Forget about thunderous drum beats. Forget about heavy distorted guitar/bass riffs. At least for now.
The Vliets, currently working on their full length debut, drink from nowadays electronic scene as much as they do from 60s psychedelia, trapped between avant-gardism and nostalgia, meandering between Austin and Chicago. Their first release, The Vliets EP, dates back from 2011 and was followed by last year’s God’s Drug EP, having both of them revealed a very mature sound as well as a band that knows how to spice up things without overdoing it.
We wanted to know more about this promising band and so we had this little chat with The Vliets’ front man and guitarist. We talked about those commonplaces like their influences and stuff but we also had some time to discuss UFOs and God’s drug.
The Vliets started out as a duo but, as far as I know, it now includes two more members. Would you like to briefly tell us your story as a band?
Right now it's myself, Daniel Gonzalez, Max Anderson and Preston Smith. Everyone has been involved since the beginning, or before this band, just at different times. I've been playing music with Max since we were like 14 years old, he's always been the drummer. Preston recently became more involved in our live show production but will be contributing to the music as well, as he has some in the past. We had some distance issues the last few years, which is why we didn't play many shows. I live in Heath, TX, Max lives in Austin, Daniel lives in Chicago and Preston lives in Dallas so it was extremely difficult to all get together. We've made it work though. Daniel and I wrote and recorded our last EP over the phone and email. We also incorporated the lap top into our live sets so we don't have to actually rehearse together before shows, everyone just rehearses on their own.
When did you first come in contact with music? What were your first instruments?
One of my very first memories was hearing The Beatles for the first time. Not sure how old I was, maybe 2 or 3, but I was pretty much obsessed after that. Guitar was my first instrument, my buddy sold me his for 50 dollars when I was 12 and I played it for about 7 or 8 hours a day until I figured it out.
Was there any major figure in your childhood who introduced you to great records like your parents or some older friend? And if you have any interesting episode that influenced you as musicians at an early age please be my guest.
Yeah my parents always made sure I was listening to quality music and not radio shit. My grandfather was also a composer and a doctor of music, so I was exposed to a lot of classical music as well.
In what other musical projects were you involved before the existence of The Vliets? Were you always interested in psychedelic rock?
Our first band was called Dubious Rothchild which was essentially just The Vliets. Max and I started it and then Daniel joined. We just didn't actually record any music. We changed the name to The Vliets because I had moved from Austin and I didn't think Max was going to play with us anymore, otherwise we'd still be Dubious Rothchild. I was always interested in 60's rock. It's all I listened to as a child. I think it pretty much goes without saying, the 1960's can't be topped, in the psychedelic genre.
I came across with your music at a time when I was starting to pay more attention to electronic music and it was a little bit strange because all of a sudden you were wrapping this laid back psychedelic rock with a hint of electronic music and it made complete sense. How did you guys come up with this sound of yours?
Well we've all always loved electronic music, we just don't really know how to make it. I think it came about because we were just so ignorant when it came to recording techniques and music software. All of the music on our first two EP's was recorded through a mic and physically making the sounds, for the most part. I think it was only natural though because it's a good mix of all the music we listen to (Grandaddy, Beck, Radiohead, John Frusciante, Neil Young, Captain Beefheart, múm, The Kinks). I've recently started experimenting more with the lap top, I think our next album will be a little more electronic than our previous releases.
By now you have only released two self-produced EPs and yet you managed to get some media attention, with, for example, Deli Magazine considering your band as one of the most promising bands around. How does it reflect on the attendance of your shows? Do you notice any difference? Is there more public or is it too soon to notice the effect of that exposure?
I think there has been some effect. We were on a short tour in California a couple weeks ago and some people came up to me who were fans prior to seeing us and knew all about the music, that was pretty insane because we're virtually unknown in Texas, only our friends show up for the most part. It becomes very political in our hometowns though, it's hard to even book a show and I'm pretty sure it's like that for all bands you know? Unless you actively participate in the scene and be everyones friend, you kind of get left out. We're just not that kind of band, I'm a pretty shy person anyway, networking is not my thing. Writing and recording is what we really love to do.
These EPs artwork feature your friend’s Edgar Cardoze paintings which complement quite well your music. How did you meet him and when did you decide that his paintings should be on your EPs covers?
Edgar is a master. He was one of my good buddies roommate. I was invited to their house for a party a few years ago and Edgar's paintings were hanging on their walls. I immediately was in love with his work and I already knew I wanted real paintings to be the covers of any music we released. When I was writing the lyrics to 'Velvet Sea' I was staring at one of Edgar's paintings. When I finished the song, I sent it to him and asked if I could use the painting as the cover. That's pretty much how it started, and hopefully he'll continue to let us use his masterpieces.
God’s Drug EP was your first work to see a physical release just a couple weeks ago. How can people get it? Do you intend to make other physical releases of this or other works?
It's available to order on our bandcamp page vliets.bandcamp.com. Not ourselves, but someone did press vinyl of both of our EP's onto a single album. It's only available through their website. It's sort of a new model for record labels, I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to say anything actually, they don't disclose the names of the bands and it's subscription based.
You were telling that your debut album will probably be more electronic than your previous releases. What else can you tell us about it? In what stage is it?
Yeah I think it will be a bit more electronic but I can't be certain, things just sort of happen as they will. It's still in it's infancy though. The songs are written, and by that I mean there are melodies and chord progressions and beats. I add in everything else as I record so there's still quite a bit to do. I'm thinking it will be done this fall sometime.
What about The Vliets lyrics, what inspires them?
Love. Life. Experiences in general. I usually only feel like writing when I'm in a heightened emotional state. A lot of times it doesn't make sense to me until way later and I'm 'ohhh that's what that means'.
To some of the greatest bands ever (Pink Floyd, The Beatles, even Brian Wilson) the studio became an instrument in itself. Since you do all your recording at home do you think it influenced your sound? Does it push you to experiment more?
Oh yeah for sure. A majority of the writing happens during the recording process so experimenting and trying different things is a huge part of our process. I try not to think if it will translate to a live show or not because I don't want to limit our music that way. To me the really enjoyable part of music is the actual creating and shaping of the songs. I couldn't rent time at a studio and go in and try to record songs in a day, I'd need months in there to try different things and to really translate what the dimensions or spirits or whatever is trying to get across.
Some people claim they have seen UFOs materializing during your gigs. Do you confirm that?
Yeah! There is a UFO that flies over the crowd during our shows.
How important is it to The Vliets to put on something more than just a concert? What other tricks do you use to enhance your audience’s live experience?
Pretty important. It's just more fun for me as a performer to have more going on, and hopefully more enjoyable for the audience. Preston Smith is in charge of our live production. He built the UFO, flies it during the shows, and does live VJing through a projector. He also setup an HD camera in the center of the UFO, where the light beam is, that sends the live video to his computer and then it's projected on stage. So it records and projects everything the UFO sees.
Besides recording do you have any plans you would like to share with us?
We just got back from a short tour in California but we're planning on a northern tour this winter including New York, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal and possibly Philly or Nashville. It's still in the planning stages though.
Time for some mystical stuff. What do you think is God’s drug?
God's Drug refers to morphine. Whenever I recorded that song it was just an instrumental and it felt really warm like the sensation of morphine. To me it's a combination of things though like love, dmt, the mind of 'God', suffering, happiness, life and death. The song is about all those things, it's not just about morphine, well really it's not about morphine at all, it just gave me that feeling.
Interview made by Hugo Pereira/2013
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