On the Water surprised us in 2011 with one of the most impressive local releases of that year with their debut EP Anchor. Born from the mind of Da Comrade!’s Fletcher VanVliet, this solo folk project has expanded to as much as a nine-piece plus special guests for the recording of the band’s first LP False Starts. VanVliet has been on the road performing as a trio for all of March and the beginning of April in support his new release. He’s currently making a pit stop home for a little recovery time and to celebrate his latest accomplishment with friends, fans and the rest of his band members tomorrow night at The Beaumont Warehouse before taking on the second leg of his tour. We caught up with VanVliet yesterday to find out more about the recording of False Starts, how tour has been going so far, and much more HERE.
Where Is My Mind?: On the Water's Fletcher VanVliet
- by Q.D. Tran
On the Water surprised us in 2011 with one of the most impressive local releases of that year with their debut EP Anchor. Born from the mind of Da Comrade!’s Fletcher VanVliet, this solo folk project has expanded to as much as a nine-piece plus special guests for the recording of the band’s first LP False Starts. VanVliet has been on the road performing as a trio for all of March and the beginning of April in support his new release. He’s currently making a pit stop home for a little recovery time and to celebrate his latest accomplishment with friends, fans and the rest of his band members tomorrow night at The Beaumont Warehouse before taking on the second leg of his tour. We caught up with VanVliet yesterday to find out more about the recording of False Starts, how tour has been going so far, and much more below.
The Deli: A lot of your recordings sound like all of you are performing the songs together in the studio. Was there much overdubbing or vocals and instruments being recorded in separate sessions on this album?
Fletcher VanVliet: The full band songs were recorded live with a nine-piece band playing with some mostly minor overdubbing added later. “Dog Eat Dog” and “Child” were originally recorded as duets with Jesse Sparhawk. “Dog Eat Dog” was a piece I had played with Micah from Da Comrade! for years, so he was always in my mind for the track. I reached out to the collective members for their ideas, and also roped in Maxwell from Wood Spider to lend a few extra touches of Singing Saw.
TD: Why did you name the album False Starts?
FV: There was a point where we were going to scrap all or most of the live band sessions and start again. We might have come up with an even better record. Who knows? But I think it was for the best to just accept our flaws and just keep moving forward. I’m glad that we did. I think we got something really special. A big deciding factor was that Liana had already left the group, and we would have lost that element. She really played some fantastic parts.
TD: You are the lead songwriter. Do you come to the band with a good idea of what instruments you’d like to hear in a song, or do you tend to just jam on basic ideas sorting things out with more input from the rest of the band?
FV: Everyone in the group usually has something wonderful to contribute. I don’t believe in limiting anyone. I don’t have any expectations. We’ve evolved to the point where I bring an almost complete work to the table, and people start writing their parts, and it begins to shape the final contours as I finish the writing process.
TD: You are also in an avant-garde band, Da Comrade! What inspired you to start doing folk music under the moniker On the Water?
FV: Da Comrade! was such a huge part of my life. As it stands, we’ve been on a hiatus for about a year, although we did very gently release our album Chariot a couple months back. It’s available for free at dacomrade.bandcamp.com. On The Water had been my solo moniker (in my head) for a couple of years, and it slowly and casually evolved into a group. Myself and friends used to run a collective house called Chernobyl. We got our start as one of the house bands opening up for our touring friends. It was fun to do. There was no stress about recording or touring - just us having fun at home.
TD: Was there a defining moment when you realized that you wanted to move forward with this being your main project?
FV: There was no conscious effort on my part to move away from Da Comrade! We got to do some sweet stuff like play with Dr. Dog for a couple days on the road and perform with Monotonix for their final U.S. show, but I think we were all pretty frustrated by the end. We had spent so much time, energy and money on the project, but after five years, we were still treading the same ground, and I think that in part broke our spirits. At the same time, On The Water had recorded its first EP, and the reaction to that was extraordinary, so the path we’re on now just opened up naturally.
TD: Who are some folk artists that you admire, and why?
FV: America has a fantastic underground music scene with a gigantic scope of genre, but there are some particularly great bands playing experimental folk. Wood Spider is simply fantastic. Spirits of the Red City from Minneapolis are one of the best bands I have ever seen live, and were a huge inspiration when forming On The Water. Their members live across the entire country, but they come together every year to tour and make music together, and it’s marvelous. Philadelphia’s own Bad Braids are definitely something else. Megan is such a stellar songwriter. I believe their new album is about to drop which I’m very excited to hear.
TD: You just went on an extensive tour. How many band members did you take with you? How did it go? Were there any cities that were surprisingly supportive of your music?
FV: We were traveling as a three-piece, which seems so small when compared with what you get here at home, but I’d like to think we brought a great show. Taylor and I toured last year as well, and it was great to hook up with our friends in the south. Our return to Fayetteville, AR was particularly glorious. Some friends there run a DIY venue called The Pleasure Chest, which attracts a phenomenal crowd of folks. I’d say they can almost match West Philly for team spirit. Tour is not quite over with. We head out for the second leg of tour on the 24th. We’re home now for the release show and to spend a few weeks recovering.
TD: What did you learn from this tour that you could share as a protip to young acts getting ready to start hitting the road?
FV: This was the first tour I’ve done with any band that we stayed in hotels for a few nights. We book DIY tours and play a lot of house parties/DIY spaces, so a lot of times you end up sleeping on couches or floors, showering in dirty fucking showers. It is a GODSEND to have a clean shower and clean bed for the night. If morale is low and you can afford it, pamper yourselves.
TD: You’ve been involved with the Philly indie music community for a good amount of time now. How has it changed for the better and the worse since you’ve been part of it?
FV: It’s always in a state of change, but I definitely wouldn’t say for better or worse. It’s always a shame to see a band you love call it quits. But what can you do? The important thing I see is a pervasive desire to create new and challenging dynamics, to defy expectations within genre. That was so inspiring to me when I moved to the city eight years ago, and that hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s gotten better with time.
TD: What’s your favorite thing to get at the deli?
FV: A chargrilled pork hoagie from FU WAH in West Philly. So goooood.
Son Step, a band consisting of Jon Coyle, Pat Lamborn, Chris Coyle and Matt Scarano holding down multiple duties, is an eclectic Philly act with leanings towards avant-pop. They’ve been building their reputation around town as a well-respected unit among artists in the local music community. The four-piece will be bringing their unique sounds to Johnny Brenda’s tonight opening for Caveman, who are former winners of The Deli’s Best of NYC Year End Poll and also most recently put out a beautiful self-titled sophomore LP via Fat Possum. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 9pm, $10, 21+ - H.M. Kauffman
This evening is the kick off to the 2nd Annual XPN Music Film Festival (from April 11 - 14), who is once again collaborating with the Philadelphia Film Society. There will be 17 film screenings that will include documentaries, biopics about musicians, and movies that have distinctive music soundtracks. A few of our suggestions would be Freak Night (“video document of The Flaming Lips’ famed 2012 Halloween show”), The Punk Singer (a documentary about Bikini Kill/Le Tigre/The Julie Ruin’s Kathleen Hanna), Good Ol’ Freda (“the story of Freda Kelly, a shy Liverpudlian teenager asked to work for a young local band hoping to make it big: the Beatles”), and Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. You can check out the rest of the of festival’s schedule HERE.
We have to admit that this weather has us daydreaming and taking long walks during work. Here's a sweet new mixtape, Mugga Man, from GrandeMarshall to help us and you get through the rest of the workweek. Enjoy!
Hi-dee-ho - we've got another rad ticket giveaway as well as a 7" vinyl for you! Enter to win a pair of tix to kick-ass NYC trio Skaters' show this Saturday at Kung Fu Necktie. You'll also receive their release I Wanna Dance (But I Don't Know How), which you can pick up at the door. Joining them on the bill will be Odonis Odonis, who are about to go on tour with Metz, and Philly garage-soul outfit The Shakes. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Skaters Rule!" and your cell number in the body (only to be used in case of emergency). Good luck!
Belgrade (featuring current and former members of Restorations, Ink & Dagger, The Progress, Metroplex and Brass) premiered a new song earlier today called "Consolation Prize" via Alternative Press. It's the closing track off their forthcoming self-titled debut album, which is scheduled for release digitally on April 16. The vinyl will be available at the band's record release show on Friday, April 26 at Kung Fu Necktie.
Tonight Silk City and Deathwaltz will be providing some heady electro dance vibes. Local DJ/production crew Les Professionnels will be gettin’ things started. The trio is currently working on a new full-length album, and they have a collaboration with rising Philly emcee Gliss also in the works entitled High on the Weekday that will hopefully see the light of day sooner than later. Les Professionnels will be opening for former Philly resident Ryat, who now calls LA home and most recently released her album TOTEM this past summer via Flying Lotus’ record label Brainfeeder. Also sandwiched between both of their sets are Beam&Deem, who are part of the (mostly) Philly-based Altered Ego Collective. Silk City, 435 Spring Garden St., 9pm, $7, 21+ - H.M. Kauffman
Check out a standout track from On the Water's latest album False Starts called "Tumor"! The band has been on an extensive national tour in support of the record, and they'll be celebrating its release this Friday, April 12 at The Beaumont Warehouse. Enjoy!
With his new record Wakin On A Pretty Daze (Matador), Kurt Vile continues his spellbinding nature. The follow-up to 2011’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, once again, finds legendary producer John Agnello assuming the reins, guiding Philly’s “constant hitmaker” on his latest journey.
The album begins with the epic nine-plus-minutes song, “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” in which Vile confesses his intentions - “Waking the dawn of day, I gotta think about what I want to say…it’s hard to explain my hurt in this daze.” Laced between an eerily comfortable marriage of familiar mercurial electric and steadily strumming acoustic guitars, Vile’s alluring, hazy comforts draw you in as the song raises you out of your slumber. As he lifts the sleep from your eyes, the prolific songwriter announces his intentions in the following track “KV Crimes” - amid a raunchy guitar riff and a steady percussive backdrop - “that’s fine I think I’m ready to claim what’s rightfully mine” - injecting short bursts of guitar as if to flex his muscle.
“Was All Talk” has an aquatic-running musical vibe with its “The Boys of Summer”-esque intro, establishing a customarily complex, yet comfortably moving feel, while coasting along as Vile confidently professes, “In the sea of storm, making music is easy. Watch me.” Spiraling guitars and snappy drums set the stage for “Girl Called Alex” as the mood darkens and intensifies. “I want to live all the time in my fantasy infinity; there, I’ll never be abandoned; there, I’ll have a handle against everything.”
“Never Run Away” is one of the songs that grabs you instantaneously in its addictive simplicity - an effortlessly clean acoustic strumming pattern matched with an equal to the task drumbeat and Vile’s drawn-out spoken/sung vocals that have long been compared to the legendary Lou Reed. It’s a casual groove that seems to tighten up with every additional listen. While “Pure Pain” continues an ongoing trend of establishing a musical identity riff/percussion/vocal, it has a surprising shift as if the guitar decides to uproot. As you hear Vile’s changes purposely dragging along the neck, a marching beat comes to the forefront, leading way to a short elegant solo before he backtracks into its previously assumed position, and then as if battling itself, shape shifts yet again.
“Shame Chamber” is yet another simple sounding song that is anything but that. A quick riff that is joined on the journey by an arrangement that becomes increasingly complex, adding layers as if Vile strolls through another story that despite its multiple facets and heavy lyrical content retains a lightness. In “Air Bud,” he ventures through a spacey, fuzz intro that lands on his steady, easy-going roots, and then the musical interludes are stretched out, forming a terrain that is vast but focused. He elaborates on the final song, which easily floats along on its acoustic-founded riff layered with elevating key work, “I might be adrift, but I’m still alert, concentrating my hurt into a goldtone.”
Vile is continuously refining his art while also diving into new exploratory depths. He is an artist that has proven to mature with every new endeavor, and Wakin On A Pretty Daze shines from the start, etching its way into your mind with each comforting note. - Michael Colavita