Bob Vylan on new album 'Humble As The Sun'

Interview Bob Vylan: “This album is a lot more inspiring and hopeful”

We catch up with the powerful punk duo ahead of the release of their empowering new LP, ‘Humble As The Sun’.

Game-changing London duo Bob Vylan have spent the first part of their career rallying against injustice and creating a long-overdue space for themselves as a Black punk band. Now with a MOBO Award and an entirely self-released Top 20 album to their name, they’re readying this April’s ‘Humble As The Sun’: a fourth album full of defiant hope that puts empowerment front and centre.

Hi Bobby! With your last album ‘Bob Vylan Presents The Price of Life’, it seemed like everything stepped up a gear for you. Was there an awareness of wanting to make the most of that increased platform on this new record?

When we started the band it was a very small thing, and nobody was watching anyway, so we could do and say whatever we wanted. But now, you realise that sometimes people need a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, and so this album is a lot more inspiring and hopeful and empowering. I listened to [second album] ‘We Live Here’ for the first time in ages last week, and when I listened to the title song from it I realised it was what I needed to write at the time, but there was a lot of anger and a lot of pain in that song. To perform that song, night after night on tour, and talk about the first time that I was called n****r by my neighbour across the road, it’s a heavy thing. I understand that there is a helpful element of me performing it to new crowds, but I don’t want that to be our legacy as a band. Those things happened to us, but they don’t have to define us; we can define ourselves.

Bob Vylan on new album 'Humble As The Sun' Bob Vylan on new album 'Humble As The Sun'

“Recognising our power as individuals is integral to us recognising our power as a collective.” - Bobby Vylan

What subjects did you find yourself tackling to get that message across?

This whole album started with meditations and conversations with nature, and being in the sun and being around things that I hadn’t necessarily been around before; placing myself in spaces that I hadn’t placed myself before. You feel powerful when you’re basking in the sun’s rays and it’s charging you up, and there are certain things that came to mind when I was feeling that. Things like the MOBO win, and being a child and watching So Solid Crew on the TV and thinking, ‘If they can do it, I can do it’. That is recognition of power - of the power that I hold and also the power that they hold, and that’s something I carried with me throughout the years until I was on that stage receiving the award with Bob [drums]. It’s only been through positive thinking and positive action that we’ve been able to achieve these things.

Recent single ‘Hunger Games’ feels like a good example, where it tackles very prescient issues but ends with a message of hope.

On ‘Hunger Games’, we’re talking about this cost of living crisis and the squeeze that everybody feels - and it’s not a coincidence that we released it just after Christmas when famously nobody has any money. But that song ends with an affirmation: You are here. You are now. And that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what pulls me out of bed. I have the power within myself to make myself happy, and all I can control is my reaction to the world around me.

When people get to the end of this album, what do you hope they will have got from it?

I hope that people feel inspired and empowered. When people are stripped of that sense of power, you see how it breaks the spirit of a person and of a community and a collective. Recognising our power as individuals is integral to us recognising our power as a collective. And I hope when you get to the end of the album, it reminds people of that.

'Humble As The Sun' is out on 5th April.

Tags: Bob Vylan, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the February 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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