Bristol-based rockers The Vigil are the perfect embodiment of the trend of modern bands getting involved in every process of making, releasing and promoting their music.
The quartet only recently finalised their current line-up, when enigmatic lead guitarist Robbie Schuck joined lead singer and guitarist Olly Smith, bassist Dom Mehigan and drummer Jamie Davenport. But they’ve since released their debut album and supported Yashin on their final ever London gig, having previously played alongside the likes of Puddle of Mudd, Everclear, Max Raptor and German rockers Unzucht.
The raw power of The Vigil’s music makes it difficult not to hark back to bands like Nirvana, Bush, Queens of the Stone Age – which of course means they sound amazing.
They recently released debut album Save Our Souls, which is a bit like listening to all the above rolled up into one giant ball of grungy brilliance. While the fact that the album was produced by and largely contributed to by former Bush guitarist Nigel Pulsford, before Schuck came on board, gives you a hint that we’re dealing with something pretty special.
Case in point of this is Do You Feel Alive, which starts off with a cool guitar riff and driving drums before Olly’s raspy vocals enter for the opening verse, playing a bit of call and answer with some big guitar chords. The chorus of repeated calls of ‘Do you feel alive?’ is near impossible to not sing along to, followed by a recurrence of the catchy lead riff.
The following track on the record is Hell To Pay, which has Nirvana-esque overtones with its thick chunky bassline and gruff vocals, with a massive guitar solo thrown in for good measure.
The lead single from the album is the excellent All You’ve Done, which epitomises The Vigil sound with its grungy, edgy rockiness. There’s fast jumpy low-tuned riffs and busy basslines and all manner of cymbal smashes that will have you begging for more, which is duly delivered by the big, loud, bassy Absinthium and chuggy, air guitar-worthy riffs of final track Turn the Tide.
If you read our review of the Yashin gig you’ll be aware of Robbie’s obsession with the wah-wah pedal. This is less prevalent on the record but does make an impressive appearance on an awesome solo in Feeding Time, while the prolonged wah-wah effects throughout Know What You Are will have you whining along with him like some kind of demented being.
We caught up with the band earlier this month and initially asked them how it feels to have their debut album released.
Olly said: “To get to the point of getting the album out is big for us. We had to split it into two sessions because it’s quite expensive to get the studio time, but to get here at the point of having an album out is such a cool thing for us. We can say we’ve made our debut and got our statement out there, and the fact that it’s had a positive reception is nice, and hopefully we can make another one.”
We spoke to the band at the aforementioned Yashin gig, and asked them about the juxtapose of a new band supporting the outgoing legends.
Olly told us: “It’s kind of bittersweet really, in that we just get to meet them and want to play again but we can’t. But it’s like anything where there’s something ending there’s new life and it’s just great to be playing with such a cool band – they’re really nice guys.”
This – given Yashin’s departure from the music scene – duly led us onto the issue of survival in the industry, which is a particularly interesting topic given The Vigil’s approach.
Olly said: “We do it very DIY. We set up our own little label, we make all the CDs up, design our own merch and put on our own gigs with other bands in the south-west area of Bristol, Gloucester, Birmingham, Cardiff. If you want to make things happen you’ve got to do it yourself and not wait for some label, because they don’t have the money like they used to. It’s rewarding doing things this way and you’ve just got to keep going and have fun with it, rather than get bogged down thinking ‘oh people don’t buy CDs like they used to.'”
Robbie added: “These days it’s like you’ve got to spend money to make money, a bit like a casino in a way. A lot of it doesn’t make you money but you’ve got to have that balance where you work hard just to have money to go places. Not everybody will be like ‘you wanna go on tour with us?’ it doesn’t work like that and people will just fuck you off if you’ve got the wrong attitude or come across as being arrogant. I’ve seen so many bands do this and they just fall apart by the age of 17, because you just can’t do that.”
The Vigil are a band with their heads firmly screwed on and aren’t afraid of a bit of hard work to bring us their hugely enjoyable brand of raw, energetic grungy rock. On top of that, they’re a lovely bunch of lads and I can’t wait to hear more from them in the new year.
Not content with having their debut album out to please your ears, The Vigil have already started writing material for a follow-up and hope to be touring through 2017, including a few festival appearances if all goes well.