Q&A: Tom Vek On Forced Spontaneity, Learning About Trending Topics, And His Favorite Places In New York City

Katie Coleslaw
Tom Vek released his debut album We Have Sound in 2005, and the British musician's distillation of his influences was catchy enough to make him stand out from the crowd—he even appeared on the soapy Fox drama The O.C.. But in the years that followed, Vek kept quiet—that is, until mid-April, when he returned with news of a new album, Leisure Seizure (V2 / Cooperative Music USA / Downtown). (It's available digitally now; the physical release is currently slated for September 13.) In response, the Internet proved that yes, it does have something resembling a collective memory by engaging in a freakout (one that included the author of this post) and welcoming him back with open arms. We chatted with Vek about social networking, what it's like to work on songs for half a decade, and why more people should be influenced by Cake. (The band, that is.)

First off—where have you been? And how many interviews have started with that exact question?

Yeah, quite a few, and some clever ways of self referencing it like you've done there which I enjoy. "Are you sick of answering the question..." has been the most inventive way of being asked the same thing. I'm really pleased that it references my first record; that means it must have registered to a degree. I spent a long time working out what to do that would be a way of moving forward and including what the first album started, so I'm very happy that it joins them together.

Was it a conscious decision to take so much time between albums?

No not at all. I had the opportunity of doing some more touring, I think there was interest after The O.C. appearance, but I clearly remember saying to my manager, "Don't worry, I'll get another record done and we'll still be able to go out and connect with the new fans." Guess The O.C. isn't even going any more, so I didn't quite get that right.

The thing is, I experienced the classic realization that you can't force something to be quick and spontaneous. All you can do is wait, get the environment and culture around your artistic bursts right and see what happens. I would have waited longer if it hadn't come. I mean, even though I had a recording contract, I'd only utilize it if I felt like the music was valid enough, and I'm proud of that.

Were you concerned that you'd waited too long to put out anything new?

Yeah, but it's not as concerning as putting something out that I'm not happy with, as cathartic as it is to keep bashing it out [and take the] someone's-gonna-like-it-somewhere-and-it-keeps-me-going approach, which I'm pretty envious of. I think it's easier in a band because there's this sense that the music is the glue for you all, and being an individual there's no danger, you cant break up with yourself, of even have the security of being able to blame other people if it doesn't work, I think few people experience true buck-stops-with-me responsibility creatively. It's quite petrifying, actually, until you realize that it's actually a privilege.

How did you feel when you found out how eager everyone was for a new album?

I don't stare the response straight in the face so it was a slow realization, almost. I'd wanted to try and make it an announcement out of the blue to be very mischievous about it, but we ended up with a sort of pre-announcement that let the cat out of the bag, which put me in a bad mood for one evening because I like things to be right. I get a bit black or white about it. I think it shows that people thought the first album was pointing toward something, and that is good and also adds to my standard. But I believe that this album fulfills the promise of the first album without losing its personality.

Follow up to that—did you scan the ecstatic tweets about the album announcement even though you don't use Twitter? Is there a reason you didn't use social media?

Well it's the first time I'd heard of "trending." That sounds really arrogant, but it's true. I didn't use social media because I felt like I needed to bring new work first, and now I'm quite enjoying getting on Twitter and Facebook. Not super personal, because I never liked that, but reporting on creative stuff. [It's] more of an insight to my personality than publicly asking someone how to fix a wi-fi router, which I don't think is that cool. I'm not on it personally, because requesting interest from strangers, which any artist essentially does, means that you need to safeguard your privacy.

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