• Naomi Sanders

"I feel like Rock is the Highest Caliber!" VUKOVI

Slam Dunk. A festival not dissimilar to the US’s Warped Tour, except the weather here in the UK is a lot more unpredictable. But even that couldn’t stop the masses coming to Birmingham, Hatfield, or Leeds (or even all 3!), and what a weekend it was! One of the fantastic things was how, in the midst of all the bands, merch stands, and more bands, we got a chance to sit down with the latest offering from Scotland, VUKOVI’s Janine and Jason, as they were performing at the RockSound Breakout Stage during that weekend.

How does it feel to be performing on the RockSound Breakout Stage?

JANINE: I think with Slam Dunk, they have a certain caliber of bands, so I think they have a high standard of bands that play. Obviously, this is our first year that we’ve ever played, so I feel like we must make the cut this year.

JASON: To be featured at Slam Dunk itself is amazing, but to be featured by RockSound at Slam Dunk is kinda double-whammy, it’s really cool.

Your self-titled album was released a few months back - how has it been since then?

JAS: It’s been pretty crazy. It’s quite refreshing, ‘cause for so long, we’ve put a lot of work into this, and last year, every interview we had was like “So when’s the album coming out?”, and we’re like “It’s not even recorded, oh God!”. But yeah, it’s been really cool to see people get excited over it.

JAN: I think the progression since it came out, ‘cause when we recorded it, and before we really let anyone listen to it, we were really happy with it, we were like “do you know what; this is good! This is good!”. But then obviously, it then gets out, so it’s so nice to see, and it’s quite mental as well, like there seems to be building more than I can ask as the months go past. And I don’t know if that’s maybe word of mouth, RockSound and Kerrang! liking it, I feel like it’s starting to build, which is exciting.

Slam Dunk is semi-part of your tour with Press to Meco, and Inklings; how has it been with them on the road?

JAS: It’s been really sick playing with Press To Meco, it’s been bizarre ‘cause me and Hamish (guitar) have been huge fans of them for quite a long time and looked up to them, and then suddenly, we got the opportunity to actually have them tour with us, and that seems so backwards! Inklings have been great as well; it’s been nice to play places off the beaten-track.

JAN: Yeah, it’s like a small town, so going places that we’ve not really been before, so again, just blows my mind, particularly with Guildford and, haven’t been there before, but Southampton and stuff like that, I don’t know what that show’s gonna be like. I don’t know how tour’s gonna be, but I think it’s just blowing my mind!

Your latest video for “Weirdo” is dedicated to victims of cyberbullying, and features girls who have fallen victim to it; how important was it for you to get that message across?

JAN: “Weirdo” was written before the video, so I think it does kinda go hand-in-hand quite well, but initially the idea was just, the girl who plays me in the video, with the blue hair, I went to school with her big sister, and I met her mum at a gig or something, and her mum was just telling me all the hell that she’s been going through with bullying and cyberbullying, how she tried to take her life, things like that, just blows my mind, like you think “How can anyone make you feel like that?”. So, yeah, that gave us the idea, and then the other 3 girls, I met them individually with their mums, so I heard all their stories individually, it’s just...horrible, it is just horrible. So yeah, it just kinda snowballed from that one moment of that girl’s story.

As stated, “Weirdo”’s about celebrating your differences, whilst “La Di Da” is about an abusive relationship; how important for you is it to have messages about meanings in your songs that relate to many people?

JAN: Honestly, with this album, I’ve been quite open with how much the album radically revolves around mental health.

JAS: I would second that, having been in the band for ages, and viewing all the songs as they’ve come and gone in different forms; Janine’s really stepped up on the album, and you’ve been able to notice a clear message in every single song, and it also doesn’t need to be so specific, like with each song, you can almost take the lyrics and it can mean different things to different people.

JAN: Yeah, and that’s the thing; I wouldn’t be like “This is MY experience”. “La Di Da”, for instance, I was in an abusive relationship, and it was fucking horrible, but I’m not being like “This song’s about me, it’s all about me!”; I’m human as well, this is the shit that I go through, and it’s fucking shit! So when other people listen to it, being like “Yeah, I feel like shit as well, but she feels like shit; that’s crap, but she’s done alright, so I must do alright.”; so yeah, I dunno, I think it’s kinda like the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved”?

JAS: Yeah.

JAN: Like, band’s will say “Oh, you really really helping me with lyrics, and get through”, and I’m like “You’re helping me because I’m putting all my shit on you guys!”, so yeah, it’s been really refreshing actually, and not to kinda be judged at all.

JAS: It’s lemonade,isn’t it? Putting all your lemons, and make it lemonade!

Your music videos are very artistic and creative, and not your run-of-the-mill “I’m the band, and I’m gonna simply stand and lip-sync” - how do you conceive your ideas for them, and do you think it’s vital in this day and age to create unique music videos?

JAN: That’s the thing nowadays, I think there is so many bands, and so many artists, and everyone’s trying to do the same thing; we’re not trying to get to the same place, so you’ll always be trying to get your head above the parapet almost. Just get a wee bit head and shoulders above the rest of the bands, and not in a way like “We’re better than them”; there’s just so much content.

JAS: It’s knowing that everyone is trying to outdo each other, so you’ve got to pick on your strengths and run with them. And like with the whole “Weirdo” campaign, we’re all a bunch of weirdos, we’ve all got some strange ideas, we’ve all got some weird experiences to draw from, so we’ll just do them!

JAN: Get some snakes in! It’s cool! And again, I’m pretty sure I had a dream about that, like “We should do a video with a snake in it!”. I wasn’t expecting the reception it got, and the interest of “Wow, you’ve got a snake in your video!”, but for us, I felt it was quite easy to get a snake in the video.

JAS: You totally shat yourself when it first arrived!

JAN: Oh yeah, I can remember this big snake in its box, you could see the snake trying to get out of the box! I was like “Nope! Sorry! Not gonna do that!”

You recently appeared in Kerrang! Magazine celebrating British bands, how important is it to you to be from the UK, more specifically Scotland?

JAN: British music is very high caliber; all your rock legends are all British.

JAS: Funnily enough, one that springs to mind is Jimi Hendrix; bare with me, I know he’s American, but the Jimi Hendrix Experience was British, and he was the most famous in the UK, and that’s where he blew up.

JAN: Right, ‘cause Jimi’s like “I’m gonna get a British band, ‘cause they’re fucking awesome!”

JAS: He toured all of the States as a session musician for years and years and years, then came over there, to the UK, and turned into this absolute hippie legend, with his mad flamboyant clothes, and played guitar the way that he wanted, and suddenly broke the mould, and did it all in the UK, so have Sabbath, and Iron Maiden.

JAN: Rolling Stones, there’s so many.

JAS: The whole world looks to the UK a lot of the time for music.

JAN: I feel it’s like, they’re kinda expected to have good music in Britain, so it’s trying to get that off, don’t let them down.

JAS: Don’t let Jimi down!

After you finish your tour, you’re heading to Reading and Leeds Festival. Music festivals like Slam Dunk, and Reading and Leeds, are great places to listen to rock and metal; what would you say to those who comment that “rock is dead” or that “rock has no place in today’s world”?

JAS: It’s never gonna die. It’s literally never gonna die.

JAN: Rock and roll will never die. It only takes someone so much time for rock to come back through the sludge again, and then back to the top. One thing I will say as well is that I always find that with bigger popstars and DJs and rappers and all that is everyone can appreciate everybody’s genre of music, but I honestly think that these popstars; I feel like rock is like the highest caliber, I feel like rock is the cool one, like if you’re in a rock band, they have all the cool musicians. Not offending anyone, obviously, I’m going back to like The Beatles and Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin; all these legends, that’s music for me.

JAS: Something that kinda starts with humble origins, I suppose. If you start in your teens, they’re like “I feel like I’m not like the rest of my friends, I wanna try and join a community”, and there’s a really healthy community of people that have got a sort-of alternative interest, they wanna start playing guitar, try bass or drums, or sing, or get into fashion, and this community comes together, and that’s the sort-of focus of it, and you could be playing guitar in your bedroom one day, and then go and see your favourite band in the arena, and you’re like “I’m doing what they’re doing!”, and you can relate to it more than a guy that’s got 3 CDJ’s, onstage going “Go!”; I think it’s more relatable.

JAN: Maybe it’s just me in denial, being in a rock band’s the best.

JAS: No, but it is the best!

JAN: It is! You get a lot more respect, you’re creating something with your own hands. It’s like in Nickelback, “We all just wanna be big rockstars”, see that song, it’s kinda real, it’s kinda true.

Any plans after Reading and Leeds?

JAS: Rest. Rest for a while, keeping an eye on the emails, we’ve got some stuff which is being discussed at the moment, but we can’t say anything.

JAN: 3 potentially big things, 1’s confirmed, 2 isn’t. If they all happen, I think that’ll be an amazing year for us all, just top off a really good year. 2017, done!

JAS: It’s gonna be fun, whatever happens, it’s gonna be a laugh, and you’ll see more of us.