Rising Star

INTERVIEW | Vast Robot Armies throw a hard-rock dinner party

MUSIC | The Toronto-based rockers muse on machinery and latest single "Dinner Music"

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When you think of a dinner party, you don't usually think of hard guitar.

The guys of Vast Robot Armies are here to tell you otherwise. After premiering boisterous hard-rock banger "Dinner Music" on IMPOSE, the Toronto rockers––lead vocalists and multi-instrumentalists Jason Thomson and John Agee, guitarist/bassist Joseph Wells, and percussionist Chris Metcalf––are getting set to take on the world, as their name might very well suggest. If any band can save us from the coming robot invention, it's probably these rockers from the Great White North.

We caught up with the band to talk about "Dinner Music," dinner parties with dead heroes, and their very torrid origin story.

How did the premiere with IMPOSE come about? Did they reach out to you?

The IMPOSE premiere came about by ways of our Publicist Adam Bentley at Auteur Research. Adam has been working with us for over 4 years now. I first met him when I released our Debut record "Goodnight Myopia" in 2013.

Adam deserves the credit for making the connection with IMPOSE who were kind enough to show enthusiasm with our record and premiere the first single "Dinner Music".

When I think of a dinner party, the music is relatively relaxed; how do you reconcile the very hard rock sound
in "Dinner Music" with that image?

Well, that's the thing with the song and it's title. I was a party/dinner party when one of my friends uttered the phrase. I was in a ironic setting, and for some reason it really just stuck with me in that moment. When I listen and think about some of the theme's on this record there is a bit of a thread or at least themes of aging and certain check points in life. When my friend made that comment I kind of drifted off right there at the table and started thinking about how people really had music as a big part of their family dinner/gatherings and then the memories of being much younger and out with my friends in my suburban neighborhood, doing whatever, and that was cool. So long as I was home by "dinner time". The phrase my friend said kind of took me far away, for like 2 mins.

So I excused myself. Grabbed a guitar and hammered out the bones to the song with those thoughts running through my head. The groove of the verses gave it playful base I thought at the time, and the chorus pay-off (which really wasn't fully realized until John Agee put his vocals to the song) sat really well as a juxtaposition. So the song title *(which in theory was a "working" title really felt at home with the music in an ironic way.

How did the band form?

The band initially started with me as a one man band. In Feb 2013 I went to Chicago to work with Allen Epley & Eric Abert at their studio Electronical, on the record "Goodnight Myopia". I had 10 songs demoed and wanted to try and record them in a proper setting with me playing all the instruments. Aside from me realizing I'm not great bass player (Eric Abert played bass on half the record).

After that record was done. I realized, that though a solid record, it really missed the organic and natural life that came from a band recording a record together. As luck and fate would have it. Shortly after the release of my record, a guy named John Agee made a quick acknowledgement of it on social media. Which was funny, because I had just become a big fan of John's Missouri based band "Sundiver". At the time i was sitting on 4-5 demos for the next record (Little Creatures) and I thought "Fuck it. I'm going to reach out to this dood and see if he's into collaborating on stuff." It turns out he was as big of a fan of what i was doing, as i was of what he was doing. So the conversation quickly evolved from collaborating, to him asking his other guitarist in Sundiver, Joseph Wells, if he was into working on this next record. Joe was in as well.

So over the next 6-7 months I would send demos of song and they would put their spins and vocals on them until we had 10 solid tunes. They came up to Toronto for a 5 day "meet and rehearse" session, in which all kinds of hell broke loose. But that was great as it made us become a band that much faster. When it came time to record "Little Creatures" in 2015, I decided I was done with being the drummer in bands (that's my background) and thought the record would be far better served with a better drummer. That's when our Producer Allen suggested we enlist his drummer from The Life and Times, Chris Metcalf to play drums. Chris was into it. So we all met in Chicago. Rehearsed (basically learned the songs together) for 2 days, and then made that record over the next 8.

With that blueprint established, it made it easier for this last record to follow a similar working structure. It also makes it really interesting and challenging as we are so spread out, that once we are all together we get to focus solely on the task at hand.

Have you started work on any new projects since "Dinner Music?"

During the course of demoing "Dinner Music" I scored a feature film called Elsewhere NY which was an amazing experience as I grew up as a fan of cool movie scores. I'm also almost halfway through demoing the follow up to "Dinner Music."

via Facebook

Your following is still relatively small; how does the current musical landscape look for a small rock band still
starting out?

The thing about our following is it's incredibly loyal and informed, and it's comprised with some of our peers (guys like Jordon Zadorozny from Blinker The Star and Allen from The Life and Times). Sure I'd love a scenario that sees us with 10K plus fans on Facebook or what have you, but I feel really fortunate to have the base we do, in that I talk to almost all of them and they turn me onto great music. The fact we don't tour definitely cuts into out numbers and makes spreading the word a bit more of a challenge. But I feel the fact we have the fans do speak volumes about the opportunity technology has provided us and the quality of our music.

Tell me about the Toronto rock scene as you've experienced it.

The Toronto rock scene, as I've witnessed it is very vibrant and full of talented bands. I do feel there is sometimes a bit of Canadian nonplussed attitude at live shows sometimes. But the music, and musicians are inspired.

As you continue to grow, where do you want to take Vast Robot Armies?

As we grow, i just want to create more music and deeper footprint with our catalogue. I am figuring out ways to add performing/touring into the mix. it s tough as the band is based in 2 countries and 3 cities (Chris in Chicago), me (in Toronto) and John and Joe (in Kansas City, Missouri)

And why the name? It's very....idiosyncratic.

The name came by way of the show Futurerama. There was a line that referenced Vast Robot Armies. It was one of those moments where you hear something in the distance and your mind goes and extrapolates counterpoint or relatable analogies. The concept of how automated our everyday lives are becoming makes an analogy with the band name, in that our everydays lives are impacted by vast robot armies. Whether they be big manufacturing warehouses or the tiny computer boards running your phone or car.

Name five people, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party and why.

Paul McCartney, because I'd like to hear his stories, especially the ones where it started going to shit with The Beatles and he was about to branch off on his own.

My deceased Grandfathers, as i never got a chance to talk with them in any capacity and would have loved to. Especially as an adult.

Christopher Walken. Just to hear him order food.

John Bonham. For THAT evening out, and to talk drums.

My band. Because I don't see them nearly enough.

Follow Vast Robot Armies on Facebook and Twitter.

E.R. Pulgar is a music writer, poet, image-maker, and once cried reading Virginia Woolf. Follow him on Twitter.


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