Taking an eight-month break from each other after the end of their Smother tour, Hayden Thorpe, Tom Fleming, Ben Little and Chris Talbot subsequently re-grouped last year and commenced work on the fourth Wild Beasts long-player.

With this album, Present Tense, they chose to build on yet simultaneously redirect their Rich Formby-infused trade mark sound of albums 1 to 3, by joining forces with Lexxx and Leo Abrahams, to forge a more electronic musical landscape for the songs assembled. "There were a few fragments of all the songs floating around for a while," Hayden Thorpe tells The 405, during a conversation dedicated to exploring each and every track on the record. "They were far from realised, of course. We usually jump in the swamp and work our way through the songs but this time we had a much clearer idea of what we had and I think part of the initial re-getting-to-know-you-period, as it were, consisted of going: "well, this is the best I've got" and part of the pact of being a band, I guess, is saying this is the best I have, these are my treasures, they're here to share - what have you got?"

The four played each other everything they'd come up with on during the break and started working from that point onwards with quite a broad spectrum of songs. "We had many more ideas than we had time or headspace to fully process," says Thorpe of the initial stages of making Present Tense, "but that in itself informed the process, because I think we were seeking a directness with this record that meant we had to lean more heavily upon those songs which had more of an instantaneous impact. We wanted to have some sort of a shock factor, as it were, for ourselves more than anything. It was important to perhaps shock ourselves out of the lull that Smother was."

With 'Wanderlust', the idea of using a dramatic synth bass and the almost kraut-rock drums informed the band's process in many ways. "It had that shock element", says Thorpe. "It was also put together quite crudely on the computer and, in a way, it defined the boundaries and dictated what our palette would be, because when you're in the position of making your fourth album it's almost more difficult deciding what you want to be. The options and the time are almost crushing so that very quickly defined our parameters and everything then worked within that framework. I think it very quickly became the manifesto, so even though it was not written to be a single, as such, it definitely felt like we were re-marking our patch, like we had galvanised ourselves. It wasn't wrong-footing people but we did almost want people to think they'd put the wrong record on. And, you know, that's all part of the thrill of making records, I suppose, part of the joy of it is seeing what you can get away with. How dare we have a drum pattern consistently for nearly five minutes and how dare we say fuck and how dare we ditch guitars entirely? There was something very liberating breaking all the rules that we had set for ourselves."

'Nature Boy' started out with Tom playing a short folk-loop refrain on the guitar. "We then introduced the Dave Smith Prophet '08 synth, which kind of became the magic wand of the record", Thorpe recalls. "It was a spell that we used on most tracks and we found a sound that was already pre-set, called Velociornet, which sounds like an angry bee or something. It makes me think of a dinosaur wasp-like creature that is extremely angry and, I suppose, that was macho enough a sound to carry what is really taking the piss out of the audaciousness of masculinity and how obsolete these old ideas about muscle and power are".

One of the strongest cuts on the album is the soaring 'Mecca', which Thorpe describes as a song about humans' need to migrate, to move, and to keep pushing towards something. "I don't think we are a species who can exist in status quo," he says. "We have to be working towards something, we are forward-facing animals and we can't help but look into the future. 'Mecca' is a song about the drives and desires that really act as the dynamo to keep us running, to keep us going. I guess it's a love song about the extraordinary lengths people will go to for whims of the body. It's that classic mind vs body scenario - which governs which? It's inspired by Henry Miller's theory that education only ever obscures and nullifies what our carnal desires are. By its nature, the chorus really needed to ignite. I always saw that chorus as a Roy Orbison chorus, that's what I was trying to do. When Roy Orbison sings a chorus, he sings it big time but he never sings over the top. It almost seems a requirement of what the melody needs."

For the band, the song 'Sweet Spot' took a lot of coordination and experimentation so as to hit the right direction for it. "It has folk elements with more berserk synths of our newer sound," Thorpe says. "As soon as we got a working version of this song up and running and it took a direction, we thought - this is our calling card, this is signature 'us'. It has the dual vocal, synth and an intricate guitar sound. In some ways it felt like the kind of thing we'd do. There was a real power to that. It felt like we'd been trying on a lot of shoes and then when the shoe finally fit, it was very much one that we would wear." But it wasn't clear from the outset whether it was to be Thorpe or Fleming who'd take the lead vocal on the track. "We tried various ways and it took a bit of experimentation," says Thorpe. "Part of the pleasure of it is swapping and seeing what the different effects are. But I wrote the words for that song so I wrote the line with Tom in mind, really, knowing his delivery and the powers of his delivery and making the most of that. We always go with what is right for the good of the song, I think our voices are distinct enough from each other to never really overlap. I can't do what he does and he can't do what I do to the same extent." When played live during their recent shows, 'Sweet Spot' has, according to Thorpe, translated very well on stage. "It's what we refer to as being 'in the pocket'" he explains. "When the feel is right, when the rhythm and the drum section move in the right way we say it is in the pocket. We're looking for these pockets of groove. It doesn't mean it's in time, it doesn't mean it's correct - it just hangs together in a really effortless way."

On 'Daughters', Tom Flemings' rich and heavy-with-mood voice shines against the backdrop of at least a chorus and a half. "This was definitely a song that was constructed 'in the box', as it were," says Thorpe. "We arranged it with mechanical sounds from the computer, it really needed that starkness and that clinical edge to be carried off. It's got repetition and loop and the building of momentum slowly. The key feature was the CS-80 synthesiser which is worth a small fortune or at least a family saloon [laughs] but it's an incredible synthesiser, which we brought into the studio and all poured over. We had to be really careful not to just swamp the whole record with it but, in the end, the jittery synth you hear on the chorus here was its main purpose. It was the missing link - I think that sometimes with songs you have a sense that something is missing and then you strike upon it and then the conversation changes. The song itself is about responsibility and maybe a reflection on how we are perhaps headlong into potential disaster. The modern world is moving in such a velocity and such a pace, where consequences are not often considered."

The genesis of 'Pregnant Pause' centred around what Thorpe refers to as "a horrendously drunken night in Istanbul." He explains: "It was the last show of the Smother tour and I drank the local Raki quite frivolously, thinking I was top dog and could keep up with the Turks. It became apparent after not too long that I was not only drunk but embarrassingly drunk, so that it was almost an out-of-body experience, you know, when you know you're so drunk that your body can't function. I had to be led around the streets, pissing in alleys and being sat in a pide restaurant, slumped, whilst everyone was enjoying their pide. When we flew back into London I remember having a very cleansed and lucid sensation that that era was finished, that it was out of my system. The song is very much about waiting for what is next. After all of this, I go home and after all of the nonsense and bravado of putting a record out and being in a band, it's about who's still there for you. Who'll put up with me? Who will put up with my highs and is now also there for my post-tour slump lows? It's about knowing that there's someone still out there."

Of 'A Simple Beautiful Truth' Thorpe says: "It's one of those songs which is very, very simple to play but has to be exquisitely performed. It's all about the feel. The parts are absolutely dumb-simple. Stupid. And deliberately so. That was part of the audacity of the song: how much can we sand this down, boil it down to its essentials? But what really carries the whole thing is the bass and the drum. It has to have that innate sexiness. If it doesn't then it just sounds floppy and limp. When we finished this song we all felt - this is the band that made 'Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants'. This is our natural migration and there was a real completeness to that which was quite heartening."

The slow but mighty 'A Dog's Life' - another Fleming-led number - was put together from different pieces. A collage of bits and bobs of song, if you like. "We had fragments of different ideas," Thorpe says, "and it was a composite of moments and days. It kind of played into to why we called the record Present Tense, because it becomes apparent that your currency is time. You're dealing with nostalgia and brief moments in time. That song is made out of different moments in time hung together. The drop section is incredibly epic in a live setting - the sheer bass and volume, the synth bass really adds that physical edge and makes the album more 'wide-screen', I think."

Word-playing along to the album title, 'Past Perfect' also deals with time and our perception of our histories with hindsight vision. "It's about the backward gaze and how the memory is good at editing out the bits you don't want to remember," Thorpe clarifies. "You know, how the past - when you look to it - is a bit like art in the sense that it displays things in a way that they didn't fully exist. Looking back at the past and thinking 'it was so simple and so good' when really, in actual fact, it wasn't. But it's part of human nature to organise memory in a way that is beneficial to you and is healing and healthy. That is, I think, why the consciousness of how we see the present tense, the now, is cluttered. Facebook and the like organise our pasts and make a mark of our pasts in a way that completely overrides our capacity for memory. It's an ancient facet of human nature, to regard the past with an air of creativity, you re-write it to fit your needs."

One of the earliest tracks written for the album is 'New Life', which, in its studio incarnation, has remained pretty loyal to the original demo. "It was one of those where we re-created rather than re-invented when it came to the final version," says Thorpe. "Sometimes it just happens like that, when you know you can't better the feel or execution of the demo and you just have to accept that. It might not be as polished or neat as something that is created wholly in the studio but it is important to carry with you the narrative of the song. Sometimes if you're refurbishing a building you still have to leave the damaged bits there, because they tell the heart of the story and give it a character. That song, in many ways, is an anchor point on the record. It acts as a holding position at that point."

Ending the album is 'Palace', which is the most optimistic track on Present Tense, according to Thorpe. He says: "I think that if there was an underlying sentiment on the record, then it is of a sense of cautious optimism, you know? I think optimism is a difficult to instil in music because the signposts are often so cheesy and tacky. Happy-clappy music is not what really moves us, as a band, but that doesn't mean that we have to rely entirely on the signposts of melancholy. I think the final line of the song, "You remind me of a person I wanted to be before I forgot," is almost a revelation of the record, a discovery of our former selves. We feel this record has a linearity to where we started out. You know, our initial purposes, our initial wants. And that line sums it up and the mind-state behind the record.

And, in closing, we briefly chat about 'Byzantine', the b-side to the 'Wanderlust' single, which comes out on the same day as the album. "That song is about the digitisation of memory," Thorpe states. "How our memories are now digital and we have a footprint, wherever we go now. A personal footprint with images of us and stories of us are catalogued instantly online and the song is about the anxiety that that provokes in me, personally. And also maybe it's to do with the loneliness that this creates. A text message is easier to send than saying something to someone's face. We soften responsibilities through online means. Our natural capacity to deal with things is almost overridden."

Present Tense is out on 24 February on Domino.