Vex Message have announced their presence in a fashion that demands attention. And you need to take notice.
We knew of Derek Meins from his stint with early 2000s punk(ish) band, Eastern Lane.
So when the first single, Data Regime, from his new venture Vex Message dropped into our inbox, we were keen to find out more.
Every aspect of our lives is being watched and monitored. We all feature in bulk personal datasets which record who we are, who we know, where we go and what we do.
And those aspects of our lives is monitored and collected by the Data Regime. But you know that, right. And carry on clicking.
Guiding us through this apocalyptic vision are Vex Message. Sounding like punks with a bank of analogue synths and vocoders, they have a power and an energy that demands attention.
Data Regime announces the band with some considerable force.
Off to Zoom we go.
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Derek: I’m at home in Lancaster, in my attic which doubles up as kind of little home studio. I’ve been doing not much – cooking dinner.
P3dro: Tell us about Vex Message, how did that come about?
Derek: We’ve been doing it for about three years, now. It started off when I moved to Lancaster and met Sam [Kirkham], who is our drummer and writes a lot of the synth stuff. We started improvising with drums and synths and were doing that for about a year without really coming to much.
And then, a friend of mine [Mark Hope], who I had been to school with, randomly moved to Lancaster as well. So, we met up and he came and joined us. We started taking the form into songs.
We started recording things, did a few gigs and then, obviously Covid kicked in, but we had got quite a lot of stuff already recorded, although not finished. But in down time we’ve finished all those recordings remotely and made a record, which is what we have now.
P3dro: You mean an album?
Derek: Yeah. There’s a whole album finished now. So, we put out ‘Data Regime’ and we’ll be doing a couple of singles over the next couple of months and then put out the album towards the end of the year.
P3dro: Cool, we shall look forward to that. The whole kind of ethos of the band seems to be about The Big State and Big Brother – subjects like that. Is that the kind of message you’re trying to get over?
Derek: Yeah, that’s a theme that runs through all of it. It seems quite ironic now, given where we are. All the songs are very dystopian themed. A lot of them are loosely based on books like ‘Riddley Walker‘ by Russell Hoban that I was reading at the time we wrote a lot of the songs. So, all the lyrics deal with ideas like surveillance and the ever growing sense we’re living through a kind of sci-fi novel.
P3dro: Clearly, it’s a serious message. Do you think you have any kind of obligation to write about those kinds of subjects, rather than writing love songs?
Derek: I don’t know if it’s an obligation. For the last few projects I’ve been involved with, it feels more like what comes naturally as I start writing. I think when we started forming this thing and with using synths to make quite dark music, it felt like that’s what the words should be, really.
P3dro: So, is using synths a new thing for you?
Derek: Yeah. Eastern Lane was fairly guitar based, but in the last few years I’ve got a collection of synths together. It is a new area for me, but it feels like that’s the main part of what Vex Message is, really.
P3dro: We saw from your bio you had some gigs with Fat White Family and Purple Heart Parade.
Derek: We played with Working Men’s Club as well. We only did a handful, a few around Lancaster, one in Manchester and one in Kendal as well. So, there were some quite decent supports as well as a few we did.
P3dro: They’re quite decent names.
Derek: Yeah, we were quite lucky, really. I was able to tap up some contacts from when I was in Eastern Lane, which helped. But, hopefully when we get back into it, we should get some good support slots.
P3dro: Are you looking Lancaster / Preston area or are you looking further afield?
Derek: We’ll go as far as anybody wants us to! It’s just hard at this stage to plan anything as we don’t know what’s happening.
But, the plan is to do as much and as far afield as we can whenever we get the chance.
P3dro: How was the process of putting together music remotely?
Derek: We were quite lucky in that we had been doing it that way, anyway before all of this happened. We all use the same recording technology and we just have a Dropbox folder. So, quite often, the way we would write songs would be with people adding in bits into the project. We all have a home studio, anyway, so we were doing lockdown recording before lockdown started. So, when it did happen it was a case of picking bits off rather than coming up with new songs.
P3dro: You had a bit of a head start?
Derek: Yeah! Early adopters.
P3dro: Did you actually need to get into a recording studio to finish off the album?
Derek: Again, we were quite lucky that we had all recorded a lot of the drums in a studio – that’s the main thing we can’t do ourselves at home. But, as for the rest of it, then it was pretty much done by ourselves in our homes.
Then it was all mixed by Jag Jago, who is a mix engineer I’ve worked with before. He put it all together for us. So, apart from the main rhythm tracks that we’d recorded beforehand, the rest of it was done remotely.
P3dro: Is there a timeline for the album coming out?
Derek: No exact dates. Depending on how the two more singles go, then the album will depend on that.
P3dro: Will the album be a physical release?
Derek: Err. Hopefully. It depends, again, on how we’re looking for funds. Ideally, I’d like to do it as vinyl, but whether or not we can raise the money for that is a different question.
P3dro: Sure. And whether or not you can find a pressing plant, we gather they’re all really busy at the moment.
Derek: Yeah, some of them have like an eight month lead time, which is [crazy]. Especially if you’re not sure when you’re [going to release]. You can’t just decide at the last minute. We may look to do CDs, but I’m not sure how many people even buy CDs anymore.
P3dro: Bandcamp has seen quite a lot of our credit card recently!
Derek: It’s a good platform, though I think. When you’re in a world of streaming, it’s good to know that people can pay directly to artists if they want to. Those Bandcamp Fridays were a great thing.
P3dro: Apart from Eastern Lane, where did you go after that?
Derek: James Endeacott, who was at Rough Trade when we were signed to them, started his own label called 1965 Records for which I did a solo record, straight after Eastern Lane. That was folky songs and a lot of spoken word pieces.
Then I made a band called The Agitator, we put out quite a few singles, appeared on Jools Holland, toured quite a lot, but we didn’t end up putting out an album in the end. That was the last band I did. I’ve done guest vocals on dance records and things, but up until now, this is the first proper band we’ve got together.
P3dro: What was the trigger behind forming Vex Message? Was it the move to Lancaster?
Derek: I think so. It all kind of clicked into place. I’ve always been messing around, making music. But, then when Sam and I were improvising stuff, we weren’t really writing songs as such, but when Hopey came in then it made us all a bit more focused into actually writing and finishing songs.
I think we would probably have been stuck in Sam’s bedroom playing around with synths otherwise.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
And, if you want three recommendations, there’s a guy from Yorkshire called Thomas Ragsdale who makes a lot of instrumental, electronic music. He has a record label called Soundtracking the Void and that’s a great listen. It’s really cinematic.