(C) Kevin Pham
“Don’t try to forget mistakes, build upon them”
After two highly-acclaimed releases in the form of their debut EP Tempdays (2015) and their highly praised debut album In the Meantime (2016) Vague are back with their sophomore album, Land. The band has matured since their earlier music in both sound and style, with three different songwriters and singers featuring on the 14 tracks that grace the new album.
Simon Dallaserra of the Austrian band took some time out ahead of the release and their upcoming tour to talk to Substance is Meaningless about the direction of the new album, the influences dreams can have on music, and why you need to make mistakes if you want to progress in life.
Land comes out on 1st of June on Siluh records and you can catch them live on 15th of June in the Arena. More info here: siluh.com.
In the English dictionary, the word vague is described as: ‘Of uncertain, indefinite, or unclear character or meaning’ or ‘Thinking or communicating in an unfocused or imprecise way’. Who’s the vaguest member of the band and why?
Let’s try to release the word “vague” from its negative connotation. I’m very interested in the vague space around a shown subject – that’s why I like blurry pictures for instance. I feel like these pictures want me to look closer at them. As if there’s something hidden that attracts my attention.
When I’m writing music, I try to sort of corrupt my intentions to come up with something new. I want to surprise myself, so I feel more comfortable letting my mind drift like clouds or something. I don’t know, it’s like watching your hands while they’re doing something when it’s actually you doing it. But back to the question. Who is the “cloudiest” member of the band? I can’t speak for all of us, but let’s just say it’s me for now.
The new album, Land, comes out on 1st of June. If you had to describe the album in
emojis, which 4 would they be?
And how would you describe your music in real words?
It’s hard to be specific about the feelings triggered by the music, but I’ll try. The new record sounds soft, even in the loudest, noisiest parts. Like a light and breezy kind of soft. It’s subtle, things are a lot more hidden than obvious (like the blurry picture). It is also a wandering and drifting album, but it’s also very welcoming. It was important for us to build in these moments, where it lets you in, so you can grow into it. Land is a very rhythm-driven album with the vocals more in the foreground, which I like. We have already tried a lot of different sounds – from Shoegaze to New Wave and Post-Punk, but now I think we have managed to find our own niche and are quite happy with this whole genre-crossover-thing, which we subtly tried to adapt on this record. Most of it happened inevitably because we have three different songwriters. In essence, Land is a very easily enjoyable and listenable record, that has its catchy indie-pop parts, but at the same time avoids being too simple or not surprising enough. There’s always something new to discover, you just need to know where to look.
“I ran into a cornfield and felt invisible”
Your music is very dreamy. What was the last dream you had about?
I was a little kid and went hiking in the mountains with my dad. We didn’t talk, but I could tell I was happy. Then we played hide and seek. I ran into a cornfield and felt invisible.
What was the last dream you had that made you wake up and go “fuck, that was weird?”
Pretty much every dream feels like that when I come to think of it… It’s always weird to imagine that they come from someplace inside of you. They’re perhaps the most obvious reminder that there is a lot going on in the subconscious, which you neither understand nor seem to be able to control. Don’t you think that a dream is the everyday proof that there is something strange inside of you? You can read and try to interpret it, of course, but I think we’ll never fully understand it. But yeah, I would love to try psychoanalysis once though and see how fucked up I really am!
Have any of the dreams you’ve had made it or influenced any of the music on the new album?
I can’t really tell. Although I believe that our dreams affect us way more than we think they do, I can’t recall any direct influence of them on Land. At least when it comes down to my songs on the album. Maybe there are some signs of them in the lyrics but
how can you be so sure about that? Isn’t it funny actually why some music is considered to sound particularly dreamy? I don’t know but I think a real dream-equivalent sound would be chaotic, strange and scary. It would be very difficult and demanding to listen to.
You said recently about the album, “I often have the feeling, that the most interesting and innovative things occur without intent or even out of mistakes” when talking about the album – what’s the biggest mistake you guys have made, and what did you learn from it?
What I meant was, is that it’s good to know how to handle mistakes and how to use them. How to make something positive out of them and really embrace them. The whole process of improvisation, writing and trying to come up with new ideas doesn’t really work for me if I’m only trying to avoid failure. That just seems very boring. You can’t just decide not to make mistakes, mistakes are going to happen whether you like it or not, and they will hurt, but the real decision is to choose not to forget about them but to build upon them.
I remember when I first noticed Neil Young’s coughing on the song On the beach. You can hear it if you listen closely. I love that. It’s so beautiful that they kept it in the recording. It’s a good example of how imperfection can feel intimate. I always want to create a similar feeling of intimacy. A lot of the things in my songs kind of happened to me during the recording and mixing process. I was sure that I wanted a saxophone part in the song Fallin’ in Love for example. We recorded about six takes with Vitus, but we couldn’t decide which would fit best. So we fooled around with them a bit in the mixes and when I was listening to it with all the six tracks simultaneously, just for fun, I actually thought that it was great. I thought it felt as chaotic, excessive and beautiful as falling in love often does. What I’m trying to say is that it is good to try something out and play with it and sometimes you don`t even have a clue what you’re doing, but at the same time you just kinda know that you’re getting there.
Your music can be quite shoe-gazey at times – what’s your brand of choice to gaze at if you could only wear one?
Right now I’d go for Clarks.
You’re celebrating the release of the album with a gig in the Arena on 15th of June. What kind of footwear shouldn’t you wear to a Vague gig?
If it’s crowded, you probably shouldn’t wear flip-flops. Take more care of your feet!
I once saw a Reebok trainer hurled across the crowd at a gig and bounce of numerous heads like a stone across water. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen thrown during a Vague gig, or any gig?
That must have been a sight! I’ve never seen anything like that. But I’ve seen a guy throwing a bottle of beer on stage at a show. It was a horrible and scary thing to experience. Only an idiot would do something like that. Luckily nobody got hurt.
If there was one piece of advice you could give to anyone coming to watch your band play live, what would it be?
Any advice for an audience makes it sound like it’s a hard thing for them to see us performing live. That’s funny, because it’s really not supposed to be like that! I want everybody to come to our shows! But If I had to say anything, I’d say that sometimes it gets quite loud, so be a little prepared for that if you’re standing in the front.
FINALLY, FOUR OUT OF FOUR
The last song you listened to was… Beck – Everybody’s got to learn sometime
The last album you bought was… Horse Lords – Interventions
A song you’d love to cover live is…. Low – Venus
A band you’re really hyping at the moment… International Music
2018-06-15 AUT – Wien, Arena – “Land” Album Release
2018-06-16 AUT – Graz, Sub
2018-06-17 AUT – Linz, Secretshow
2018-06-18 AUT – Innsbruck, Dachsbau
2018-06-20 GER – Esslingen, Dieselstrasse
2018-06-21 GER – Dresden, Kukulida
2018-06-23 GER – Berlin, Internet Explorer