TOTAL VACATION is a emo/pop-punk band from Boston, MA and Stockholm, Sweden, where lead songwriters/guitarists/vocalists Fenn Macon and Charlie Pastuszenski reside respectively. Their debut release, Totally Vacant (Spotify/Bandcamp), is bursting with energy, snapping from poppy refrains to crunchy breakdowns from one moment to the next. Today, we’re giving it a proper insight with the band’s special track by track rundown below!
Macon and Pastuszenski grew up in Massachusetts, attending DIY metal, hardcore, and pop-punk shows in high school before connecting during their time in college, where they bonded over their mutual interest in pop-punk and emo artists like The Wonder Years and The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. The two of them rarely lived in the same place, with Pastuszenski relocating to New York City and then Stockholm while Macon remained in Boston, but the two always hoped to release music together.
With Total Vacation, they found that outlet for honing their wide set of emo, hardcore, and pop-punk influences into a tight artistic statement. The 5-track EP was recorded and produced entirely by Macon, Pastuszenski, and new addition Elle Mitchell (who joined during the production process as bassist and third vocalist) and co-written over the second half of 2020 to start of 2021 over the internet. Recently, Chris Canieso, drummer for a handful of Boston-area punk/emo bands, including Allison and Moon, joined as the next piece of their live lineup.
Though the Atlantic ocean and the ongoing pandemic have prevented them from playing a first show, it’s at the top of their priority list. “I think that’s the thing we’re most excited about,” says Pastuszenski. “We write high energy music and we just want to see people moving and shouting along.”
With Totally Vacant now out, the band is currently honing their next set of songs for their full-length debut. “The EP, for the most part, is us just going crazy and playing breakneck rippers. The new songs we’re working on are a lot more refined, a lot more varied, and, we think, a huge step up from Totally Vacant.”
Intro – I spent many months last year adjusting to new medication and dealing with the shifting patterns in my thinking that were causing anxiety attacks and often feeling at war with myself. This song is an attempt to capture the feeling of freaking out, talking yourself down from a ledge while still harboring manic and intrusive thoughts. When Charlie sent me the instrumental mix I was invigorated and wrote the lyrics in less than 10 minutes. I’ve heard of this type of songwriting referred to as a “sneeze,” though for me it felt more like a purge. Fenn
Pattern of Resolve – Part of the adjustment to medication to treat anxiety and depression was dealing with rapidly shifting emotions. One of the potential side effects of Wellbutrin is anger, which is annoying as someone who considers themselves very chill. I had a few blow-ups with my family and had to develop some mechanisms to cope with it when my brain was on fire, these are some of them! I’ve found that removing yourself from a situation if possible and taking a walk to clear your head is extremely helpful for gaining some perspective. This was the first song we wrote for this project and it ended up being a real signpost for how the rest of the EP came together. Fenn
Transatlantischism – Transatlantischism is about the loss of hope in a long distance relationship and the difficulties in dealing with a bureaucratic system designed to keep people apart. Last year I had a friend who lost their job and could not file for unemployment as it would put their fiance’s visa status in jeopardy. They’ve been engaged for over two years now and the thought of putting your own financial well-being at risk for love was extremely powerful to me. Fenn
Under the Sun – Under the Sun is the most over-the-top song on the EP. It’s got multiple mosh calls, 2 breakdowns, a spoken word part, an absurd harsh vocal feature (our bassist Elle did that!), and a big poppy chorus. Lyrically it’s a bit more contemplative and turned inward: it’s about looking at yourself in the mirror and trying to convince yourself to not continue a self-destructive, depressive cycle of behavior and smooth things over with the people who you let down because of shutting yourself off. Charlie
TV – TV was the last song we wrote for the EP and my personal favorite. The song deals with the conflicted emotions that come along with an interpersonal relationship changing for the better while still missing parts of what that relationship used to be. You both might be moving onto bigger and better things, but sometimes all you want is to sit on the couch and watch some TV with them like you used to. Charlie
“Totally Vacant is a brilliantly compact beast, comprising five songs (one of which is a short-but-sweet intro track), none of which stretch much further than the three-minute mark. The overall impact is something akin to being hit in the face with bubble gum, as the EP fuses exuberantly spiky pop-punk melodies with thick, rubbery low-end grooves and mosh parts organically and delightfully. Songs like mid-EP tentpole “Transatlantischism” infuse soft-hearted acoustic interplay into the fray before disregarding the rules and barrelling ahead into a speedy barnstormer. Other songs, like closer and absolute standout “TV,” also incorporate flecks of the meandering, intricate melodies of early 2010s emo without sacrificing any of the energy central to the project.
Lyrically, Totally Vacant is refreshingly earnest and direct in a sea of artists who rely on lazy metaphor or smirking irony to get their point across. Although there are some romantic throughlines, a good chunk of the lyrical content is actually about Macon and Pastuszenski’s long-distance friendship, and that comes through brilliantly in lines like “If you’re in this with me like I am with you/Who knows what together we’ll do” or “Miles between us but I won’t forget you.” It provides the entire project with raw nerves and a bloody, beating heart, making it at once relatable and deeply, touchingly personal.
Total Vacation are one of the biggest surprises of 2021. As earnestly emotional as they are genuinely goofy, they have the smart, sharp hooks and the elastic effervescence to shoot themselves into the stars. Totally Vacant is anything but a nostalgia play– it’s a plea for friendship and comfort in a time and world where nothing is needed more.” – Ellie Kovach