Vomitface: A Soundtrack For The (Futile) Search For Meaning (My Interview)
Hooray For Vomitface!
Every once in a great while, I run into a band during my music explorations that I hear in an entirely different way (like getting hit in the face with a bucket of cold water). I realize what I am about to say is a bit over the top (bear with me).
I am not saying Vomitface are Radiohead, but I had the same feeling the first time I heard them.
I am not saying Vomitface are Weezer, but I had the same feeling the first time I heard them.
And I am certainly not saying Vomitface are Nirvana, but I had a similar feeling the first time that I heard them.
Maybe Vomitface is not there 100% yet, but I hear something great in their very good new album (I am certainly not saying that I expect them to be the next great arena band or that they even want to be).
I have been wrong plenty of times, I am not saying I have a crystal ball, and popularity isn't how I determine the importance of a band (see my second-favorite band of all-time The Ramones who barely made any money ever - RIP Joey, Tommy, Johnny, and Dee Dee).
Anyway, I really dig this band, I really like their new album, and I feel like they have great things in their future. Okay, now that I am done with the hyperbole.
Vomitface is a three person band currently calling Toronto home. The members are:
Jared Micah: Guitar and Vocals
Preetma Singh: Drums
Keller McDivitt: Bass
Their most recent album is Hooray For me, it was released on Help Yourself Records, you can (and should) buy it here (so Vomitface actually gets most of the money):
My Interview With Vomitface
JBH: Jared, how did you start playing music, I didn't see anything about how it all started for you in any of the interviews?
Jared: My father was a Christian minister, and my mother played the piano at the church. My earliest memories of live music were her rehearsing hymns on Saturday nights on an old upright piano that sat at the foot of the stairs at our house. I would sit at the top of the stairs and listen until I fell asleep. To this day I still have a preference for the slight dissonance of out-of-tune pianos.
When I was turning 12, all the kids were getting paintball guns for their birthdays, but I opted for a guitar.
JBH: How in the hell did you get from Dyersburg Tennessee to NYC (and then to Toronto)? I am sure it was a musical journey, but you have talked about competing with other NYC bands with trust funds, so I am guessing you didn't make the journey the easy way?
Jared: I stole some money to buy a car and leave home at 18, then moved to Memphis and designed album covers for cash (my biggest client was Koopsta Knicca of Three 6 Mafia, rest in peace). I got tired of being homeless and landed a job at a record store, but they fired me for throwing shows in the store after hours (a lot of stuff was getting stolen). I then made my way to the greater Nashville area pulling odd jobs and living with friends from my home town. Preetma was going to school there when I met her. She already had a job lined up in NYC at that time, and I hopped into the moving truck and followed her there.
I actually came up to New York with the intent of finishing school and not doing music anymore. But then P started playing, and one thing led to another.
JBH: I have to ask about Preetma too, so you were a Corporate Lawyer in NYC by way of Canada, you play drums in Vomitface, but you were also a successful fashion blogger who worked at Marie Claire and Vogue (and now at WSJ). How was all this happening in synchronicity with the band work?
Preetma: As Jared said, when we met, I was in law school in Nashville with no plans of doing music at all. Was very into the music scene there and music has always been a huge influence in my life, but I had learned very early on-- through school band and attempts to play the guitar-- that I was pretty mediocre and my talents lay elsewhere. So I initially pursued being a lawyer with the eventual hope of becoming a politician (really!). In the midst of law school, I started having the feeling that political dialogue was only going to keep devolving to the point where things would get too cynical for even a solid cynic like me, and I had my first career-related existential crisis. I knew I wanted to do something more creative and had always loved fashion but didn't think it was "serious" enough when I was younger. Being in New York allowed me to test things out (I had initially started my blog while a lawyer to do just that--see if I genuinely had a strong enough interest in fashion beyond being a consumer). After hitting the pavement for a while since I had no real fashion connections, I was fortunate enough to be offered a job at Vogue--a friend of a friend had passed along my resume. After that, I was an editor at Marie Claire, WSJ. and NYLON. Being involved in a creative industry, and more importantly, having the TIME that I didn't have while I was a lawyer, spurred picking up a hobby like playing the drums and that's what allowed the band to form. I started playing a bit after I got into fashion and luckily I was able to maintain doing both. It hasn't always been easy to balance though, especially as the band progresses. I've definitely become a worse friend.
JBH: Plus, I saw in one interview you said you have only been playing a short time (you are really good), my question, as a drummer myself, where did drumming happen in this timeline exactly and how did it become a priority? Or are you really just one of those people who can succeed at anything, is space travel next (obviously with jealous respect)?
Preetma: I've always been a super curious and independent person--for better or worse. One of the reasons being a lawyer was dissatisfying was that it completely consumed every minute of my life. I really like having the freedom to explore different things. I started taking an interest in drumming after playing Rock Band--Jared pointed out that my timing and coordination were quite good, which made me ecstatic. I had thought creating music was for other, more talented people and now I had the opportunity to possibly not be embarrassing at it. I picked up an electronic kit and started fooling around a bit. When we moved to Jersey, I started getting more serious about playing in a band. The part I loved about playing was being able to discover the instrument organically. I didn't come at it academically with lessons, etc. I could probably be a lot better if I had been more studied about it, but what I love most about music is the intuitive component. That having been said, when I commit to something, I really give it my all. I like to have goals. The illusion of progress is very important to me.
JBH: Why can't I find one reference to Keller beyond "bass player" in any of the articles? In a band that seems full of mystery, he seems even more mysterious.
Jared: Keller is an enigma. Vomitface was started by Preetma and myself, and we had a revolving cast of bass players, based on availability and whatnot. Keller is a full partner at Dungeon Beach Studios in Brooklyn, and that's a lot of time and responsibility, so he disappears a lot. But he grew up with me in the same town, and got fired with me at the record store. We've been through a lot together.
JBH: I am a HUGE Big Black fan from way back. I did a relatively recent interview with the Rock Against Cancer folks guys was partially about Steve.
Jared mentioned in a few interviews the influence of Steve Albini and about recording with Steve, but how in the world did you get the invite for him to produce the record? How did you find each other?
Jared: Our old label worked with a mutual friend of Steve's and offered to set us up there. Just to clarify, Steve in no way ever considers himself a producer; he is strictly self-defined as an engineer. The bands do what they want, and he tries to give them the best case scenario in which they can be themselves. But as Steve told me in the studio, his "phone number is very easy to get."
JBH: Just to prove I am an idiot, I have heard Steve Albini talk about the difference between Producing and Engineering at length several times (most famously in his edition of the Maron Podcast (apologies for the sloppy language).
I guess what I was wanting to get at is if you think producers, engineers, or listeners can be agnostic in how sound is produced or heard? I guess my view is that all art is co-productive?
Jared: Hey no sweat, and from my experience, the point at which the role of engineer ends and that of producer begins moves around based on who you're working with, if that makes sense. But you have a good point, because there is this sort of package aesthetic that comes with Albini that is immediately recognizable. Some of that is how he mics up a drum kit, or how he honors natural dynamism in the performance, etc. So while he considers it hands-off, in a producer way, it is inevitably very Albini, I suppose. He does, however, definitely draw a severe line in the sand when it comes to his technical role. We would ask, "was that good?" and he would always unhelpfully reply, "are you happy with it?" At one point we even begged that he break character and give us useful feedback. Ha.
JBH: I really liked what you said about mistakes being part of good music. There is NOTHING I hate more about the current corporate music consolidation than the smoothness of everything it produces.
Even the stuff they try to make rough is seamless "planned" roughness. Success in music these days has become the musical equivalent of an "uncanny valley" for my ears.
In a different interview, you said that your songs were trying to search for reasons people should listen to you, have you found any answers yet?
Jared: I still can't come up with an absolutely good reason to listen to what we're doing, in the grand scheme of things, but relatively, we're better than some of that other shit. I won't name names. Trying to stop doing that.
But in our vain attempts to validate our meaningless existence, maybe we could assist--or at least provide the soundtrack to--someone else's efforts for validation.
Well, that is the end of the interview.
What did you think of Vomitface?
Any bands they remind you of?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!