The13th AÑO: 4 | NÚMERO 43
UNA R E VISTA IMA GINARIA
VAST ASTEROID WHEN THE PIECES ARE ADJUSTED, MAGIC EMERGES
[ Interview with James Poulos and Mark Reback from Vast Asteroid by BenjamÃn York. ]
WHEN THE PIECES ARE ADJUSTED, MAGIC EMERGES
3 It usually happens that the union of several musicians of several bands captivates us from the beginning and then when listening to their songs we love it or it can happen that they do not reach the expectations generated from the proper names. Vast Asteroid has a magnetism more from listening to their debut album than from the members, although when mentioning the ones that make up the band they call our attention from their backgrounds. Thinking about the former bassist of The Warlocks, Mimi Star, the drummer of Slaughter and The Dogs, Mark Reback, and the writer and editor James Poulos, already brings us the feeling of a good union. The interesting thing, in this case, is that the self-titled debut album is superior to the expectations generated from the history of the members. This is good? Yes! After all the most important thing is always music. Thanks to Laura from Kool Things who made the contact so that we can arrange this interview. Hello and thank you for the possibility of doing this interview... For starters we go to the Vast Asteroid gene, when and how is the band born? James: Mark and Mimi had played together before I came along. Then I needed a band. My manager at the time decided Mark was the guy to drum. After I basically auditioned for him he agreed. Fast forward a couple records, and for the first time the two of us were a duo. Partly because auditioning bassists can make you question your life choices. As luck would have it, Mark gets back from playing Japan with Slaughter, posts a bunch of pics of Tokyo, and Mimi pops in to reminisce about her old neighborhood and to ask whether Mark knows anyone who’s looking for a bassist. We all got a room and plugged in and starting to make some noise. We looked around and thought, well, here we go. Mark: Yes, James and I have been playing mu-
sic together in various bands and projects of ours since 2004, and when we were looking for the right bassist, I reconnected with Mimi, who I used to play with a while ago too, and she fit right in and joined us in mid-2016. The shared experience of all of us playing together previously, creates a familiarity where we don't have to talk much about who is going to play what… The musical vibe happens naturally and organically. It’s a rare and beautiful thing, and is the essence of what a “band” should be anyway, although it is something that is sorely lacking in most bands today, who tend to rely on Pro Tools and backing tracks and editing. Where does the name of the band come from? James: The duo project had a different name. Brainstorming band names can also make you question your life choices, so we were tempted just to stick with what we had. But a cover band in New Jersey had filed a trademark application on the name. So it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately all the terrible ideas I came up with were already taken. I was laying on my couch staring at my ceiling, stuck, and then I was thinking about one night long ago that I laid on the ground in the mountains outside LA looking up at the biggest meteor shower. And I was unstuck. Mark: We used to be called Night Years, but another band on the east coast has that name too, so James came up with Vast Asteroid after brainstorming on new names that were reflective of our sound, which we call SPACEGAZE. For those who do not know the sound of the band, how would you define it? James: Shoegaze gets kidnapped by desert rock, Britpop, and art grunge. Mark: SPACEGAZE = Shoegaze + Space Rock + Desert Rock. Epic, heavy, cinematic and sweeping, but with pop hooks and improvisational parts as well.
You have a 2016 EP called "Half Apart", which is a small sample of what came on your first album. What do you remember of that recording? James: We had a bit under 24 hours, spread over two days. Andy Freeman, who produced the Vast Asteroid record, helmed the boards at Coast Recorders in San Francisco, which closed shortly thereafter. This place had the reverb plates used in Rumors. The Tower of Power recorded there. Across the street they were putting up “luxury micro-apartments,” and on the street they were hosing human feces off the sidewalk. That’s the Mission district. I forgot what we ate, if anything. Rum and Cokes proved helpful. Mark had the biggest kick drum I’d ever seen. He nailed his parts so well I semi-unintentionally made him improvise the title track. Mark: Our “Half Apart” EP was our first release
and was just James and I, plus some help from our producer Andy Freeman on bass. It was our first attempt to really pursue a more epic and layered sound and do exactly what we wanted without worrying about the flavor of the moment. While the sound of that EP is, to say it somehow, "innocent", the change with the album is huge. What do you think is what changed in the band? James: Mimi made it all possible. Obviously a third foundational instrument is an invitation to swell and deepen the sound. But her playing changed the rest of our approach. It took away some things we’d gotten into the habit of thinking we had to do. And it gave Mark and me the opportunity to pursue choices we’d ruled out or ignored before. And the atmosphere was now two internationally touring musicians plus me, who had complete freedom (within reason) to do all vocals
5 and guitars. Fortunately for the music, the previous year had been really grueling. The songs are a summation of that. Finally, Coast was magnificent, but our setup for the new record was magical.
didn’t feel like time was standing still.
Mark: We have a full band now with Mimi involved, which really helped our sound come together in full, and we also had been working with our producer Andy Freeman for a while and sp we were all focused how big we wanted our sound to be on this album. We had time to really focus on the mix and the layers and the vibe, not just the songwriting and arrangements.
Mark: A brief writing and rehearsal period in Mark’s studio shack in the Highland Park neighborhood of L.A. quickly led to a recording session at Rancho de la Luna Studio, that was tracked during a beautiful and torrential rain and wind storm on a magical week last winter in Joshua Tree, CA. The boards were manned by Producer/ Engineer Andy Freeman, and Engineer Johnnie Burik. Good vibes provided by host extraordinaire and co-conspirator Dave Catching of Eagles Of Death Metal, Mojave Lords, earthlings?, and previously of Queens Of The Stone Age.
Tell me about the recording at the legendary "Rancho de la Luna Studios". James: Legendary is another word for it. We got out there pretty much the minute Trump was inaugurated. It was a fitting moment to be completely unplugged from the world. It was too cold to be outside. Freezing rain pelted the windows. All the band energy remained in the studio where it belonged. Andy rode the boards, Johnny Burik engineered, Dave Catching was like five different dudes, each equally wise and obliging. Chef, guide, host, guru, and the all-important trusty figure who isn’t actually obligated to do anything in the studio and hangs out providing strong steady vibes. Three days that went by very fast, when they
It's been a few months since the album was published. How do you feel the public has received it? James: People get it and like it. Strangers, friends, people in between. That’s a heartening, peaceful feeling. The big surprise is how much enthusiasm there’s been for the longest tracks. Taking that aspect of our sound out to the extremes, we didn’t know what to expect. You know a well-crafted song with punch and lift is going to connect in a specific way. It’s harder to know how far out on a limb people want to go with you. We knew we were into it. Now we know it’s an effective way of communicating ourselves musically too.
Mark: We are really grateful for the very positive reception we’ve been getting in Europe. We’ve been established in Los Angeles for a few years, so we expected to get a good response here, but we’ve been getting a bigger response in countries like Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Greece, and the U.K., along with places in South America, like Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and let’s not forget Australia. It’s very gratifying!
much less actually say it out loud. And then there we were doing it. Andy had very quietly tapped record. Johnny was poking around on a little synth keyboard with the porch door open a crack and the cold rain spinning the wind chimes around. They got it all on tape during the live rendition of what ended up being called “Spacegaze.” We stumbled out and it was like, hmm, we probably should have recorded that, and the guys had this twinkle in their eyes.
In "Spacegaze" Dave Catching participates (Eagles of Death Metal). A mantric and hypnotic track of more than 17 minutes of sound experimentation. How was this participation produced? James: It was the very end of the three days. We were all sort of incoherently imagining what a release and resolution it would be to just jam out after tracking was finished. Closing ceremonies. But you don’t want to think about that while you’re in the weeds nailing takes and tweaking tones,
Mark: One night in the studio around midnight, after we had finished the day’s tracking, and during a torrential desert wind and rain storm, Dave said “Let’s jam!”, and so we did…. Dave’s guitar magic really added to our sound, and the entire song was a totally improvised jam, made up on the spot, that we were lucky to capture on tape, and is presented on the album with no overdubs... I can’t think of another band that has done that recently, which we’re proud of.
Can we do a "track by track" of the album and tell me what you want from each track? Mincemeat: It’s an intro, not a full song… Sets the tone of the album and the theme is brought back at the end of Spacegaze to round it out full circle. Sleep: The epic choruses really make this one that sticks in your head. Drown: This one was not really coming together until Mark came up with the right drum beat and after that it all fell into place. Vivid Dream: We were thinking of early Interpol for the vibe on this one. Sick: It’s our most unique sounding song, besides Spacegaze. Just ask Henry Rollins, who really digs it and played it on his radio show. Encrypted: Mark wanted this song to sound like the very early Jesus And Mary Chain songs, like “Upside Down” and “Never Understand”… Beautiful distortion on top of a simple pop song with basic drums. Poison Fang: This song was almost on our first EP “Half Apart” but it wasn’t quite right so we waited until the current arrangement and vibe was sorted out with Mimi on board. It’s most people’s favorite song on the album and really rocks, especially when we play it live. Spacegaze: We’ve already addressed this above, but it was pure sonic magic. No words can explain it. We were lucky that Andy recorded it!
I have read that the De Luxe edition is coming. Tell me about this. James: Gatefold vinyl, May of this year, all thanks to TBMR Records in Athens, Greece. Will be physically available across Europe, in the UK, and of course here in the US. There is a bonus track and it does feature Dave and it is long. For us, vinyl is a pleasurable object to have and to hold—one that offers a uni-
que and special listening experience particularly well-suited to how we’d like this record to make you feel. Mark: We are really fortunate and grateful to be working with Vice Lesley and everyone over at ThinkBaby Music Collective in Athens, Greece. They’re really doing it right, with curated, deluxe, limited releases by artists that
doing this interview and, to close it, you tell our readers... why should you listen to Vast Asteroid and where can they do it? James: Things can always be worse, but these are fairly heavy times, and even in frivolous times I’ve drawn a lot of strength and passion from music that’s heavy in a good way, like a statuette you pick up in a study and it’s Are there plans for another recording? got heft in your hand and you think, yeah, this What plans are there for this 2018? has some matter to it. This isn’t going to get James: We can play live again now, which blown down the street when a breeze comes. is a whole new canvas to paint on. Naturally These songs are intended to do some reverwe’ll be aiming for peak activity when the spe- berating for you. We’re on all the usual platcial edition arrives. There’s a little film scoring forms like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and you I plan on getting up to somewhere in the mix. can stream and buy the record (and its preIt’ll be fun to see what summer brings. decessor EP) at vastasteroid.bandcamp.com are out of the mainstream, but have something to say both with their lyrics and sound. Here’s a post on their site that sums up the vinyl release which is scheduled for late May: https://www.thinkbabymusic.com/single-post/INTRODUCING-VAST-ASTEROIDDELUXE-LP-DUE-IN-SPRING-ON-TBMR
Mark: We have a show in Hollywood on Feb. 27th and then are putting together a weekend of album release shows for late May in L.A. and in the Joshua Tree desert, possibly with Dave Catching’s side project called earthlings? at Pappy & Harriet’s. After that, we’ll start thinking about the next recording… Might just do a single for release in the fall! I want to thank you for the possibility of
Mark: Live in the moment and spend less time on your phone. Love more, hate less. Listen to our music very loudly and it will push away any negative energy and take you away to a better place. Thanks Vast Asteroid!!!!!
The13th U NA R EVISTA IMA GINA RIA
Published on Mar 8, 2018
Published on Mar 8, 2018
Interview with James Poulos and Mark Reback from Vast Asteroid by Benjamín York. This is part of the issue Number 43 of Magazine Revista The...