"We want this album to be something that we look back on in 15 years and we're still proud of" - Vini Moreira-Yeoell
In case you missed it, Wallflower have just released their debut full-length 'Teach Yourself To Swim'. A record three years in the making, it's a multi-faceted, expansive and beautifully varied collection of songs that not only demonstrates the breadth of the band's ambitions but also their appreciation for the artfrom that is the album. It serves as not just a journey through the many emotions we all feel on a daily basis but also a basis for us to question exactly why we feel a particular way at a particular time.
To get a little bit more context for how this gorgeous body of work came to be, we jumped on the phone with vocalist/guitarist Vini Moreira-Yeoell...
What has the process of putting this record together been like? How has it changed shape over the time you've been working on it?
Says Vini Moreira-Yeoell: "You could say that the plan to do an album has been there since the very beginning of the band. There was always an intention that when the time was right we were going to put together a full-length record and it was going to be a collection of songs that represented us in the best way possible. All the lead up to now has been us honing our craft and figuring what we like doing and what we’re not so wild on. We’ve always gone with the mindset that it had to be different to anything we had done before. It couldn't be more of the same every time. After we did the ‘Where It Fell Apart’ EP three years ago, we started talking about the album and writing some songs. Nothing was really happening at that point. We’re very firm believers in quality over quantity and rushing an album within that 12-month timeframe seemed like an irresponsible thing to do for us based on how we regard our own output.
"We worked on ['18 stand-alone single] ‘Magnifier’ and that was the closest we ever been to sounding how we always throught we should sound. So from there we retrospectively looked back on everything that we'd done and said ‘How do we take all of these things we’ve done and make it into one definitive body of work’. It took a long time, but there was a moment where we realised there was an awful lot of room for us to do things that we hadn’t before. It’s a lot easier on a long play 12 track record to say ‘Let’s have a song that's based around this’ or ‘Let’s have a slower song’ or ‘Let’s try this’. You don’t need to worry about making everything you want happen in the space of four songs. In my opinion, this is the best median we’ve had. It’s the best way of putting across what our sound is. We’ve always been a band inspired by lots of different things and we’ve always wanted to show that in our music."
It’s often a case that bands are expected to follow a particular pattern of releasing things. You tour, you record, you tour, you record. No one has ever said there’s a correct way of doing things. In the same regard, there’s no blueprint to how an album should look or how long you should spend on it…
"Exactly. This is one of those things where we had conversations saying ‘We want this album to be something that we look back on in 15 years and we're still proud of’. We want it to still be representative of what we wanted to make and not what other people thought we should sound like or what they wanted to hear."
How over the course of making the record how did the vision you first had in your heads change? How similar is the final product to what you set out to make?
"The writing process for this album was quite linear really. We did a lot of things that, by a lot of other band’s standards, would be the number one thing not to do. As we started to write the first few songs we also started to plot where we would imagine them on a whole record. The experience of listening to this record from beginning to end as a whole piece was so important to us. It almost got to the point where we had all these ideas but realised a certain part of the record needed to be a certain vibe. So we would take what we already had a continue writing around that particular vibe and see what it took us. You always have to be open to change. You often hear that a band’s favourite parts of their own record is something that happened on a whim in the studio. That’s definitely true of this record for me.
"So there was always a plan for us to make sure we were flexing our muscles in as many ways as possible and not just go down that one singular path. We always had the idea in our head of just how much it was going to ebb and flow throughout the process."
Aside from musically, how did you want the record to feel emotionally? How did that shift, as you got deeper and deeper?
"You go through so many emotions on a daily basis. A big part of the feeling of this record was that every single one song needed to stand on its own and have its own message and story. Though at the same time it was important to have a record that thematically stayed in one direction.
"I almost see ‘A Parody Of...’, the first track, as an overture. It's us trying to condense all the thoughts and all the things I worry about into one song for me to then elaborate on all of those points throughout the rest of the record. A lot of the songs are self-referential and asking questions about the ways that I think about things and how other people think about those things too. It’s all about discourse really. It’s about having those conversations with yourself.
"To a certain degree, the whole album ends up being almost like a self-help book for myself. It’s having an opportunity to put those ideas across was really important within the lyric writing process. It’s the most I’ve ever thought about intertwining things and making sure my points aren’t contradicted. It’s very much a case of looking inward whilst trying to acknowledge all the things around you too. Moving forwards, changing and progressing whilst also recognising your faults."
It takes a lot of confidence within the person that you are to take that journey of self-discovery and present it in a manner such as music. You’re putting out a lot of your thought process in a way where all of your working is shown to the entire world…
"The thing is that when I’m writing lyrics it’s not just taking from one specific situation. It's me thinking about many different ones and trying to summarise them into one conversation. If you listen to some of the first songs I wrote for Wallflower, you can sense that I’m just stating points and saying ‘This is how I feel’. This record was more about asking why I feel like that. It’s all well and good getting into the details of your own experiences, but people relate to the fact that those experiences aren’t individual to you. It’s better to ask those questions and have a conversation about it rather than just saying ‘This thing happened to me and that made me feel sad’. You might be writing from your perspective but when other people are listening to they are looking at it from theirs. It’s important to remember that it’s not all about your viewpoint all the time."
How has your own relationship with music over the years influenced what you wanted your take on it to look like?
"I feel like it’s almost a cliché to say that music is my life, but I will stand by the fact that so much that has defined me over the years has been because of music. I know that’s the case for the rest of the guys in the band as well. Some of our biggest influences and favourite artists on musically are not even similar to the music that Wallflower makes. Where the real influence comes from is the sincerity and being true to yourself about what you’re making. Two bands we have been talking about a lot are Paramore and Radiohead. Those two bands are so different from each other musically and they have had very different careers. One thing you can safely say about both of them is how as they've progressed and changed whilst everything they have actually put out there has been real. You grow up listening to so many bands and they influence you in so many of the ways as to why you enjoy music, but the bands that were around 30 years ago who are still being talked about today comes from the fact they actually meant it when they were doing it. The message and the attitude around music is what matters the most. Doing things for yourself should always be at the forefront of everything that you do."
So at this point where you’ve put together a record like this and completed one of the main ambitions you had with the band, what does the future look like?
"One of the things that we haven’t talked about a lot is how this album has actually been done for the best part of a year and a half. So much of the boring stuff that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to releasing an album has been going on since whilst trying to figure out the best way to do it. We’ve all gone a year sitting on this thing that we’re all so proud of and not being able to talk about, and then all of a sudden we’ve got a platform, thanks to this lockdown period, where we have nothing else to talk about but the record. It’s put a lot of things in perspective for me because you hear so many people talking about the campaign of promoting an album being the most tedious thing but being given the opportunity to get this record head and start a conversation about it has been such an enjoyable experience for all of us.
"Moving forward from this, it’s knowing that we all love doing this. We all want to keep writing music and having fun with this band as much as we possibly can. Despite the fact we have so many other moving parts in our lives and all have plans that have nothing to do with the band, it doesn’t divert any attention from the fact that we love doing this and it brings us a lot of joy and happiness. As long as we can do it, we will do it."