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Vision interview with Benjamin Nastase and Phillip Dominick


Amidst a million bands that are trying to sound like they come from some other time or place Vision is doing their own thing a million miles away.  While it may at times sound like a combination of late 80’s and early 90’s rock ‘n’ roll and some sweet traditional Britpop and psych influences thrown in for good measure, there’s so much at work here that Vision not only manage to escape the traps of reliving the past - but they’re pushing those familiar sounds into a new and experimental framework.  Each song has a palpable life of it’s own, a unique experience wrapped into a three-minute slice of thought; a snapshot of the shared mind of Vision at that particular moment.  Hypnotic melodies and entrancing rhythms intermingle with the raucous, distorted guitar bouncing and jangling in the midst of the feedback and delay creating a psychedelic landscape of colors, sounds and vibrations.  Subtle vocals croon and hover above a din of sound and noise, with distortion, feedback, reverb and echo all intermingling to create a harmonious, shimmering musical ephemera.  After a cassette EP on Burger Records that sold out in a quickness Vision is back at it again, working on their debut full-length album of Britpop influenced alt-rock grunge.  For lack of a better term the band has a lot of vision and purpose, and as seriously as they take their music, I was extremely interested to not only hear what was happening with the album, but to learn where this band came from.  It’s a pleasure to be able to finally share my in-depth exploration of the band with you all here, there’s a SoundCloud link to the sold-out EP, which you can still digitally purchase, below, so take advantage; kick back with some tunes and read the story of a truly intriguing band.


What is Vision’s current lineup?  Is this your original lineup or have there been any changes since you all started playing?

Currently, we are Christopher Valer (Vocals/Guitar), Benjamin Nastase (Bass), Phillip Dominick (Drums), and Eduardo Trujillo (Guitar).  Yes, this is our original lineup except for guitar, we’ve had many guitarists come and go.  Anyone who’s played guitar for us has found it exceptionally difficult to adapt to our songwriting style.  We try to write as simply as possible but at the same time expect a lot, if that makes any sense.

I love playing music connect the dots and figuring out what everyone has going on.  Though I must admit that sometimes, nothing beats cheating a little bit ha-ha!  Are any of you in any other bands at this point?  Have you released any music with anyone in the past?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about that?

No, actually we’re all monogamous at this point.  Although I don't think any of us would mind if we were to be in other bands.  It’s always good to play music with different people, you grow as a musician.

Where are you from originally from?

We’re all from a little suburb outside East Los Angeles called Santa Fe Springs, except for Eduardo who grew up in Lincoln Heights, just outside of downtown Los Angeles.  Santa Fe Springs is a small community where most of the residents generally come to retire.  It’s pretty bland.

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you see a lot of shows or anything when you were a kid?  Do you feel like the local music scene there played a large or important role in your musical tastes or the way that you perform at this point?

There’s no local scene in Santa Fe Springs, the only exposure we got to live gigs involved us having to go to downtown Los Angeles.  Santa Fe Springs is a community where being in a band is pretty farfetched and playing live is rather ridiculous to most people.  It was for this reason that we began to play backyard shows in East Los Angeles.  They have a pretty strong music scene out there, a lot of kids come out Friday and Saturday nights to watch local bands play, it’s sort of the thing to do out there.

What about your household when you were a child?  Was it very filled with music?  Were either your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved or interested in music?

Actually, yes, our older brothers and sisters were 90's kids always listening to music from that era.  Bands like Nirvana, Depeche Mode and The Doors, although they're not from the 90's.  None of our parents or relatives were musicians.  Our older siblings were just really into music and they got us into it.

What was your first release exposure to music in your opinion?

We were all exposed to music at a very young age.  There are so many groups we’ve listened to that we can't pinpoint exactly which was first.

If you had to pick a moment in your life, an experience or something that changed everything and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of music, what would it be?

For all of us it was our first experience going to a live show.

When and why did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?

Christopher started playing music at age fourteen.  Since then he’s always been writing music and trying to start his own band.  He was heavily influenced by Nirvana at the time and just always wanted to put his own thoughts into music and creating a band.  We (Phillip and Ben) were always around watching his practices and going to his shows, eventually started playing music together and formed what is now Vision.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get it?

Chris forced his parents into buying him an acoustic guitar.  Benjamin worked and bought his first bass guitar.  Phillip's first drum set was a white 1950's Ludwig Jazz Kit.  Eduardo has been playing for like fifteen years and has owned many instruments.

When and how did the members of Vision originally meet?

Well, Phillip and Chris are brothers and Benjamin was a childhood friend, so it was a given for the three to play in a band together.  Chris met Eduardo through a band called Blue Jungle.

What led to the formation of Vision and when would that have been?

Music.

I love your name, it happens to be the name of one of my favorite comic book characters and evokes these really cool psychedelic and philosophical images in my mind.  It sounds majestic or something to me.  Who came up with the name and how did you go about choosing it?  What does the name Vision mean or refer to?

Chris actually came up with the name. He had an idea and really wanted to make it come to fruition.

Is there any shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?

We’re really dedicated.  We try not to surround ourselves with people that don't take us, or our music, as seriously as we do.

Where’s Vision located at these days?

We all still hang out in Santa Fe Springs.

How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at these days?

It’s dead here.

Are you very involved in the local scene? Do you book or attend a lot of local shows?

We used to be very involved, but we’ve gotten negative responses from people now so we aren’t playing in LA much.  Our focus is on touring and releasing our new album Inertia right now so we haven’t been worrying about playing local shows.

Do you help to record or release any local music?  If so, can you tell us briefly about that?

No.  Right now we’re focused on Vision.

Has the local scene played a large or important role in shaping the history of Vision or your sound?  Or do you feel like you all could be doing what you are and sound like you do, regardless of where you were at or what you were surrounded by?

We've always had our own influences.  We feel that the scene gets stuck in a certain time or era in music.  We honestly just play in the scene because that’s all that's around us, so we’ve decided to play more shows with Burger Records and in the OC.  Overall, one of our main focuses is getting exposure in Europe and taking our music overseas.  We really don't care about the LA scene at this moment.

Whenever I talk to a band I inevitably have to describe them to people who’ve never heard them in an appealing enough manner to make someone click on a link based on my words alone.  Whenever I do that though I feel like I’m putting way too much of my own perceptions of the music into my descriptions and I feel like I’m selling a band short somehow if I don’t give them a chance to describe themselves, especially when I’ve got an open-ended forum like this!  Rather than feeding my neurosis, how would you describe Vision’s sound in your own words to our readers who might not have heard you all before?

We consider ourselves an alternative rock band, but we only say that because everyone we feel that has been musically influential to us is always considered to be of that category.  Other than that, we consider ourselves to be very experimental.  We’re huge Britpop fans and really into very heavy loud guitars.  We just like writing heavy pop rock, with serious or dark lyrical content.

While we’re talking so much about the band I’m curious to hear who you would cite as your major musical influences?  I can heard some wonderful West Coast stuff kicking around in there but I’m curious to hear who you would cite as influences on the band as a whole rather than individually?

Early on we were really trying to write music with a heavy Nirvana feel, until we got really into The Jesus and Mary Chain and most recently Deerhunter.  But yeah Nirvana is the most influential band when it comes to Vision as a whole.

Can you tell us what the songwriting process with Vision is like?  Is there a lot of jamming that happens where you all exchange ideas and bounce them back and forth as a unit, or does someone usually bring in a riff or even a more complete song idea to work out and compose with the rest of the band?  Or even, maybe a combination of both?

It’s hard to say exactly how we write our music.  It’s a combination of both jamming and someone, mainly Christopher, bringing a riff or even an entire song to us and then going from there.

What’s recording like for Vision?  As a musician myself I think that most of us at least, can really appreciate the end result of all the hard work that goes into making an album.  There’s not a whole lot that beats holding an album in your hands knowing that it’s yours and you made it.  Getting to that point though, getting stuff recorded and sounding the way that it should, especially as a band, can be extremely trying to say the very least.  How is it in the studio for Vision?

It’s a long process.  We took over a year to make the album we’re working on, mainly because we’re very unfamiliar with the process of recording.  For example, Phillip had to learn how to record following along to a metronome.  There are still a lot of things that we need to learn and improve on, but we feel that by the time we release our next album it’s gonna be where we feel it can be.  We mainly focus on the vibe that the song gives out, we feel it’s the most important part to capture the feeling we wanted to give out for the recording.

© Kate Betuel

Do you all head into a studio environment when you record and let other people man the recording equipment while you concentrate on recording, or do you all take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle most of the duties yourselves, on your own time and turf?

No, we work with engineers who man the recording equipment and we only focus on recording as far as the performance goes, but we do have a heavy input on the mixing and overall production of the album.  We basically tell our engineer what we want and how we want it, and then he makes it happen.

Is there a lot of preparation and work that goes into a recording session or Vision where you all spend a lot of time tightening down songs and getting things to sound precisely the way that you want them to before you head into the studio to record?  Or do you all head into the studio with a good idea of what you want to accomplish and kind of the process take you where you need to go and give things a little bit of room to change and evolve?

We do spend a lot of time tightening things down and trying to get them to sound as tight as possible, but we don't like to stress ourselves too much in that aspect.  We feel that your mentality has a lot to do with how your recordings come out, and we typically find that we try a little too hard and when we go into the studio we have to simplify ourselves a bit.  We like to try and write simple and big sounding music, so we basically work on the foundation mostly and then go in the studio and track.  Don’t get me wrong though, we take the preparation aspect very seriously.

I first became aware of you guys when you dropped your Vision EP cassette on Burger Records back in 2012.  I picked up a copy but I know that it sold out pretty quickly, although you can still pick up digital copies of the EP on their site.  Can you talk a little bit about the recording of the material for that first release?  When and where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?  Are there any plans to make the material from that Vision EP available physically in the future or has its day come and gone?

During the period that we were recording the Vision EP, we were really into The Stone Roses, especially the track “I Am The Resurrection”.  So we wrote most of those songs with that track heavily influencing our sound.  The song “Inneraction”, which was included on our EP, is probably the biggest example of this.  We were really trying to write a song with a lot of twists and turns but that was also very rhythmic and heavy as far as the guitars went.  Our drummer Phillip was really influenced by progressive house and trance drum beats, so we tried to incorporate that into the EP as well.  Also the Deerhunter Halcyon Digest album was very influential to us at that point, so we tried to make the album dreamy too and I guess that’s how you got “Here I Am”.  “You Should Know” is our take on Deerhunter's “Cryptograms” track and “Different Views” was during the our early stages of our the Jesus and Mary Chain influence.  Oh, and “She Can’t Be Wrong” was us trying to make a Britpop sounding track.  We used the same instruments that we would practice and perform live with to record the album, so it’s very close to sounding how we really sounded at the time, if that makes sense ha-ha.  Our engineer provided all of the recording equipment and we recorded it in his basement in Lincoln Heights.  Yes there are, when we’re able to, we plan to release it on vinyl.  It’s still very important to us.


I saw a picture of a single on your Facebook page a while back for “You Should Know” on Converse/Burger Records but I haven’t been able to find out anything else about that release.  I know that “You Should Know” was featured on your Vision EP, is that the same recording and mix that appears on this single?  Is the “You Should Know” single a limited release?  If so, do you know how many copies that’s limited to?  How was that released and distributed?

Converse hosted a vinyl lab party with Burger Records and it was a chance to have one track from a select few of the Burger Records bands pressed on vinyl courtesy of Converse.  It’s the same track that was featured on the tape, same mix and all, but it was limited to whoever requested to have one pressed at the party.

I know that you all have an upcoming album, Inertia I believe it’s called.  What can our readers what to expect from the upcoming album?  Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to writing or recording the album?  Can you tell us a little bit about the upcoming album?  Who’s going to be releasing it?  Is there a projected release date for Inertia? 

They can expect a very diverse album, with songs that are completely different from the ones they heard on the EP, but we feel that the difference with this album is the musical influences we have.  I think with every record we've recorded we've been getting closer to defining our sound.  Now our sound is very influenced by 90’s Britpop such as Blur, Oasis, Jesus and Mary Chain and The Stone Roses.  Our main focus for this album is to start where they left off.  Personally, we're sick of sixty's psych and garage rock.  We feel like right now everyone in LA is trying to be either The Brian Jonestown Massacre or Tame Impala, and we just want to make an album that moves rock and roll forward, we're not trying to move backwards.  It's easier to revive music when you already have a blueprint for it, then to move forward into something new.  We feel like this is something a lot of LA bands aren't doing.  Lyrically and musically we feel that we've gotten poetically darker with our sound and we've also stepped away from the lo-fi recording.  We wanted to make a record with a big sound that eventually could brake into radio.  A release date hasn’t been confirmed, however, Burger Records has confirmed that they will be releasing our first full length album, on vinyl!

Other than the upcoming album are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon from Vision?

We’ve already begun to write new material for the next album, but that’s still in the works.  Right now we’re still focused on releasing this new album.

Where’s the best place for our readers to pick up your music?

The easiest place to access our music would be on SoundCloud, but you can purchase a digital release on iTunes.

And where’s the best place for interested readers to keep up with the latest news from Vision, like upcoming shows and album releases at?

We have a website up www.visionmusic.us.  We update it as frequently as possible, but it’s difficult at times to maintain especially when you’re on the road, or in studio, or just busy in general.  So the easiest place to find out about all things Vision would be through Facebook, we update our page there on a more regular basis.

Are there any major goals or plans that Vision is looking to accomplish in 2014?

Just touring as much as possible, nationally or overseas.  It would be great to release this album on vinyl and take it overseas to Europe.  We really want to take our music over there.  For some reason we have this presentiment that our music would really be appreciated over there.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring?  Do you enjoy being out on the road?  What’s life like on tour for Vision?

We’ve done two, two-week tours this year.  We did one in January, it was a California tour with our friends Cobalt Cranes, and we just came back from the SXSW tour we did with Burger.  We haven’t spent an extended period of time on the road yet, but we plan to very soon.  At this point we finance our own tours, so that’s why it’s been limited.  Being on the road is great for us though, it makes us feel like we’re doing what we should be doing; we just want to travel and play shows.  It’s hard to deal with our personalities though.  You'd be surprised to find that your closest friends can drive you crazy when you spend so much time with them in cramped cars and uncomfortable lodging.


What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes for 2014?

We plan on booking a tour in promotion of our new album when it’s out.  Hopefully across all major cities in the U.S.  Europe would be better though.

Do you remember what the first song that Vision ever played live was?  When and where would that have been at?

“You Should Know”.  We used to open all of our shows with that.  We think it was at a backyard punk gig in Boyle Heights.

Who are some of your personal favorite acts that you’ve had a chance to play with so far?

Ty Segall at the Observatory in Santa Ana, and we really enjoyed going on tour with Cobalt Cranes.  Other than that we really enjoy playing music with anyone.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Deerhunter.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to tell our readers?

Ben pissed himself once on stage playing bass.  He was really determined to finish the set.


With all of the various mediums of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious which methods artists prefer and why they prefer the various methods that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, can you talk a little bit about why?

We’re totally for helping out independent artists, but we don’t really download music, we live and die off of YouTube.  As far as our music goes, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s out there.

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band like artwork for covers, flyers, posters and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of message that you’re trying to convey with your artwork or anything?  Is there anyone that you usually turn to when you’re in your time of need for those kinds of things?  If so, who are they and how did you originally get hooked up with them?

Yes, we do.  The visual aspect of Vision is very important to us.  We don’t have a particular person that we turn to, we usually do it ourselves.  We just try to portray ourselves as seriously as our music.

I grew up around a fairly large collection of music and I was always encouraged to dig in and enjoy it.  I would grab something off of the shelf, stick in in the player, kick back with a set of headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the artwork and let the experience transport me off to another place.  There’s something about having a physical object to hold in my hands that made for a more complete listening experience, for me at least.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Yes, we’re album enthusiasts.  Collecting vinyl has been a hobby of ours since childhood.  That’s how we got fascinated with Burger Records, the whole idea of them releasing music for independent artists, whether it be tape or vinyl, was just really amazing to us.  Owning your own physical copy of your own music is amazing.

As much as I love having a psychical copy of the music in my collection there’s no denying the ease and portability of digital music.  I can fit more music on my phone than I could have stuffed into my trunk a few years back!  That’s not even the kicker though, when teamed with the internet digital music has caused somewhat of a revolution in the music industry.  It’s opened people’s exposure to music up to such an extent that location isn’t near the obstacle that it’s used to be, and it’s allowing unparalleled communication between bands and their global fan-bases leveling the playing field somewhat for independent bands willing to promote a healthy online presence.  On the other hand illegal downloading is running rampant and it’s harder than ever to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there now that everyone’s being given an equal voice.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Our main focus is just distributing our music, and what medium that music is being distributed on is something we can’t control.  So all we can do is to go with the flow.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can, but with all the amazing stuff that’s out there right now it’s not possible to even keep up with the one-percent of it!  As a result I rely on recommendations from awesome folks such as you.  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of before?

We really like this band called Cobalt Cranes.  We saw their video for “Head in the Clouds” and immediately fell in love with their sound, shortly after we were lucky enough to play a show at the Smell together in Los Angeles, and then we did a California tour together.  They have an upcoming album too that we were lucky enough to preview, it’s great!  Be on the lookout for it, it’s very alt-rock.

What about nationally and internationally?

Deerhunter is our main obsession.

Thanks so much for doing this interview.  I know my interviews aren’t short and they take a while to get done, but I feel like if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.  Is there anything that I might have missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk with me or my readers about?

We’re just grateful for anyone who takes the time to listen to our music and that genuinely cares about what we’re doing.  Also, people should expect a lot from us in 2014.  This is only the beginning.


DISCOGRAPHY
(2012)  Vision – Vision EP – digital, Cassette Tape – Burger Records (Limited to 250 hand numbered copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014

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