VYIE is a band that writes experimental, synth pop hooks and vocal clouds that take you on journeys in the dark, where reality and fantasy bleed into one another and visions begin. Stories, told by VYIE, may be histories or future perspectives, events from the past or events that haven’t happened yet, and some may be present perspectives. But for more than the entertainment of her wild, imaginative stories, Jessi Monroe and Janey Criss use VYIE as a platform for bringing deathpop (an eskimonic sub-genre characterized by its electronic backbone and layers of darker, melodic clouds) to the forefront of independent music, where sounds are reviewed, discussed and analyzed.
VYIE began in March of 2012, when friends and protagonists of a like-minded cause – Janey and Jessi – stole three days from their lives of post-wizardry and fashioning, of sorts, in order to conduct a musical writing experiment. The result was an assuming product for the formulaic concoction at hand: boisterous synths, curious minors, acoustic elements, playful rhythms and thick, resolute vocals. Shortly following the experiment, Alec Yeager was invited to add thoughtful battery to the equation. Logistics were discussed, and VYIE became.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Criss and Monroe before the band embarked on a February tour (dates below) in support of Nightingale, which drops February 19 via Post-Echo. This is what they said about it…
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
Well, I normally have back catalogues of ideas and half written concepts that I revisit and pull from when working on new material… But this record was very different, on my end anyway. As soon as Janey had an idea and sent it to me, my thoughts just kind of poured out and left no time or space for past consideration. We write in such a strange fashion, living in two different cities. We email demos/voice clips/ beat box mashups/ bass lines/ synth samples/ etc back and forth and when we’re ready, we dig a hole in a closet or a ditch and we record vocals. Somehow it all comes together. -Jessi
Yeah, this is a really new process for me, too, and it doesn’t all have to do with the fact that we live in different cities, though that is a factor. A lot of the material in Nightingale stems from what I was working on as a J.Criss Deathpop side project. I wasn’t sure how that was going to evolve – I was just diligently writing in a musical vein that was new and interesting to me. What’s important to note is that Jessi and I wrote “Darrrk Knight” together before we ever worked on anything else – that was last March. We were in the same room together for like three days writing it from scratch, both contributing musical and lyrical parts and not really knowing where it was going, how it would translate live, etc. When that song was finished, we knew that something great had happened, so we had to step back and figure out the next steps. That’s when we started pulling and sharing ideas and working on material and creating new parts. -Janey
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Hmm, the most difficult… I would say Brave Child, but only because we decided to add it to the record 2 days before we were to go in to master, and we were just starting to lay a new and final batch of vocals on all of the other tracks.. and we still had to mix!!
48 hours later… we were lying on a wooden kitchen table trying to take it all in and decide if we were going to have to reschedule our mastering session. We weren’t sure if the record sounded amazing or like cats pissing on robots, we were so far beyond delirious.
I imagine Janey would have a completely different answer here, as Brave Child is our simplest song, both instrumentally and vocally. Ha! –Jessi
Oh yes, “Brave Child” was the problem child! But, look, VYIE moved incredibly fast at the beginning. After summer, when we had time to finish the record, we had already toured with all the other songs – they were solid and “Brave Child” wasn’t.
Jessi’s right, though, this is our simplest song. But simplicity is tough! There wasn’t the nightmare of a dense set of tracks to mix but, on the contrary, there was going to be so much more weight to each one we used. I love “Brave Child” because of the dreamy scope of the guitars in it. And, actually, I recorded soooo many guitar tracks; I had no idea which ones would be cut and which would peak through as lead melodies. I liked the interweaving of them all, but it bothered me tremendously because noodling is a pet peeve! And vocals – Jessi recorded probably a dozen COMPLETELY different vocal arrangements, and I encouraged that as a method of discovery. The reality is that we really didn’t even know the true structure of “Brave Child” when we were finalizing it. Editing was done the night before the mastering session, and we were practically weeping in the end trying to pick a whole edited, mixed bridge and an ending – there were several options that didn’t make the cut. I distinctly remember us both sitting there blankly the morning before we left going, “Man, what’s the right answer here?” But, yeah, thematically, this song was a necessity for Nightingale, and worth the pains. -Janey
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
Saturdays for sure. If you’ve ever heard the original version on the song we put online last April and then you’ve seen us play it live, you would know exactly what I am talking about… The initial recording was much more uppity/pop/electro.. And then we kind of reproduced the song while trying to transpose it into our live set. The tempo was just not working… and we were going crazy.. then we decided if we went half time and kind of droned it out, it might work, and it did! It sounds like an entirely different song now.
You should definitely look up the original version and compare it to the actual release on Nightingale, if you haven’t heard it before. –Jessi
Yeah, when we were discussing the record with folks as we were producing it, we had to say, ‘No, seriously, it has the same progressions and lyrics, but is a different song.’ And “Saturdays II” isn’t exactly half-time… I mean, we wiggled the tempo around a lot before it made sense. And even when we got it to make sense on record, we had to reprogram our brains to embrace it differently live.
For me, what’s MOST different is the approach, the attitude. The words in “Saturdays” mean something different to me than the words in “Saturdays II,” even though they’re the same words. The first song aggressively presents a series of statements regarding a past event; the other navigates, in real time, a somewhat emotional dilemma. -Janey
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Several lingering spirits, none with names though… other than Johnny. -Jessi
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Janey and I. Nightingale was written, produced and mixed in house. The only outside hand on the record was lent from the talented Colin Leonard from SING Mastering. Janey kind of spear heads the arrangements and I kind of take over the vocal, bass and space departments. Together, we mend our minds, our ears and our spirits while mixing… which I feel is the greatest form of bonding I have ever had with a human being. Normally mixing with other people is so far beyond difficult, because no two set of ears fancy the same thing(s). But we don’t really even have to compromise with each other too often. It’s like we occupy the same audio cloud, it’s a blessing. –Jessi
I am so in love with music production at this point in my life. And, like most creative endeavors, I prefer to go it alone in the dark. But working with Jessi is really good for me and crucial for VYIE… and it is a blessing to be able to produce this way, bonding over the evolution of the product, as you learn the nitty gritty details of each others’ creative habits. We may or may not be able to ‘assume’ what the others’ opinion will be about a particular element in a song, but we both know when we hear the right element.
We kind of went into the darkness together with Nightingale, which is a method that we plan to recreate in some aspects next time – with new twists and turns and a new theme, mind you. I guess from the beginning, there was just no way we were going to let anyone else produce this. I didn’t even want an engineer’s hands in the sessions to mix, because I knew that even the slightest touch could constitute outside influence and we needed this record to be our, collective, strong voice. – Janey
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
We don’t make pointless music. Every measure holds more than a few dozen pieces of us. As for the overall concept ‘Nightingale,’ well will one ever know the answer to the long lived controversy over the nightingales song? The nightingale is said to have the most enchanting of songs and tones, but it only sings in the darkest hours of the night, which leads many to believe that its song is the song of death. And VYIE is just that, a dead language. We wrote the record and decided there was nothing more suitable for our first release, VYIE Nightingale. – Jessi
Thematically, you know, death is the beginning of something new. Spiritually, it stands for release and freedom – the merging of you and something greater than you. Artistically, Nightingalecarries a lot of that. I think it’s not a coincidence that most of these songs are narrated in a past tense tone, but they ride on this sort of emotional rollercoaster. There’s a lot of struggle in the songs, with the characters. The stories are, ultimately, about triumph, though. These are appropriate themes for VYIE, and it was intended that way. –Janey
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
We have! It varies.. some songs have been performed a few dozen times, others just a time or two. But people have really been drawn to Johnny as of lately, and Johnny will actually be our first video release off of this album, so I guess that’s a good sign. Our listeners also really get into Saturdays, I think the changes in the song really pull you around from place to place, both mentally and emotionally. This record isn’t really a dancy record, it makes you feel and think, a lot. It’s more of a trancy ground. Our next record however… -Jessi
Ha, she’s giving you too much info! On a serious note, I’m not really sure which elicit the strongest reactions. I tend to rock out in my own headspace live. But I’ll take Jessi’s word for it, and hope that you’ll come out to a live show and give us your own opinion! – Janey
(Catch VYIE at one of these dates:
02.02 · Atlanta, GA – The Drunken Unicorn
02.04 · Birmingham, AL – The Nick
02.05 · Mobile, AL – Alabama Music Box
02.06 · New Orleans, LA – The Saint Bar & Lounge
02.08 · Jacksonville, FL – Burro Bar
02.09 · Tampa, FL – New World Brewery
02.10 · Columbia, SC – New Brookland Tavern
02.11 · Raleigh, NC – Deep South
02.16 · Baltimore, MD – Club K
02.17 · Pittsburgh, PA – Smiling Moose
02.18 · Cleveland Heights, OH – Pats in the Flats
02.18 · Ypsilanti, MI – Woodruff’s Bar
02.20 · Mishawaka, IN – Wander Inn Tavern
02.21 · Chillicothe, OH – Bub’s
02.22 · New Albany, IN – Dillinger’s
02.23 · Nashville, TN – The End)