Interview – VANES

VANES © Alex Styles 2023

The UK-based indie rapper is set to release his debut EP ‘pixie dust’’, with laidback hip-hop serenade: ‘go your own way’

Wolverhampton-born, rising indie rapper VANES (he/him/sensitiveboi) is teeing up this release of his new single, ‘go your own way’. The track serves as part 4/4 from VANES’ debut EP: pixie dust, a guitar-heavy hip-hop vibe that explores narratives of so-called ‘codependency’. 

As a person who loves pretty freely, the artist is also beginning to understand that his unacknowledged past hurts heavily impact his choices today. VANES’ ‘go your own way’ is about letting go and reminding himself that come what may, “I’ll be okay, girl, you know, I’ll be okay”. It is intended to serenade listeners from all walks of life as they wave goodbye to who or whatever’s holding them back from stepping into their authentic selves and living their best lives.

Indie Midlands: VANES is an interesting name – where does it come from and what does it represent?

VANES: “Its origins are very confused, and from several sources including possibly France and Wales. The most likely is that it was originally a nickname for a “well disposed person” … “Recorded in many forms including Fain, Fane, Fayne, Faynes, Vain, Vaines, Vanes, and Vayne, it is a famous and noble English surname” … “According to the New English Dictionary of 1883 quoting from an Elizabethan source “Fayne promys makyth folys Fayne”, which roughly translates as a person permanently opposed to fools!”

Either of those sounds about right to me.

Indie Midlands: Congratulations on the release! ‘go your own way’ is an interesting development in your authentic sound – what’s different in this track compared to 2022’s ‘i lost my mind’?

VANES: This is Hip-Hop, while the others are predominantly Alt Rock/Indie-Pop tunes.

Indie Midlands: What were the challenges you faced when it came to producing and recording the track?

VANES: My singing voice for the chorus really needed work, straining to hit the notes etc. However, after working with my vocal coach Phaedra Brickwood, we got there.

Indie Midlands: What has been your main goal with branding, and your vision when curating the visuals for releases?

VANES: The ‘goal’ is to stylistically let the inner reflect the outer. However, such alignment requires a lot of space and energy. This is why I ‘delayed’ this latest release; rushed concepts leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Indie Midlands: Who aided the creation of ‘go your own way’ and its music video? Any shoutouts?

VANES: Yes shoutouts: AK (muse), Mindaugas Juozapavicius (producer), Clinton “HeadAche” Walker III (mastering engineer), Jayda Love (Assistant Mastering Engineer), Phaedra Brickwood (vocal coach), Stefan Tolmachov (art director), Robin Clewley (director, photographer), Lee Isserow, Vessel studios (director of photography), Jessica Dawn (makeup artist), Florent Bidois (set assistant) and Marcus Vanes (set assistant).

Indie Midlands: Can you tell us a bit about the video’s storyboard and context?

VANES: At face value, the video is about letting go, and telling the girl to “go her own way”. However, for me, it’s also about trying to invite a sense of closure around the whole experience, including the experience of meeting this person, capturing that experience musically, living with it for some time and then releasing it.

So the idea was to burn everything that’s gone into this project in a big oil drum. The papers I wrote the original lyrics on, weed grinders, all the props we’ve used in the videos, the blue mannequin, yellow box head, studio ghibli posters, all the clothes I’ve worn etc. This is contrasted with a depiction of the girl the song is about, stuck in her loop of not knowing what she wants from life right now.

The fact that I’m personally playing the girl I’m depicting is both intentional and innate. Tackling my repressed femininity and sexuality, compared to hiring a male gaze beauty standard-appropriate actress and objectifying her as ‘woman as the body of woman’ (Richard Wright, The Outsider), was deliberate, and I’d be disappointed if folks misread this. Nevertheless, my subjectively perceiving male lens runs under the hood. If my work brings any misdirected internalised aggression to the surface, provided I do the work of transmuting it, everybody wins.

Indie Midlands: How do you make sure your vision translates when working with other creatives on a release?

VANES: I’ve learnt that working with people with the required technical skills and a willingness to leave our masks/egos at the door before starting work is an excellent place to start.

Indie Midlands: Who would be your dream collaboration on a project and why?

VANES: A ménage à trois with Frank Ocean and Tyler The Creator because I don’t have to try to understand their creative language.

Indie Midlands: What hopes do you have for the next few years?

VANES: That I can continue being kind to myself and channel the art our world is asking for, and my intention is intrinsic to my hope… That humanity can awaken to realising we’re a part of and not separate from Nature.

Indie Midlands: Any exciting projects already in the calendar?

VANES: Yes, some really interesting stuff, but I don’t wanna talk about them now. There’s a time for making, and there’s a time for sharing.

Nat Greener