Interview: Vacances are all "Human"

The surf rockers talk the DIY struggle and their subtle shift to indietronica

Vacances is short-staffed, but that hasn't stopped them from continuing to grow. Breaking from a more traditional four-piece into a duo comprised of lead singer Danny Lannon and percussionist Shaun Lowecki, the band has adjusted their sound to continue matching the bombast of the surf rock they used to make when the band had more members. Their latest offering, "Human," is an inspiring piece of indietronica that veers far away from their former sound. Written while Lannon was going through a rough time, the song maintains a fragile optimism, and a more-than-danceable beat.

Popdust spoke to the duo about their plans for the future, diverging from their sound, and the very human concerns surrounding "Human" and being a band without label backing.

Can you guys tell me about "Human?"

Danny Lannon: Yes! Well, that's a little bit enthusiastic. [Laugh] Well, okay, there's two stories; I was approached by a fashion band to write a song, and I did that without any vocals and just the music. It didn't get selected for the campaign, but I really liked the music that I wrote, so I decided to turn it into a regular song and, at the time I was writing it, the Oakland Fire happened. One of my friends was in the fire and passed away, so I ended up writing a song about that and I ended up changing the structure. I partnered with a producer known as The Kickdrums

I was gonna ask you about that!

DL: Yeah, he kind of helped me get it to a point of, you know, where it was comfortable. There were also some family things, so it was written in a dark moment. I called it "Human" because I think a lot of people forget how fragile and frail people are. Emotions are just really fragile and frail. [Laugh] So yeah, that's kind of how it came about.

Sonically, it sounds like a happy song.

DL: I have a bad habit of doing that! [Laugh] Even when I think I'm writing a dark song, they tend to sound pretty happy. I'm not musically inclined enough to say "that's a major key that I used." [Laugh]

What made you guys move in a more electronic direction? I remember your sound being more surf-rock oriented than anything.

DL: I don't think it's necessarily a finite direction we're going to go toward. We have a bunch of other stuff we're releasing in the coming months that still leans toward the more surf-y pop side, and then some that's a little bit more 80s electronic sounding. I think its just kind of the love for the 80s sound in general and us trying to find the magic point between what The Cure sounds like, what New Order sounds like, and then mixing it with something modern. I think we'll be hovering around those two areas until we find something in the middle.

Shaun Lowecki: I think it's also harder these days to be a band that's four or three guys who are rehearsing on a regular basis in the studio, it's really expensive to bring a full band into the studio and make music that way, so I think that plays a part in modern musical culture.

DL: 100%. I think that the cost that it takes to record and release a song is really high. Yeah, you can do a lot of it at home, but then you're working with PR and management, you're booking a tour, press and merch... we don't have direct label support, you know? You're doing it on your own out of your own pocket, and it's super expensive. San Francisco is expensive, New York is expensive; if you're working in either of those two cities, people have to take the time out of their job just to be able to do something they wanna do, so when you do that you're always losing money. Like Shaun said, it's difficult to take that time away and make something happen. It's kind of terrible, but it's the reality.

Have you guys been looking for label support?

DL: I mean, we'll take it! [Laugh] That's always something we'd like to do. I think we're still kind of building the foundation, but we have a bunch of shows coming up, hope to start doing some touring pretty soon. If the label thing comes up and the time is right and it works for everyone…

SL: I think the goal right now is to just keep releasing.

Can you tell me about the upcoming shows?

SL: What do we have? Are things announced?

DL: Some of them are! We were in San Francisco to play BottleRock. One of the partners did a private show in their winery cellar, so that was fun. Then we played a sold-out show with Shiny Toy Guns for the 10th anniversary of their We Are Pilots album. We're playing a show in New York at The Delancey, a show at the Knitting Factory the following month, some stuff in Canada… since we're a nimble band in that it's just Shaun and I, we can kind of bounce around.

I remember the last time we talked, you mentioned a Japan tour?

DL: Yes! We had everything set up to go and then we ended up not pulling the trigger on it. We had shows lined up and everything, but we weren't able to do it. We still want to do it, we still have a lot of the same contacts.

SL: The hardest thing is getting there. [Laugh] We have contacts over there, it's just a matter of getting there.

DL: Everyone was definitely on board and then as it got closer people realized "Oh, I have to work" and do other things, and it just didn't pan out the way we wanted it to. I think it still goes back to the mechanics of being a band, and with prices rising sometimes you have to shift and adjust in order to feed yourself.

It's a hustle!

DL: I wouldn't say we're doing the starving artist thing per se, but there's a comfort factor.

Going back to the music, was human a one-off effort or is it part of a bigger project?

DL: So, I'm not even sure if I have an answer to that. I have probably 30 to 40 songs––not finished, but far-along demos that I've been pulling from. This one was apart from all those just because I initially wrote it for different reasons. I think our plan is to release a handful of singles through the summer and then compile them into an EP with some extra songs we haven't released. It'll probably end up being 7 or 8 songs, maybe a remix or two.

When can we expect that?

DL: I would say by the end of the summer, so August or September.

So last question­­—and I'm glad you said the word summer—how do you think you guys have grown sonically since the Last Summer EP?

DL: I think I've just had more time to play around with things. Our producer is working on three songs. We're working with different people here in New York versus the people I worked with back home I had a studio called different fur. That's a big difference, you know?

SL: There's also live and electronic instruments that we're now using. There's a bit more.

DL: I think overall there's probably more electronic instruments I'm using right now than I was using before, just because it's become a smaller team in terms of the wiring. I have a bass, but I'm not good; I'm good enough to write on it, but not really good enough to play it out live, so I think it may skew more electronic, but will definitely still have that indie guitar vibe. I'm also a fan of making songs sound really huge and big, so I think things will get bigger in terms of the sound as we go on.

Follow Vacances on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Watch Vacances' exclusive performance of "Human" for Popdust below.

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