I wouldn’t describe myself as an electronic music enthusiast, and I wasn’t exactly sure how I discovered the soothing sounds of Vacationer, but I was intrigued from the very first moment. I was beyond excited to learn that they were coming to the Music City to perform at 12th & Porter with (ohmygoodness!) Hellogoodbye. Vacationer’s lead singer and bassist, Kenny Vasoli, and I had a moment to chat before the show; when asked what he would be if he wasn’t a musician, he responded with, “that’s like asking a giraffe what it would be if he wasn’t a giraffe, it’s really just who I am.” From listening to Green Day as a nine year old and moshing with his couch pillows, being in punk bands like The Starting Line, touring extensively, including performing several stints on the Vans Warped Tour, to making vibe-y electronic music with his band Vacationer these days, there isn’t another alternative for Kenny Vasoli besides this musical path he’s chosen. He describes performing as “blissfully natural,” and all of my ions were buzzing because I was about to witness it in person.
Eo8: Are you going to get to do anything fun while you are visiting Nashville?
KV: Actually, I went to Third Man Records today to skateboard; I really didn’t know what the deal was, I rang the doorbell to get in, heard something inaudible from the intercom speaker, and then Jack White opened the door for me! It was considering asking him for a picture but I thought it would be cooler of me as a person to just let him chill. The fact that he opened the door for me makes such a cool story. I’ve been to Nashville before with Vacationer. The food here is amazing, and it’s such a musical town that if a venue opens it has to be awesome. This place definitely delivers.
Eo8: Do you find touring difficult? Would you rather create and record or tour and perform?
KV: I like the balance, I hope that doesn’t sound like a cop-out answer. I think spending too much time doing either of them will drive you crazy, and then the lack of either also makes you have the urge to do it. The more I’m home, the more cabin fever I get and the more I’m ready to get out on the road. Then once I’m on the road and I see how people are reacting to the songs that I’ve written previously, then it forms new inspiration for new material, it’s a great turbine for getting my creative juices flowing.
Eo8: Speaking of getting those creative juices flowing, what inspires you to write your music?
KV: To be honest, the actual music is usually directly inspired by other music; I’ll hear a bunch of different varieties of music and it will all just sort of congeal into wanting to do all sorts of different things from those types of music. When it comes down to lyrics, it’s more head-scratching than I’d like to admit, I really agonize over lyrics sometimes, it can be really hard. With this [Vacationer] it’s nice because I have sort of a go-to theme, and it’s always relaxation and exploration and love.
Eo8: Even the name “Vacationer” ties into this theme of relaxation and exploration…..
KV: It kind of all happened by accident, the whole project started because I wanted to make electronic music that wasn’t loud; basically I wanted to make music that wasn’t loud but that wasn’t acoustic music. The music I had been playing was taxing and taking a toll on me physically, I was getting tinnitus in my ears, and having to sing in a way that was at the top of my lungs all the time, I was constantly losing my voice, and I wanted to do something that was more restrained and relaxed, like bike-riding music. I was listening to so much chill kind of stuff, like Beach House and The Radio Department, I just fell in love with the simple beat of shoegaze kind of electronic music. Then I started making music with these two guys that were in Body Language, which is a space-funk/soul kind of band, and those guys have been my gurus in electronic music. I explained to them what I wanted to do, and they started making these little dreamy loops for me. I would take those and play guitar and bass over them, then send it back to them, sometimes with a vocal idea on top of it. Then they would grow the track, I would lay some stuff down, and it just took on a very tropical, Polyneisan-inspired aesthetic. When it came down to naming “Vacationer,” we just sort of fell into it.
Eo8: You’ve described it as “Nu-Hula;” is it possible you’ve created a new genre?
KV: I’m reading this book by David Byrne called “How Music Works,” and it’s made me question if genres even exist; music is derived from one thing or another, like how some languages are derived from Latin. I don’t think we’ve defined a genre. People call us “chill wave” and stuff like that. I think it’s more dimensional than that. Genres in general can be a little bit blurry.
Eo8: You have a new album, Relief, coming out in June. Will it be different or similar to Gone, your first album? What can we expect?
KV: I didn’t really want to stray far from the path, I loved the sound of Gone. I was actually a little worried about following it up. That record…I’m not only proud of it sonically, it’s also a very sentimental record for me. I was in a really pivotal place in my life, and I reflects well what was going on, for me. I’m not super-descriptive with my lyrics, so people can’t really take away the entire story of it, but for me, it brings up so many memories. When I was making Relief, there wasn’t really a whole lot of that going on in my life. To be honest, for a year, I only was able to write about four songs that made it onto the record, classic writer’s block. Then at the end of last summer, the switch got flipped, I wrote about seven songs in a month, and from there it just started rolling. Things started happening in my life; things just sort of happen, you can’t force them. The end result/sound of the record is something that is just further down the path from where Gone was, it’s a cinematic kind of record.
Eo8: I’ve really enjoyed Gone. I think one of my favorites songs on the album is “Good As New,” I included it on the last playlist I posted on the blog. Is there a particular song that you really enjoy performing more than the others?
KV: I love playing “Good As New,” that song is actually about my dog (*insert laughter here*). My dog, Ollie, is the most perfect, adorable dog in the world. My parents can’t wait for me to go on the road because they love having him so much. They look for any excuse to watch him; they’ll be like, “what are you doing this weekend?” and I’ll have a DJ set like ten minutes away, and they’re like “can we watch him?”
Eo8: How did you and Hellogoodbye decide to join forces for a tour together?
KV: They were approaching us with an offer to do this tour for a while; they offered us the co-headlining slot, it was so ultra-gracious of them. They’ve been around for a while and have got this great built-in fan base. We’ve only been a band for three years now, and it was just so gracious of them. When they offered that, it was a no-brainer. They are also extremely kind and great guys to tour with, such beautiful people.
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