The San Francisco four-piece VANIISH emerged when singer/guitarist Keven Tecon (ex Wax Idols, The Soft Moon, Veil Veil Vanish) left his previous bands after his mother’s death in early 2013. After returning home from a tour of Eastern Europe, Tecon decided to focus entirely on a new project along with fellow Wax Idols and Veil Veil Vanish member Amy Rosenoff (bass) and SF music-scene luminaries Adam Beck (guitar/keyboards) and Nick Ott (drums).
The resulting album, Memory Work, is both dense and spacious, combining the atmosphere of early 4AD with the psychedelic shoegaze of Creation Records. It envelopes the listener into its world of eerie soundscapes and surreal lyrics.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Tecon and Beck to discuss the record, which drops on Metropolis Records on June 10. This is what they told us.
When did you begin writing the material for Memory Work?
Keven Tecon: We started working together on the album early last year. I had demos for about six songs so we started by fleshing them out and reworking arrangements. Most of the demos were pretty sparse so there was a lot of room for everyone to add to the songs. One of the earliest song was “Merge” which I had about a year prior but had never finished and is the closest thing the album has to a pop song. I think as we were writing and the album started to take shape the songs started to get darker and a little stranger. “Fragment/Fatigue” is one of the last songs we wrote for the album and is one of my favorites because it doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
KT: The most difficult time we had with a song was with the arrangement of “Succession”. The original version had so many layers of keyboards, weird samples and noises that it was becoming distracting. What started to make it interesting was when we took out most of the layers and let the song breath. The arrangement itself is interesting because it doesn’t fit a typical song structure but still has a good flow to it. It has more in common with electronic dance music because the changes are signified by instruments coming in and out while the rhythm stays the same.
Adam Beck: This was one of the first songs we started on, too. I remember trying and trying to write guitar parts for it, but never being able to settle on anything until right before we started the recording. It really spanned the whole process – I think even in the mixing stages we were finding places to mute certain instruments.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
KT: When we first started working on “Cold Fascination” it was much faster and sounded a bit like something Echo & the Bunnymen would do. We thought it sounded too rock for the album so we slowed it down and Amy changed the bassline to make it simpler and more driving. This was the last song I wrote lyrics for because at the time I didn’t think it was going to make it on the album but Adam was really persistent about it. After writing lyrics I started to change my mind about the song and it ended up being one of my favorite vocals on the album. Adam may have been right in the end.
AB: I think it’s an interesting change in mood from the rest of the album. Different enough to stand out, but similar enough that it doesn’t sound out of place.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
KT: There aren’t any guest musicians on the record. Since the album is pretty intimate and slightly claustrophobic we wanted to keep it to the four of us.
Who engineered and/or produced the record? What input did these people have that changed the face of the record?
KT: The album was produced by Monte Vallier who Amy and I had worked with on the Wax Idols album and who has also produced albums by Weekend and The Soft Moon. We definitely had a strong idea of what we wanted the album to be going in but Monte helped us sort through what was working and what wasn’t. We wanted to stay away from sounds that would make the songs feel too retro so we did a lot of experimenting to find something new. We spent a whole day just sampling the craziest sounds we could come up with which was probably the best time I’ve ever had in the studio.
AB: Monte really helped create a cohesive “sound” for the record before we even started to record by getting us to think about and dial in on what we were going for. In the recording process he got us into building out layers and textures to support that mood.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together.
KT: Memory work is the idea that history is always misrepresented by false or conflicting memories. When looking back I began to wonder how many of my own memories were false, distorted or completely made up in my mind. This was the starting point for the album and a lot of the lyrics stem from it.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
KT: We are waiting until the album is out before we start playing live because we want people to already be familiar with the songs.
AB: This really started as a recording project, we went into it thinking about the record as opposed to listening to the songs in a live setting. Now that the album is done we’ve been hammering out the live set and sound so we’ll be playing out soon.
(Visit VANIISH here: https://www.facebook.com/vaniishband.)