Seems like all the facets of being a rock band come rather naturally for Vasudeva, a singer-less quartet from central New Jersey whose songs are heartfelt outbursts of energy and atmosphere. Busy, imaginative arrangements and a good-vibe live performance have earned them a solid following. The recordings stick with you, too; 2011’s Roots Of The Tree EP is clearly a labor of love, stuffed to the gills with angular, catchy guitar melodies and their live set’s vitality. Recently, they completed the tracking of new album Life In Cycles, their first release in over two years, and are now scheduled to appear at the Court Tavern show during Tiny Giant’s Winter Beach Ball festival on Feb. 8.
Guitarist Corey Mastrangelo recently set aside some time for a couple rounds of questions with The Aquarian, and we got to talking about the new music, how it’s been on the local level as an “instrumental” band, and whether or not I’ll ever fulfill my dream of doing a guest spot on a Vasu track. The transcription is below:
Is there a mainman in Vasudeva or are you guys more of the shared-responsibility type?
Vasu is definitely a joint effort on basically all accounts, aside from everything that involves a computer. Booking shows and tours, setting up merchandise orders, sending out random messages to guys in bands in hopes they think we’re cool enough to play with… Answering these [and others’] questions in interviews is normally on me.
What’s going on in the new record?
There’re eight tracks on the new record, with a run time of about 40 minutes. Some we’ve been playing live, some no one have heard yet. Tons of rhythm, tons of effects, tons of fun.
Vasu’s music conjures natural beauty for me, but instrumental music is so open in that regard. What gets your brains clicking? What about life is in your songs?
We definitely think our music has more of a nature feel as far as a “vibe” goes. The things that mostly get us going, when sitting down to write, really depend on the past couple months leading up to that point. By that, I mean the always-changing music that’s in constant rotation when we hang out, and the daily rituals that everyone deals with. It may be hard to believe for some people, because obviously a song is harder to interpret without words, but we try and really throw ourselves and our feelings into the song at hand. I’m not just gonna generalize it and say our songs are made of sadness, or just wanting to have fun… ’cause there may a little of both in there. This may be way easier for people to believe if they come see us live.
Has the local scene here been receptive to your music? Do you find yourselves drawn into a niche like some instrumental bands do?
The local NJ scene is amazing, all the way south to all the way north. For some reason, it took us like two whole years of being a band to play a show in Jersey. We were constantly playing in NYC and Brooklyn, which was honestly where a niche started forming. But in NJ, we don’t really find ourselves drawn into a niche; we’ve played with every type of band from metal to folk and no one has ever been unkind to us. Truth be told, I think we’ve probably played with one other instrumental band from NJ. Though, we have been building solid relationships with at least five to 10 bands around the area that are really accepting of our “non-vocal” nature.
What’s your experience been like as members of Tiny Giant? What’s working; anything not?
Tiny Giant has been awesome to us, even though our first time playing a showcase will be the Beach Ball on Feb. 8 at the Court Tavern. We’ve met so many sweet new bands and people, and came across people that we’ve known forever in the group. Though at times it can seem overwhelming, and hard to stand out being a part of a collective with 50 to 60 other bands, the best part is you can go to any show around NJ and you’re bound to see at least one TG there. We all have a common interest.
Going back to what you said about what goes into a Vasu song—take Roots Of The Tree‘s stuff for instance. The songs feel so heady, even spiritual. When you “throw yourselves into a song,” are there ultimately stories behind them? Or is it all pure feeling?
Yeah actually, you’d be surprised as to how many people describe our EP with those exact two adjectives. There’s definitely stories behind all the songs, how the ideas/structure/name came about. Thing is, we’d all probably have our own interpretation of how all those things occurred. During a live show, I barely consider the backstories and just go off straight feel. We like to change up the songs from the version on the record according to how we’re feeling that night.
It’s great to hear that you’ve had such a positive experience playing around Jersey. Can you talk a little more about what turned you off about playing in the city? I’m curious as to why you felt boxed-in.
Don’t get me wrong—we absolutely love playing around NYC, and have tons of friends in awesome bands there. It was just the sorta small-fish-in-an-enormous-ocean thing that turned us off at a point. We’ve played countless shows to 0 to 10 people there. We’ve realized it’s all about finding the right bands to play with.
What are you guys listening to these days? Any of it coming through in the new music? I know they say it’s strange talking about your own art, but hey, we’re asking.
We all have relatively different tastes. Personally, I’ve been hooked on bands like Now Now, Pianos Become The Teeth, Bear Vs. Shark, Title Fight, Enemies, Kidcrash… whereas our drummer [Derek Broomhead] and other guitar player [Grant Mayer] are heavily into all types of electronic music (aside from Skrillex). There’s a lot of blending of influences going on with our writing process, though it’s always really been that way.
I’m not gonna say we’ll never add vocals… ‘Cause, just for the record, when we started, it wasn’t a conscious decision to be this thing apparently called an “instrumental” band. It sorta just happened; we began listening to tons and tons of awesome bands without vocals. But we were brought up on bands of all kinds with vocals and still are constantly into new bands with singing. Let’s just leave it [at] maybe, eventually.
Vasudeva will play at the Court Tavern, in New Brunswick, NJ, on Feb. 8. For more information, go to vasudeva.bandcamp.com.