It’s 5pm at ArcTanGent Festival and I am on my way to being smashed. Outside, the rain is coming down like a right bastard – proper apocalyptic weather – but luckily, I’m in the shelter of a massive wooden barn just off site, where all the press is being sorted. It’s here where I get the chance to sit down with Glaswegian post-rock quartet Vasa, mere hours away from their ArcTanGent debut.
Whilst guitarists Blaine and Scott are no strangers to the festival, having visited as punters every year, bassist John is experiencing all the joys for the first time, getting fidgety in anticipation of their debut on the PX3 stage. Motioning to the ominous weather, he jests ”…That to contend with – ho-ly shit. It’s gonna be fun though, I’m looking forward to it…Getting impatient now. Been waiting the whole weekend; just wanna play.”
Looking past ArcTanGent to the rest of the year, the month of October is shaping up to be a busy one for Vasa. As well as an appearance at Manchester’s Carefully Planned Festival and their first ever European tour (more on that later), October 16th will see the four-piece release their debut album ‘Colours’. Interestingly, the title of the album is derived from guitarist Blaine’s experiences with synaesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second. Picked up during the writing process, for Blaine it results in chromesthesia, in which colours are triggered when musical notes are being played. Pretty fucking sweet, eh?
An initial glimpse of Colours came in the form of the brilliantly titled ‘Fat Ronaldo’, released in early August. “It kind of snuck up on us, ‘cus we’ve had the album finished for quite a while now.” admits Scott, continuing “We’ve just been sitting on it, waiting to release it. All of a sudden, it just crept up and then it was out. I was just at work and then I checked Twitter; there were like fucking 50 notifications or whatever and I was like, shit – did we release the song today? The receptions been great though, really positive”
“It’s refreshing to put a song out that I’ve worked on as well, that was cool.” adds drummer Niall “There was the two track we put out a while ago, but that was like older songs. It was nice to do that, it felt good – felt really good.”
The two track release ‘Clamps’ was an introduction of sorts for drummer Niall, but it’s their latest offering where he’s really been able to shine – though plans for the future have already crept in amongst the band “…I was more re-working a lot of stuff than re-writing or writing anything,” reflects Niall, continuing “I think maybe two and a half songs may have been written from scratch, and that was with me…I’m just excited to do the next thing now, I’m there already”
Bassist John adds “We had to get Niall in to learn everything before that and then everything we were writing to re-work it and get it finished. Tons of practice – loads of practice. I’m kind of looking forward to writing the next thing as well”
“I think that happens to a lot of bands,” ponders Scott “they write the material, then it takes a while to record it or you’ve got to sit on it for a while. By the time it actually comes out, you’re at the point where you’re ready to move onto the next thing, but nobodies actually heard it yet. You forget that sometimes”
Vasa emerged on the scene in late 2011, putting out their debut EP not long after. The aforementioned Clamps was a glimpse into their future and what they had in store for people come album time. On their journey to the release of Colours, Scott comments “There’s a lot of bands that probably put out an EP or a couple of EPs, then they might stop being a band or whatever. So to get to the album – not that many bands end up releasing an actual album, a lot of smaller bands I mean. It’s good to get to that stage. It feels like more of an achievement than getting an EP together, like three or four songs – just the first songs you write”
Recording took place at The Ranch Production House in Southampton, which has housed work from the likes of Rolo Tomassi, Press To Meco, Creeper and Milk Teeth, to name a few.
“It was a bonding experience,” smiles Niall “Two weeks on a farm… in February”
Seemingly having flashbacks to the 2AM late night dashes outside for a piss, Blaine sarcastically adds “With outdoor showers…and toilets. Wonderful”
Niall reliably informs me that he and John finished their required parts within the first three days, leaving them ample time to focus on more important tasks. Namely playing PlayStation, listening to music and rinsing Peep Show (“...that’s how we came up with the name ‘Ergonomic Keyboard’ for a song” adds Blaine.)
“We were properly away for two weeks, like away from home, away from everything, for two weeks just doing the record.” Confirms Scott “Whenever we’ve recorded before, it’s been fairly local to Glasgow, so we could just go home every night. We were staying at the studio; we had accommodation there, so that was all we did for two weeks”
“We were kind of the only people we saw for two weeks. We didn’t have any human contact” smiles Niall, with Scott noting that the only other faces they saw were those of the poor, late-shift souls at Sainsbury’s.
Leading up to the release of Colours, early October will see Vasa bottling up Irn-Bru from the taps and packing their bags, as they head out on their first European tour. Fellow Glaswegians Mountains Under Oceans will be along for the ride too, with Luxembourg, France, Germany and a host of other countries not really knowing what they’re letting themselves in for…
“It’ll be great fun, I’m really looking forward to it.” beams John. “Marty from Alright The Captain has told us so many times that Europe’s really cool. A lot of folk have told us it’s a really good place to tour – merch flies away. It’s just a really good experience. I think we’re at the point where we need to go as well, ‘cus we’ve done four or five UK tours now. We kind of need to tour somewhere completely different…”
Pondering the language barrier that’s slightly relieved for an instrumental band, Niall comments “…I don’t know any other languages, and we’re going to all these other countries. I think being an instrumental band is interesting in that sense; you can go to any country and anyone will understand what you’re doing. I just think that’s cool. I’m looking forward to that kind of thing. It makes it a lot easier to make friends; that’s my favourite part about playing music…It’s really cool being able to connect with people from other countries, that may not understand what you’re saying, but if you like each other’s music – it works out“
With the European tour and the release of their debut album on the horizon, the mood in camp Vasa is pretty peachy at the moment. As the official debut, Colours is a great introduction for Vasa. Developing on the sound they’ve created and pushing the boundaries to near breaking point, it will hopefully establish them as one to watch within the next year. “…If someone was to listen to the EP and they’d maybe missed the singles, and they came to the album, they’d be pretty surprised at how it sounds.” confirms Scott. “It sounds like a different band recorded that”
So having sat on the album for quite a while now, how do they feel about it?
“I give it 2 out of 10” smiles Scott.
Niall nods in agreement, adding “2 out of 10 – reprehensible. That’s my review”