Q&A with Vinny Vegas: "Conquering Our Obstacles Has Made Us Feel Like We Really Earned This Record"
Clear The Walls is a landmark album from progressive rock outfit, Vinny Vegas. In the four years following the 2015 of their album, The Big White Whale, the band has not only seen quite a few changes (five members are now spread across Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and DC) as well as sonic growth, making their newest album their best yet. By harnessing the energy of their live show while putting great care into what songs made it on the record, Vinny Vegas have proven that they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Now that Clear The Walls has been out for a couple of months, the band is now looking toward the future, which includes some Canadian tour dates in November and hopefully some more shows in the midwest soon. Read about Clear The Walls and Vinny Vegas’ sonic journey now below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Vinny Vegas for any readers who might not be familiar?
Jason Cohen: Vinny Vegas started about 8 years ago in Baltimore. Scott and I met in college, and eventually we would get together in my basement and jam a few parts from other bands we liked. Scott was really shy at first when it came to singing but I could hear he had a really good voice , he just needed to get comfortable.
We had no goals of being a band, touring or recording. We just wanted to have fun.
I feel like everything we have done or will do comes down to the question "What if..?"
What if we Played with some other musicians ?
What if got together on a weekly basis? What if we wrote a song?
What if we called ourselves a band?
What if we played a local open mic?
What if we wrote a few songs?
What if we recorded those songs?
What if we did a Baltimore release show for those songs?
What if we played a show outside of Baltimore?
What if we did a few shows in a row?
What if recorded a full length album?
What if we did a 10 day tour?
What if we played in Canada?
What if we shot live videos?
What if made another full length?
As a band who has been deeply involved in the Baltimore music scene for years, how do you feel the local scene has shaped or affected you as musicians?
Baltimore has a lot of talented musicians who focus on creating unique music, collectives, and series. We also have a lot venue owners, diy venues and people that are willing to put in time and take risks if they believe in something. That inspired us to craft something of our own.
A lot of what shaped my playing around the beginning of Vinny Vegas was a weekly improvised collective called "Out of Your Head" held at The Wind Up Space. Each week a group of musicians who had never played music together before would go on stage and completely improvise a set of music in front of an audience.
I watched this for a few years and then eventually was asked to participate. This taught me how to improvise and create in the moment. It taught me how to me how to make quick decisions, listen and play in the moment..
Later I would take some of these ideas back to VV. Our writing process was improvise for a while, record it, listen back and zoom in on our favorite parts. Then we would improvise more until we sculpted the music into something that felt good.
What would you want to change or improve about your local scene?
I don't know if there is anything I would want to change. I think we have a lot of cool stuff happening, and I just want it to continue to grow. I often think about how a lot of touring bands skip Baltimore on their tours, and go straight to DC. That bums me out, not sure how to change that.
This summer, you guys released your second full-length album, Clear the Walls. Going into writing the album, did you have any major goals in mind?
I think we always have the same goal, to write honest music that combines all of our musical influences.
Now that it has been out for a couple of months, what are some of your favorite things about Clear the Walls?
To be honest, I really haven't listened to the album much since we recorded, aside from preparing for shows. It has always been hard for me to listen back to albums after we record them.
My favorite thing about this record was recording it live with the full band in the studio. That was a really magical experience. Typically, we record our tracks separately. Our music ends up sounding precise, but I think it misses the energy of our live performance.
J Robbins did an amazing job capturing, and pulling the best performances out of us. He has a wealth of knowledge, and we have all grown a lot just being around a person like J Robbins. Furthermore, he is an amazing person and his personality makes working with him that much more enjoyable.
Did you come across any obstacles when working on the album? How did you overcome them?
Haaaaaaa! We came across all the obstacles! Every time we try do anything, we are faced with many obstacles. I'm not trying to sound like I'm complaining or asking for sympathy, it's quite the opposite. Conquering our obstacles has made us feel like we really earned this record.
We overcame our obstacles the same way we typically work through our obstacles, we spend a very short amount of time being grumpy about the situation, but ultimately decide to not accept failure as an option.
How do you feel you’ve grown between the release of The Big White Whale and Clear the Walls?
When we first started playing and recording music, I think there was a tendency to squeeze a lot of ideas into to every song. We also had an issue with overplay. In this album we tried to trim the fat of our music, play for the song as much as possible and stretch ideas.
At this point, the band has been through a lot more together, and I think that helps with our bond and writing.
With Clear the Walls out now, do you have any other plans coming up? Maybe some shows or tour dates soon?
Canada in November! Poutine! We are also hoping to make it to the Midwest again. A few things that we have always talked about have been the West Coast and Europe. Not sure if it's in the cards but it would be as sweet as poutine! Can you tell I am excited for poutine?
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for having me. Thanks to all the people that have supported us all these years. It means the world to us. I'm looking forward to eating food with you and sleeping on your floor in the near future.