By Zane Warman
Vacationer has made an album you never knew you needed. Their second album, “Relief”, is effortlessly accessible yet exotic. At the helm of this project is Kenny Vasoli, who made his name as singer/bassist of punk outfit The Starting Line. Speaking with WSN via phone, Vasoli shared how he found the sound, his Mad Lib approach to lyricism, and the surprising trip that started it all.
WSN: When did you decide to embark on this new project?
KV: I had been to Bonnaroo before that a couple of times, but the year that I went in 2010 and got to see LCD Soundsystem kind of tipped the scale for me. I’ve always had a passion for dance music and seemed to get further down the rabbit hole through the Warp [Records] catalog. On the same level, I wanted to make more mellow music than I had in the past. I was feeling pretty beaten down physically from making rock music for so many years, and I was really ready for a change of pace. I wanted to have more of a relaxed delivery style while still making dance music.
WSN: Vacationer is a pretty dynamic change of pace from what a lot of people might know you from. Did playing this new type of music come naturally for you, or did you have to reinvent the wheel?
KV: The people I began collaborating with, Matt Young and Grant Wheeler from Body Language, pretty much took me into that world and showed me what electronic production is all about. They come up with a majority of the electronic sounds that come onto the record and I’m able to bring my know-how with guitar, bass and vocals to what they do. We perfectly fit our influences in with each other. It’s more of a relaxed process for both of us because the weight isn’t on any one of us. I often explain it like a coloring book: these guys send me the electronic structure and I get to do my thing with pop sensibility on top of that.
WSN: Was there a single moment where you realized that this was more than a side project?
KV: It was probably within the first few months when we released the bootleg video for “Trip” that we made. When we first started the band, we took “Trip” and we cut it to a scene from Werner Herzog’s film called “The White Diamond.” There’s this scene where this guy is dancing real fly by a water fountain, and somehow the tempo matched up perfectly to our song. It got put on YouTube’s main music page, then it started getting blogged about by a lot of really cool people that I was already reading. It was at that moment that it was something legitimate, the next chapter…before that, it was almost like a diary entry for that point in my life. It was a very memorable, special time and I wanted to bookmark it.
WSN: A beautiful thing about “Relief” is that all these musical elements and influences come together so organically. Is it as effortless to create as it sounds?
KV: Not always! I don’t want to say it’s grueling, but sometimes it’s a really long process. The lyrics are the biggest stepping stone for me. I thread the songs primarily through mood, and let that inform what the lyrical content is going to be. Often times, just listening to something will stir up a memory or some kind of vibe in my conscience or subconscious. Then I pretty much start mumbling into the mike and I go back and listen to it. if there’s some sort of good melody going on in it, I try to go back and see if I can decipher any words that could be confused as a mumble and write it down. I almost make Mad Libs out of it. A few key cornerstone words and the vibe of the music is usually enough to carry the rest of the words onto the page.
WSN: You’re currently working on new material. How do you see Vacationer’s music growing for this next record?
KV: It’s still in really, really early stages, and it could come out very differently because of that. I still want it to be very beautiful, but I kind of want there to be this strange fog that hangs over the next record. Some of the music I’ve been listening to has that beauty, but makes you want to tilt your head a little bit.
Zane Warman is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org