Interview: Din of Celestial Birds “We all used to live in Leeds at one point or another, and the reason I came here was the music scene was phenomenal.”

This episode we find ourselves at stalwart Leeds venue, The Fenton and I’m here with two of the members of the brilliant Din of Celestial Birds. We have Matt Benetan who plays bass and Vince Knight Schrijver who plays drums.

We are playing their album a lot at the moment. We’ve had it on in The Chilli Shop Leeds, and it goes down very well with the customers. A side note we tell the band, people do buy more chilli products when their album is on!

“That’s amazing!” exclaims Matt.

It’s just something we’ve observed recently.

Matt warms to this, “Is there a particular type of chilli that you feel goes particularly well with the album?”

It’s a good question, we think it’s probably something like a chipotle, like a sort of smoky vibe we reckon, if this were a chilli, they could be that possibly. Talking of which, thank you to our people at Cult Wing, we have your lunch. So we have some collard greens, as you told us, you have vegan tendencies.

“We do have vegan tendencies, yeah.” confirms Matt.

Wonderful, so today we have cauli wings. Heaped fried cauliflower with herbs and spices and jerk seasoning.

Vince points out that we have, “wings for birds.”

So we start with the album that came out last year. ’The Night Is For Dreamers’ and it is a fantastic album. We ask if they’re currently, what they call the touring cycle, gigging it around.

Matt responds, “Yeah, like we’re in the process of doing a few gigs around the UK to promote the album. It came out on the 11th of August, just before ArcTanGent Festival, and that was a great way to introduce it to the world, that just lined up perfectly for us.”

We say, it’s funny they should mention ArcTanGent Festival because that’s when we became aware of the band because all the talk in the press area was about Din of Celestial Birds. There were a lot of journalists and photographers saying that they wanted to see them and to take shots of the band, also notable in the buzz were Hidden Mothers, how do they feel about the buzz about their band at the moment?

“Absolutely love it!” says Matt

“Yeah, it’s unreal really.” agrees Vince.

So how long have the band been together?

Matt muses, “So, it’s a difficult question to answer. We’ve been playing in bands together for a very long time, for some of us for 17 years, which is disturbing when you think about it. We got together as Din of Celestial Birds in 2019 so we’ve been together for like, pretty much exactly four years at this point.”

“And I joined you guys’ last year.” offers Vince.

“Yeah, Vince joined us last year,” Confirms Matt, “but we’ve all played with Vince in various bands in the past, so we’ve all been playing together in bands for a very long time.”

It had been said, again at ArcTanGent, that Din of Celestial Birds were considered a Leeds based act, is this correct?

Matt clarifies, “It’s a little more complicated than that. I live just south of Stockport, near Manchester.”

With Vince adding, “I live in Cambridge.”

So, they’re not a Leeds band then where did that come from?

Vince helps us out, “I met these guys in Leeds who used to play in Leeds together, about seven years ago.”

Glad we cleared that up, so there is a Leeds origin story! We’ll continue on this topic then.

Leeds is a good hotbed for this sort of music, the post-everything music, which is a term that came up when we interviewed Pleiades, they were saying they just call this music ‘post everything’ these days. Because the sub-genres of sub-genres of sub-genres. Basically, nice guitar music that’s progressive and experimental. There’s a really good undercurrent of that in the Leeds scene thanks to promoters like Bad Owl and connected bands like Din of Celestial Birds, A-Tota-So and Hundred Year Old Man. Do they think that’s because of the abundance of live spaces to play in this city? It does seem like a creative hub.

Matt offers, “I think it helps. It feels like there are a lot of creative forces at play in the city. Obviously, there are a lot of musicians around because of the universities, because of Leeds College of Music and stuff like that. I wonder whether that plays into it at all. Honestly, I don’t know. We all used to live in Leeds at one point or another, and the reason I came here was the music scene was phenomenal. So many amazing venues. I definitely think it’s a big draw for people, and when you’re drawing people in, then you’re going to get more bands playing that sort of music. You’re going to build that sort of scene. People like (Leeds promoter) Stewart Ramsey at Bad Owl Presents, we’re spoiled for venues and promoters in the city supporting this music, and bands obviously.”

Leeds has been very influential we think, obviously Manchester gets a lot of the attention when they talk about northern scenes, but Leeds have been rocking it for a long, long time.

Especially in the eighties when Leeds was all about Goth culture with Sisters of Mercy and The Mission, Leeds has always had a rich musical heritage.

Changing gears, we ask Matt and Vince what’s coming up in 2024?

“More gigs!” cries Matt, “More gigs yeah we’re starting to line things up at the moment, there will be some announcements in the future about what will be going on there… Secrets!! (Since this interview Din Of Celestial Birds have once again been announced for ArcTanGent, this time upgraded to a Wednesday bigger stage slot)

We mention that in the live setting their electronic elements are really strong in the mix.

Vince takes this up, “I like to say that it’s like it has nice texture,”

Absolutely it has, it’s reminiscent of 65 Days of Static and bands like that, we’ve also noticed a lean towards more sort of shoegaze sounds (also a staple of their sound) with bands like Slow Crush, who have adopted a Slow Dive, My Bloody Valentine kind of sound, that’s seen a bit of resurgence recently, have they noticed that too?

“Absolutely, and it’s all thanks to Andie Gill (guitarist) really,” says Matt

“He kind of kicked off the band, but he’s also just been great in terms of like being kind of a musical mentor I feel, like there are so many great bands out there and there are so many different waves of different types of music coming through, So I always look to him as a bit of a compass to find things and Slow Crush is a great example. We’ve got some of that Shoe-gazy sort of vibe. And yeah, I think it absolutely is coming back and it’s something that I hadn’t listened to too much before being introduced to it by Andy. And now, he’s kind of shown me his bands and then now I’m able to pick it out, like how those sorts of sounds influence the stuff that we’re doing, how he weaves that into the stuff as well which is really great.”

Have the band ever thought about getting electronic artists to remix their music? We’ve noticed that a lot of bands from across the board are now looking for remix packages.

Vince is all over this topic, “Yeah, I mean, I run an electronic music project on the side as well and I was thinking it would be really fun to remix all the ideas we have to completely different soundscapes. A re-visual. Crunch it up!”

“And everything’s recorded to a click track.” Matt points out

“Which makes it that much more appealing.” “Exactly,” agrees Vince, “it makes it very appealing.”

At this point in the interview we traditionally turn our attention to the food element of what we do in these interviews. We ask the band as we tuck into our vegetarian offerings if any of them are handy in the kitchen? 

“I’d like to be better than I am.” Says Matt, “Vince is pretty handy in the kitchen. Oh, we had an interesting morning. So because obviously Vince lives down in Cambridge, we were playing in Manchester yesterday, so he was staying at my place. And we tried to poach some eggs. So if we had listened to Vince, right, things would have gone differently. I made a lot of mistakes, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. Some of them were this morning with some eggs.”

We mention that eggs are a big thing if you go for a cheffing job, it’s sometimes one of the first things they ask you to cook as a test, eggs. Matt asks us what the best way to poach an egg is.

We recommend that the best way to poach an egg is with a dash of vinegar, and whisk the water into a vortex, crack the egg in slowly. That is the key, slowly and gently and don’t be like thrashing around to see what it’s doing. Just be really patient and it will reveal itself.

Matt reveals why he asked that question, “So we’ve got a friend who poaches eggs really, really well and her secret to it, this is what we tried this morning, it didn’t work. But her secret is that you get the water to a rolling boil, and then you turn it off, and then you put the eggs in, and you turn it on. Is that sensible?

We agree you can turn it off or you can turn it down, you can also crack the egg into a separate bowl and strain off some egg white carefully, there’s a couple of tricks. Basically, you don’t want a load of bubbly water going on.

Matt takes this all in, “Okay. Yeah. I’m going to try and take that on board, I’m going to try and become a better man.”

Don’t worry Matt It honestly takes some people quite a long time to get it right. So that’s why they sometimes ask you in a chef’s interview about eggs, because if you can’t get past the egg stage, then you’re a bit snookered.

Matt asks, “That’s like an entry level. What comes after the eggs?”

Generally, knife skills we tell him, they’re very important.

We notice Matt might have further cooking aspirations, are we right?

“Yeah, well, I’ve got a very low baseline, so I feel like improvement shouldn’t be hard. But I’m interested in it. I’d like to learn more about it.” muses Matt.

“And it is fun. It is fun. And when you’ve got time for it, like, every so often, I’ll cook something, and it’ll work out well. And I’ll be like, I’m a badass. So, it turns out, I’m really not. I don’t really know what I’m doing. But you’ve given me some great advice. Vince is pretty handy in the kitchen!”

Vince, it appears, used to work as a chef in a Pizza restaurant and is in event catering so he knows about the discipline behind cooking for the masses, a different style of cooking again, which is all in the huge amount of preparation involved.

Vince agrees, “It’s big batches, absolutely.”

Both Matt and Vince are very happy with their vegan meal courtesy of our friends at Cult Wing. We finally ask them if there are any bands we should be watching out for, in their opinion? Aside from the aforementioned Pleiades and Hidden Mothers.

Matt takes up, “There’s just so much great stuff, and it’s really difficult. We’re playing tonight with Civil Service, a fantastic band from Manchester. Last night we played with A-Tota-So. We’ve also had the pleasure of being joined by Kusanagi, from Liverpool, I think. Phenomenal stuff. There’s just so much.”

We agree there’s so much going on, it is a very exciting time. This summer we believe UK experimental rock music almost turned a corner, where a lot of supposedly cult music was actually getting a lot of attention. Festivals like ArcTanGent are tribute to this, and they fill a field with many fans of what is considered obscure music year after year.

Interview & Table Images By George Miller –
As part of Foodinati UK – Series 4

Band Promo Photo Credit:  Adam Davis-Powell from Demon Race Productions

You can watch the full interview by clicking on the image below.