Meet Vukovi – an alternative pop/rock band that you’re sure to fall in love with!
By fusing together powerful vocals and epic instrumentals, Vukovi are easily one of the most exciting acts on the music scene right now. Over the years, the group’s unique tracks have won over many crowds and unsurprisingly, their global fanbase continues to grow to this day.
Originating from Scotland, Vukovi consists of four talented members: vocalist Janine Shilstone, guitarist Hamish Reilly, bassist Jason Trotter and drummer Colin Irving. It’s a winning combination.
We caught up with Vukovi backstage before their headline show in Manchester last week.
In our exclusive interview, the rockers discussed: life on the road, the meaning of their band’s name, their forthcoming debut album and much more. Check out their answers to our questions below!
For people who haven’t yet heard your music, how would you describe your sound?
Janine: “I’d say quite riff-pop; kinda riffy but also with poppy melodies and vocals. It’s a bit like hardcore pop.”
Vukovi is an interesting band name – how did you come up with it and how did you meet?
Hamish: “We used to play in a band called Wolves, before Janine joined, with a male singer and it just wasn’t working out so we got rid of him. This was like 5 years ago and we had a different drummer at that point – he went to school with Janine so he was just like ‘I know a really good singer’ and text Janine. Janine came along and brought like a massive keyboard and all that – it was interesting. It was good.”
Janine: “I thought I was Evanescence.” (laughs)
Hamish: “It honestly only took like one practice with her and we were like ‘yeah, this is really cool.’ We didn’t have a name at the time so Jason google translated ‘wolves’ and found that it’s ‘Vukovi’ in Serbian and Croatian. So we used Google translate for the name and it just looked cool. There’s something almost symmetrical about it.”
To help get to know all of you a bit better, what do you each wish people knew about you that they don’t already?
Jason: “You can lick your elbow Janine.”
Janine: “Yeah, I can lick my elbow. You know when you’re in school and people are like ‘see if you can lick your elbow’ – and they just do it to take the piss out of you. But I can actually do it and people were like ‘oh…’.
Jason: “It’s a party ruiner. (laughs) Hamish can do a 360 flip with a handboard.”
Hamish: “Yeah, no-one will know what a handboard is.”
CelebMix: “The little skateboards?”
Hamish: “Yeah. I can do some pretty nifty tricks on those; like actual skate tricks. Pretty sad.” (laughs)
Colin: “I’ve got a fake tooth – it’s actually silver.”
Jason: “And I’m obsessed with coffee but that’s no secret.”
We love your new single ‘Animal’ – what’s the response to the song been like so far?
Janine: “In terms of premiere, it’s been the best response on social media after. By far the best response so I’m just excited to get the video out and get more plays.”
Hamish: “It’s only ever been played once so we can only really gage it from that – but from that one play, it was awesome.”
How did it feel to premiere the song on BBC Radio 1?
Hamish: “It was super cool. It was nerve-wracking but so exciting at the same time.”
Janine: “For the first time ever, for me, it felt like a step up. Obviously we’ve been played on the radio a few times but when listening back to it, I thought that it actually did sit with other bands – like amazing bands around it. Sometimes I think ‘oh, we’re still not good enough’ but with that song, I just felt fitted really well with some really prestigious bands on the same show.”
Jason: “The production of it seems to have come out really well. It took quite a long time going back and forth with producers and mastering engineers and stuff but the end product is where I want it to be – it’s a good representation of how I hear the song in my head. It sounds about right.”
Hamish: “Even though we’ve only had it played once, we see folks singing along to it at shows already so it’s pretty cool.”
Janine: “Someone’s even ripped it off the radio and put it on Youtube.”
Can we expect a music video for the track soon?
Hamish: “We’ve filmed it and it’s all done.”
Janine: “It’s all getting ready to go.”
Hamish: “I’m pretty sure that it’ll all be ready to go in about two weeks I think. The single’s out in April but we’ll bring it out before that. At the moment, I believe it’s being processed by Vevo so that means maybe a week to two weeks.”
So your band name means ‘wolves’ in Serbian and your latest single is called ‘Animal’ – have you got any plans to open a Vukovi zoo anytime soon?
Janine: “That’d be amazing.” (laughs)
Colin: “Yes, how do we set that up?”
Jason: “We have talked about having dogs on tour and cats. Anywhere we go and stay, there’s typically seems to be animals nearby.”
Hamish: “In fact, we’re playing Hevy Fest. And with Hevy Fest, you used to get zoo tickets with it as well apparently so that’s kind of appropriate.”
Janine: “To be fair though, we can’t even look after ourselves so leaving us responsible for animals is probably a bad idea.”
Your singles, in particular ‘Bouncy Castle’ and ‘Boy George’, have received a great reaction and there’s a lot of buzz about a Vukovi album. Is that in the works at the moment?
Jason: “We’ve got a solid body of work that we are going to be picking from. We’re waiting for a time, an opportunity, to record it all in one go. It’s the very top of our list for this year. We’re all desperate to record an album.”
Hamish: “Recording an album is expensive and we’ve never really been signed before – it’s only recently now that we’ve got an independent label. There’s only so much that an independent label can give you in terms of finance so we’ve got to the point where I think we’ll be able to do it in a couple of months now but it’s taken years to get to that.”
Janine: “We don’t want to do it on a budget – we want to do it properly. We want it to be amazing.”
Hamish: “I think we could have winged it on very little money but we wanted to do it right.”
Over the years, you’ve released several EPs. We’re big fans of ‘He Loves Me Not’ on the ‘Sweet Swears’ EP – how would you say your music has evolved over time?
Hamish: “In some aspects, I’d say it’s got heavier but it’s also got poppier in some aspects. I don’t really know why that’s happened.”
Janine: “I think it’s kind of evolved into our own style – we’ve made it a nice balance now.”
Hamish: “I think our album will be pretty eclectic. If you hear ‘Boy George’ and ‘Bouncy Castle’, you might hopefully recognise them as us but they’re really different sounding. So the album might kinda be like that – I kinda dig that about it.”
Janine: “Quirky as well. We’ve kind of got to know our own quirks and put it into our music now whereas before, we were still kind of experimenting. You can hear the quirks in it.”
Hamish: “It sounds mad but it takes years to find that stuff.”
The artwork for your singles is always incredibly unique – is the visual side something you’re really passionate about?
Hamish: “Absolutely. Alexander Lowrie is the guy who does the artwork for us. We give him a brief of what we want and he’ll send us a picture and we’ll be like ‘that looks amazing’ – he does it all.”
Janine: “He’s so good.”
Jason: “There was one time when he sent us a picture over and we asked him to draw more clothes on – because it was too sexy. (laughs)”
Hamish: “The ‘Boy George’ cover – the girl he sent us was nearly naked and we were like ‘put more clothes on.’ He’s amazing and absolutely awesome. The same with the videos and stuff – we put so much time and effort into that.”
Jason: “Again, like you’re saying with quirks in our music, we’re getting a hold of that in the artwork as well. We’ve got a signature, I guess, of the really vivid colours but it’s very simple kind of block colours and some bold drawings. It’s getting to a point where I think it’s all sitting quite nicely.”
Who would you say some of your musical influences are?
Hamish: “At the moment, for me, I’d say Nothing But Thieves.”
CelebMix: “You’re supporting them soon, aren’t you?”
Hamish: “Aye, I just love them. I think they’re absolutely amazing.”
Janine: “I think it’s nice to have a front person who’s genuinely a really talented singer. That just makes a band tenfold for me.”
Jason: “Recently I’ve been influenced by the bands we’ve been touring with like Young Guns – I’m really influenced by them. Their music is so kind of nostalgic if you know what I mean.”
Hamish: “You seem to fall in love with bands you tour with; it’s crazy. Whether you like their music or not at the start, not that any of us didn’t like their music, but we were all listening to the albums by the end of it. We love them”
Jason: “It’s a real pleasure to be able to do that. I’ve been listening to a lot of Architects lately and I’ve actually really got into Enter Shikari as well. I’m really late to the party but I really enjoy their stuff. I’ve always liked the mixture of really heavy guitars and electronic music – like both genres separately. Then I listen to Enter Shikari and they put it together really well.”
Hamish: “This week we’ve spent time listening to Japanese pop in the van; that’s our current thing.”
Colin: “Kyary Pamyu Pamyu”
Hamish: “Every morning, and before we go on sometimes, we’re listening to that at the moment.”
Janine: “I must admit that I’ve recently become a massive fan of Bring Me The Horizon. Their balance with heaviness and the electronic side – I’ve just fallen in love with it. I’m so in love with it that I don’t want to replicate them with us but I think you can kind of hear some influences in our new stuff.”
You recently toured with Fearless Vampire Killers – how did you find that?
Jason: “It was really cool – they’re really lovely lads. They have really dedicated fans but it’s very interesting to see that we can go down well with that fan group – despite their genre of music being a little bit different from ours. It’s a bit more specific – they’re kind of punk rock with sort of goth influences and yet by the end of each set, people were really enjoying our stuff. It’s nice to see that we’re quite versatile.”
And you’re set to a play a show with Nothing But Thieves next month, how would you say support slots compare to your own headline tour?
Hamish: “We were talking about this the other day. For the most part, supporting is awesome. The stress is no way near the same and we love winning over crowds. Trying to win over a crowd is one of the best experiences – sometimes it can fall flat in your faces but that’s part of the fun.”
Jason: “As long as you try your hardest. If people don’t like you after you’ve tried your best, then they’re never going to like you. Most of the time, I think we come away and we’ve won over some fans so it’s very satisfying. It’s like you go in there with nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Hamish: “Especially with a band like Nothing But Thieves because that show will pretty much be sold out. We don’t have to try and sell tickets – we just turn up and try to win over the crowd.”
CelebMix: “After your sets, I imagine that you get a lot of people tweeting saying that they loved your performance?”
Janine: “Yeah, it’s crazy. We supported Mallory Knox and our social media after it was ridiculous. It was unbelievable and it was just one show so yeah, it’s so rewarding. It’s completely different.”
Can you tell us any funny stories from life on the road?
Colin: “We’re really boring to be honest.” (laughs)
Janine: “Last time we were here, I sliced my finger open. I sliced it in a van – don’t ask me what it was but it was like proper down to the tendon. I didn’t want to make a scene so I said to our tour manager Dave – ‘can I speak to you for a minute?’ I held out my finger, looked down and there was just blood everywhere. I was like ‘oh fuck!’ Long story short, he was like ‘we really need to go to hospital’ but we were playing T in the Park the next day so me and Dave walked up the street. There was this bouncer at the door and we were like ‘where’s the hospital?’ and he said that we’d need to get a taxi. The bouncer was like an ex-army medic and he said that if I wanted, he could take me down to the cellar and stitch it up for me. You couldn’t make this up – we were like ‘erm ok, cool.’ And his name was Bunny, but he was this massive bouncer guy, and he stitched it up for us.”
Hamish: “I don’t think we can top that actually.”
Janine: “I suppose it’s not that funny but it’s just one of those ones where you can’t make it up. It’s just like ‘who sorted your finger?’ This guy called Bunny in a cellar the day before T in the Park. I had to have this massive bandage on.”
What’s the process behind making a Vukovi track – do you usually start with lyrics or the instrumentals first?
Colin: “It varies man.”
Hamish: “The latest song ‘Animals’ started with Janine – she sent over chords and lyrics. We all took it in and messed around with it even more. It just became what it was. What I find is when Janine starts something and sends it over, it’s darker and heavier. Then again, that would explain why some stuff’s heavy and some stuff’s not.”
Jason: “For ‘Boy George’, we just wanted a daft poppy riff and came up with that and we were like ‘that’s cool.’ Then we built a song around the riff. That seems to be the two main ways it happens – we’ll either come up with a daft riff and think that needs to be in a song or we’ll get a really cool concept of lyrical melodies and chord progression from Janine then we’ll roll from there.”
Hamish: “There isn’t really a formula. It’s random. We jammed out ‘So Long Gone’ ages ago.”
Colin: “Yeah, Jason broke his pelvis and we had a lot of time to practise. We just ended up jamming ‘So Long Gone’ for ages and putting in wee fills and stuff. So all the wee fills that you hear from it were just sort of done in that time. Aye, it’s good. It just sort of depends if Janine comes up with an idea or Hamish or Jason. It’s kind of exciting that there’s not just one set way.”
Hamish: “That’s why it’s so eclectic and as I say, that’s why the album will be so eclectic because of the way we write stuff.”
What are some of your career highlights to date?
Hamish: “Supporting Mallory Knox in Glasgow; that was awesome. I loved it.”
Janine: “Getting playlisted for MTV Rocks – ‘Bouncy Castle’ got upgraded to the B List. That, for me, was kind of a bit bucket list. They didn’t play it for ‘Boy George’ so I wanted that for the next single. That was kind of a milestone.”
Colin: “Getting songs in the programmes and stuff. We got ‘So Long Gone’ in Made In Chelsea which is totally random and we got ‘Bouncy Castle’ in Tattoo Fixers so that was really cool. Our family, like my gran, don’t really get what I do at all so when I say it’s on a programme on TV, she loves it.”
Hamish: “Same with my gran. My gran has cutouts from us being in the paper years ago and that does it for her. Anything else – nah? She doesn’t even like our music I don’t think. (laughs)
Jason: “When we were touring with Young Guns, they were all like ‘Who? Who are they?’”
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for Vukovi?
Hamish: “Mainly an album.”
Janine: “Yeah, that’s priority.”
Jason: “Recording and festival playing.”
Hamish: “A few festivals – we’ve found out a few cool stuff that we’re hopefully doing later in the year but none of it’s confirmed. Hopefully some good shows later in the year as well but it’s really album, album, album.”
Janine: “That seems to be the fan’s main ask. They’re like ‘don’t announce anything unless you’re announcing an album’ – well, it’s not that harsh but it’s like ‘when is the album coming?’ (laughs)”
Hamish: “Everyone we’ve spoken to in interviews over the past two weeks has been like – ‘what about an album?’”
Janine: “It makes us more excited because there’s kind of a demand for it.”
Jason: “It’s nice to know that people are asking about it.”
Hamish: “They certainly weren’t this time last year; so it has changed which is cool.”
If you could leave a message for everyone who’s supported you on your journey so far, what would you say?
Janine: “They’re the folk that keep us going – genuinely, sometimes when we feel a bit shitty, you see fans that genuinely believe in you. You see it in their faces. Last night, for instance, these four guys turned up to our gig and I’ve honestly never seen anyone so enthusiastic. They were singing the words and I’ve never seen so much happiness in someone’s face – that makes it so worthwhile.”
Hamish: “You’re waiting backstage and you’re a bit nervous but as soon as you see that, it’s like everything changes.”
You can pre-order Vukovi’s awesome new single ‘Animal’ here on iTunes. The official video for the track will be premiering online very soon and we’ll be posting it here as soon as it’s released.
If you get the opportunity in the future, we’d definitely recommend that you get tickets to see Vukovi live in concert. They have limitless amounts of energy and their stage presence really is phenomenal.
At present, the rockers have a string of festivals lined up later this year and they’ll be continuing to work on their debut album. We certainly can’t wait to hear more of Vukovi’s original material.
Are you excited for Vukovi’s forthcoming debut album? Let us know over on Twitter @CelebMix or leave a message in the comments section below!