In the early 2000’s, pop-punk was in its golden age, and Drive-Thru Records was the hub of all the big activity. Home to bands like New Found Glory, Something Corporate and The Early November, Drive-Thru found further success when it released The Starting Line‘s debut album, Say It Like You Mean It. The Starting Line became poster children for the Warped Tour scene and were even able to accomplish the difficult task of avoiding the sophomore slump and going on to write an even stronger third record.
In 2008, the band went on hiatus, as frontman Kenny Vasoli and keyboardist Brian Schmutz pursued their experimental side project, Person L. The band released two LPs before going silent for a few years, but Vasoli hasn’t stopped making music. Joined by members of Brooklyn-based Body Language, he now fronts the dreamy indie pop band Vacationer. We had the pleasure of chatting with Vasoli about his newest project, their creative process, and why he’s looking forward to The Starting Line’s upcoming 10th anniversary tour for Say It Like You Mean It.
OS: Give us the backstory behind Vacationer and how you met the members of the band.
KV: I started making Vacationer music in the summer of 2010. For awhile, I’d been wanting to get into an electronic project. Something I could set up more simply than a full, live rock band. I also wanted to do something that wasn’t so heavy on the volume. I reached out to my friend and former bandmate Matt Watts and asked if he knew of anyone up in Brooklyn that might want to try collaborating with me on something in the electronic realm. He sent me some links, and on that list was a band called Body Language. He said that there were two guys, Matt and Grant, that produced electro stuff, they’d worked with Passion Pit before. He set up like a blind date kind of session for us. I came up there and played them a few things that were inspiring me at the time, and we managed to come up with a loop and a beat that first session. Eventually that song became “Great Love,” which made it on to the record.
KV: Usually those guys will have a short idea, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute long. They’ll send me a skeleton idea for me to work off of. I’ll go through a few ideas that I have, cut up their stuff a little and rearrange it, and then send it back to them. They’ll send me notes on it and then we set up a session. It’s a pretty quick process, how the songwriting goes. We just bounce it back and forth to each other and then lay it down.
OS: The video for “Trip” uses a unique film technique. Can you tell us more about that?
KV: We had come to meet the people at this camera company called Lomography. We played a little stripped-down set at their store in Austin during SXSW and they hooked us up with some still film cameras. We really love the whole idea behind that company, re-creating the old style cameras. [The film is] really rich in color and saturation. They had samples of the film that came out of their movie cameras, these hand-cranked cameras. They come out exactly like the “Trip” video, stop-motion style filming. They were interested in teaming up with us to do a music video, and we eventually found a videographer down in Hawaii, who primarily does surf footage, and he’s worked with Jack Johnson and some other Hawaii-based artists. We liked his style and his eye for filming, and eh was interested in teaming up with us. We had gotten enough money for plane tickets and some money for him, and we put together a two or three day shoot. We didn’t really have a plan as far as concept, but we knew with him and being in Hawaii, it would be really cool.
OS: There’s a very vintage feel to this video, and to your music in general. Who would you say are your main inspirations for this project?
KV: I’d say it spans anywhere from Beach House, bands that were doing indie music over drum machine beats. I met up with these guys and they had a way more extensive knowledge of electronic music and they introduced me to more hip-hop tempo kind of stuff. I’d always been a fan of hip-hop, but I’d never really been into rap music. I don’t think very lyrically, you know, when I listen to music, it’s hard for lyrics to resonate with me. I listen more to melody and rhythm. So they sent me the initial loop for “Trip” and they had it named as “Dilla Tribute.” I really liked it, and I said, “What’s Dilla?” They were like, “J Dilla? You’ve never heard this guy?” They played me “Donuts” and I was pretty blown away by it, I had never heard instrumental hip-hop before. Since then, it’s become a very big part of my musical diet. I listen to it constantly now, even maybe more so than those guys do. That definitely influenced the rest of the record from that point on.
OS: Do you find that you’re seeing fans following your career from The Starting Line to Person L to now? What is it like to grow up alongside your fanbase?
KV: Yeah, some of them. I’d say it’s a mixed bag. In the beginning, it wasn’t too many of those people at all. Initially, I didn’t attach my name to this project because I wanted people to just hear the music for what it was. I didn’t want people to have preconceived notions of things that I’d done in the past. I’m grateful for that, because then we were really able to gather a bunch of fans who don’t know me from that era. Anybody else that came along later once they found out that I was attached to the project, only comes because they like what I do and they like the transition that I’ve made. I didn’t want it to be completely riding on the fact that I’ve had fans in the past.
OS: Your musical projects all have very distinct sounds. Is there a genre you haven’t explored yet but would like to in the future?
KV: Yeah, I try to keep an open mind to everything. I never really say never to anything like that. I’m so happy doing this that it would have to be a natural sort of urge to do something. I could see myself doing a sort of stripped-down, just me and a guitar kind of record.Getting back to the bare-bones singer-songwriter style of songwriting. A single guitar track and single vocal. That would be more to prove to myself that I could write a song without any frills, but I think that’s more down the line. If I was a little bit older.
OS: Of course, your fans are also insanely excited for The Starting Line tour. What are you most looking forward to about the reunion?
KV: I really just want to see the enjoyment that people get out of seeing this record play. This really is not for me – I hope it doesn’t bum anyone out to hear me say that! It’s just the truth. I understand that it is nostalgia and it’s reminiscent of a time when people were first getting into this record and this style of music. I think for the most part it’s the ability for people to revisit the spirit of what was going on in their life. I can totally respect that, and these are my roots, and I want to honor that. This is really the only appropriate time for us to do this kind of thing. I’m going to embrace it as much as I can and try not to be the mellow, jaded-sounding musician that I might have become. I want to capture as much of that spirit and energy of the time that we were writing that record. I want to bring as much energy to these shows as the crowd is!