Check out Part 1 here.
On the Cameo Gallery stage Kenny Vasoli was like a giddy child on his way to Disney World — he was all smiles, bouncy and upbeat, and so sincerely happy to be there that everyone was in good spirits barely five minutes into the set. Sadly, many bands today seem kind of lifeless and miserable during their performances, or at the very least, plain indifferent. Bands forget that fun is infectious, that what happens on the stage is felt throughout the entire venue. The more electrifying your performance, the more charged your audience.
Maybe it’s the 10 years that Vasoli has spent honing his musical craft, or maybe it’s just in his nature to have a good time; either way, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching a band that you enjoy actually enjoy what they do. With that said, here is the second and final part of my interview with Vacationer, where we talk about his inspirational dog Ollie, the vacation that inspired much of the record, Skrillex, and the band’s future.
TMN: What’s your favorite song on Gone?
I’m bad at judging my own lyrics. I try not to make them embarrassing [laughs]. If I’m not embarrassed by reading them, I’ve done a good job. I don’t find anything particularly profound about what I’m saying. I like “Be With You” a lot. I like “Good As New” a lot because that’s the only one that’s not about the girl that was the center of the subject matter of the record and who I’m not really on good terms with anymore unfortunately.
What is “Good As New” about then?
It’s about my dog! [laughs] I got my first dog of my life when I was making the record. And I was feeling good about how I could write a love song about something that wasn’t even a person, but this creature that was giving me so much love. I remember he was in the room while I was writing it.
I wonder if he knows that there’s a Vacationer song dedicated to him.
[Laughs] When I’m away, my parents play Vacationer music for him because it’s my voice and all. And they say he seems to enjoy it [laughs]. But who knows.
You mentioned that you don’t necessarily find your lyrics to be profound. How do you think you’ve changed as a lyricist over the 10+ years you’ve been writing?
I don’t know…I’d like to think that I’ve improved and am definitely less embarrassing. That’s kind of the common thread [laughs]. Forget about the stuff when I was 16 years old, obviously that’s going to have some cheese on it, but even the stuff from when I was 22 and 23, I feel like I needed to be Bob Dylan or Thom Yorke and tried writing super introspective, “inside my head” lyrics that had poetic twists on them. And when you shoot for that too much it can come out pretty awkward. It’s just like… overdoing the vocabulary sometimes.
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So you don’t approach writing that way anymore?
I like to think now the way I go about lyrics is I like to make it almost simple enough that people can relate to it. I try not to make it too shrouded in poetry or some sort of code that only I’m going to understand. I like people to be able to say, “Oh, that’s what he’s talking about,” or, “I can relate to this,” because I think that kind of music is what people can enjoy because they can put their own life in it.
That seems pretty appropriate for Vacationer’s music, too. A long-winded lyrically-heavy song wouldn’t really fit…
Absolutely. It’s also not like me. I’m not very prolific in the way that I can write pages of lyrics. I really have to work hard just to get half a page of lyrics out of me [laughs]. When it comes to writing I really just start singing and I record what I’m saying. A lot of it is mumbles, but I’ll find something that sounds like a word in there and write that word down because I know that it fits. Then I’ll try to write the rest of the song around that one word.
That sounds like a very freeing and not strict method.
Definitely. I’m not a very lyrically-minded person when I’m listening to music either. I’m the kind of guy who has no idea what the lyrics are to my favorite song [laughs]. When I’m writing I want the voice to be an instrument itself and it’s really more about the syllables than the actual meanings of the words, at least at first. I like to be able to tie it all together at the end, but it’s more important to me that a word doesn’t sound out of place when it’s sung. I always look for the word with the right amount of syllables and vowels and consonants. I just want it to sound good.
Where’s does Vacationer go from here?
Since I’ve got a Twitter and the band’s called Vacationer, the biggest through line that I see coming on my feed that doesn’t even have to do with the band is the fact that people are saying and feeling, “I want to be a permanent vacationer.” And it’s so true. I don’t want to work, I’ve never wanted a real job in my life. I’ve also never wanted making music to feel like work, and it’s never been more true than with this band. It’s always been strictly for enjoyment. I just really wanted to make this music that I could listen to while riding my bike. It’s truly a vacation and I just want it to continue like that. I don’t want to make concept records with it, like a “cold climate record” [laughs]. I just want to keep continuing from the first record and let it evolve from there.
What’s been your favorite vacation ever?
This girl that I was dating and had written at least half of the record about, she broke up with me right around Thanksgiving [last year], but we had had a trip planned to Amsterdam together and were going to spend New Years there. I was able to cancel her ticket and I just went on the trip by myself. That was a really profound experience for me to be able to go and have my first vacation by myself in a place where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anybody. I was going by my own schedule and it was one of the most freeing experiences of my life. Amsterdam is a beautiful place, but we had gone together, I probably would’ve just ended up having a lot of sex all the times that I wasn’t outside. [Laughs] Hopefully that wasn’t too crass. It was a real cleanse for me to be able to go and be somewhere and look inward. I’ll never forget it. It was such a healing experience for me. And so much of the record was written after Amsterdam, the trip really informed it.
Anything else you’d like to say to Vacationer fans, old and new?
I just hope that everybody is able to enjoy the music as much I like making it. I also don’t want people to think that I want to turn my back on The Starting Line, that time is really embedded in who I am and I will never forget my roots and never forget my gratitude for all of that. I just hope people are able to grow with me and with this project. It would be great because this kind of luck doesn’t come along twice for any musician that I’ve seen. I mean Skrillex is the closest thing that I’ve seen. I really respect how he’s been able to make a jump into another genre. I hope to be able to do that same kind of thing.
For more information on Vacationer, including how to purchase their album Gone, visit their official site here.