Not content with having created their own multiverse, the multitalented and multifaceted Wallowing also took this year’s ArcTanGent festival by storm. We were there to witness it, so we had to grab the band’s Tom and Mark as soon as they walked off stage. Here’s what they had to say:
You’re fresh off stage. How was it?
Mark: Really great. Earlier we were thinking maybe it’ll be half full, but it was quite full, which was really nice. It was strange to play on such a big stage. We always psyche ourselves up to go nuts on stage, but it’s usually in a small space, something like a meter squared.
How do you think Wallowing fit into the whole ArcTanGent aesthetic?
Tom: I think it is a really cool festival for weird music. At work before I travelled down, people asked me what the festival was like. I said it was just different, there’s some really cool, experimental stuff going on. You couldn’t strictly call it a metal festival, it’s too diverse for that. It is quite arty in that sense, and there’s some really cool stuff going on and the curators seem to have their fingers on the pulse.
Mark: It’s nice for us because we don’t really fit in anywhere, which is totally fine, we don’t expect to, but we feel the least out of place here. It’s so welcoming and friendly, there’s so many different things going on.
Tom: For us it’s worked out here because we don’t pigeonhole ourselves into one genre, people who come here are looking to hear new things, and I definitely feel like we are a new thing that people haven’t experienced before, but there are elements of it that anyone can enjoy; you might not specifically like heavy music, at least not our style, but I think people can appreciate it and go away having enjoyed it.
I understand the band originates in Brighton…
Tom: When we first started, four out of five of us were in Brighton, but now we’re all over the country, which is nice because when we tour we have a base where we can nip to for the night.
Brighton is not my first thought when thinking of extreme metal. So did you ever feel isolated coming from that environment?
Tom: I moved to Brighton in 2013 when I was a student, and I promoted gigs, we put on a lot of gigs in local venues and we ended up putting on house shows in our kitchen. When we moved there it was a really good time for doom and sludge, it seemed to be a really popular thing, you could go anywhere and Sleep would be playing, and that definitely influenced our sound a lot, although I wouldn’t say we are a sludge or doom band.
Mark: We definitely came out of that scene, but then we thought, where can we take this?
Tom: I think it was around the time of the pandemic, where the doom scene petered out a bit, but Brighton is a student city so there’s a lot of new faces coming in and out, and now there’s a really cool hardcore scene popping up and that’s going to be around for a while.
Mark: I think with Wallowing specifically, I don’t feel like it is solely a Brighton-based band, that’s just where the base of operations is. Our first gig was at Cardiff Psyche Fest in 2017, and we’ve only played a handful of shows in Brighton.
You’ve released a lot of different media; comic books, action figures, cards, are they all meant to tie in with the band’s sound?
Tom: Yes, they represent different sides of us to an extent. We are all really nerdy. Myself, I really love old-school sci-fi films, there are all these different influences we have that aren’t music related. When we made the first album, we produced these DIY comics that we like collages, we couldn’t draw well enough, but we really wanted to get the story of the album across, and we gave them away for free at our shows. So, we asked the guy who does our album artwork to get involved with the comic.
Mark: He’d always wanted to do a comic, but never had the opportunity, so we gave him a platform. We’d talk about doing a graphic novella, but when we saw what he did, it totally surpassed my expectations, and that really shaped our “wobble-verse”, as we call it. How he laid it out, the expansive sci-fi landscapes makes a visual representation, and I’m thinking about that when we play live.
Tom: When we write music now, we write with that in mind. The album is told from different perspectives, when you have the album, you’ll have the lyrics as well, and there’s a narrator; you’ll have the humanoid perspective, the android perspective, and it was written with all these elements in mind. We’ve released one chapter of the comic so far, and we are working on another. It’s the same with the figures; we released one based upon our live show, one on the album, it is a good way for us to express ourselves and we just want to have fun with it ultimately. Especially during lockdown when we’d just released Planet Loss, it was a good way for us to keep momentum going, we could really dive into other aspects of the band.
How receptive are you label, Church Road Records, to your ideas?
Mark: They’re great. We said to them we’ve tried to make this album more accommodating, having some shorter songs and not just one long song, but they said if that’s what you want, do it. It is nice to have that support. They’re like, whatever you think is the best.
Tom: It was the same with the comic and the figures, we said to them that this is a big part of the band, and straight away they said that this was fine. They could see that we were sincere about what we were doing and making all these aspects of the band.
We also have Pupil Slicer and Silverburn playing ArcTanGent who are also tapping into a space vibe. What’s the shared aesthetic you are all tapping into?
Tom: I think it might be slightly political. We wrote sci-fi, conceptual stuff to reflect how we felt about the situations in life. It seems more than coincidence that other bands are using a similar outlet as a way of storytelling.
Mark: I think there is some level of collective consciousness with the music and creativity, we are all following the same path. With the album Planet Loss, when we wrote it was how we felt at the time. It was a very cynical look, a sci-fi version of where we are going, whereas now we are only heading closer and closer towards authoritarian rule, it’s an absolute maelstrom of fuckery.
Tom: Everybody wants to express themselves, and music is a great way to do it, and if you can go down a conceptual route and express these ideas, then why not?
Mark: I love conceptual bands, I love death metal, but I went off it for years, but then I came back with bands like Blood Incantation, the more ethereal, spacey stuff. There’s much more openness now, I remember back in the day when bands crossed genres it was seen as a weird thing, gigs were all one style, but now there’s more leeway to do weirder and different things. Sometimes we’d be setting up at shows and before we played the promoter would be like ‘Nope! You look like you’ll be too loud, fuck off!’, but I’ve not experienced that in a long time, and now I feel there’s more room for the stranger type of shit…like us!
The band has a definite look, almost like beekeepers from space. Where did that idea come from?
Tom: It was a joke at first. We don’t really have a “no man” in the band, no one really says no to anything, and I think that’s why we’ve arrived at where we are now. We were playing at a venue called The Bee’s Mouth in Brighton, it’s a really small basement venue, and with the name Bee’s Mouth, our drummer John said I’d really like to do a set in beekeeping costumes so why don’t we do it at The Bee’s Mouth? So we thought, why not? We dyed some cheap beekeeping costumes black to fit the aesthetic a bit more, we did that show and people loved it. So at our gigs afterwards people would always say why aren’t you in costume? It was almost like we were upsetting people when we didn’t wear them, but we don’t want to be a gimmick band.
Mark: That was our worry initially, but now when I put the costume on I feel like I’m suiting up and going into space with my boys!
Tom: We’ve made it part of the concept, there’s a worker character and he wears this costume too, and doing the dirty jobs that the elite don’t want to do, and the mesh stops him breathing in toxins. So we built it into the concept, and if we didn’t do that then it’d feel gimmicky to us. The idea was it’d always look like spacesuits, but as Mark was saying, we always wanted this to be about the music, so when we put on those costumes, no one really knows who we are, and it very much keeps the focus on the world we are creating.
Finally, if I had a magic wand and could make any dream come true for Wallowing, what’d it be?
Tom: Probably a gig on the moon, although that’d be hard because you’d have to get the crowd their too.