As 2016 hurtled towards its catastrophic climax, we were all reminded of how imperfect our tiny, old planet really is. Brexit was a shambles, and Trump’s shock victory was even worse. It’s been a rough ride, and political turmoil continues to sweep across the West like a virus. But before we start retreating into our nuclear bunkers and getting all down about it, it’s important to note that there is a resistance brewing. The city protests are just the seeds of it. One of those doing his bit for the liberal left is Mattie Vant. Armed with a solid set of protest songs and his band VANT, he is attempting to stir up a youthful revolt in the post-truth era: “I think we’re a small part of a fairly universal desire to push for globalisation and equality worldwide,” says Mattie. “We just shout louder than most people.”
Born in the sleepy coastal town of Seaham in County Durham, Mattie didn't stick around too long. He decided to take his passion for music further south, sampling Brighton's folk scene, before moving to London and forming VANT around a template of grunge, punk and classic rock. “I’m a bit of a sponge - since I was about 10, I’ve actively tried to find new and exciting things. I’ve experimented with a lot of different genres over the years as well, but rock music has always resonated with me more than anything else.”
Three years on from their inception, VANT have grown into an unstoppable force. Last year's Karma Seeker EP shot them into the national consciousness - rammed with slick guitar riffs, huge choruses and powerful lyrics criticising religion and nationalism. Politics has become part and parcel of the way Mattie writes music, and how VANT operate as a band. Under his guidance, they explore a wide range of relevant topical issues, like gun control or the refugee crisis. Mattie feels this is just a necessary step in the trajectory of musical progress.
“Just look at our history,” he explains. “Politics has been a huge part of music since medieval times. We had classical music, then jazz, blues, soul, rock, punk, hip hop and now grime. We’re emulating all of those brilliant artists that spoke out and used their platforms to raise valid points about important issues of their time.”
He’s not alone. Many other young artists are choosing to vocalise their opinions on the wider world, rather than wrap themselves in a comfortable blanket of escapism. “It’s great to see loads of other great British artists with something to say emerging now," says Mattie, “such as Cabbage and Declan McKenna, alongside the welcome return of MIA. I spent some time in Washington over the course of Trump’s inauguration, and it was incredibly inspiring; there are so many great people out there trying to oppose evil (in whatever form it rears its ugly head), I came home feeling full of hope. We’re not totally doomed, yet.”
The human race’s hyper-speeding towards end-times is something that Mattie has thought long and hard about. The band’s debut album Dumb Blood, recently released on Parlophone, is a brutal socio-political commentary. It's a manifesto for the next line of young activists wanting to exact change - an uncomplicated response to the chaos currently engulfing our planet.
“It’s a comment on our silent generation,” explains Mattie, “a massive sleeping giant with huge potential to save our species and the planet. The album is a war cry. We’re trying to wake people up!”
One thing that is clear in listening to Dumb Blood is that each song is its own big statement, capitalised to ensure they aren't ignored - "PUT DOWN YOUR GUN," "I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD," "ARE WE FREE?" It’s an intentionally sincere record that never holds back in its condemnation of global injustice and calls for progression.
“We cover a lot of ground, some songs tackle different topics in every line. Overall it is trying to convey three main themes: a better education for the next generation, which in turn will help us make greater leaps forward towards actual equality and the possibility of reversing the effects of climate change. It’s also very philosophical and full of humour. I’m sarcastic and aware that it all feels a bit overwhelming at times, this thing we call life.”
Next stop on VANT’s campaign trail is the USA where Dumb Blood's critical swipes may just hit a nerve. Their live debut on American soil will be at Governor’s Ball in NYC on 3rd June 2017, but Mattie is looking ahead with positivity and caution. “I guess the first question is will our visas even be approved?! Ha! Seriously though I’m relishing the opportunity, we are a band that proudly states we are from Planet Earth. A lot of themes on the album are inspired by America, and we’re ready to have some input and offer a little bit of an outside perspective in their time of need. Maybe we’ll burn a Trump effigy or something on stage, I don’t know yet, the world is our oyster (as long as we don’t convert to Islam).”
In our virtual online bubbles we sign e-petitions and partake in social media rants in the belief we may make a difference. Even if we do, It's easy to forget that something needs to happen in the physical world. In his own deadpan way, Mattie offers up some simple advice on how to tackle our newfound enemies of freedom and peace, "If you want a change then be part of the conversation, not only online but in the real world as well. Join groups and movements, go to protests, that’s a start. The next step is civil disobedience."
Does anyone else feel a revolution coming on?