THE VACANT LOTS

11 Feb

THE VACANT LOTS

“Situation Vacant”

Love. Confusion. Revolution. You may recognize these as three topics that dominate your mind, or song titles from the menacing mood-rockers The Vacant Lots. Of course, they can be both, in which case you needn’t delay in declaring that you have a new favorite band.

In just a little over two short years, two guys from one small state (Vermont) have made a big impact – releasing three full-length albums in rapid succession, touring as much as a secondary-school skin-smasher can (including a stint with fellow Austin Psych Fest 4 artists Spectrum), and generally proving that the same oceans of sound and sensibilities explored by their spiritual antecedents (Stooges-sludge meets Burroughs-beat) do not make up simply water to be tread, but rather depths, depths, depths still to be explored.

The non-drumming half of The Vacant Lots, Jared Artaud, was kind enough to walk us through The Vacant Lots.

What was the music that first spoke to you, either as a child or as an adolescent? Does that music still speak to you today – in much the same way, or perhaps differently?

Discovering The Stooges, The Stones and Television was a revelation for me when I was about 15. The feeling of hearing something new for the first time when it shoots right through you and penetrates your soul … that was how I felt the first time I heard “No Fun” by The Stooges and their first album. As well as “Aftermath” by The Rolling Stones and “Marquee Moon” by Television. I got the same feeling when I discovered William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” and Robert Johnson that year, too.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Can you pinpoint a specific album (or albums) or live performance (or live performances) that really set fire to your urge to create music of your own? How have you endeavored to keep this creative fire – for lack of a better term – burning? Is it as simple as paying attention to your muse, or do you take direct steps toward searching for inspiration?

When I was first discovering rock ‘n roll and feeling this strange power it had over me, it was like taking in a myriad of new sensations all at once. Realizing the strange effect this new music had on me. I was completely under the influence of rock ‘n roll. It took up all my time.  Inspiration seems to come in waves. A lot of it comes from connecting pieces together – you know what I mean? Working at something and shaping it. It’s a process. I like watching things develop over time and also allowing things to happen immediately and spontaneously. You find something out and it opens you up to something new. Thru the darkness into light. Either that or it all builds up and then it is released. When the inspiration comes it really comes through, but in between is a lot of boredom, ennui and indolence.

The above question stems from the realization that The Vacant Lots have managed to be an extraordinarily productive band in a relatively short period of time – while many listeners are presumably still digesting the magnificent, less-than-one-year-old predecessor (“Hypnotized”), you’ve wasted no time in the release of a new 7” on Mexican Summer. To what do you owe this productivity – or do you even view it as such?

That’s kind. I spend a lot of time writing. We have only been a band for just over two years now. And in the first year we put out three full length recordings ourselves. In fact, all three of those recordings were created in the course of a weekend. We went into the studio on Friday night and came out Sunday evening with everything recorded, mixed and produced. A lot of it comes from intuition and instinct. And learning as you go. In the studio it was like speed and intensity all the way. Learning how to mix things and lay down tracks in a short period of time. But those songs and sounds were building up inside my head for a while – I tried to release them.  

One is tempted to assume that Burlington, Vermont, is not necessarily a hotbed of modern psychedelic sound … but one also knows the risks of making assumptions as such. What are the benefits of being a band based in Vermont? The drawbacks? Are there any Vermont-based bands or artists that you feel readers would do well to explore further?

One of the first thoughts I had before forming the band was, “What do I want to hear from the music out here in the audience?” I hoped my music would hypnotize people, but wake people up (out of their trance) to feel inspired. I wanted to see something real. At times I feel what The Vacant Lots are doing has more to do with Rimbaud than it does with The Rolling Stones. But, you know that was the effect some bands produced on me – an awakening of the soul.  When I first heard Suicide, Spacemen 3, The Velvet Underground and John Lee Hooker, I was hypnotized. I woke up from all the bullshit that reality has to offer you. I got really turned on by the idea of producing that effect on other people through my music. I don’t know about living in Vermont … I just thought it would be cool to wipe out all the jam bands.

What led to the decision to move forward with The Vacant Lots as a two-member band? Or was that perhaps the design from the beginning? How did you first meet Brian Macfadyen? How has your relationship changed over time with The Vacant Lots? What musical perspective does Brian bring to your sound that you appreciate most?

We started off as a duo with the intention of finding other musicians.  We auditioned a number of people. I remember this one time where I told this guy I was looking for a rhythm guitarist and he just soloed throughout the entire rehearsal. I also just got tired of wasting time trying to explain the beauty and purpose of a two-chord song to people. It was always like, “Hey, why don’t we add a few chords here, and a few chords there?” So it was kinda just decided that we can do certain things differently to fill up the space of the room with just two people. Like, we didn’t need more musicians to get the sound we wanted. We added a drone box to the mix and got a richer, dense sound. Will it ever change? Who knows? It works and I like seeing our sound evolve and change through time. I think duality has been a consistent theme for me. I had a vision for this band from the beginning and it’s interesting seeing it evolve. Over time our connection has grown into a stronger unit. I think our sound has sharpened and is moving towards exploring different sounds and techniques. Brian is classically trained and was only 15 years old when I met him. We get along and work very well together. He is really an amazing drummer. Even when I first met him he was the best drummer I ever played with. The only struggle being getting him out of high school to do shows since he is only 17!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

In the book “Suicide: No Compromise,” Alan Vega is quoted as saying the following:

“On the first album Marty and I were so apocalyptic. Thinking along those lines, we get back to the name Suicide. We were the only ones on the scene not doing drugs and killing themselves, everyone around us was killing themselves. Marty and I thought the whole world was destroying itself. If we would have called ourselves Life, it would have been ludicrous. Thinking about it now, it might have been more interesting to call ourselves Life and to come out doing what Suicide does. That might have been the perfect name, actually.”

Your thoughts? What do you think sets The Vacant Lots apart from the scene that surrounds you? If you had to choose an alternate name for The Vacant Lots, what would it be?

It’s an interesting question. I mean, there is something strikingly similar in the name choices of The Vacant Lots and Suicide. The perception of what you’re seeing around you. The way Alan and Martin were “apocalyptic” and perceived how “the whole world was destroying itself” is analogous to how my perception of reality was when I started this band. I didn’t see the world as particularly destroying itself but as suffering. I saw suffering all around me. It’s not only a external suffering but an internal suffering as well. That’s why I chose the name The Vacant Lots. I was reading Burroughs and came across the phrase, and something just hit me. The duality of the name really struck me. I knew it was the name.

What can you tell us about the visual component that goes along with The Vacant Lots live experience? What type of atmosphere do you seek to create with the film clips you run, the lights you use, etc.? What are some bands that have influenced The Vacant Lots from a visual perspective?

The visual is as important as the aural. I wanted to express that element with the music, to present them both simultaneously. I felt like a rock ‘n roll performance could be more of an experience with the added visuals and projections. It creates a multimedia experience. I am trying to create a mood but also a setting where hopefully you walk away with a new perspective on things.

What music have you been listening to lately?

Listening to … Spectrum, Cheval Sombre, Dean And Britta, Screen Vinyl Image, Bo Diddley, Richard Hell and The Voidoids, The Shangri-Las, Albert Ayler, The Warlocks, Arthur Lee and Love, Pharaoh Sanders …

How did you first become aware of Austin Psych Fest? Are there any bands in particular that you are looking forward to seeing?

I discovered APF last year when we were touring with Spectrum. I remember a lot of people talking to me about it, thinking we would be a good fit for the bill. It’s really exciting that we will be going down there to play with The Black Angels. I am also looking forward to seeing Spectrum, The Black Angels, The Cult of Dom Keller, Crocodiles, The Black Ryder, The Growlers … and a bunch more. The line-up is really looking good.

What’s next for The Vacant Lots?

Well, we are on a winter tour right now in support of our “Confusion” 7″ single, that is out now on Mexican Summer. And we just laid down some demo recordings for what could be a new album. I really like the new song structures and sounds we are coming up with today. We are planning on heading down to SXSW in March before we venture to Austin Psych Fest in late April. We’d also like to tour the West Coast around that time, too.

The Vacant Lots

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2 Responses to “THE VACANT LOTS”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. THE VACANT LOTS ( … the return … ) « Revolt of the Apes - April 23, 2012

    […] of the band’s repeat appearance at Austin Psych Fest 2012, we feel fortunate to share our second interview with The Vacant Lots. […]

  2. TEN TUNES AND TEN TOMES WITH THE VACANT LOTS | Revolt of the Apes - May 30, 2013

    […] for The Vacant Lots than the fact that what you see below marks the third time that the band has been interviewed by this very (and very ridiculous) […]

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