Interview With Vandemonian Frontman Nick
"You Can't Be Silent These Days"
The Hamburg post-rock band Vandemonian recently released their great debut album "Xenophilia". I have now arranged an interview with frontman Nick.
Unlike many other post-rock bands, Vandemonian don't renounce singing. This is mainly because they have a very clear political opinion, which they want to represent openly. And how could this be done better than in the form of lyrics? I talked to Nick about this and about the current global situation.
Anne: Hi Nick! Thank you for agreeing to this interview! How are you doing? You've just released your debut album "Xenophilia" with Vandemonian. I guess now you are spending your time with the promotion? How is the response so far?
Nick: The response is really good. People are saying good things, and although we can't promote it on stage, it's still great to finally have it out there.
Anne: I think you did quite an excellent job with "Xenophilia". Are you happy with the outcome of your work?
"I am happy how 'Xenophilia' turned out"
Nick: Yeah, I'm really happy with how it's turned out. Once we had finished the mixing and mastering, I couldn't listen to it anymore. I knew every nuance of the whole record, so that made me avoid it for a while, but now with a bit of time to rest my ears, I can enjoy it again.
Anne: What's your favourite song on the album?
Nick: Excommunication. During the writing process, I always had a distinct vibe in mind, and it never quite got there with just the three of us in the band room. Even after adding keys and all the effects and stuff, it was the track that took the most time and effort to mix. But then, after a while, all of a sudden, it all came together. I don't know how many times I changed the sound of that jangly guitar riff, re-recording it, tweaking EQ, delay, everything! Mixing your own music can make you go a bit crazy. Or maybe it's just my perfectionism going out of control!
Anne: What inspires you when you are writing a song?
"I write my songs on the couch"
Nick: Riffs and ideas just come out of nowhere, mostly when I'm doodling about on the guitar. I'll sit on the couch and just mess around aimlessly, and then something will pique my interest, and I'll go, "let's see where this goes". 15 minutes later, there'll be an idea emerging that eventually turns into part of a song. Lyrics tend to build up over time; I'll write down little ideas here and there. A lot of Xenophilia was my way of processing the madness of the past ten years.
"Spherical Development" was written in 2015 at the height of the Syrian war and refugee "crisis". "Jack Ketch" came about during a phase in which I was in a rut resenting my job. "Man Is Invertebrate" was originally a response to a friend disappointing me and somehow morphed into a rant about power and corruption.
Anne: You said that you've contributed from your experience in the audio field when you recorded "Xenophilia". What did you mean by that? Are you a sound engineer?
"I am building my own studio"
Nick: Yeah, I've been doing sound a long time. Live and studio work. I'm in the process of building a little studio in my cellar at home to spend more time recording and mixing. I had a steady job planning multimedia exhibitions for a while but had to get out in the end. I missed the music.
Anne: You've worked on the record from the end of 2018 to 2020. You've told me the long timeline was caused by your involvement in other projects and your job. I can imagine it quite challenging. Like: Every time you come back to the studio and listen to your recordings of the last sessions, you're feeling the urge to change something. Was it like that? Or did you follow a strict plan from the beginning?
"Sometimes you realise at mix number seven that mix number three was perfect"
Nick: Haha, I'm not the planning type of person! But yes, it was a huge learning process to recognise when something is finished and move on. You can tweak sounds into infinity. It won't make it any better after a certain point. It was my first project for a while, so I mixed it to death and had to take a few steps back again. Sometimes you get to Mix number seven and realise Mix number three was perfect!
Anne: Your lyrics are pretty political, which is good, I think. Do you think more bands should use their music to transport important messages like the one you are sending out with "National Insecurity"?
"I grew up listening to Bob Dylan"
Nick: Yeah, I think there is a lot to talk about. "She loves you yeah yeah yeah", has been done to death so that we can put that aside, I think. But I think there is a new movement over the last few years with artists becoming more political. I'm a huge fan of Gareth Liddiard of The Drones, who tells us how screwed up the world is in such a poetic way, and I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and Rage Against the Machine, so the message has always been pretty important. I know many people in the post-rock scene are very anti-vocals, and I was for a while, but I find it's increasingly hard to stay silent with all the stuff that's going on around us.
Anne: What is the song "Jack Ketch" about?
Disillusioned and connected at the same time
Nick: The lyrics to Jack Ketch came to me in the space of about 20 minutes one evening after a day of despair at work. I was questioning my life's path and where I was going and felt really stuck and depressed. Around the same time, the whole net neutrality discussion was happening, and social media was losing its charm as people realised it wasn't bringing us together but keeping us glued to our screens. So the whole anonymity theme came from those three things: feeling disillusioned, lost and alone, but still "connected" through this internet thing. Like, how many people in your life or even your online life truly know who you are on a personal level? My guess is not that many.
Anne: These are challenging times for all of us. How are you dealing with the Corona crisis? Did it affect your work on the album?
Nick: I go between thinking, "keep your head up, it'll be over soon" and "goddam, I'm going crazy" at regular intervals. From March until September last year, work wound down big time, so I had a lot of time to get the album finished, so that was handy, but now trying to promote music without playing shows is challenging. We'd really love to do a live session online and look at a few options right now, but if we're honest, it's not the same. You need to feel the kick drum in your stomach and get all sweaty with the audience to make a gig worthwhile. Alone on your couch is just a drag.
Anne: When did your musical journey start? I've heard about some other projects before/besides Vandemonian?
"I made the live sound at Astra Stube in Hamburg"
Nick: I started playing music with my mates at school. Pretty much every Tuesday and Thursday after school from when we were 14 until we graduated. I think we did some major hearing damage during that time! We'd play punk and rock and all the usual teenager stuff. After moving to Melbourne and then on to Hamburg, I played a lot of music but no serious projects until Vandemonian was eventually born. I used to make the live sound in the Astra Stube, and some of the bands that came through there were phenomenal, which formed a big part of my musical education.
Anne: What's up next for Vandemonian?
Nick: We've got at least half an album of songs that we could work on straight away and start putting the next one together. I seriously hope it doesn't take as long as "Xenophilia", and I am determined to make sure of it! Other than that, some shows once things get going again. We cannot wait for things to go back to normal!