February 18th, 2018. Hayden Thorpe awakes in a London hotel room as a newly-single man. Wild Beasts, the band he’d been part of since he was a teenager, played their final show the night before, and with the future stretching out before him, his next steps are unprecedented, left to the will of the Gods.
“The only sensation I can compare it to is the day after the last day of school, where you know there is no going back,” he recalls. “I’ve always felt a little allergic to nostalgia, and I was very reluctant to do a victory lap, in all honesty. In the end, there was a feeling of such responsibility to turn up and do justice to all the work we’d done over the years, a tribute to the love and respect we had between us as men and as brothers, as fellow dreamers. We just woke up from the dream. The way you wake up kind of defines your day, so we took care to make sure we all woke up in our adulthood in as peaceful a way as we could. I left the hotel room as quickly as I could, and it wasn’t until I got back to my own house that I realised I’d left my favourite coat behind. I had to decide if I was going to go back to that room to get the coat, to go back to that place. I decided not to – I decided that that coat was something that the me before wore, and that felt kind of symbolic.”
The experience of donning a new coat wasn’t one that came completely naturally. Having been part of one the UK’s most critically championed acts, the desire to enter another musical orbit was one that had to be well timed. “I didn’t really want any of the past to contaminate the future.” He explains. “They were very distinct waters, and I was very aware of not having my new work, whatever it was, feel like an extension or a satellite of the world I had created before. The worst thing I could have done was to make the Wild Beasts album that never was.”
Having temporarily flirted with the idea of a new pseudonym (“I was going to use The Hologram: the songs were all written when I was in a hologram phase of myself where my day job self was as the frontman of the band, donning the shades and puffing out the chest. In the end, I had to ask why I was removing myself from the actuality of what I was making”), Hayden began to learn the hardest lesson of all: how to inhabit oneself. Creating the record in near isolation, what results is something that might surprise Wild Beasts fans. Where carnal desire and flamboyant melody once stood, ‘Diviner’ is something much more insular, seeking its strength not from companionship but from faith in the order of the universe.
“I don’t think it was a conscious shift, but complete solitude is pretty unsexy,” he laughs. “The sexual energy that emanated from Wild Beasts’ work was definitely the by-product of men together, the ego dynamics and the chemistry of four boys putting their position out to the world. The removal of that scenario definitely meant my horn has retracted, as it were. There is sexuality within ‘Diviner’, but it’s a far more vulnerable, gentler sexuality. I also think society’s climate is different – I don’t know if the white heterosexual position is really an important one right now.”
With intuition his strongest tool, Thorpe set about carving out a new kind of relationship, working swiftly and stealthily to avoid the pitfalls of second-guessing. The album’s title-track came first, along with ‘In My Name’, a sparsely beautiful piano track which he describes as ‘a process of archaeology’, coming to him right after the final shows. Work travelled with him through London, LA, Cornwall and his childhood home in the Lake District, giving Diviner an intensely organic feel, free from the overworked nature that often clouds creativity.
“The great myth of western civilisation is that there’s virtue in suffering, but I’m a really fucking lucky guy,” he smiles. “I get to make records – my day is based upon making beauty and if I don’t enjoy it, who the fuck’s going to?”
An ‘unconventional’ tour is expected around the record, but future plans remain unclear. In the meantime, ‘Diviner’ marks an acceptance of forward motion, the intermingling of past, present and future. “To write songs is to write yourself into being, to grant yourself what you need in that moment. Often, you need it,” he says. “All I’ve done for the past 16 years is choose songs – with every A or B decision, I’ve gone for songs. I do think more than talent, or at least as much as talent, is the robustness to keep choosing that, and all that does is erode the rockface of other ways of living. All of a sudden your pathway to songs is opened out. The 16-year-old in me is still choosing that, just as he did in his bedroom.”
Taken from the June issue of Dork. Hayden Thorpe’s album ‘Diviner’ is out 24th May.
Words: Jenessa Williams