Vague Advice is a band from Pennsylvania. If you haven’t heard about them, they’re sure to be everywhere soon enough. They took on the lofty task of writing a full concept EP. The concept? It has to do with time travel…and the nuclear apocalypse? I had better just let them explain it themselves.
N: What are you listening to currently?
Austin: “Besides a lot of the bands the others will mention, I listen to a lot of video game soundtracks over any actual bands. I currently listen to the Nier Automata and Persona 5 soundtracks when I’m just on my computer, and it’s dope as hell.”
Chris: “I have been getting back into the bands that I have been listening to since middle school/high school, such as Brand New, Circa Survive, Portugal. The Man, Bad Books, and Anthony Green, to name a few. The bands that are newer to me, that I have currently been listening to are Local Natives, The Districts, Bombay Bicycle Club, From Indian lakes, and Little Green Cars.”
Dante: “I’ve been getting into a lot of new stuff, but also back into a lot of old stuff. New Sorority Noise is incredible, just got into Pinegrove and ManDancing which are both amazing. Also been listening to a lot of Sam’s Town by the Killers and all of Silversun Pickups. And Julien Baker always.”
Jeff: “I’ve mostly been going back and forth between Kevin Devine, Anthony Green, Conor Oberst and Land of Talk whilst trying to find some new music through Spotify.”
N: What do you feel are the biggest influences to your band?
Dante: “We all kind of pull from a core of the same bands, but are influenced in different ways by different bands, and to different degrees. Our sound overall tends to lean towards bands like From Indian Lakes or Foxing, which are bands we really like. The structure of our songs is kind of defined by a sequence of build ups and climaxes, as opposed to verses and choruses, though some songs have parts that function as a chorus but you might not really hear them again. I think we get that from some of the post-rock bands we’ve been into, but also bands like From Indian Lakes or even Say Anything and Bright Eyes, who switch it up and/or structure their songs more like a story.
My vocals are generally influenced by everyone whose voice I’ve ever liked. Particularly Jesse Lacey (Brand New), Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra), and Joey Vannucchi (From Indian Lakes), and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes). On this album it’s more observably influenced by Sorority Noise, Foxing, TTNG, and Bombay Bicycle Club. My guitars are mostly influenced on this release by The Speed of Sound in Seawater.”
Austin: “I decided to make music with these guys and went and got my first bass a couple years ago, I think. I had minimal knowledge of guitar, and went and learned a bunch of Fall of Troy songs for bass then we went and made the first album. While I don’t think many would say we sound like them, there’s a bunch of little tricks and progression ideas I got from them.”
Chris: “As far as bands that influenced me, I would look to my answer above. I think our approach to music as a band, so far, has been very conceptual which leads to our records acting as more of a soundtrack for the given story. This results in not much repetition within our music, regarding song structure, which I personally enjoy as a drummer.”
Jeff: “Whenever we sit down to write a song I always try to make sure that my guitar and sparse vocal parts aren’t so easily predictable. Circa Survive and Tangled Hair just being two examples of bands that always throw me for a loop when I’m listening to them.”
N: Has there been anyone you’ve shared the stage with who has really impressed you?
Austin: “We played with a band called Halfnoise, who is headed by the old Paramore drummer. Never been a huge fan, but seeing him play you could tell he was a professional, and a cool dude when we talked to him. Brock Landers was one of the first bands we played with where we really clicked talking to, different sort of band, but similar tastes. I also loved getting to play with Hail the Sun Right before their album, Wake, came out. I was already a big fan and would’ve come out playing or not!”
Chris: “The bands that stuck out to me were Brock Landers, Talk to Plants, and Halfnoise.”
Dante: “Yeah we’ve played with some pretty solid bands. As you can tell, we really like Brock Landers. I remember seeing them for the first time and thinking “that’s like the best guitarist I’ve ever seen in real life.” I also really like Pathos and Twin Sister, who we have the pleasure of playing with again soon. A whole lot of other bands that were pretty gnarly.”
Jeff: “I remember playing with an instrumental duo called In Place that I really enjoyed and another group called Last Full Measure was great, too.”
N: What is the concept behind Time Traveler’s Continent?
Dante: “There’s a short version, a long version, a really long version, a really really (so on and so forth). The basic premise is that, in present time, there’s been a nuclear apocalypse that eradicates a vast majority of humankind. One guy devotes the rest of his life to organizing society around the development of time travel to go back and prevent that apocalypse. In the future, once it’s been developed, the plan is to send a boy–who turns out to be Jesus Christ–into the distant past to teach the world that love and compassion are more important than power and the self. And the characters from the future are sort of going back and forth about whether they should follow through with that plan. So the EP sort of toggles back and forth to tell these three stories as distinguished by their relative time periods: past, present, future. I was fortunate enough to recently do a podcast with PlggdN about the concept in more depth, so if you’re interested in one of the longer versions, I definitely suggest checking that out. You can hear a more detailed explanation of each song and kind of the themes that the EP is really trying to explore.”
N: Where was the EP recorded? What’s somewhere you’d like to record in the future that you think could influence the music in a positive way?
Austin: “For the first single “The Things Themselves” we recorded and had it mixed at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia. For every other full band song we went to Cannon Found Soundation In Union City, New Jersey. Just about every place we’ve recorded as a band has been solid and taught me different things. However, they all make me tone down things like my reverb cranked to max, or really gimmicky pedal effects. Hopefully one day a producer will embrace all of my terrible ideas so I can learn.”
Chris: “I really enjoyed recording “The Things Themselves”, Track 3, at Miner Street Recordings and would like to work with them again in the future.”
Dante: “Before I die, I wanna make a record with Will Yip, Mike Sappone, and Rob Schnapf, who have each produced some of my favorite records. So you can expect at least three more records from us.”
Jeff: “Our short time spent at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia was a great experience, so I’d love to go back in the future. I think any studio that is really open and has natural light coming in would have a positive impact on the time spent there.”
N: The sound quality on these songs is excellent. Was this a completely DIY project? Did you produce, mix and master all yourselves?
Dante: “Thanks a lot, man. We only produced and mixed “filial piety/absent father”, which is the one acoustic track on the EP. I contributed some creative ideas, as well as writing my parts for the song, but as far as engineering goes, Jeff was the mastermind there. Then we sent it to Cannon Found Soundation where it was mastered. Jeff is, all around, really talented and also produces his solo work.
Austin mentioned where all the other songs were done above. It’s worth noting, however, that there’s a remastered version of “The Things Themselves” on the EP done by Cannon Found Soundation, but the original master, which is also really good, will still be available on our Youtube.”
N: There are a lot of really intense moments in these songs. How do you channel those emotions in the studio?
Austin: “Every time we’ve recorded I’ve been the last to track, usually with the least time. So I usually play like it’s my last chance to get it right every take. It’s nerve wracking but maybe it gets through in a good way.” (he laughs)
Chris: “If we are recording multiple members live, I just kind of get into the groove of the music. I enjoy making music with these guys so whenever we are all playing at once, it is easy for me to give in to that intensity. If we are recording our parts separately, I place more emphasis on the structure of the songs and the buildups, as to try my best to replicate the energy of our practices.”
Dante: “To be completely honest, that’s something I still have trouble with. Recording this EP taught us a lot about the discipline required to make an incredible record. It hardly sounds glamorous, but anytime I’ve ever recorded guitars my focus is entirely on just getting my part down and not going over on time, so I’ve never been able to focus on capturing the emotion the way I’d like to (though I’m glad you hear it). Vocally, however, I just sort of throw myself into it the way I do at practice or at shows. I might be focusing a little bit more on making it sound “nice,” but I think my voice is one that’s generally defined by emotion, as opposed to technique. So it just feels really natural to feel the story of whatever it is I’m singing and just go all in on that feeling. I guess, in a way, it’s linked to the lyrical content.”
Jeff: “For me it’s just about re-familiarizing myself with how it felt playing the songs during the early writing stages.”
N: Some of these instrumental breakdowns are haunting (in a good way). Are there any instrumental bands you guys listen to on a regular basis?
Austin: While making the first record I discovered the post-rock band Mono. I was so blown away by them that I made the rest of the band listen to it and was like ‘CAN WE DO THAT, TOO?’ I’d say the song “Moments Before the Wind” from the first album and the title track to the new EP are our attempts at those sort of big endings they have.”
Chris: “I have been into Explosion In The Sky for awhile now, but more recently, I have been listening to We Lost The Sea a lot, specifically their album Departure. It is kind of my go-to when I am studying/doing work.”
Dante: “Strangely enough, not so much for me. I used to listen to a lot of Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, and M83, but not much anymore. But the more I explore different tones, I still always find myself writing things that have that instrumental, post-rock feel to it. One of those weird things I guess where I’m influenced by the genre, but I don’t really engage it very much anymore. I guess I take it a little bit more from bands that, more similar to us, aren’t “post-rock” bands, per se, but have those instrumental qualities (Sorority Noise, From Indian Lakes, etc.).”
Jeff: “Peter Silberman’s “Transcendless Summer” EP is super relaxing and uplifting. Other than that.album there’s also this math rock instrumental group called Tide/Edit that writes really upbeat and “I gotta pick up my guitar” kinda music.”
N: The influence of emo music on this EP is very apparent. Are you glad to see emo music making a bit of a commercial comeback?
Austin: “I always felt like going to the darkest and dreariest places in music helps alleviate most of that for me the rest of the day. I’ve been listening to Conor Oberst and his seemingly infinite sorrows for more than half my life now, and it never gets old. I’m mostly happy nowadays, and I’d still rather listen to that man nearly cry directly into the microphone than something artificially happy.”
Chris: “Yeah, I am always happy to find new bands to listen to. I have been leaning towards more emo/alternative/post-rock music recently so I am glad to hear that.”
Dante: “For sure. Emo music is kinda what got me into music and making music. It’s even cooler to me that the emo revival has developed a sort of more mature consciousness. Musically, it’s more technical. Lyrically, it’s kind of more aware of itself and significantly less misogynistic, which I appreciate.”
Jeff: “Definitely. A bunch of the newer tunes I’m finding lately seems to fall into that realm, so it’s been nice to notice it. I feel like this type of music has always be easier to connect with as well.”
N: If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?
Austin: “I’d try to do my best to make some positive changes today without accidentally ‘un-borning’ myself. Wait, is that the concept of the album? Dante, I get it now.”
Chris: “Oooh, that’s a tough one! I have a lot of places/time periods I would like to visit but I would say 1969, as this was the year the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon. I am a pretty big science/space nerd so I think it would have been awesome to have seen that on television, or better yet, to have been one of the astronauts.”
Dante: “There it is, Austin. Ideally, I think I’d go to circa 1997, McDonald’s idea room. See if I could sway them to make their decisions in a more permanent manner.
No, but actually I don’t think I’d really try to change anything meaningful. This story tugs at a sort of eternal recurrence that suggests that those kinds of attempts are futile, which I think is the case. I wouldn’t really wanna fuck with the balance of time and space. But for purely aesthetic purposes, maybe like millions of years back to see what dinosaurs actually looked like, cause I’ve been getting real nervous that they’re not nearly as impressive as we’ve been led to believe. But even then I’m risking some “A Sound of Thunder” shit. Or to 1993-1997 to see myself as a little baby. That’d be cool. Then I could do that AND do everything in my power to bring back that fucking sauce.”
Jeff: “I’ve always loved the idea of growing up in many areas of the world during different times, just to see how each life would unravel. It’d be neat to see America during the 50s & 60s and various parts of Europe during the 1800’s and late 20th century and such. The medieval times could be sweet as well. I’ve also been curious about the dinosaur situation too, Dante.”
N: Do you have any shows coming up?
Austin: “Just one show currently lined up for the release of the EP. As a small band it kinda seems like doing shows rapid fire tires out and fans or friends you have from enjoying what you’re playing, and gaining new fans is more about what funny joke you tell on your page.”
Dante: “Yeah we’re taking it easy for those reasons precisely. We wanted to focus all of our attention into this release show and really build up for this ep, since we really like it and think there’s a chance that other people will too. However, Chris has been looking into some benefit shows in West Chester, PA, where he and I went to school and I’ve been living in New Brunswick, NJ, which has one hell of a music scene. I’ve met a lot of really great people here at house shows, and I’d love to schedule something out here ideally before the semester ends.”
N: Do you have any plans for recording a follow up?
Dante: “Nothing set in stone. Just that it will happen. The next release will be a second full length, and our first release that’s not based around a literary arc. I talk about it a little bit in the podcast I mentioned; I’m hoping it’ll mostly come out of jams that happen spontaneously during our practices, which–in my opinion–are some of the best things we’ve ever put together and, historically, not at all how we’ve composed our albums. But we don’t want to make any final decisions on that yet.”
Listen to Vague Advice’s Time Traveler’s Continent below:
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