“Wild Beasts: Between a Purr and a Roar,” written for Paste, 2008
Hometown: Kendal, a town in England’s Lake District
Album: Limbo, Panto
Band Members [l-r]: Tom Fleming (bass, vocals) Benny Little (lead guitar), Hayden Thorpe (lead vocals), Chris Talbot (drums, vocals)
For Fans Of: Antony and the Johnsons, falsetto
British band Wild Beasts was originally called Fauve, a reference to a group of early-20th-century French painters (les Fauves) whose outrageous use of bold colors marked them as true avant-gardists. The band eventually translated its name to Wild Beasts “because it sounds so much more crude in English,” says singer Hayden Thorpe. Still, the avant-garde parallels remain: Wild Beasts’ debut Limbo, Panto is a soaring, singular combination of emotional abandon, frank laddishness, shimmering guitars and cabaret theatricality.
“I think the beauty of the music is that you can take from it what you want,” says Thorpe, noting that some people tell him they work out to the Beasts’ music while others say they play it when they’re going to sleep. “It has enough layers in it for people to cherry-pick what they like.”
He and Little were teenagers at the same school when they started the group in 2002, and they write as if they’re still goose-pimpled gods, to borrow a phrase from their song “Assembly.” Limbo“I want she for laundry / I want she so I’m not lonely / I want she…not matrimony.”
“Something that fascinates me is that the real macho, hard elements of men and the more vulnerable, insecure sides of them don’t ever get talked about because it’s too uncomfortable for guys to hear about,” Thorpe says.
With the otherworldly vocals of Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), the young singer flaunts his own vulnerability on Limbo, Panto, even though he sometimes gets flack for it. “It takes more balls to sing like this than it does to sing in some sort of half bearlike growl for half an hour,” Thorpe maintains. “And you can get away with saying more outrageous things if you sing them in a beautiful way.”