Dig This: The Vacant Lots
The Vacant Lots are kicking off an eventful year. Their plans include sharing the stage with punk legends, Suicide, in New York at the Webster Hall on March 7, U.K./European tours, as well as the release of a new 7” on March 16 via Sonic Cathedral. To top it all off, the word is that their next album is coming soon. To prepare the fledgling webzine, Heatwave, got the chance to peruse the minds of band members, Jared Artaud and Brian MacFayden, on what’s coming your way from the Vacant Lots. Stay tuned and dig this.
Heatwave: How did the Vacant Lots get started?
JARED ARTAUD: We formed the band in 2009 in Burlington, Vermont. From there we kinda buried ourselves in the studio and started writing and demoing and developing our sound. We released our first single on Mexican Summer in 2011 and second single on Austin Psych Fest’s record label in 2012. Our debut album Departure came out on Sonic Cathedral in 2014.
Heatwave: You describe your style as minimalist, primitive rock n’roll, that through “boundless energy tears up the psychedelic rock template with a genuine punk spirit,” and your suggested influences include Suicide, Television and the Gun Club. When creating your debut album Departure what specifically were you drawing from?
JARED ARTAUD: Well, that’s actually Sonic Cathedral’s words not ours. I think Departure pulls from a lot of different sources. For instance, we’ve always been interested in film and there’s a cinematic aspect to the record, particularly in some of the album’s imagery. There’s also the literary side of things that Brian and I have been attracted to. The album sleeve was important to us to and taps into our continuing visual aesthetic. Musically speaking, there are a lot of different reference points. Some of the staples consist of Link Wray, Native American drumming, Kraftwerk, Brian Jonestown Massacre and the ones you listed above. We do have a spectrum of sources that we pull from as well as our own individual experiences dealing with the human condition. Ultimately, the record was a balancing act between madness and order.
Heatwave: Sonic Boom (Peter Kember of Spacemen 3 fame) mixed and mastered Departure, what was working with him like?
JARED ARTAUD: Sonic is a genius, an architect of sound. He’s an idea man and has a very powerful, yet subtle approach. Something I really internalized from working with Pete was a very simple concept of Minimize to Maximize. In many ways Pete’s methods personify simplicity and how to get the most from the fewest parts. He creates a lot of space within each song. Reducing elements to their bare essentials has been part of our aesthetic since we formed the band. Sticking with the duo format we’ve been continuing to explore what two people can do with sound. Working within those limitations can be very liberating. When we were thinking of who to work with on Departure we wanted someone that knew where we were coming from, but also help take us to where we wanted to go. Sonic got it instantly and his guidance, input and inventive way of working was immensely invaluable to us. He’s a wealth of knowledge and incomparably innovative. If there’s one thing you walk away with from working with Pete is that he knows how to bring out your best. He’s been a real mentor to us since we started.
Heatwave: How do you feel about the overall reception of Departure?
BRIAN MACFADYEN: The whole release was a real learning experience for us… Sonic Cathedral releasing our debut album on an international scale. The reception has been significantly stronger in Europe, both in the press and at live performances. There seems to be a much more engaged and excited reception, in the U.K. particularly.
Heatwave: How did you get involved with Sonic Cathedral?
JARED ARTAUD: In 2013, Sonic Cathedral asked if we wanted to be part of the first Psych For Sore Eyes double 7” compilation. They really loved the album and recently signed Dean Wareham. It just seemed like a really good fit for us, we respect the label a lot. They have a great design aesthetic and the attention is always placed on the quality of the music. It’s a great place to be.
Heatwave: The Vacant Lots and Alan Vega (Suicide) released a split 10” which includes an alternate mix of “Mad Mary Jones.” How’d that collaboration come about?
JARED ARTAUD: In 2013 we were part of this holiday compilation album that featured Iggy Pop, Psychic Ills and a lot of other “psych” bands. In order to find the right track to cover we started doing some research. That’s when I found the early 80’s album that Ze Records put out. It had this amazing track by Suicide called “No More Christmas Blues.” We covered it and sent the track to Alan. He was very encouraging and positive about our version and invited us over to his house in early 2014. From there we have stayed in touch. Shortly after, Fuzz Club Records asked us to be part of their vinyl Single Series. A new “psych” band on one side and an older “psych” band on the flip. The label was like, “so, who does TVL wanna work with on this?” My first thought was Alan, so I asked him and he was receptive. His track “Nike Soldier” is timeless.
Heatwave: Now you guys are about to play with Suicide in New York at the Webster Hall on March 7, how did you land that gig?
JARED ARTAUD: We’re really looking forward to this one. It’s really an honor for us to share the stage with one of our favorite and one of the most important bands of all time.
Heatwave: The word from the grapevine says you have a new single in the works. Can you shed some light on what readers can expect from it?
BRIAN MACFADYEN: Well, it just got announced. It’s a vinyl 7” only, that Sonic Cathedral is releasing on March 16 featuring two remixes by Anton Newcombe and Alan Vega. The pre-order is up now and I think the first 100 copies come with the acetate inner sleeve that produces this op art Moire effect. [It’s] Splatter black and white vinyl too.
Heatwave: Does the work on a new single mean readers can look forward to another album in the near future?
BRIAN MACFADYEN: We just finished recording our second album at Outer Space studios in Brooklyn, NY with Ted Young. Ted worked on Departure with us. We are hoping to have it mixed up sometime after our upcoming Euro tour.
Heatwave: In 2014 The Vacant Lots did a U.K. tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, how was that?
JARED ARTAUD: Absolutely inspiring. Watching Anton perform each night and getting a chance to talk with him on the road was unforgettable. You don’t realize how inspiring and important someone can be to you until you really sit down with them. Up to that point I was just another person who’s life was changed by the music of BJM. But Anton was extremely supportive and encouraging to us. We were very fortunate and lucky to share the stage with them as well as connect with one of our musical heroes.
BRIAN MACFADYEN: A very memorable experience. I was impressed above all else with their power and consistency EVERY night, always in control of the energy. A great display of discipline and musicianship… A real inspiration.
Heatwave: You have another U.K./Europe tour planned for 2015, any place in particular you are looking forward to playing?
BRIAN MACFADYEN: I’m looking forward to returning to the U.K. We’ve never been to Greece so those should be a lot of fun too.
Heatwave : What’s next after your U.K./European tour?
JARED ARTAUD: Expect the second album to drop.
Interview conducted by: Nick Kuzmack (Nix Beat)