When last we left The Vacant Lots, they had just finished establishing themselves as one of the preeminent bands in psych rock, while performing at the Austin Psych Fest. Formed by Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen, the duo takes as much inspiration from Bo Diddley and The Stooges as it does from Andy Warhol and Arthur Rimbaud. They have developed their own sound, producing an immense, unrelenting, sonic assault with just two people, combining a minimalist aesthetic of rock n roll with hypnotic guitar riffs, Native American influenced drumming, electronic drones, poetry-driven lyrics and live visual projections. Sania talked to the guys, while on the road for their current tour with The Growlers.
Sania: Last time we left off with you guys it was just slightly prior to the release of the High/Low 7″ on the Reverberation Appreciation Society label. What are some of your thoughts on the finished product now that it’s had some time to be out for all to hear?
Brian: I remember first hearing Roger’s mix for the A Side when I was living in Montreal. It was late at night and I was lying down on my friend’s carpet, listening in headphones. It just took me over and it’s as powerful to me today as it was on that first exposure.
Sania: You somewhat recently toured California with the Cosmonauts and Lovely Bad Things. How was that? I find the west coast to be incredibly inspiring in regards to landscape, history, and energy. Did you also have a chance to fall under its spell?
Brian: The change of scenery from the East Coast’s endless green all around to the desolate beauty of the West Coast’s highways certainly helped the long drives go by a little easier.
Sania: On the subject of tours, you’re on the road right this moment with The Growlers through the southern States. That’s an interesting pairing taking sound and presentation into consideration, but in some ways it makes sense. It’ll be a great time for those in attendance. What have you got planned for this go around?
Jared: We’re trying something new with the performances for this tour. We’ve re-imagined our setlist to incorporate new songs that will be on the debut LP.
Sania: The contribution you made to our Artist’s Top Ten of ’12 was really killer, would you care to elaborate on some sounds that stuck out in the year of Doomsday? If it really were the end, which album would you go out to?
Brian: The Fire Engine’s Fond.
Jared: I wouldn’t mind dying to Albert Ayler.
Sania: What is the status on the LP? Whom have you guys chosen to work with on it’s production?
Jared: We’re done recording and in the process of mixing it right now. We’re really excited how it’s shaping up, and have a nice surprise on who we’re working with to mix and produce the album. We’ll announce more details soon.
Sania: What’s it like to be in the studio with TVL?
Jared: There’s a lot of uncertainty, going thru the unknown. The studio lends itself to a place where we can create things on the spot, and simultaneously come into it with a lot of ideas and our overall vision that we have for the songs and the album as a conceptual whole. We try to create an atmosphere in the studio that has a certain balance of chaos and order within a controlled environment.
Brian: There’s a great deal of experimentation that occurs in the studio. There’s something about the context of a recording studio that alters my headspace and allows us to approach musical ideas in a different way.
Sania: You’ve been spending a lot of time in our neck of the woods, down in Austin, this past year. Two music festivals, Austin Psych Fest, and Psychedelic Light & Sound, along with putting in studio time. What’s the deal? Have you fallen in love with the city, or is it merely a opportunistic infatuation?
Brian: Between the warm reception at shows and the friends we’ve made in town, it’s certainly a spot that we had an instant attraction to and always a great place to come through.
Jared: There’s something about Austin I can’t quite put my finger on, something magnetic about the city. It’s been a positive experience working with the Reverberation Appreciation Society and the Black Angels’ sound engineer Brett Orrison.
Sania: Set for a Spring release, there’s a new song called 6 am that will be featured on a compilation EP 7″ put together by label Sonic Cathedral, Psych for Sore Eyes, with some other cool names like The Band in Heaven. It comes complete with 3D effects, and mastered by Sonic Boom, wow. Some narration on how 6 am came to life?
Brian: It all began with the first demo I recorded while living in Montreal. Its early incarnation had a much more synth driven, High And Low vibe to it, but after several rehearsals it took on a darker, unrelenting intensity that we stuck with for the 7″ version. Jared and I did the final mix at Brett Orrison’s studio in Austin.
Sania: Tell us about the documentary coming out this spring about you guys, 2 Chords 1 Drone 3 Drums? The trailer looks rad. What does it focus on, exactly? How were you approached about the idea, and what are some of your feelings on it?
Jared: Bret Zausmer got in touch with us before our west coast tour. He’s worked with some other groups on the Reverberation Appreciation Society. He came down to our show in LA, shot some footage and did an interview. That night he told us he could see something more for this project, and ended up coming to the next two shows to shoot. The film is continuing to develop over time, but will primarily help capture the vision of the group.