You Vandal - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview You Vandal. We discussed the writing and recording process for new album, ‘Pretend I Don’t Exist’, the evolution of the band, the inspiration behind “Ghosted”, the band’s vocal dynamics, vinyl variants, and more. Check it out below. 

First, thanks for the interview.

GOOCH: Shoot, thanks for chatting with us!

ERIC: Yeah, of course. Happy to do it.

You recently released your new album ‘Pretend I Don’t Exist’. Can you tell me about the writing and recording process for the album?

ERIC: Originally, we had thought about doing several shorter releases instead of a proper full-length. So there were various fragments or versions of all 12 songs floating around when we started the process, but we were only focusing on fine-tuning like four at a time. We might be finishing up the tracking on batch #1 by the time batch #2 is completely written and ready to record, with batch #3 still just being loose outlines needing attention.

GOOCH: This was cool because it felt very “studio session-y.” Eric and Scott would get everything set on guitar and drums respectively, and then we’d all contribute to the skeletons. You know... like muscles, bones, skin, teeth, hair, and cool hats. Eric and Alex are naturally born producers at this point. Alex finds the best sounds. Eric has a knack for reeling my songs in and getting them cohesive. Also, I'm pretty sure I spent one guitar session without pants.

ERIC: Yeah, Gooch usually reaches peak recording prowess when freed from the bindings of society's mandated leg restrictors. Or at least that's what he keeps telling me.

What changed or evolved in your songwriting process from your previous material?

GOOCH: A wild Scott and Gooch appeared! Neither of us got to work on a You Vandal record until now. I’m actually a “one-time-failure” at writing for the band. I was briefly in the band a long time ago, but broke my hand and went back to school before I could contribute anything worthwhile...except for a riff that eventually made its way into "Running in Place." And again, Scott is such a grand drummer. To invert what some doctor said: “Scott, you just [do] get it, do ya?"

ERIC: Agreed. Having new writing partners in Gooch and Scott was definitely an evolution for the band, and they've both been exciting and positive additions. Alex and I also swapped instruments for this record, with me switching over to guitar and Alex now on bass. Our personal approaches to each instrument have some differences that might stand out compared to our past material. And we also didn't overthink our sound as much this time around. Before, we might question whether something sounded like what we thought You Vandal was supposed to sound like, but not now. As long as we thought it was fun or cool, it made the record.

“Ghosted” is one of my favorite songs from the album. Can you tell me more about writing that song specifically? What was some of your musical and/or lyrical inspiration?

ERIC: This song is about a friend I had who, as the lyrics explain, ghosted me for a period for no clear reason I could discern. I took it hard at the time, and it made me question the friend, the friendship, and myself. But we're cool now - they were just going through their own shit at the time, as we all occasionally do. I'd also like to clarify that this song was written pre-COVID, so the "mask" references are purely metaphorical and not any kind of statement on masking. 

Musically, this song has kind of an interesting story. Our friends Wolf-Face had a song called "She's in Heat" that was very different instrumentally from what they normally did. I always thought the vocal melodies were super catchy, so we did a re-imagining of it for a FEST exclusive limited four-band split 10" a few years ago on Swamp Cabbage Records. We did all sorts of rearranging to it and wrote new parts that weren't in the original song. But we were really stoked on the music and virtually no one ever heard that track... so we rewrote our re-imagining with our own lyrics and melodies and more parts to make a pure You Vandal song out of it. And ironically enough on the Wolf-Face connection, the bridge in this song is derived from a song called "Wolf Man Shreds" from a band Alex and I had in 2012 called The Holy Shits.

GOOCH: Any of my guitar parts were really simple notes that I would pull from applicable open chords. I wanted to play subtlety because there’s so much getting showcased vocally. Then when the bridge comes along, Eric provides the cooler riffs and licks as the vocals take a brief break.

One thing I really like about your band is the vocal dynamics you have. Was that something you discovered early on in your band?

ERIC: Yes, and no. We've always enjoyed having a lot of stacked vocals, harmonies, back-and-forths, and so on. We may go a little overboard with it sometimes, but I personally love that style and also love the process of creating those arrangements. But having Gooch on now as a second voice and co-lead in places is something new. We've wanted that type of two-vocalist dynamic for a long time, but it hadn't been practical or possible in previous lineups. It opens up new possibilities, and creates an extra layer of dynamics with us having such different voices. I can hit all the whiny choirboy parts, and he can push out all the gravelly gruff stuff.

GOOCH: I actually like to think I’m the angelic voice. I don’t know what everyone else is talking about. We really like dual vocalist bands, so once I rejoined on guitar, I was also able to bring my voice along. Eric gave me sound clips of harmonies and we would practice quite a lot.

You released a vinyl pressing for the album, which featured some cool variants. Can you tell me more about the vinyl and the packaging? Do you have a favorite variant?

ERIC: The album cover photo comes from a series called "I'm Not There" by Pol Úbeda Hervàs. The full layout was arranged by our good friend Daniel Williams (@seeingclearly on IG) who did all the artwork on our last album (I Just Want to Go Back to Hell), and also does flyers and miscellaneous design stuff for us. The vinyl variants both came out beautifully, and I think they're both the best looking physical products we've ever put out. The main variant is an awesome white with evergreen splatter, and then there's a subscription club variant that is probably my personal favorite...

GOOCH: Most definitely join the Jump Start Records Subscription Club! That exclusive split clear-evergreen variant is my favorite too. You also get other awesome releases from our JS brethren. But the splatter option is rad too!

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

GOOCH: Thanks again! We’ve got some shows in the south coming up, so I’m stoked for ’em!

ERIC: Yeah, thanks for asking us! We're excited for people to check out the new album. Like Gooch mentioned, we've got some shows around Florida and Georgia coming up very soon... but we'll be playing shows all over the place in the coming months, so keep an eye out for that.

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