Occasionally you come across a band and immediately think: "Well, they're absolute weirdos", and it's more often than not a compliment. Indeed, it most certainly is in the case of Manchester band The Vanity Project, who we interviewed following the release of their appropriately strange new single entitled Centaur

The Vanity ProjectThe Vanity Project

For those who may be new to your music, how best would you describe your sound?

We like the term freak-pop. We really admire artists like Everything Everything and XTC, who make music which sounds totally left field and yet is full of hooks that refuse to leave your brain. Plus, BC Camplight summed us up as 'two absolute weirdos' when he played us on 6Music, so we'll take that.

What challenges have you faced in the music industry so far?

It's insanely expensive. When starting out, you're expected to do almost everything for free and spend a tonne of time writing, performing and promoting your stuff but somehow also fund recording, making music videos and eating. Yet we still feel guilty when someone grumbles at paying £5 for entry to one of our shows because they're friends with one of the other acts. We feel a bit less guilty when they're staggering about during our last song having spent £20 on drinks though.

How difficult would you say this career path is in terms of making a name for yourself?

The easiest way we've found to get our name out there is to meet other artists. Music makers tend to be the biggest music fans. We organise our own shows and hosted a radio show for several years where we showcased a lot of local bands. If we like what someone's doing, we tend to find they dig our stuff too. It's really awkward when they don't though. Of course, that just makes you crave their affections more; go to all their shows, buy all their merch. Say, maybe that's a better strategy... Scratch what I said before, be as aloof as possible, that's how to make it in this business.

How important is it for you to have creative control over the work you produce?

We have a very strong vision for everything we do, in writing songs, but also for our live shows, our costumes and in curating the events we put on. We love collaborating with people who understand our mad ideas though, particularly Martin King from Eve Studios, who produced this track. He's an amazing producer and has a keen ear for hooks and sonic eccentricities.

Where do you draw influence and inspiration from for your work?

We actually had a children's theatre company before we had the band, and theatricality plays a big part in what we do. We love acts like Adam and the Ants, Tune-Yards and St. Vincent who have wild costumes and elaborate live shows. Comedy's also a big influence on our work and though we don't write comedy music, we couldn't perform in togas and post people myths about a centaur living in the railway tunnels of Manchester without having our tongues in our cheeks. Otherwise people might think we're a prog rock band. Comedy is a great vehicle for dark themes - we draw a lot from Reeves and Mortimer when hosting live events and Shooting Stars is often downright terrifying.

If you could collaborate with anybody going forward, who would you choose and why?

We're huge fans of the PC Music mob and Sophie's definitely our favourite of the bunch. Her music is so saccharine sweet and so abrasive at the same time. She treads that line between pop and weird that we're trying to foot ourselves. You guys can make that happen right? That's why you're asking us? She's behind this curtain, right?

Tell us a random, funny fact about you that not many people know.

We were once the support act for a male stripper in a nightclub in Coventry. And yes, we did share a dressing room. And yes, it was huge. The dressing room I mean. Very impressive facilities.

Do you have definitive aims or goals for your career?

Rob wants to have a steady career with a loyal fanbase and widespread critical acclaim. Flora wants a Nobel Peace Prize.

Where do you hope to be this time next year?

To launch this single, we did the first of what we hope to be a series of nights called No Place. It was in an amazing, cavernous venue called Fairfield Social Club and was themed as a hedonistic ritual to summon an ancient centaur. We hosted musicians and comedians and played surreal games with the audience like painting the face of the Venus de Milo blindfolded. We'd love to have grown No Place by this time next year and be able to take it on tour. 

What should we expect from you in the coming weeks and months? 

We have a couple of gigs coming up - 12th May at Gullivers in Manchester supporting the immensely talented Dilettante, and then a headline gig at York Crescent on 18th May in support of Stop the War. We're not at liberty to talk about some of the more exciting things going on just yet, but there will be more to our dear Centaur yet, and there will be more singles on the way soon.