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High & Low with The Vacant Lots … and Interview

October 22, 2012

High & Low with The Vacant Lots … and Interview

Prelude: 
No one’s heard from The Vacant Lots for some time now.  It’s been rumored here and there that they’ve
been living under a bridge outside of Austin, Texas, tapping into the local
power grid, relentlessly playing night and day to any passers-by who might
happen to get caught in their wake of intoxicating ethereal guitar washes and
tribal drumming.  So after my sonic
beacon began blinking last week, I set out to see for myself, finding the boys
not under a bridge, but tucked away nonetheless, burning like two chemically
fueled jeweled embers, playing to the moon, blanketed by the endless Milky Way.

Guys, gotta thank you for sitting down with
me again.  Last time we spoke was in my
living room in Brookhaven, surrounded by shipping crates and boxes, just prior
to my move here to New Mexico, where you managed to lighten my load, so to
speak.  Without a doubt you’ve been
working hard, and falling in with some serious talent, not to mention a new 7
inch, and man, I’ve gotta thank you for spinning those off the cuff demos for
me … gives me a great sense of where you’re heads are at.  
When can we expect to hear a debut album from you guys?
Brian: We’ve just finished tracking, and the mixing process will begin this
Winter.  Should be out by next year.

Is there a chance that we might hear more Brian’s vocals in the future?
Brian: I’ve been experimenting with vocals on some of the newer material as
well as singing live.
And of course this brings me to the new marbleized “High & Low” 7
inch, where Roger Brogan lends a guiding hand, while allowing you to sonically
assault the air with a wash of electronic drones that are filled with driven
lyrics, nearly stumbling me in mid step. 
Were there smiles ‘round the studio as you were laying this down?  You were obviously in the sweet spot, I can’t
believe you didn’t know you had a gem on your hands.
Jared:I think this one translated really well. 
Roger’s mix really captured the feeling of the song.

Would you mind taking the single “High & Low” and walking us through
the process, what you were thinking from conception to outcome, including the
vinyl colour choice and sleeve art.
Jared: High & Low came from a recording session we did at our old studio
before it got shut down & turned back into a factory.  We got to see Roger in L.A. last year when we
were on tour & got to talking about doing some mixing together.  When he sent over the mix we were completely
blown away.  He added drones, electronic
parts, percussion & drums.  Roger’s
gift is that he can take something you give him & offer you an entirely
different perspective.  He did this with
our song “Kingdom Come” too.  
I’ve gotta ask you about the black and white thing you have going on …
is everything really black and white for you? 
Because while the art may suggest minimalism, your music certainly
isn’t.
Jared: You can’t beat black & white for contrast, can you?  I happen to like those two colors & how
they interact visually.  I like the
detachment of black & the blankness of white.
Brian, for the folks who haven’t seen you live, you used to drum while
standing, but you’ve returned to the more traditional stool, are there any assets
or drawbacks to standing?
Brian: We found that the consistent drive of the floor tom when standing up as
opposed to the traditional Hi Hat or Ride Cymbal was able to fill in that lower
frequency range, that we sometimes found lacking due to not having a bass
player.  However the real drawback is
only having use of 2 limbs instead of 4.
Well, you do manage to keep your drum kit to a bare minimum, have you
considered expanding for a wider variety of sound?
Brian: I find that keeping the drum set as stripped down as possible forces me
to be more creative in my technique and approach to the drums.
Brian, unlike other bands, where the drummer’s merely keeping the beat,
you have the ability to move the song along, measuring the pace, and setting
the stepping stones firmly in place.
Brian: I take influence from a lot of jazz drummers who were very musical in
their playing, and I strive to both hold the groove while also supplying an
additional melodic voice.
It seems you’ve developed a penchant for Austin, and I will say there’s
something about that city that brings out the best in people, how was your
recent show there?
It was good. We played a new festival there called Psych Light &
Sound. We also got to do some recording & mixing with Brett Orrison, whom
the Black Angels recommended to us.  We
recorded a song & played the festival on Saturday, then our flights were
cancelled on Sunday, so we went back into the studio & mixed a new song
called “6 AM”.  Sonic Boom
[Pete Kember, late of Spacemen 3, and now with Spectrum] mastered it for us
& it will be out soon on an upcoming 7″ release. 
And the Psych Festival?  Any
behind the scene details I might squeeze out of you?
Jared: Austin Psych Fest has been really good to us.  They released the High & Low 7″ this
year & we got to meet Anton of the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  He is someone we have always respected, so it
was good to finally get a chance to talk. 
After we spoke for a little while, we handed him the last copy of our
Confusion 7″ that we saved to give to him and just then this girl asked to
take a picture with him.  He was still
holding the 7″ in his hand and there is a photograph of that.  Talk about capturing a moment.

I don’t imagine you can walk away from the Psych Festival without
spending a good amount of time gazing at other people’s equipment … did you
hear anything you might like to fold into your sound?
Jared: I am really particular with the equipment I use, I didn’t see anything
that struck me with the feeling like “Oh man, I have to get that …”
but on another angle, I got to see a handful of bands I really like, such as
Singapore Sling, The Meek, The Black Angels, BJM, Moon Duo, Psychic Ills, &
The Telescopes.
Anything new or exciting happening record wise in the near future?  New sounds or concepts?
Jared: We are finishing up the LP now. 
It feels like we have been refining our vision over the past three years
and working on these songs have really pushed us further on transforming the
sound.  There is a more concentrated
feeling , kinda like a violent discipline that has allowed us to communicate
certain ideas more clearly with this material.
I broke out my copy of your very first release, how do you think it
stands up?  And are there any songs
you’ve recorded that you’d like to revisit in some fashion or other?
Jared: I think it holds up. 
“Confusion” and “Cadillac” were two songs that
really work well together on a 7″ format. 
I feel that that was a good way to introduce our sound.  And releasing it on Mexican Summer certainly
helped a lot too.  Not really sure on the
whole revisiting idea.  I mean, we do
have a lot of early recordings that have in one way or another inspired or
influenced some of the stuff we are doing now , but there comes a time when you
need to move on.  I think moving forward
is a better direction than going back.
Brian: There’s a very primitive, raw sound to those first few recordings.  They were all laid down using markedly lower
quality equipment than more recent efforts, and that in-your-face crunch
quality really packs a punch.

I’ve understood through the grapevine that Dean Wareham and Britta
Phillips, who you opened for at The Bell House, have heard some of your
under-wraps material, have they contacted you? 
And if so, what do they think?
Jared: Yeah, we have sent them what we have been working on.  Actually, Dean & Britta were the first
two people we sent our early recordings to three years ago.  They have been really encouraging and inspiring
to us over the past few years. 
With regards to Sonic Boom, whom I know you respect highly, what’s it
been like working with him, and has he connected you with other like minded
musicians here in the States?
Jared: Working with Sonic Boom has been a really inspired experience.  He is one of the most innovative artists I
have ever met.  He is an architect of
sound & it certainly comes through in his records and in his ideas when you
talk to him.   He has given us some
really invaluable feedback over the past few years.  I think one of the things about Sonic Boom
that gets overlooked is his generosity and wisdom. 
In his book “Black Postcards,” Dean cites Sonic as being a Hedge Hog,
meaning that he labors, building beautiful soundscapes one note at a time.  I realize everyone works differently, does
your music arrive nearly fully formed, or do you labor over it?
Jared: Things get channeled differently, I
suppose.  There is a lot of revision that
goes into it but there is also a lot of spontaneity that allows things to come
through naturally.  I really think it is
a process of transformation.  If you can
create something that someone else can interpret towards their own life, that
is something special.  Also, I think
balance is key.  The process is like a
balancing act between madness and order. 
It’s about creating a balance within the work and the soul.
Brian: When writing new music, we will often bounce home demos back and forth,
giving each other feedback and suggestions for new or modified parts.
Brian, have you considered experimenting with other instruments?
Brian: I’ve spent a lot of time recently experimenting with synthesizers,
guitar, and singing.  The result will be
made available to the greater listening public upon release of the new
record. 

And to that end, let me ask you: 
Brian, give me you top 5 drummers of all time.  And Jared, your top 5 guitarists please.
Brian: Max Roach, Billy Ficca, Philly Joe
Jones.
Jared: Tom Verlaine, Bo Diddley, Link Wray,
Dean Wareham, Lou Reed.
You’ve got an upcoming West Coast tour, have you any surprises in store
for us? 
Jared: New songs, new visuals, new ideas, same attitude, same vision. 
Any venues you’re really excited about? 
Will you be hooking up with any California talent, or other artists
you’ve hoped to play with?
Jared: Looking forward to playing and traveling through California.  We are touring with two West Coast bands,
Cosmonauts (our label mates from Reverberation Appreciation Society) and Lovely
Bad Things.
Dates:
The Echo Los Angeles, CA,  Nov. 6th @ 7:00 PM
Fulton 55 Down Town Fresno, CA , Nov. 7th @
7:00 PM
Hemlock Tavern SF, CA, Nov. 8th @7:00 PM
The Griffin San Diego, CA, Nov. 9th @ 7:00
PM
Detroit Bar Costa Mesa, CA, Nov. 10th @
7:00 PM
Is a full house always advantageous to the music, or have lightly
attended shows ever been a surprise for you?
Jared: I suppose it depends on the
context.  We’ve played to four people
& four hundred, I think the performance shouldn’t alter depending on the
door count but a large crowd doesn’t always lend itself to a better
performance, necessarily. 
And speaking of touring and surprises, what happened at the University
of Vermont?  I heard you once splintered
the floorboards, peeled the paint, and were asked never to return.
Jared: Well, we were invited to play UVM a
couple years ago. They gave us “warnings” to turn down the volume of
the set.  Refusing, we launched into this
25 minute drone turning all the levels up & then creating a wall of
feedback.  We then left for twenty
minutes, came back and ended the set.  It
was the last time we played there, ‘cos we got banned from playing UVM ever
again.  The people running the event really
had no idea what to do with us, so they just let us finish. 
You’re visual presentation, the slide and film show, seems to be a work
forever in progress, forever being expanded on … how do you perceive and
conceptualize this side of your music?
Jared: It changes over time, as we do and
as the music does.  To me, it’s like the
subconscious of the music when we play live. 
At this point I’m gonna settle back and let either or both of you have
the mic and say anything you feel relevant, mysterious, or important.
Jared: Thanks for the interview. Thanks for the tablets.

The Vacant Lots Band Pages:
Merchandise:
http://thevacantlots.tumblr.com/STORE

Interview made by Jenell Kesler / 2012
© Copyright
http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com / 2012
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