VANDAL MOON - 'We are Electric' | An Interview
VANDAL MOON are a post modernist 80's duo who hail from California. Their sound is rooted in the shadows of New Wave, Gothic undertones of the 80's that cradle my dark precious heart.
Fans of the darker sounds of the 80's such as 'Sisters of Mercy', Depeche Mode & The Cure amongst others will find comfort in the familiar when listening to Vandal Moon. Nihilism never sounded so sexy.
It's fair to say that the over-arching sound is seeded from post-punk, goth and new wave, they are shaped as much by their use of drum machines and synthesizers as much as guitars and that unmistakable characterful baritone vocal of Blake Voss that give every track an edge sharper than a circular saw and where you'll willingly follow them into the maelstrom of strobes, hairspray and dark eyeliner.
I'm simply hooked on these guys so it was amazing they took time to do this interview with me..read on
The name Vandal Moon is curious – how did you happen upon that name for your project?
I’ve been in a million shit bands with a million shit band names. The thing about band names is they all sound ridiculous until the music inhabits them and gives them greater meaning and power. But to answer your question, I like the idea of vandalism because to one person it’s art, or rebellion, or frustration and to another person it’s the destruction of public property. It’s up to the observer to determine which. And that’s how I want people to engage with my music.
What would you say is distinctive about your music?
I notice that journalists seem to have difficulty pinning my music down to one genre. I’m proud of that. There are influences, but I don’t think you can describe Vandal Moon as any on particular genre.
In your entire discography which track would you be most proud of? Why?
The one I haven’t written yet! I don’t really look back at my old material and I don’t have favorites. Once my songs are released I stop listening to them and start working on the next project. Otherwise I’m just reminiscing and I don’t find that helpful for the creative process.
Going all the way back to ‘Dreamless’ back in the year 2013 to the critically acclaimed ‘Black
Kiss’ in May this year which is amazing by the way...how do you feel your sound has
developed over time?
I think all of my albums stand on their own. Like I said, I try not to reflect too much on past albums or achievements. I just want to leave behind a messy trail of art for future generations to sift through. So if in the year 2087, some kid finds ‘Black Kiss’ in the used vinyl section of a local record shop, becomes entranced by the artwork, buys it, takes it home, lights a candle, smokes a joint, and falls in love with the album… then I will have succeeded in all my artistic endeavors.
Is there any one thing you’d change about the current music industry?
Yeah, I’d drop a bomb on Warner, EMI, Universal & BMG. Then I’d confiscate their cash and shower it onto the small independent labels that are putting out amazing music, while just barely surviving. Graveface, Born Losers, Dias… the list goes on. Then I’d bring MTV back from the dead and have it air music videos and live concerts by independent bands, 24 hours a day, as a free streaming service subsidized by Mickey Mouse & Ronald McDonald.
What have been the sounds or artists that have shaped your sound over time? Did you have
many who influenced you?
I learned how to play bass guitar by copying Kim Deal of The Breeders and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. I started playing guitar because I was in love with Kurt Cobain’s songwriting, so he’s obviously a huge artistic inspiration. Oh, and Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, back when he was considered a danger to society. I still use a lot of his guitar techniques. I’ve gone through so many different phases and I’ve been inspired by so many different artists. I mean, I listened to nothing but Nick Drake for an entire summer of my life. And I was huge into the post-rock scene of the early 2000’s. And I was obsessed with Phil Elverum from Mount Eerie.
If you put all of these elements into a blender, you get Vandal Moon. I owe all of these people a huge debt for enriching my life. I’m trying to give back by making my own art to enrich the lives of others.
If you couldn’t make the brilliant music you're putting out there, what do you think you would be doing?
If I couldn’t make brilliant music, I’d probably just make shit music. Making shit music is still better than making no music at all.
What do you like to do for fun outside of music?
Everything that COVID has destroyed. Traveling, going to concerts, bars, visiting friends…
Which comes first for you the lyric or the melody?
Humans are born with the ability to understand melody, well before words. When we talk to babies we tend to inflect the tone of our voices so that the baby can understand. So, melody was always first. Lyrics are simply a matter of supporting melody, and granting the emotionality of your song greater meaning. But still, they are secondary.
What’s your favourite film?
I’d have to say ‘American Movie’ and ‘DIG’ - both are documentaries. I’ve probably watched them 20 times each. I just really enjoy listening to interesting people talk and understanding how their mind’s work. I’m fascinated by film maker Mark Borchardt’s unique perspective on life and on his sheer commitment to his art, despite all odds. Same thing with musician Anton Newcombe. I really admire the courage of an “all or nothing” approach to their art.
Are their any artists who are currently on the scene that you would love to collaborate with?
Not really in the Synthwave scene. But I’d really love to make a song with Sally Dige, as she’s enormous talented and a wonderful person as well. I also want to work more with vverevvolf. Oh, and Bjork, if you’re listening, call me.
Can you tell us a little about your current and future projects?
Obviously I’m always working on the next Vandal Moon album. As of this interview I have exactly 41 new demos written so far. I usually like to write around 50 or 60 demos before I choose the best songs to really focus on. Maybe this time I’ll shoot for 70. I’m also currently releasing a series of remixes done by artists I admire. I want it to be a surprise, but so far I’ve released one by FM Attack and one by Betamaxx. There another very popular artists that I’ve got a remix coming from this fall. It’s so fucking good, I can’t wait for people to hear it. And there will be some surprise remix collaborations that nobody is expecting. Stay tuned.
What is your creative process like? Is it different for every track? Or do you follow a pattern?
I usually like to write a bass part first, and start singing along to that. I find that it gives me the most freedom in writing my vocal melodies, as a bass line doesn’t necessarily lock me into one particular key. The more freedom the better, in terms of expression. Also sometimes when I’m driving I’ll make up my own vocal melody to a song I hear on the radio. It could be anything. Then I’ll try and write my own chord progression under the vocal melody I’ve created at home. It’s a fun way to write and feels very natural for me.
Will we be lucky enough to catch you on tour in 2021?
It seems unlikely with the pandemic, but you never know. We’d set up a small tour that was supposed to start right around St. Patty’s day 2020, and suddenly COVID hit. That was the end of that.
A message for your fans?
I love you all. Except for the creepy stalkers. Seek help.
Vocals, guitars, synthesizers and principal songwriter.
Drum machines and synthesizers.
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