USA OUT OF VIETNAM’s debut LP “Crashing Diseases & Incurable Airplanes” gathered excellent reviews in numerous music magazines and websites for their unique brand of progressive / psychodelic art rock and earned a Guinness World Record last year for being the world’ most “epic” rock band. Funny or not, the frequent use of the word in the reviews is actually pretty accurate. Throughout their amazing album, the impossible-to-label band has carried so many permutations to their sound that it had impressively transcended their progressive rock origins. I sat down with the band’s guitarist and vocalist Son of Fogman to larn a lot more about their inspirations, writinf process, and a lot more. Read the full interview below.
Photo by Jacky Sappuro / Projection art by Andrew Dickson and Amy Torok.
Hi guys! Thanks a lot for your time! How are you? How’s Montreal?
Son of Fogman (vocals/guitar) : Hey! Right now I am under the covers in bed as it is the warmest place in my apartment. Montreal is horrendous right now. It’s -21 Celsius and feels like -31 Celsius with wind chill. As terrifying as the winters are though Montreal is still a great place to live.
Ha! I’m a cold weather dude. I wish I was there! :)
Ok, but let’s dive into the backdrop of your latest masterpiece. “Crashing Diseases & Incurable Airplanes” strikes me as an unusually experimental and diverse record. Personally, how do you feel about this effort and what does it mean to you?
S.O.F.: We’re all just happy it finally came out. It was a labor of love with equal amounts of both love and labor. The record just existed solely on bandcamp for almost two years before it was picked up and received a physical release. We’re just happy anybody got to actually hear it. We’re all very proud of“Crashing…” but the songs on the record have changed quite a bit and we are really much happier with their current state. We are also getting ready to start pre production for the next record so we’re really looking forward more than looking back. One thing I am proud of is the diversity on the record, which as a debut provides a great jumping off point into any kind of sounds we want to express without fear ofreprisals.
How did your hometown itself effect your art?
S.O.F.: I think Montreal had a tremendous effect, as the guest musicians are all local musicians we greatly admire and very good friends of ours ran all the local studios we recorded in. Montreal filmmaker Amy Torok directed our video for “Leg of Lamb” and Montreal artist and former USA member Andrew Dickson did our artwork. Beyond that I think Montreal just tends to foster a lot of creativity and is really supported by people who are truly passionate about culture. I would say Montreal has had a huge impact on us and I definitely think of our debut as a very “Montreal” record.
Do you find your influences very similar to those back when you started?
S.O.F.: I suppose my influences haven’t really changed that much from five years ago when the band started as I am probably pretty stuck in my ways. When the band started we played everything from technical metal to d-beat/noise/hardcore/Goth. We were actually rudderless and just grasping while over utilizing technical ability. After an aborted recording of an e.p. we finally starting to hone in on our sound and started to dig deep to capture minimalist and emotional aspects that we felt needed to be communicated. We seemed to fade out the individual musicians and concentrated on trying to create a unified sound. A personal influence when we did the record was E.L.O’s Jeff Lynne. His panoramic scope, rich tapestry of sounds, song craft and incredible attention to detail continues to be a personal inspiration, which I’m sure, will leak into the next record.
What are some of the main drivers for your creative process?
S.O.F.: I think there definitely needs to be a good song at the root of everything. We love experimental music but also have great admiration for traditional song structure and craft. If we can make things interesting and hopefully carve out something that we find is unique while exposing growth we’re off to a good start but the songs also have to evoke some sort of emotion from us and hopefully translate to the listener to really guide the creative process. While I have great respect for recluse artists like Jandek for me art is about communication and sharing.
What motivated you to assemble so many different guests for this record? Can you introduce them here?
They were all friends and were just incredibly talented people. When you work with such a great group of people the work suddenly takes scenic detours from their given destinations and this is when the magic happens. Some parts were written for people while others were free to improvise. Their indelible mark left on the record was huge.
You’re on the verge of your short American trek this month. Are there more touring plans for H1 2015? Any chance to see you guys live in Europe sometime soon?
If everything goes well on the Besnard Lakes tour we are hoping to do a complete North American tour in the early summer followed by a tour of Europe in September. We just recently started talking to a person who wants to bring us to Europe and we’re really crossing our fingers for that. We always thought our music would be far more appreciated in Europe than in North America.
Considering the demanding and complex nature of your tunes, do you have to do any sort of training to prepare for a tour?
We rehearse twice a week around people’s work schedules. We can be pretty musically inconsistent so we really need to practice as much as possible. On the new songs as well as the rewrites with the “Crashing…” songs we now utilize four part vocal harmonies with my one time role as a lead singer greatly reduced. Vocal harmonies are the hardest work for us and we spend just as much time and effort practicing acapella harmonies as we do the music.
Tell us about your favorite places to play shows. What venues and spots would you recommend us to check out?
We have not really played that many shows when you consider we have been together for five years. I don’t really have a favorite as each show is about the same to me. I enjoy shows when people are completely unfamiliar with the band and seem to enjoy bad reactions as much as good ones. My band mates would probably not agree with this.
The 2014 is over and the end of the year marked the funny time of all kinds of summaries and wrap-ups. What was yours? What artists or styles do you think represent next exciting move in art?
I think the most exciting thing is all of the bands that formed last year in all different kinds of genres are doing for all the right reasons. It’s hard for people to give up jobs, security etc. to go on tour with a band and make even less money then they would five years ago. What happens though is the people that have a galvanized artistic vision are rolling with the punches and can’t be stamped out. This makes for really exciting and passionate music.
What does the future hold for USA OUT OF VIETNAM?
We will have the next record done this year and plan on finally getting out on the road. 2015 will be amazing.
Thanks a lot for your time! Any last words for your followers and new listeners out there?
Thanks you so much for doing this interview and thanks to anybody who took the time out to read it! Hopefully we’ll meet this year!