S: I would put us in the bedroom pop, dream pop, slacker pop, lo-fi genre. Bedroom pop because we record our music in our bedrooms, dream pop because of our emphasis on sonic textures/synth stuff. Slacker pop because of the laid-back feel/ catchy guitar riffs and lo-fi because we haven’t used a studio to record our stuff.
J: Yeah. Through and through, we make pop music. There are a lot of far-reaching etymological implications when using a word like “pop” to describe one’s style of music, but in general the designations of “dream pop” and “jangle pop” are pretty accurate descriptors.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
S: Sometimes it’s the simplest everyday things that become inspiring, other times it can come from other bands, and very often it comes from the beauty that is nature. The midwest has influenced our outlooks and has definitely given me a strong connection to the land and our relation to it as people. It’s calm, peaceful, pure, and in that way truly inspiring.
J: The geography of the midwest and life in Minnesota are definitely integral parts of our inspiration. The bulk of bands in America doing this sort of thing are from LA or New York, so I think it catches people off guard when they find out we’re from Minnesota. This sound is pretty synonymous with the west coast, but it’s my hope that in drawing inspiration from the land around us, we capture the quotidian aspects and the beauty of the region in a way that validates the personal experiences of midwestern kids of all backgrounds who love this music since there aren’t many artists writing or recording about life here.
CH.89: What made you all want to start a band and how did you come up with the band name?
S: Well, back in high school Josh and I played together in numerous musical groups, and the summer before I left for college we wanted to do a project that “had a Mac Demarco feel.” So we jammed a bit, came up with some riffs and recorded “Bridges for the Young.” After that we were like, oh shit, this is dope and fun so we just kept on making more tunes.
J: We did drum line together, marching band, jazz band, symphonic bands, pit orchestras, and I think a gig for a school dance once… we were playing together a lot! Vansire was just kind of culminated naturally; I think we have a good creative synergy from playing together in so many settings. As far as the name Vansire, well, there’s no cool or interesting story there.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new song/EP?
J: On the first album, we functioned mainly in riffs. We’d come up with a couple guitar licks and flesh things out into a whole song along the way. This new EP was a little different because I’d written some of the songs while at college, with a more lyrical focus as opposed to the first album, but I think some combination of these two methods is how we usually function. Usually the narratives threads and underlying themes of a release don’t really become clear to us until we’re about halfway through the project. We didn’t set out with a specific agenda in mind on our first album or this new EP, but both came to signify and embody very specific ideas as they came to fruition.
CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?
J: Vansire is basically escapism, but I’d like to think it’s a positive kind of escapism. If a listener can kill fifteen minutes listening to our EP, just space out a bit and stare at the sky, and finish feeling a little more peaceful, then I’d say we’ve accomplished our “mission”, if you want to call it that. There were a great deal of specific things we were trying to convey when making this EP, and I’d love to get into that another time if anyone happens to be interested, but I’m not going to force any messages on the listener. I hope that they can impress their own personal experiences on the music and use it as a sort of blank canvas which allows them some time to reflect on the cultural significance of our current moment in history, from their respective context and life experience.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an musicians and what that is like?
S: Currently we are both students so we are pretty much on the grind of college, while still doing Vansire stuff. So yeah as far as lifestyle right now, study, play music as much as possible and whenever I can. I think Josh and I both can attest though that our music is pretty reflective of the sort of “dream-state” that we operate in. Overall though I wouldn’t say that our lifestyles are that different from the average person our age, we are just two guys making tunes when we can.
J: Yeah, I’m in my first year at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music studying composition with a focus in new music and digital media, and I’m also studying cinema studies in the college, so in a way I’ve kind of taken the plunge and decided that I’ll spend my life as an artist. It’s a freeing feeling. Day to day the nuts and bolts of it all can be rough sometimes, but then I just remind myself that what I’m working towards makes it all worth it, and that really this is stuff I’m happy to make myself busy with because it’s all for music in the end.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
J: I’d like to think that an impulse can lead you in a direction that takes form as you go along. Excessive impulsiveness can cheapen one’s art, but constantly adhering to a set plan can be limiting and non-conducive to creativity. I vote for a combination of the two.
CH:89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as artists?
S: I’ve gotten a glimpse at how much work goes into albums and have gained lots of respect for good artists out there. But also just not taking yourself too seriously and really having a good time with it.
S: I would say it is pretty important as style and taste are big parts of what define you as a person, and in turn what defines your artistic decisions. But it’s not everything and as people we all are much more complex and nuanced than our surface level tastes. In a way our tastes reflect what goes on in a more personal realm, but the opposite relationship also happens, and our taste influences our thought and lives. Out of that a cool, kind of recursive loop of personality building emerges. So yeah, it’s important, but not the only thing that matters.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist/musician?
S: Being original.
J: Haha, yeah, I feel like someday dream pop is just going to hit a wall, because as a genre it utilizes such a limited harmonic palette. There are only so many new melodies you can come up with in a major pentatonic scale, and only so many major 7 chords you can stick in a harmonic progression.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
S: The freedom to create whatever you want. There are not really any rules when it comes to music making so you can just make what you like as long as you aren’t stealing someone else’s work. When we make music we just want to make stuff we like listening too really.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
S: I would say Beach Fossils really inspired both of us a lot, hearing those tasty guitar licks has strong ties of summer and warm feelings. Bibio…we love Bibio. Mac Demarco, if we are ever in a creative slump we just think “what would mac do.” Also a local artist Hippo Campus was pretty inspiring to watch grow, it was just cool to see dudes like us making it big. Recently I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from WU LYF, Laurel Halo, and Acid Ghost.
J: In this context I often look to Beat Happening, Daniel Johnston, R Stevie Moore, John Maus, people who push the boundaries of what pop music means and what it entails. I also draw a lot of personal inspiration from Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never, Ben Frost, Benoit Pioulard and other ambient producers and composers. Minimalist and musique concrete composers like Reich, Riley, Schaeffer, Halim El-Dabh, and Luc Ferrari, and some others like Pauline Oliveros and Laurie Spiegel inspire me too, alongside the Madlib/Dilla/Nujabes/DOOM universe of hip-hop.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
S: The technological age has made being a recording musician much easier. I think we will start to see more people writing and recording everything by themselves more often, I mean we were able to record everything with one mic and a computer and get a pretty decent sound, which is pretty amazing compared to how people recorded stuff even just 20 years ago. As far as sounds go, with the advent of the synthesizer, tech is opening up worlds of new sounds that no humans have experienced before, and that is pretty damn cool.
J: The ubiquity of technology has certainly lent itself to a recording boom, paired with platforms like Bandcamp that afford more artists a position to release their music to a potentially large audience. The main con I see is that there’s just too much music being created to consume and unfortunately a lot of it will go ignored due to the sheer volume of it all.
J: I suppose so. My being an artist doesn’t make my worldview more important or more meaningful than anyone else’s, but it allows me to think at length about existential questions like these, and I’m never going to take that for granted. I have an amazing Technology in Music and Related Arts professor (TIMARA for short) who last semester was talking about the nature of the relationship between his personal life and his compositional work, and he said something along the lines of “My life is my art and my art is my life – that’s a privilege we have as composers and artists that a lot of people don’t have”, and that stuck with me.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
S: Oh yes, my favorite city is Vancouver.
J: Tie between New Orleans, the entire Pacific Northwest, and Brooklyn.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
J: I’m reading this great biography about Yo La Tengo right now. In terms of all time faves, probably The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
S: George Orwell’s 1984.
J: This summer we’ll be taking it live, sort of a new realm for us with this particular project. From there we’ll keep recording and see where things take us.
S: Yeah we are super stoked about playing live more, but yeah also just keep doing what we are doing and see where it goes.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
J: Hmm… I found Viola Davis’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards to be quite moving, specifically when she said “I became an artist and thank god I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” Celebrating what it means to live a life is one of the noblest causes I can think of, and I’m incredibly privileged to be doing that with mine.
S: Josh sums that one up well.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?
S: My grandpa said it felt like he was riding a cloud and a guy’s voice was echoing off a mountain. That’s pretty much the kind of aesthetic we shoot for I think.
J: Oddly enough, we almost called ourselves the Mountain Echo Cloud Riders when we were getting started. And that was two years before his grandpa said that.