Monday, September 15, 2014

Q&A with Vacationer

Vacationer's Kenny Vasoli
Photo: Matt Schwartz

Vacationer's debut album Gone came to me through a friend when I was finishing up J-school at Syracuse. If you've ever spent time in Central New York, you'll know that warm weather takes forever to arrive and leaves before anyone is ready. Gone's warm, retro exotica sound endeared itself to me immediately and ushered in the summer season regardless of what the thermometer said. 

Their sophomore album, Relief, came out this June and offered another round of vibey, auditory escapism. The Musically Inclined chatted via email with frontman Kenny Vasoli.

TMI: I’ve really liked the idea of Vacationer(and debut album
Gone) as a concept, how did you decide to focus on travel and the idea of getting away?

Vacationer: Almost right away, we found ourselves naturally going toward exotica influences. I took to that right away and wanted to explore the vibe of escapism even deeper. The song names and subject matter of "Gone" and "Trip" pointed us directly to the Vacationer name.

I’ve seen Vacationer described as Nu-Hula, can you talk about how you came to your sound?

I like to think of NuHula as exotica over hip hop tempo. When people ask me who don't seem to be music aficionados, I tell them that we are like The Beach Boys with hip hop beats. I hope that's an accurate ballpark.

Tell me about the new album, Relief.

It took about a year and a half to get Relief where we wanted it. I love how it came out. It feels multidimensional to me, and the search for relief is something I believe we all have. Hopefully, people can share that connection through the music. It's intended to be relaxing with that in mind.

On your Facebook page I was reading a bit about what you’ve been up to since Gone came out, including bands with whom you’ve spent time, what should fans expect from the new album in terms of progression?

Everyone can expect a more ramped up energy on this one. All of the time we spent on the road performing showed us clearly where the energy gaps are in the first record's songs. I do love those songs, but I wanted the new batch of songs to have more acceleration in the dynamics. I feel like the production is deeper as well, we took a lot of cues from the classic exotica recordings. That style of production doesn't seem to be prominent in many albums that I hear these days.

How do you guys write/put together songs?

Typically, Matt and Grant will send me loops, beats, and ideas they've recorded on the fly. I'll take those ideas and play bass or guitar over top of them while I sing some gibberish. Eventually the gibberish will take on a melody and a few words will formulate to get the momentum flowing. Those first few ideas from all of us are the key to getting the creativity circulating. 

Do you guys use samples? And if so, how do you pick them?

We can't really afford to use samples on the record. We are inspired by many old records, but we hire ensemble players to play raw compositions that we can chop to our liking or use whole. This last record we had strings, winds and even an opera singer. We've been know to layer vinyl crackle over top of our recorded samples to give it that warm, classic vibe.

What’s a song on the album you’re happiest with (in terms of songwriting or production etc), and why?

I love how "Heavenly" and "Onward & Upward" turned out, they were both big undertakings in terms of production. "Heavenly" took me forever to finish writing the vocal. It's difficult for me to pick favorites, I dig them all for different reasons.

How’s the tour with HelloGoodbye so far? Is there a city you were/are particularly looking forward to playing? Why?

We had a blast with those dudes. San Diego was a stand out, we always have fun shows down there.

Describe your live shows.

I always want people to feel comfortable. I want them to enjoy themselves as much as possible. I'm not an "everybody clap your hands" kind of guy. I want them to dance with out having to ask them to.  So, I like to frame us as being seasoned vibe-setters. It's more energetic and somewhat punked-up than on record, but over all its very breezy and vibey. 

Photo: Matthew Schwartz

What’s next for you guys? 

We'll be heading out in fall for a bunch headlining dates with our homies Brick + Mortar. After those we'll be supporting St. Lucia for a string of shows.

What’s your ideal vacation spot?

I loved getting to chill and surf in Costa Rica. I love Holland, a lot! Although if I had my choice. I'd like to visit somewhere I'd never been. South America is next on the list. I have my sights on Brazil.

Connect with Vacationer

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Video: 'Every Mumford and Sons Song Basically'

I doubt I was the only one who played Mumford and Sons' second album and got the sneaking suspicion I'd heard it before... like on the first album.

In case you missed this earlier in the week, check out this video of a guy showing the internet how jittery strumming, soft vocals-- with the occasional outburst, and folk-drenched heartbreak are the ingredients to just about any Mumford song.