to talk to someone whose interested it in rather than someone who is faking it or being very insincere about it?

Kind of ‘Hey, is it true you guys are all pals with The View’?

Both: Yeah, totally, we’ve had that quite a few times.
Ross: Non-stop. We’ve been asked that probably more times than any other question.
Sam: It’s quite ironic as we know a couple of them.
Ross: We tell them a different answer every time.
Sam: It’s funny. You can play on it and totally take the piss and some people will just believe you the whole way. It’s fun just to see how far you can push it. It’s quite a strange one.

Sam, this is officially the most I’ve ever heard you speak.

Sam: It’s a good effort isn’t it.
Ross: Once he starts he doesn’t shut up.
Sam: I’m just trying my best for you.

It’s most appreciated, thanks.

Part 1 of this interview

Here’s the A-side of the new single:

Vladimir launch ‘Smoke Eyes’ with a show at the Cool Cat Club on Saturday (12th) at Beat Generator Live in  Dundee with support from Naked and Waiting for Jack. You can purchase copies of the limited edition two song CD with a postcard and badge at the forthcoming shows or from various online sources. Check the band’s Facebook page for details.

Single and Gigs


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