By MIKE CHAIKEN
Listening to Vacationer’s latest release, “Relief,” the melodies, grooves, and arrangements definitely provide some “relief” from a hectic modern life.
The songs evoke the feeling of sitting on a tropical beach, with a slight wind touched by the sea air blowing over your body, as you’re sipping a mojito or a Corona with a touch of lime.
Vacationer is a definite departure for singer/ bassist Kenny Vasoli, late of pop punkers The Starting Line and then Person L.
Vacationer performs at Bar in New Haven on Oct. 1.
Calling from his home outside of the Philadelphia area, Kenny explained “I’ve been doing the rock and roll thing for a long time. I sort of painted myself into a corner.”
Kenny was finding that rock and roll, especially the kind practiced by his previous groups, was taking a toll on him physically, especially his voice. He said he was finding it harder and harder for his voice to recover after performing the more aggressive material of The Starting Line and Person L.
Kenny said he had been harboring a deep love for electronic music, going back as far as 2005-06. He said he loved the sound of groups such as Portishead and LCD Soundsystem. So, he decided he wanted to take a detour and try something with a deeper groove, that was a little bit more mellow.
With this new direction in mind, Kenny said he sought out the production team of Body Language, i.e. Grant Wheeler and Matthew Young. Kenny described Body Language’s sound as an electronic, space disco sound.
Kenny said he made arrangements with Grant to sit down for an informal recording session. But in that session, the creative chemistry percolated. And by the end of the day, they had a song half written. With that positive experience, Kenny said he and Grant began writing in earnest and found the songs coming fast and furious.
Along the way, said Kenny, they stumbled upon a song that mixed a tropical vibe over a hip hop beat.
“It was exciting to me,” said Kenny. “I never heard anything like it before.”
And that sound served as the basis of what became Vacationer.
(On the band’s Facebook, Vacationer dubs the sound as “Nu Hula.” Although it is apropos, Kenny said the category is more of a tongue in cheek creation than the official genesis of a new genre. It’s his way of having a laugh at such recently constructed genres as “chill wave,” lo-fi, “mod-fi” “no fi,” etc.)
For the songwriting of Vacationer, Kenny said he usually begins with the groove and the music. “The words are the last little piece of the puzzle.”
Writing the lyrics will begin with some mumbling, said Kenny. Along the way, he will latch on to some phrases and words that seem to work with the mood of the music. Eventually, it will all evolve into a full blown song.
Since Vacationer’s music is ripe with mood, Kenny was asked if he does anything in particular to put himself into a different head space when he gets into the recording studio.
Kenny said he has been known to light a few candles and works on getting “as relaxed as possible.” But a lot of times, he said, he doesn’t need any props to get the work done. The music he has created helps invoke the moods he needs to commit the whole shebang to record.
As noted, Kenny’s past includes the groups The Starting Line and Person L. But he said he has never tried to rope fans of those ventures into becoming fans of Vacationer. In fact, he said, he has tried to keep his past separate from his present.
“I’m not trying to promote one with the other,” said Kenny. When Vacationer started, Kenny said he didn’t even mention his relationship with those other groups in his promotional material. Some people recognized his name and made the connection. But he didn’t force-feed that relationship to fans. He wanted Vacationer to stand and fall on its own merits. And some fans of his old groups have found their way to Vacationer, all the same.
For Vacationer, it’s clear on the album “Relief,” the group’s sound is born and anchored in the studio. But when they perform live, Kenny said, “It’s a whole new ball game.”
However, Kenny said the sound itself won’t be much different in a live setting, thanks to technology. That said, although the sound is similar to the record, Kenny said, in a live setting “it takes on a new, organic band flavor.”
Vacationer performs at Bar, 254 Crown St., New Haven on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 9:30 p.m.
For more information, go to BarNightClub.com or VacationerMusic.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN