VIDA, a loud-as-hell sort of post-punk/hardcore band takes a lot of cues from great 90’s era “noise” bands like DRIVE LIKE JEHU, JESUS LIYARD and FRODUS, but still manage to throw in some big rock hooks. Sometimes thez remind me of AT THE DRIVE-IN, and sometimes I’m getting some rock’n’roll vibes that are not even close to edgy punk related mood. VIDA’s musical guiding spirits never made it easy on their listeners and these guys have somehow decided to explore this almost classic direction and try to cause some serious sensory overload with their twisted tunes. I sat down with the band to learn more about their project, the new self-released narcoleptic EP, their local environment and their views on the current state of independent music scene.
VIDA is: Brian Gillis (vocals), Jacob Montgomery (bass, vocals), Adam Montgomery (guitar, vocals), and Ryan Turner (drums).
Hey Ryan, thanks a lot for taking some time with IDIOTEQ and introducing the band to our readers. How are you buddy?
Ryan: Pretty good actually. Just kind of finalized a couple of new-ish songs last night at practice so that’s encouraging. On a non-band level also doing pretty good, as the snow is melting and baseball season has started and I like to dork out on that stuff. Life-long Toronto Blue Jays fan, and I just started doing Yoga and have been an avid biker for a couple years, so the snow going away always brings some hope to the winter doldrums. Getting outside to do stuff is always encouraging.
Great! So, feel free to shoot us a couple of lines about the band, your background and how you guys started this journey called VIDA.
Ryan: Our singer, Brian, knew our guitar player Adam since high school. Adam and his younger brother Jake, who plays bass, had some tunes sitting around for a sort of post-hardcore/post-punk style band and as luck would have it I kind of got to know Brian through his girlfriend who I used to work with, and he just messaged me one day asking if I was into playing some loud-as-hell noisy music again. I was, and VIDA is as close as I can get to playing my “ideal” type of music. That may sound corny, but it’s honest as this band can be challenging for me as I tend to write parts that I sometimes can’t play at first, and this band is bloody loaded with riffs from the 2 bros, so I’m doing my best to make my parts match their intensity and creativity. Every set we play is exhausting for me, and I probably sweat out half my body weight every time.
As far as my background, musically speaking, I’m all over the map. Played in a few loud rock bands, toured a bit, went to school at a later age and studied jazz on the drums, learned all about improvisation and the culture that comes with it. Got into all sorts of weirdo music that no one cares about, haha. That time in school, and my continual practice routine does help with this band though, I wouldn’t be able to come up with the parts I have without ripping off some pretty infamous jazz legends. Haha.
What’s the meaning of the band’s name?
Ryan: It is literally the name of the two brothers’ grandmother, pronounced “v-eye-duh”, not “v-eee-dah”. We simply couldn’t come up with anything better, and it kinda sticks to that sort of hardcore band one word name. Even though we’re not a “hardcore” band per se… I think we sort of have some leanings toward that genre at times.
Ok, so you have a new EP out. Tell me about this record and what it means to you.
Ryan: I think we shedded about 5-6 songs before we got to these ones, the 4 you hear on the EP are (debatably) the best 4 that we wrote before we had a clear deadline to record at. There were about 3 that were written shortly thereafter that we are bummed aren’t on the EP, but that’s life in an independent band. Pick your battles, etc. To me, this EP represents me hitting my drums harder than I ever have in my life, haha. Lots of notes, lots of riffs, and me just loving every second of it. It had been a while since I had written “heavy” music, so it took a couple of months to get the feeling of loud playing back, but I was able to, and I’m happy I didn’t let myself get in my own way, because I feel the EP is one of the better things I’ve been involved with, and I know our songs are only going to get more interesting and dynamic as time goes on. That EP represents much of 2015 very well for VIDA and I am pretty proud of it.
What were some of your influences that you’ve drawn inspiration from for this EP?
Ryan: Like I said, I’m all over the map musically, so on this EP, my “drummer” influences are numerous. I borrowed ideas from jazz guys like Brian Blade and Jack DeJohnette, and wrote some quasi linear/syncopated grooves tapping into some classic Tower of Power tracks that the legendary David Garibaldi originally conceived. I really enjoy the intensity of Ben Koller from CONVERGE’s drumming, so some of that is in there, as well as just ideas that randomly popped into my head, without knowing really where they came from. Mostly I just try to make the song sound good, but interesting. Sometimes you just play straight ahead and loud rock patterns, but this band lends itself to some bizarre stuff for me try out sometimes.
What drove your creative process while writing and recording these tracks?
Ryan: Caffeine!!! Seriously…
I can’t speak for the other guys, but I think mainly just trying to do something different than the droves of bands that have sprung up in every scene in every city the last decade or so. We wanted to have tones of dissonance, be a little progressive, be able to have “rock out” parts, but still have it be accessible. None of us have ever been in a band like this, but have all been fans of post-hardcore/post-punk/noise-rock/whatever, for a long time. We just gelled when we practiced; it was really quite remarkable how well it worked, at least from my perspective.
For recording we just wanted to have a loud-as-hell EP that really reflected the live show. We are an extremely loud band, and I think we really lucked out with the guy who mixed it (Jordan Zadorozny) and the guy who mastered it (Michael Fong). They made it sound better than we could have expected, and our friend Dom engineered it and kept the takes real, and didn’t insist that they were perfect. There are mistakes all over it, but I think that’s part of keeping that rawness intact. A down to Earth approach works for us really well on a personal and relational level.
Ok, so how can we put our hands on the record? How do you distribute it?
Ryan: We literally just got it plastered everywhere online, iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, and some others I forget. If people just want it quick and easy go to our bandcamp page and just take it. It’s free, seriously.
By the way, what are your thoughts on the current methods of digital distribution? Are you happy with the way it works these days, or are you rather a fan of classic formats and more physical approach to records?
Ryan: Digital music or distribution appears to be the answer to the compact disc, and it may have taken the industry heads 15 years longer than necessary to admit it. There’s a great line from No Country for Old Men that sums it up quite eloquently: ”You can’t stop what’s comin’, it ain’t all waitin’ on you. That’s vanity.”
I love physical music, I really do, but to attempt to say it should be the primary format, in 2016, is flawed logic and a severely outdated and naïve thing to try and convince someone of. The industry has tried to play ball with the Internet for a while, and I personally don’t ever see it catching up, or undoing what has happened.
Tech giants are the new major labels, and coders are now essentially A&R for artists. The opportunist middleman has been cut out by someone who may actually just be a fan of music, and is not looking to move 4 million singles from a lackluster group who wrote one catchy song (with 17 ghost writers…). Good thing, bad thing, I’m not sure (leaning towards good…).
This is nothing new and possibly even a “no shit, Sherlock” answer for a lot of people, but my parents don’t even know what “streaming” means, and it feels like trying to explain what has happened is a cyclical argument and I still get a lot of “you guys have CD’s, right?” No, we don’t. It’s 2016 man, just take the damn thing from our site. If we’re going have physical music, we have to do it in a way that reflects our opinions and tastes. We’re not so bold as to tout CD’s as the best way to get our music out, I think all 4 of us would admit that is really, really stupid and outdated.
That being said, we had a limited run of cassettes for this EP, and every second person I talked to was asking “why cassettes?” which is totally valid; why bother with anything physical, right? Vinyl, to me, is still the gold standard when it comes to physical music, but it is just so damn costly, and the wait times are so unfathomably long… we just said “screw it, let’s get tapes! If they want our stuff in other formats (digital)…take it!!”
What is the first thought or memory that comes to mind when you think of CDs?
Oh man, this is embarrassing, but the first CD I ever bought was THE OFFSPRING’s “Smash”, 1994 baby. I remember rocking out to that CD to the point where it got so scratched from repeated listens I had to buy it again.
In Canada we also have what could have been considered a Canadian “MTV” called Much Music. And, through a distributor, every year Much Music put out a sort of dance music compilation and I remember the first CD I ever actually played was Much Dance Mix 1993. I was 11 and thrilled because HOUSE OF PAIN was on it. I hope I have at least become somewhat more tasteful with music choices over the years…
And vinyl records?
Also a corny story: first time really being absorbed in a vinyl record I was 10-11 and my dad showed my brother and I Peter Frampton’s live version of “Do You Feel Like We Do?” and my mind melted a little because, according to my father, Peter Frampton “made a guitar talk, man.” I became convinced about 10 years ago my dad was high when he showed us that.
Ok Ryan, so how is the Guelph local independent music scene doing these days? Do you get a lot of shows and offline networking between people involved in ‘the scene’ (yeah, I know, we all hate the word, but still haven’t found a better way to express the same meaning, haha)
Guelph actually has a lot to offer for a town this size (about 125, 000). The thing about Guelph is that it’s within an hour of Toronto, and I think the proximity to that city has paid off in droves for this community. We are also only 15 minutes from 3 other small cities which each have a population over 100, 000, so I think we get a decent out of town crowd for some stuff as well. Touring bands are constantly coming through, it has an insanely tight knit community in many different genres and it also has a couple of festivals that are literally world-renowned. We are NOT Toronto knock-offs though. This thing has a much less monetary driven system to it and you’ll probably get some dirty looks if you start comparing it to Toronto or other cities. It is it’s own little bizarre thing, and I have come to love and embrace it. I love the fact that you will rarely see venues kicking bands and show goers out by 1030 PM to make way for the club scene and a chance to move even more alcohol with even more paying patrons. The people who are involved with it, are in it for the right goddamn reasons. I don’t know any promoters who make bank putting on shows in town. A love of music and community building are what seem to be driving it the last few years, which is the way it should be. I’m not sure how this thing would survive if people weren’t willing to stick their necks out on the regular to just bring music to town that they love.
Are there any local artists, labels, spots or other art related initiatives that you’d like to mention here?
Some of my good friends are in two tremendous bands from right here in town.
Both are instrumental math-rock bands and are probably some of my most favourite people on this earth. Both slay, both are awesome. Go listen.
We have some great people here in Guelph that also run and promote shows: Nik Wever, Bilay Badoe and the whole GAIN music crew have been ultra-supportive of us since day one. Dave Lander and the kind folks at Kazoo! have been very supportive as well. We actually just played “Kazoo!fest” and it was a great time!
Two guys from BABY LABOUR (under the moniker “Place for Bands”) also put on shows for all sorts of weirdo music they’re into, and they’ve done pretty well so far to bring cool stuff to town.
Kyle from BADMINTON RACQUET (under the moniker “Chums Up”) has also started doing shows again and he’s bringing some super cool stuff to town as well.
Our singer Brian also does some part-time promo stuff, but he would probably not want me to mention it, as it’s a little silly to talk about other artistic endeavours inside a “band” interview.
Ok Ryan, so what are you next steps with VIDA, both touring and recording wise?
Touring, or playing shows: we have a few lined up as it is through the spring and early summer. We all work, or are in school as being in a punk rock band hasn’t paid many bills for many people in history, and we are certainly no different. We are always looking to enter new markets, so hopefully we can continue to spread the word about our little band, and get some people hyped for our next recording which I think will reflect much better what the 4 of us are capable of. We are hopefully going to record some new stuff by July, and hope to hell we can get it out by November. If people were into any facet of what we did on the EP, they will dig the newer stuff for sure.
Cool, thanks so much for the chat and take care man! Come to Europe! :)
Some day!! I hope!! Thanks for shining a light in our general direction! Much obliged.