Interview: Basic Vacation
Wed, 05 Feb 2014 11:02:06
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"The goal is to make a huge uplifting record that can speak to people in many different ways," says Basic Vacation singer and guitarist Chris Greatti.
They've already accomplished that mission with their self-titled debut EP. It's an upbeat and undeniable collection nodding to timeless pop of the eighties and swooping epic rock 'n' roll. The New York-based outfit instantly transfixes with its infectious and irresistible songs. You'll want to get away with Basic Vacation as soon as you hear them.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Chris Greatti of Basic Vacation talks the band's self-titled EP and so much more.
What ties the songs on the EP together for you?
I came up with all of the songs around the same time. It was a certain period in my life and the rest of the guys in the band. We were transitioning from our old lives of sleeping on our friends' couches, stealing candy bars from convenience stores, and eating dollar sandwiches from fast food places every single day to survive to writing these songs, leaving school, and coming out to Los Angeles. All of a sudden, we were thrust into this new life. There was this kind of theme if you look at the EP. It's in "I Believe", "It's All Happening", and "Words Collide". Basically, it's like old and new worlds colliding. Also, I tried to make the songs flow in and out of each other. That's a little fun Easter egg I threw in.
The musical interludes thread things together.
For sure! I'm a big fan of a lot of albums that do that like Smile by The Beach Boys and Spilled Milk by Jellyfish. I didn't want to go crazy and do a concept album where the whole thing is one song. I threw a little fun shit in to make myself feel good [Laughs].
What's the story behind "I Believe"?
Like I said, it was written when we were transitioning from an old life to a new one. We were basically saying something's about to happen before we even know it. It's not necessarily about a specific person or anything like that but the idea of putting your faith in something else or a group of people and just believing in whatever everybody else doesn't no matter what they put us through. When you're starting a band out and you have no one around you supporting you, it's a transition into a different life. It's tough. You need to have faith. We were set on this one goal. When we wrote that song, we were like, "We can do it".
What does "Worlds Collide" mean to you?
That one ties in with the theme. Because the music's a little bit darker, I was originally envisioning a group of people rebelling against what is oppressing them—whatever it may be. Whether it's a bunch of kids at school who can't do anything because they're bogged down at work every single day, which ended up being my situation...I was in a band and also a music program at school. I couldn't work on my music things with the band because I was staying up all night for math homework. It's the old world and new world colliding. That's the arc of the EP. I put it last because it's this biggest triumphant ending where you feel like you overcame something.
What artists shaped you?
When I was first getting into music, I was always into classic rock with all the best musicianship. I think of bands like Led Zeppelin, Queen, Van Halen, and The Beach Boys. That music was so exciting to me. When I was in eighth grade, I said, "Oh wow, I've got to learn all these songs". Then, I got into artists like The Cure and The New Radicals even Pixies. That's the thing. I'm a huge fan of pop music. You can tell from our songs. I love Tears for Fears too. Those songs still stuck with me, and the musicianship carries through. Those guys were crazy musicians.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
Oh yeah! One-hundred percent! I truly believe that without words, music can create emotions within people and make them feel something. I feel like certain chord changes and progressions actually do so. When I'm working on a song or something, it's got to make me laugh or give me this indescribable feeling in my chest right away. That's always something I strive for.
What influences you outside of music?
We watch a ton of movies. We love Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. A lot of their movies can convey an emotion with a soundtrack. It's a powerful thing. I've even been into Werner Herzog. I watch a lot of movies, and I try to read when I can. Also, it's really experiencing Los Angeles for the first time has been a huge learning experience. It's a whole different world out here. That's the main thing that has been affecting us so much. We went from living on our drummer's couch in New York and our friends couch in New York while we were writing songs to living the city life. Being around all of these people and artists has been inspiring in general. I get really into the weather as well.
If you were to compare the album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's a good one! It would have to be something uplifting [Laughs]. Let me think about it for a minute! Well, there's That Thing You Do!. It speaks to what we're going through right now. When it gets started, the guy's scrubbing tables and working in his dad's fucking shop. Then, basically overnight, the band starts doing a bunch of shit. In a cinematic sense, I always envisioned Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill. "Worlds Collide" gets really dark and you start thinking about shit. That happens a lot. Maybe it's a combination of those two movies.
Have you heard Basic Vacation?