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Better Together: Bob Vylan on Building a Community in Times of Trouble

Wednesday, 27 March 2024 Written by Jack Butler-Terry

From folk through blues, jazz, punk and hip hop, music and politics are inextricably linked by social conscience and the need for self-expression. Unfortunately, some political bands tend to lose their way over time, but not Bob Vylan. The reason, observes vocalist Bobby Vylan, is simple. “Bob Vylan isn’t a political band, we’re a community-based band,” he says.

Along with drummer Bobbie, he has been building this tight-knit family of fans since the band formed in London in 2017, uniting like-minded souls in rage and catharsis as the world spiralled from catastrophe to disaster on repeat. “Certain things have had to happen for people to receive the message we are giving,” Bobby says. “Look at [2020 album] 'We Live Here' and everything happening around that time — those riots and demos had to happen for people to receive what we are talking about. Then with [2022's follow up album] '...the Price of Life', there was a looming cost-of-living crisis, so again people were receptive to that message.”

Bobby and Bobbie have long spoken out on issues of systemic racism, institutional prejudice and class war. Their fingers have remained on the pulse, with their lyrics taking in everything from violent formative years, on their debut EP 'Dread', to poor health and nutrition being forced on kids on '... the Price of Life'. But there’s something else, too. Their recent single Dream Big signalled their intention to turn the tide. “The message is something we are passionate about,” Bobbie says. “We don't want to be seen as a band just talking about everything wrong with the world. Optimism has always been part of our music.” 

Bobby adds: “We don’t want to be there just to bring people down. It would be irresponsible. Even though we come from a certain background, we’ve still been able to make the best of every situation in front of us. More important than anything, we've been able to persevere. We feel really appreciative of what we’ve done and the relationship we’ve built between us. Even with the video for Dream Big, it opens with the very first show we did. For us to make a compilation and chronologically trace and track our progress as a band, it just shows what is possible.”

And why shouldn’t they be feeling positive, especially after the critical and commercial success of ‘...the Price of Life’? It brought them a MOBO Award win and placed in the top 20 on the UK album charts. How do you follow something like that? Funnily enough, for Bob Vylan their breakthrough has actually made it easier to create. “Is it daunting at all?” Bobby asks, with a laugh.

“A lot of bands struggle with a follow up album,” he continues “‘... the Price of Life’ didn’t only meet expectations, it transcended them and that relieves the pressure because it’s all subjective. You can hit the top of the charts but critics hate it, or you can do an album everyone loves and it doesn’t sell, so how are you measuring success? We are just making the music we want to hear. If nobody listened to the music, I know we would still be listening to it.”

The album and all that came with it opened doors and avenues that the duo never thought they’d get to walk along, and they're running with it. They launched Vylan Socials — opportunities for their community to come together without the barrier and talk, laugh, share stories and meet in a no-pressure environment. They've also worked on their own hot sauce, Burn Britannia, a reference to the lyrics of their inflammatory anthem Take That. 

We're taking this seriously, it's not just something to sell at the merch stand,” Bobby says. “We've got collabs coming up with a restaurant I’m really excited about. There's also some TV stuff that is being worked on, and I'd love to do a book — a holistic book with workout plans and Vylan mantras that you can repeat to yourself. Whatever we do, as individuals and as a band, we want to give 100% to it.”

In the meantime, though, we have their new album ‘Humble As The Sun’ to look forward to on April 5, and the Bob Vylan camp are ramping back up into high gear with a slate of singles — including the the acerbic, gammon-bashing He’s A Man and the swaggering, exhilaratingly riffy class war anthem Hunger Games — serving as breadcrumbs leading towards one of the most eagerly-anticipated rock releases of the year. By the time festival season hits — with the band already inked in to headline Primordial General Mayhem  in Wolverhampton in late April before hitting Bearded Theory, Truck and Slam Dunk — its words will be shoutalongs. 

At a time full of so much noise and so many voices trying to be heard, you could do far worse than to tune into the wisdom and wrath of Bob Vylan. Bobby and Bobbie are here to be seen and heard, and they want you right there with them.

Bob Vylan Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue April 09 2024 - NOTTINGHAM Rough Trade
Wed April 10 2024 - BRISTOL Rough Trade
Thu April 11 2024 - LONDON Rough Trade East
Sat April 27 2024 - WOLVERHAMPTON KK's Steel Mill

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