VENTS: When did you launch Vegetarians & Carnivores?
SIMON: The project launched in 2018 with a single called We’re All Together. Four other songs were released ahead of A Day of Rainbows, three of which are on the album.
VENTS: Tell us about the album. Is there a theme?
SIMON: Very much so. We live in a world of single-track downloading, so for me the whole point of making an ‘album’ at all is to make something with a coherent narrative throughout. A Day of Rainbows is semi-autobiographical and goes on a journey of emotional ups and downs in which all the songs are related to one another. The track Well… is the key to the whole album. Well… describes a year of turmoil, using weather metaphors in the lyrics, and building to a chaotic musical climax. All of the songs radiate out of that, in a way, describing the ups and downs we all experience in life – love, loss, sickness, regret, depression, happiness. Storms and sunshine. Hence the album title.
VENTS: You already perform and write with UK band The Wood Demons. What spurred you to start Vegetarians & Carnivores?
SIMON: I love working with The Wood Demons, but I’ve been writing music for some time that doesn’t necessarily fit even a band as eclectic as The Wood Demons. Vegetarians & Carnivores is an outlet for other musical styles I like to dabble in. It’s also an outlet for songs that are sometimes autobiographical – like this album – or political, like the material I’m writing for the next one. Some Vegetarians & Carnivores songs started as musical ideas for the Wood Demons. In fact, We’re All Together was one of those songs. I originally took the ‘sitar’ riff to the band but it quickly turned into a sort of late Sixties-style acoustic protest number which I don’t think would really suit the band. Vegetarians & Carnivores gives songs like this a home. (Ironically, all of the Wood Demons appear on the final recording of We’re All Together anyway!).
VENTS: What do you mean about Vegetarians & Carnivores being a ‘solo/collaborative’ project?
SIMON: Being in a band with a fixed line up and a small number of instruments is great in one sense, because you know when you’re writing a song that you’re always working with relatively few instruments. It’s limiting, but it’s focussed. But I also like the idea that a song’s subject and theme can determine the musical language – the musical universe – it inhabits. That’s when a bigger palette is very welcome.
VENTS: Any examples of this on the A Day of Rainbows album?
SIMON: Yes, that can mean a lush song like Beautiful Tuesday, with multiple instruments, 7 or 8 musicians and a hundred channels of sound; or a simple song like Where Do Friends Go? that has just a simple keyboard, voice and ukulele. Vegetarians & Carnivores allows me these stylistic and production contrasts. I can work with a Celtic pipes player, or a flugelhorn player, or female vocalists, mixing sometimes contrasting sounds, samples and midi instruments, in a way that might not be practical or even possible in a traditional rock band set-up. I enjoy that creative freedom.
VENTS: So are there any other artists who’ve influenced you with this approach?
SIMON: Oh, definitely. Many of my favourite artists have changed not only their musical styles but also their musical ‘team’ radically from time to time. David Bowie was an obvious musical chameleon who worked with whoever was right for his musical language at any given time. But I’d also cite Steely Dan, Steven Wilson, and Massive Attack as ‘bands’ that sort of aren’t bands at all, but actually one or two songwriting auteurs who either accessorise with individual musicians, or work creatively with other artists – which is something I’d like to do more of in the future with Vegetarians & Carnivores.
VENTS: On A Day of Rainbows you collaborated very much with Nick Moorbath at Evolution Studios in Oxford, UK. Tell us about that.
SIMON: I started working with Nick – who also engineered the recent Wood Demons album Angels of Peckham Rye – back in 2015. Aside from being a terrific engineer, and an excellent keyboard player, Nick’s a great musical all-rounder. His extra creative input on production and arrangements really made this album and much of the credit needs to go to him.
VENTS: You mentioned different musical languages. What musical languages would you say express themselves in A Day of Rainbows?
SIMON: To answer that question you kind of need to talk in musical genres, and to be honest I’m not a fan of genres. Why put music in meaningless boxes like ‘Alternative’ or ‘Progressive Rock’? But I guess you’d say the album has elements of psychedelia, 60’s and 80’s pop, folk and jazz, to name just a few. And if anyone said: Dubrovnik Rooftiles, Option C and Nation of Us sound like three different artists, I’d say: ‘Great!’ That means the subject matter is ‘in charge’. That tells me the songs are determining their own musical world, and serving the meaning and emotional aspects of the song.
VENTS: What next for Vegetarians & Carnivores?
SIMON: After this launch, my priority is a 2022 album with The Wood Demons – writing, arranging, recording. And gigs and festivals with the band next year, too. But I am also about a third of the way towards a follow-up album with Vegetarians & Carnivores. I guess that’ll appear in 2023.
VENTS: Simon Carbery of Vegetarians & Carnivores – thank you very much!
SIMON: You’re very welcome.