You never know what youíre getting yourself into when you interview a band for the first time. My PR agent, Amanda Cagan, hooked me up with Vaeda. Before doing the research they had been a bit of an unknown-- at least in my world. Their hit, "All For You," was recognizable, but I couldnít swear where I had heard it before.
As I pulled into the parking lot of the Big Fish Pub in Tempe, Arizona, I could see all of the bands unpacking their trailers and getting ready for the show. I wandered over to Vaedaís trailer and made small talk as Ian Cole and Oliver Williams dug through equipment. It wasnít long before the final piece of the puzzle, Aristotle Dreher, immerged from the van.
"Hey, how does this shirt look?" Dreher asked.
"Looks fine." Cole replied.
"Good, because I havenít washed it since weíve been on tour!" Dreher laughed.
"How does it smell?" Williams asked as he approached Dreher and took a good whiff. "You smell like feet!"
"Must be the foot powder I used-- Iím out of deodorant!" Dreher said and we all laughed.
Now Iíve got a problem. How am I ever going to make an interview out of this? Thereís only one way to try and capture the following 20 minutes and thatís as they happened. Below youíll find my list of questions and, as you read on, youíll understand why. But still, itís hard to explain the mess that ensued!
Congratulations on the new record. Letís talk about the new record, "State of Nature".
How has the tour been? I know youíre about halfway through. Who else are you going out with?
With such an eclectic mixture of songs, is there a single tune that stands as indicative of Vaedaís sound?
So much of your earlier record and EP, "The Red Queen" (produced by Kyle Kelso), found its way onto this record. Letís talk about that.
Is your latest record, "State of Nature," an extension of your earlier work as a four-piece or a departure?
You used the same producer for your EP and new recordÖ Producer? Kyle Kelso
Subject Matter? What do you like to write about. Politics?
Why relocate from New York City to Los Angeles? Was it just for the record?
MySpace.com. While so many people only see MySpace as a hookup site, youíve really leveraged its popularity into an excellent marketing tool.
Is there anything that Iíve missed?
I turn the tape recorder onÖ
DB: Hi! Where would you like to start?
Williams: Letís start with the prime numbers and work our way back to the squares! (laughter) How about 2. 3, 5, 7, 9 and then whatever?
DB: Number 2Ö Howís the tour been?
In unison: Awesome!
DB: Okay, Number 3! (laughter)
Williams: We hit a lot of new places and weíve hit a lot of old places. Weíve seen some old friends. We actually had a real good time in Bozeman, Montana. We played at a frat house. We set up the show at two in the afternoon and played at ten for like 80 people. It was supposed to be a day off, but it was a lot of fun.
DB: Bozeman can be kind of fun.
Williams: It was awesome!
Cole: This tour has also been amazing because we have air conditioning.
DB: Wait a minute, air conditioning? Here in Phoenix, Arizona? Thatís unheard of!
Cole: In the van, we have air conditioning in the van! Itís a luxury.
DB: Oh, I understand. Just a couple of hours ago it was over 100 degrees here. Itís cooled to a frosty 91. Itís almost sweater weather! Are you sure you need it?
Dreher: One of the weirdest experiences Iíve had on tour so far was at a McDonalds a few miles from here. I opened the door and this thing blew air on me. What is that?
DB: Itís a curtain of air that helps retain the air conditioning while the door is held open. It stops the cold from getting out.
Dreher: And I had an awesome donut at VooDoo Donuts in Portland, Oregon.
DB: Okay, making a special note, VooDoo Donuts in Portland.
Dreher: It was a bacon / maple donut and the guy had just finished making the batch so the maple was warm.
DB: Bacon / Maple?
Williams: There are two strips of bacon on it. Itís absolutely awesome. It tastes like breakfast. Itís like youíve put everything you want for breakfast onto a donut.
DB: So itís a pancake with a hole in it.
Williams: Well yeah but itís more eclair shaped.
DB: You guys are pretty technical about your food arenít you?
Williams: Iím a semantics kind of guy! (laughter)
Cole: Heíll argue with you until you die about the use of pronouns!
DB: Pronouns? (laughter)
In disgust Williams shakes his head.
DB: Okay, this has really gotten off topic but to paraphrase, Youíve done this and that and the tour has been good.
Williams: Yeah, that sounds good!
DB: Okay, you want number five next? Really?
Williams: Three would be next.
DB: Wait a minute, we just didÖ Okay wait, number 1: Congratulations on the new record. Letís talk about it.
Williams: Itís a great album. Weíre really proud of it. Weíre so happy that itís seen the light of day.
Dreher: Itís kind of a collection of stuff that weíve had for a while. So weíre happy that itís in stores and available for people. And weíre excited that we had so many people help work on it and polish it and make it sound awesome.
Cole: It was definitely a labor of love with lots of people involved. It has a lot of different themes running through it. One of which is, "Donít take things for granted. Seek out your truth. Seek out your passion and your desires. Donít take anything for granted." Like I said, weíre really excited and we hope this record finds a lot of ears.
DB: It looks like youíre once again working with the same producer. I read that Kyle Kelso also produced your EP.
Williams: Kyle Kelso seems to be able to encapsulate our sound pretty well. We have a real good working relationship with him.
Cole: Yeah, basically all of the tracks from our EP, "The Red Queen," are on this record with the addition of five new songs. Kelso went back and remixed the songs and we got it mastered by Howie Weinberg. Heís done a lot of great work with Nirvana and Tool so we were really excited.
DB: Did you use Kelso as a sounding wall? Did you allow him access to voice opinions on your songs?
Dreher: He works well with us because he can push us in a way that weíre not expecting.
Cole: Heís straight up with us. Heíll say, "I really like the chorus but the verse could be stronger." And weíve learned that sometimes youíve got to let down your personal wall, your ego and listen.
Dreher: One of his mantras is: "No slap, no tap, no crap." And, "Donít bore us, get to the chorus!"
Williams: Dude, weíve violated all those! (laughter)
DB: I think youíve already alluded to this but Iíll ask anyway. Do you see the new record, "State of Nature," as an extension of the EP or as a new beginning? I ask that in the sense of currently being a three-piece band rather than the four-piece you were while recording the EP.
Williams: Itís definitely an extension.
Cole: Yeah, itís an extension in the sense that itís the EP plus five more songs. But I think it really does sound different the way itís been remixed and remastered. And now that weíre able to get the music into Best Buy and Target, itís giving the songs new life.
Dreher: With this record we were able to expand on the concepts and the themes of "The Red Queen" with the additional songs. The record holds a good common thread, which is seek the truth, challenge authority.
DB: Youíve brought that up again. Really what do you like to write about? I mean you talk a lot about authority and truth. Do you consider this a political album?
Cole: There is definitely political themes running through the record. Itís also a cathartic exorcism of personal demons. I really do think itís about seeking the truth, take nothing for granted. "Battle Song" is about one of my friends passing away because of a drunk driving accident. He was the drunk driver. It was kind of a sadÖ I mean is sucks that heís gone but at the same time we ask, "Why did he do that?" A song like "Jesus Rides the Subway" deals with a lot of what is going on in the world right now. How no one seems to be able to follow what their religions seem to say. You know, turn the other cheek and not do things that are destructive. "Imperial" deals a lot with politics, as does "Son of the Viper."
Dreher: I think that "Son of the Viper" is probably the most outright political song of the bunch.
DB: It seems that protest songs are coming back in vogue again. You know, back in the '60s and '70s there was a lot to write about. And since weíve stepped back into another prolonged war it seems to be fashionable once again to use their art to voice an opinion.
Dreher: Yeah, bands like Anti-Flag are really pushing that.
Cile: And Rise Against
Williams: I would like to see more of it because, honestly, I think the whole groundswell is nowhere near, not that we were around in Vietnam but, nowhere near the way it permeated society in the '60s. There just seems to be a lot more apathy involved now. I mean, people are saying yeah itís a problem but itís someone elseís problem rather than all of our problems. The longer the war goes on the more people will understand that it is all of our problems. The intensity is not like it was during Vietnam and not where it should be.
DB: But if youíre willing to speak out as a band, donít you find yourself faced with a hazard? Your fans could simply accept what ever it is youíre saying rather than, as youíre promoting on this record, your fans seeking out the truth, their truth, whatever that truth may be? As you know we all have different truths.
Cole: I think there is a line that needs to be set. Yes youíre on a stage and you have a CD and you have a platform to say something. I think we need to say something because itís a duty and a right and a privilege. But at the same time we shouldnít rely on Neal Young anymore to do our protests. He doesnít need to put out an album that says impeach Bush. This is our generation and we need to be doing that.
Williams: As you were saying, we all have our own truths. Like the song "All For You," it has an intended idea, but I think most kids will take their own meaning from the song. And thatís cool, thatís the point of making records.
DB: Weíve kind of drifted away from the questions so I have to figure out where weíre at.
Williams: Number 5!
DB: Okay, five, Weíve already talked about five. We canít do that again! Letís talk aboutÖ
Williams: Number 7?
DB: Stop it! Letís talk about the body of work of your songs. The songs on your record are rather eclectic. I can understand why given the time frame in which they were recorded. Do you find that there is a song that is indicative of your band?
Cole: Iím sure we all have different answers. "Jesus Rides the Subway" is really the most dynamic, but "Battle Song" encapsulates where weíre going musically. It has the energy, influence, musicianship and melody. I think it really fits us. And it shows in some of the newer stuff that weíre writing. Thereís a new song that weíre playing live called "Malaria" that I think is a good indication of where the band is going.
Dreher: We all do have different answers. For me it depends on what day it is. The album is so eclectic and when I talk to people theyíll say, this is my favorite song. It always varies. Itís hard to pin down one song that encapsulates what we do. "Jesus Rides the Subway" is one of my favorites. Itís very dynamic. It has a landscape of colors if you will. (Dreher begins to laugh)
DB: Colors and textures? Suddenly weíre decorating!
Dreher: Yeah! Itís sort of moody andÖ
Williams: Almost argyle?
Cole: For more Aristotle Dreher designs go toÖ www.!#$%^&*$*&.com
Dreher: Dude, I havenít registered that domain!
Williams: DO NOT print that domain! Thatís off the record!
Dreher: But I see colors in our music and that definitely is what we need.
Williams: Ahhhhh yeah, "Battle Song" and "Jesus Rides the Subway" are the two songs that we do best.
DB: Okay, what have I missed? Letís seeÖ OK, this is easy. Where the hell are you living these days? New York? L.A.?
Cole: We live in a van! Our address is FORD!
DB: Oh, there it is, kind of a silver / gray van with a white trailer.
Cole: Itís a 2006 Econoline Van! We have air conditioning in our house and a TV which are all upgrades.
DB: You must have a great view of America with all of those windows!
Cole: We drove through the beautiful Nevada and Arizona desert today. We wanted to go across the Hover Dam but it was closed.
Dreher: There were a lot of colors in the desert too. Just like our music!
Cole: But when weíre not living in the van we rehearse in New York. We all have our own places where we go when weíre not touring. But we get together and play, write and rehearse in New York.
DB: I noticed that youíve really made an art out of leveraging the popularity of MySpace. Most people consider it a hookup Web site, but youíve used it to find new fans as much as book some of your tour. Are you using your MySpace powers for evil too?
Cole: The MySpace thing sort of happened more when we moved to L.A. We all quit our jobs and moved out here and we sat in our apartment all day on MySpace trying to get kids to come to our shows. It kind of escalated from there. Itís a good thing.
Williams: I wouldnít say we were using it so much for evil as we weíre using it for maniacal good! Weíre using something evil for good!
Dreher: And for good he means in perpetuity!
Williams: Itís like when the X-Men team up with Magnito to fight crime and get the hot chick. (everyone starts laughing) Iím the detail orientated one, remember?
Dreher: He wanted to eliminate all mutants.
Williams: I understand, it was a big problem for Patrick Stewart!
Cole: The most important thing about MySpace isÖ (laughter)
DB: Whatís this, suddenly thereís an interview again?
Cole: You get to be a part of these kids' lives. The walls are being broken down. You canít be there all of the time because it would absolutely consume your life, but we enjoy the personal contact. I canít even imagine what things wouldíve been like back in í94 or í95 is something like MySpace wouldíveÖ
DB: You mean way back then? Wow!
Williams: Even as far back as í92! But really itís the same kind of game. Bands used to pull into a town and started handing out flyers. Now you just do it all on MySpace.
Cole: What I was saying was that I canít imagine what it wouldíve like at 15 to look up to bands like Green Day and Helmet and being able to communicate with them. I mean if they ever wrote back to me that wouldíve been incredible.
Williams: And from an inter-band perspective, this show tonight is testament to the powers of MySpace. The band thatís hosting tonight, we hopped onto one of their shows a year ago. We were digging for a show in Tempe and asked if we could join theirs and they were like, totally. We ended up becoming really good friends with them. The same thing with another band on the bill tonight. Theyíre from Seattle. We set up a show in Seattle and were looking for local bands to play with. They jumped on board and weíve stayed in touch.
Cole: MySpace allows you the avenue to hookup with like-minded bands.
DB: I think weíve covered all the questions. Is there anything that else that you want to talk about?
Williams: Iíve been a little cranky tonight and I want to apologize.
Williams: Maybe, I have very quick cycles.
DB: Okay then, you have PMS and Aristotle smells like feet, whatís Ianís problem?
Williams: Heís OCD. Heaven forbid something doesnít get packed right! We never hear the end of it! But there was a time in Pittsburgh that we were saying goodbye to our buddies. We took off and we were driving up this winding hill. We get to the top of the hill and I look out the side view mirror and see the doors of the trailer flapping open. People were driving past honking and we were like, "WHAT? Why are people honking?" Somehow nothing blew out!
And with that, the interview ended, but the laughs went all night. Donít forget to check out Vaedaís new album, "State of Nature," which came out August 22 on Playtyme Records. www.vaeda.com is their Website and, of course, they're on Myspace www.myspace.com/vaeda, which includes a video for the song "All For You."
My thanks to Ian Cole, Aristotle Dreher and Oliver Williams for making this one of the more enjoyable interviews that Iíve done.
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