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Live at Smugglers Festival - Vipertime (EP Review & Interview)

23 April 2020


Leeds jazz-punk quartet Vipertime have released their Live at Smugglers Festival EP, featuring material from their 2018 EP, All Our Heroes Are Dead, and 2019’s hot debut LP, Shakedown.

Released on Hyde Park Book Club Records, it is a digital Bandcamp release only, as the download is pay as you feel. All proceeds are donated to Solidaritech, who repurpose old laptops, phones and tablets and donates them to asylum seekers and refugees to help them start their new lives in this country. The band will be holding a virtual launch party on 23 April from tenor saxophonist Ben Powling's front room; they also sent this message from lockdown about the EP:

Like so many artists in these strange, unpredictable times, our plans for 2020 have been taken out of our control. Touring, recording and most other activity have been made impossible. While we hunker down, reschedule, write, plan and try to recover, here’s an offering from happier times. At the end of the summer of 2019, we made the pilgrimage to a patch of woodland in Kent where we played one of our favourite gigs of the year at one of our favourite festivals in the world. We’ve released some of it on Bandcamp to remember this happy, sweaty, noisy summer. All proceeds are going to the charity Solidaritech. Thanks to all of you and to Smugglers Festival!

Set in a secluded woodland, sweating in front of a pulsating crowd as the summer sun sets beyond the trees – this is Vipertime in their natural habitat. The EP bares the ferocity, abandon and razor-sharp senses of the band’s live performance. Their saxophone, bass and two drum kit setup is pushed further than before, moving swiftly from voodoo fury to tender introspection, the audience at their heels with every move.

‘Shakedown’ begins with a note to Boris Johnson, clearly an angry sentiment that was shared by the crowd at his decision to prorogue Parliament to avoid blocking a no-deal Brexit that happened just days before Smugglers Festival. That anger sizzles from the drums that jolt you from side to side as the song feels very loose as if this is the last time they will play together, with the aggression abound from Powling in his solos.

The energy of ‘All Our Heroes Are Dead’ captivates as the group wield a sinister control over their music and show their ability to push you from moments of madness and fury to temporary breaks of relaxation to enjoy their rhythms. ‘Augury’ thrusts you to the upper echelons of their snarling free jazz spirit, with the whole band sounding more animated and busier with their improvising, the crowd surely drooling with a deep hunger for some more music to lose their minds to.

Their sound is very dirty and ferocious, as their ethio-jazz, post-punk, afrobeat and free jazz influences were exhaled onto the stage and in the forest for this performance. Vipertime’s first live release is a moment of nostalgia and an eye to the horizon; a snapshot of the past and a glance of what the band has become and what it will be.

Ben managed to chat with saxophonist Powling about the EP, their activities since their debut LP last year and their thoughts on the coronavirus situation and its impact on the music industry.

How does Smugglers Festival rank up there as one of your best festival experiences as an artist?

Smugglers has always been my favourite festival. It’s really welcoming, put together and run by musicians and has no sponsors. They books amazing music, there’s no unnecessary security, no VIP area. Everything possible is handmade and locally sourced. It’s their 10th anniversary this year but the capacity is still only just over 1000 people, and yet in the last few years they’ve booked Deerhoof, Kikagaku Moyo, Ibibio Sound Machine, This Is The Kit, Melt Yourself Down, Sura Susso and Evan Parker and you get the chance to see them in this beautiful intimate setting. 

It’s been nearly a year since Shakedown was released - what's the response been like from the record and how have the songs engaged with audiences you’ve played to since?

One of the best things about performing the music from Shakedown is how versatile it is. We’ve had amazing responses playing seated ‘jazz’ venues such as The Lescar in Sheffield but also at 2am warehouse parties and festival slots. The album has textures and atmospheres that suit both situations so we just have to change the emphasis slightly to help the music suit either situation. At seated gigs we can focus more on the space, improvisation and introspection in the album and then for club and festival gigs we can lean on the dance and post-punk elements. It makes the band really adaptable without us having to sacrifice anything. 

Have you any other plans for releases over the rest of 2020?

Like so many bands we had releases and touring planned for the summer that we have unfortunately had to postpone. Earlier in the year we were at Eiger Studios recording new material and we have some collaborations in the pipeline, we’re just not quite sure when we’ll be releasing them.

How do you feel about the music community’s response to coronavirus, in what seems an enormous amount of creativity really pushing through to maintain positivity through the crisis?

It’s been tough, but not at all surprising, to be reminded that artists and the self-employed are the government’s lowest priority, but I think people are really pulling together to help each other through it. We have more time than ever to spend with books, records and films, so we have to hope that we can come out of this with a greater respect for the arts in general. 

How has the band managed to deal with lockdown from coronavirus at the moment - any tips or routines you have found to help get through the day?

We’ve all had the horrible experience of watching our diaries for 2020 be slowly wiped clear. After spending countless hours on the admin of booking tours and making funding applications, writing material and practicing your instrument, it’s really disheartening to have all your goals taken away from you.

That said, I’ve been on tour so much in the past couple of years that I’m trying to make the most this time to do all the things I can’t do when I’m on the road. I’m practicing the horn a lot, cooking, running, reading. It’s been a great time to listen to those albums I’ve been meaning to check out for a long time. Some favourites have been 8 Songs by Liran Donin’s 1000 Boats, Live At Max’s Kansas City by the Velvet Underground, Come à la Radio by Brigitte Fontaine, Continuation by Collocutor and Rose Golden Doorways by Pulled By Magnets.

Other than buying music and merch from artists, do you have any other words or thoughts of the ways in which we can support the music community right now?

Appreciate their work. Now more than ever we have really have the time to immerse ourselves in the arts, so really take the time to listen to a record without distractions. Read the books on your shelf that are too heavy to take on the bus to work. Watch the plays being streamed by The National Theatre. Use your time to love the arts with the dedication they’re deserving of.


Buy Live at Smugglers Festival EP here:

For more information about Solidaritech follow this link:

Follow this link for details of their EP launch party:

Follow and keep up to date with Vipertime here:

Vipertime on Live at Smugglers Festival are:

Ben Powling - tenor saxophone

Matías Reed - bass guitar

Luke Reddin-Williams - drums

George Hall - drums

Recorded live at Smugglers Festival 2019 by Will Rose

Mixed by Will Rose Mastered by Elliot Mitchell


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