There’s just something about the sound of the music coming out of Leeds these days — it’s big, anthemic and hard-rocking. It’s stadium-sized guitar riffs and top quality tunes. It’s perfection.
Joining this crusade is Vexxes, a relatively new quartet that specializes in riff pop/alt pop sounds.
The band is made up of Maax Oliver, guitars and vocals; Shreedhan Vaidya, drums; Tom Fieldhouse, vocals; aand Sam Whittle, bass and vocals.
There is nothing soft and lighthearted about the anthemic songs written by Vexxes. From the opening maddening notes of “Lead Us Home,” the song careens full-bore ahead, led by vocals from Tom Fieldhouse, and “Everything I’ve Known” thunders in with blazing guitars and drums, then ebbs for the verse before resuming the charge.
Their first EP, “Common Ground,” features four songs and put the band off and running and they’ve not looked back yet. I recently had a chance to chat with Maax who talked about the brilliant experience they had playing Reading and Leeds recently, songwriting and naming the band.
So let’s start with the story of the band … How long have you been together? How did it come about?
Me and Shree had a mutual interest in starting something up on the back of on old band, so we set Vexxes up. We found Tom through mutual friends, and Sam approached us when we started gigging. He’s been in the band since and is currently writing with us!
We only really started out properly this year. We went down to London to record our EP in January, released it in May and started touring straight away!
We knew the kind of things we wanted to achieve when we were talking about it throughout the months leading up to it all, and we’ve pretty much exceeded most of these, so we’re super stoked with that!
You’ve just played the Reading and Leeds festivals — how was that? Was this your first big festivals?
Yeah, Reading and Leeds is one of the biggest major festivals in the UK, particularly for Alternative music, so that was huge for us! Being a new smaller band, we were on first on the BBC Introducing stage, so we were on super early both days. We only really expected a few hungover people eating breakfast and sat around y’know. But we were blown away that we actually got some of the biggest crowds on that stage the whole weekend!
You didn’t play just once, you played both days? Wow!
Yeah, we played Reading on the Saturday and Leeds on the Sunday – it’s like a rotation, we played the day with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Haim, Parkway Drive, Eagles Of Death Metal, Imagine Dragons, Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan and Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem … to name but a few! Haha!
Did you get to meet any of them? Any good stories to tell?
We met a few people in the green rooms, when we went to grab some food we were sat next to this cabin, Flea and Chad from RHCP were in there jamming away before their set which was awesome! Apart from that it was just cool to meet people in the industry we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to, like the guys in Deaf Havana and Young Guns, and Ross from Fatherson. Our bassist is a massive “Game Of Thrones” fan, he was excited to get a chat with Isaac Hempstead Wright who plays Bran Stark!
Sounds like a great weekend, despite all the mud!
Yeah, Reading was bone dry, and flat! Leeds was like a hilly swamp though.
Haha, I saw pictures, it looked crazy! Any other big things coming up soon?
We’re currently writing for our next releases, we have releases planned right up to next summer and beyond. Gig-wise we’re doing a bunch of weekenders throughout the rest of the year, we all work full-time and used all our annual leave earlier in the year. Just doing what we can when we can y’know! We’ve got a real taste for next year’s festival circuit now… so who knows!
Oh, new music! Right now you just have the 4 song EP out, right? Those are all killer songs! I left it on while prepping for our interview. It was great!
Awesome! Thanks! Yeah, just those 4 tracks for now, we’re riding on them for a while, there’s still a LOT of people who haven’t heard them, so we’re just working on expansion before we get any more stuff out. There’s a couple of tracks we’re playing now that sadly will probably never get released, we’re just that ahead of ourselves in terms of recording next releases that some just won’t cut it when the time comes around.
Save them for B-sides, that’s what all great bands do, and often, B-sides are better than the singles!
Yeah, well who knows, one day we might be able to warrant doing an album!
Tell me about songwriting — is it shared equally?
Usually either I’ll get a riff, and that forms something, or Tom will get some kind of hook or melody and that forms something, we all have an equal input from that point.
We don’t really have any kind of strict structure, we’re all into slightly different things so we write in a studio setting so we can hear the track in context, then we edit as we go along, it’s great how you can visualize a track and literally drag and drop parts to compare each of our ideas.
We’ll then take it into a room, play it out to see how it feels, go back into the studio make any tweaks and go from there. We’ve all got lots of writing experience, but as a band we’re very young, so we’re constantly finding new methods that work!
That’s great, it sounds as if it really works for you. How many songs do you have at this point?
We have loads. The EP was cut down from over 20 little ditty ideas, even just little phone recordings of melodies. Because of work though, only a select few get the time and attention they need to become full tracks. We’ve definitely got enough to be riding on for a while!
Very impressive! What is your musical background? When did you pick up the guitar?
I went to Leeds festival when I was 4 years old and saw Midge Ure play a solo acoustic set. When I went home my dad built me a stage and I rocked out!
I dropped guitar though when I was 16 and played drums for a band called utoXator, for about four years. I only picked guitar back up about four years ago, I suck!
That’s me after seeing Midge Ure! Hahahaha!
Haha, then why don’t you play drums?
Sitting down isn’t for me, I like to say my piece …
Aw, that is so sweet! Well, for not being able to play the guitar, you’ve got some pretty sweet sounds in the band’s songs!
I’m a big tone geek! I spend 99% of my energy finding tone and 1% being able to play.
Haha … How have you guys jelled as a band? Are you close?
There’s some brutal banter, I’d like to think we get on well, but who knows…
What kind of musical influences does everyone bring?
As a teenager I was listening to a lot of metal, I loved Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom at one point, then I got into more modern metal/rock stuff like Atreyu and Killswitch Engage and then Emo/Post Hardcore stuff like Chiodos, Alexisonfire and Atreyu. I generally change what I’m into on a bi-yearly basis, but I’ve always been a sucker for poppy and riffy stuff, so with all that there’s a bit of a mash-up of anything I like the sound of really!
Shree grew up on bands like Blink 182 and pretty much anyone else on warped tour around the time, but turned to the slightly heavier side of things with bands like A Day To Remember came out on the back of that, he has an ear for the popper stuff and influences our solid structures.
Like me, Tom had a bit of time out for a bit, he’s always been well into his British break through bands though. When we sat down together we’ve found there’s a lot of tiny bands that none else will know, but we were both well into, back in the day! He has a nice tone that most people would think is fairly different, I think this is down to him spending a lot of time doing acoustic stuff in homage to music like City and Colour, and it’s cool, it makes us stand out a bit from the voice you’d expect to hear with the music we’re playing.
Sam used to front a band, so he and Tom both pair up on the vocals quite a bit, they have two completely different ranges which work really well together, so you can expect a lot of lift in the vocals on future releases! Sam was well into his Indie Rock music, but is big on breakthrough alternative bands like Deaf Havana and Lower Than Atlantis.
Take from that what you will, haha!
The variety of influences is a great thing, and the fact that Sam and Tom can share lead vocals is a bonus for sure! Your music has that big stadium sounds that is really cool.
Have you considered doing some acoustic stuff?
Yeah, we’ve had to turn a few shows down lately where we weren’t all available and in hindsight could have played an acoustic show. We’re also looking at doing a few feature pieces, so we’re currently in the process of translating some of our music acoustically.
I would love to hear that, I think it will work well. Where does the band name come from?
It comes from a long list of about 938 band names which we couldn’t choose between!
Haha, close your eyes and choose? Or draw from a hat?
it’s just the one we liked the most … I think we spent more time choosing a name than we did writing our EP!
Haha, sometimes it’s the little things that are the most difficult!
You can find Vexxes on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/vexxesofficial, on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3LYvNd6nHVG6b0iCG6FUNQ, on Twitter at @VexxesOfficial, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vexxes/.