WRBB’s Paige Ardill had a chance to catch up with Vista Kicks, a California native band, at The New Parish in Oakland, California to talk about Kickstarter, coming of age, and their new album Twenty Something Nightmare.
Paige: Let’s start off from the very beginning, how did you all meet?
Nolan: I met Derek because he was best friends with my older brother in kindergarten. Our moms started hanging out, so we started hanging out all the time.
Derek: Sam and I were in soccer and t-ball together, about five years old as well.
Trevor: I think I met Sam in middle school, Nolan I didn’t know until high school, we did drum-line and band together. I met Derek in high school, too. That was up in Sacramento.
Sam: We all went to school together. We were all affiliated and knew each other, we were in the same groups.
What differentiates Babe the Band, your former name, from Vista Kicks – besides the haircuts and matching cigarette jackets? What does Vista Kicks bring to the table that Babe the Band did not?
S: It’s the same thing, you know. Many bands change their name when they start out, the Grateful Dead was ‘The Warlocks’ or something, and they played the same music, but of course they changed. Any artist does. Your taste never stays the same the whole time. For us, we found it impossible to incorporate under the name ‘Babe’, or, ‘Babe the Band’, it was too hard and there was another band in Ireland called ‘Babe’, they had it first – though we had more fans…
T: They were just inactive.
S: They would still send us pretty rude messages, so we were kind of like ‘we’re ready to change, we want something completely ours that we don’t have to fight for’. We brainstormed names for an afternoon or so, we had just recorded our first EP Chasing Waves, which was going to be released under ‘Babe’ but then we decided fuck it, let’s change the name and we’ll release it under that so it’s a strong transition, and Vista Kicks was really the first thing we Googled and nothing came up which was cool because it really is just, us. Our studio in LA is called Monta Vista and I think we’re a kickin’ time, a kickin’, stompin’ good time.
T: We like to hang out on vistas, we get our kicks off doing that.
Who were your inspirations during the creation of Vista Kicks, both musically and aesthetically?
N: Aesthetically, I don’t really think we were going for much other than what we liked at the time.
T: We were trying to be cool.
D: I don’t think we were trying to look cool, we weren’t trying to look bad, but at the time we didn’t have money for clothes or anything so we just wore what we had. No haircuts, grew out the hair. Musically, around the time, Hall and Oates, James Brown, The Beatles.
T: Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Carole King…
S: All the good stuff, you know, we moved into a one bedroom apartment and started compiling all of our parent’s old vinyl collections and collecting, so we really got into old music–not that that’s the only music we listen to, but that’s what really kind of inspired us. I think anyone who picks up a guitar and chooses to make music with a classic set up, roots, you need that.
As a fully independent band, the majority of your funding comes from merchandise and tours. Recently, you also raised $32.5K on Kickstarter. Is it an active choice to not sign with a label?
T: Right now it is. We wanted to be on a label when we were first starting, and we attempted that – it didn’t really work out for us, so we were like ‘alright, we’ll just keep making music and doing our thing, maybe people will come around’, and people have, but we’ve made friends with a lot of other bands who have all these crazy stories…
N: …and they’re not generally speaking any happier than we are, being on a label. They all talk a lot of shit about their labels, just in passing conversation. They can’t release music as freely as we do. We have a lot of freedom to make, say, and do what we want. It’s great. Not much, but…
D: Whatever we do make, we get to keep. It all goes back into the machine that is Vista Kicks. Gas in the tank, eggs on the plate.
What are your favorite memories from touring?
N: Trevor drank his own piss, once.
D: That was awesome.
T: We were playing ‘what are the odds,’ it tends to come about on tour… these guys are too chicken to do anything now, but it’s always something I look forward to, it makes the drives and long traveling a little more interesting.
N: Bullshit, I ate a worm and got us kicked out of a Canadian gas station.
T: I really had a great time touring, during our first tour, with Swim Deep, they’re from the UK and that was just fun all around.
D: They loved ‘what are the odds’. They would go way further than we would. They were insane.
T: One of the guys poured a beer on his head on stage…
N: …they did some stuff we can’t talk about.
S: Another fun tour that we did was a college tour through the southwest, we went to Texas, Mississippi, all that. We played for these apartment complexes that were on college campus’, so we went town to town, same age as the students, we fit in, we looked a little different, of course, but we got put up in these nice model apartment homes, living in student housing like ‘yea what’s up neighbor!’ The southern hospitality was really nice. People would be like ‘oh it’s the band from California, y’all need anything? More beer?’ then dump a whole bucket of beer out for us… They were very welcoming.
If you could describe Chasing Waves, Booty Shakers Ball, and Twenty Something Nightmare in 3 words each, what would they be?
S: I think Chasing Waves was young, dumb, and fun.
D: I would say 1) coming 2) of 3) age, which works for all the records.
T: Their names really do sum themselves up.
S: I feel as though the song content and the writing content has become more serious as we’ve grown older and had more experience…
T: … he’s not going to say ‘matured’, but we got older.
S: We’re still kids, we’re still twenty-four, but still kids in the eyes of some. Chasing Waves was very ‘let’s move to Hollywood, let’s make a band, this is fun, I don’t know, do we believe in ourselves? Yea, maybe!’, and then Booty Shakers Ball was a lot more confident, it dealt with a lot of coming of age things, like Derek said, but I think it’s just learning to have fun, express yourself, that’s really the vibe of that. Twenty Something Nightmare really deals with the shadowy dark side of being in your twenties.
T: The inner struggle.
S: Yea, the inner struggle of finding out what you want from this life.
T: And it sounds fucking awesome.
What was your songwriting process like when creating Twenty Something Nightmare?
N: It’s changed quite a bit, we used to write more collectively, Chasing Waves is probably as collective as it got. Booty Shakers Ball started changing to writing your own songs and everyone would bring them together and create what you hear on the record. That’s kind of the same thing with Twenty Something Nightmare.
D: We all have a voice in the band and to get that across you kind of need to mull over an idea by yourself and it always gets brought to the group and pretty much everything gets critiqued and changed and formed and molded for the group, ‘move this lyric, change that lyric, put this here’, it’s still collaborative but it starts from a personal place… but we all got our fingers in it.
Do you have a favorite song (or songs) off the record?
S: There’s a cool slapping song on the record called ‘Machula’, it’s kind of a word that Derek made up…
N: Which I found out recently is really close to ‘me chula’, which in Portuguese means ‘my bitch’, so… we’re basically rap stars in South America.
D: Mechula means love, too. It’s endearing, ‘my love’. It’s a Dr. Seuss approach to ‘my true love’, ‘mechula’.
S: It’s really cool, it’s got some hip-hop roots in it, we’re testing the boundaries, we’re trying it all and we’re voting yes.
You’ve been quoted saying that fans know Vista Kicks concerts are where you’re meant to let loose and dance; for anyone who hasn’t been to a concert yet, what should they expect?
D: Just chill out, don’t take yourself too seriously, we encourage people to just relax and be themselves and not have to worry about being cool or other people are thinking that they’re cool. It’s more about engaging with us and us engaging with them.
N: Participate, have a good time.
T: When we go to shows we participate… by rocking.
S: Be ready to be apart of something and we’ll make you apart of something, and we’ll be apart of something together. It’s not our show, its OUR show.
Listen to Twenty Something Nightmare: