Q&A with Vance Kotrla of Sci-Fi Romance

Sci-Fi Romance's upcoming release, Dust Among the Stars (out January 2016) marks a turning point for the group. With an entirely new outlook and new goals for the new release, and an already stellar single released in the form of "If I Fell," Dust Among the Stars promises to start 2016 off strong for Sci-Fi Romance.

Watch the video for "If I Fell" below, and pre-order Dust Among the Stars now here.

Interview by Dom Vigil

You are just getting ready to release your new album, Dust Among The Stars. Can you tell us a little bit about the release? Was there anything you really wanted to be able to accomplish with it?

In a lot of ways, my approach to this album was a reaction to the process of the last record. The Ghost of John Henry was a concept album, which came with a sort of built-in emotional arc, and I wanted to hang onto that. So even though there wasn't a unifying concept behind the songs on Dust Among the Stars, I was really hoping to find a way to create a satisfying emotional journey across the album as a whole. Sonically, too, the last record had a very deliberately earthy, human, flaws-and-all kind of sound because that fit the nature of the story we were telling. But to go in a little bit of a different direction, I wanted to try to achieve a little more lush, more-polished sound this time out. I think part of it was probably just ego, to let people know that yes, when I want to I can sometimes play a guitar without clanging my fingers off of random, inappropriate strings. 

What changes or noticeable areas of growth can be heard on Dust Among The Stars?

I made a conscious effort to try to stretch everything I could. So as a songwriter, guitarist, singer, (and on a couple of tracks, drummer), I pushed hard to try new things. I don't know that I'm capable, creatively, of saying "I'm going to do something different now," but once I had the bones of a song, I might ask myself, "Where can I go from here that's unexpected?" or "What if I just scream for this whole song?" Most of those experiments were pushed too far in the demo process, and then pulled back to where they felt organic and that they supported the emotional core of the songs for the finished recording. I think there's a lot of joy in taking those kinds of risks, and you wind up with something in the end you never would've gotten to otherwise.

What would you say was your biggest challenge when working on the new album? How did you overcome it?

Life. Our drummer emeritus, who played on the John Henry record, became a father for the first time, and not long after that my wife and I found out we were expecting surprise twins. This was right as we were thinking we had enough new material to head into the studio, and all of it got put on hold. I wound up writing some more songs that became a big part of the eventual record, a new drummer came on board, and we finally were able to make the recordings happen. I think in the end I just loved the songs and was too pig-headed to give up on the thing. 

What are you most proud of on Dust Among The Stars?

I think in the end, even though we wound up only having maybe six days to record the album, in a lot of ways it was a completely uncompromised effort. Despite the setbacks, and the upheaval in the band, and the delays, and a...brisk...recording schedule, what came out of the process was I'm pretty sure the best version of the album I wanted to make. And good lord, Jody's cello playing is outstanding. 

You recently released the music video for “If I Fell.” What does this track mean to you?

In some ways, that was the song that helped the album come into focus for me. It's a relationship song about uncertainty, and I always knew it was going to be on the final version of the album, even though some other tracks were kind of a question mark. So that core in "If I Fell" of a relationship balancing on the head of a pin, that could go in a positive direction or a negative one -- in a lot of ways that became the core of the album, too. There's not a concept to this record, but it's certainly an exploration of different kinds of relationships, with different outcomes. 

I read that your love of film helped inspire the music video for “If I Fell” - can you tell us a little bit about it?

I love cult films, and outsider films, and cultural artifacts that really capture a particular zeitgeist -- the way almost every 1950s sci-fi radio story was really about Communism, for instance -- and so I seek out things like that. Down one of those rabbit holes I found a 1950s trade show advertising film that I wound up cutting about two-thirds out of to make the video for "If I Fell." It felt like such a odd gem -- this strange, magical, futuristic love story wrapped around product shots of station wagons and blenders....and starring Cyd Charisse and William Holden look-alikes. 

Would you say that your interest in film and the arts also served as inspiration for the album? 

Yeah, for sure. Anything that is emotionally resonant for me is going to be something I draw inspiration from. If you look at the October EP we put out last year, each track is directly inspired by a classic horror movie. At some point this is all just in my veins, and anything creative that comes out of me is going to be informed by it.

What would you like listeners to be able to take away from Dust Among The Stars, or even just your music in general?

I tend to write sad songs. Those are often the ones that speak most directly to me. But I don't write hopeless songs. The beauty of sad songs, to me, is the way they remind us that we're never alone. I feel like hell, and that person singing this song felt like hell, and we're both going to live to tell about it, you know? They can be reminders of our connection to each other, and if somebody got that feeling from one of our records, or one of our songs, if anybody saw themselves in there somewhere and felt a little better about where they're at, I'd be pretty happy.

With Dust Among The Stars dropping in January, do you have any other big plans to follow for the new year?

I'm animating a music video for the next single right now, so that'll land right after the new year, I scored a movie over the summer, and that'll hopefully find a release or hit some festivals in 2016, and there are a few tracks we recorded that didn't feel at home on this record, so maybe those will see the light of day at some point. You never can tell. 

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you. I think I'll just steal a page from Bill and Ted and say "Be excellent to each other."

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