Back on Friday, June 16th, Perth’s Vacant Home dropped their newest EP, ‘Reflect, Respond’; a mighty solid seven-track release showing just what Australian melodic hardcore was capable of. Following on from this new release and with the band currently supporting Eat Your Heart Out on tour, we caught up with the WA band to talk about any and all things new and recent in the world of Vacant Home of late. 2017 is going to be a very big year for these guys – just you watch.
With your first EP being titled ‘Reflect’ and this follow-up being called ‘Reflect, Respond’, what do you guys feel you’ve learnt the most since that debut EP and what do you honestly think has progressed for Vacant Home’s sound?
Alex: Apart from the last track on the record – ‘Heirloom’ – all of the songs were mostly written around the same time so there isn’t a whole lot of material written with lessons learnt from previous songs in mind. ‘Heirloom’ was finished much later in the process and we didn’t think we were even going to include it in this release. However, we think the song demonstrates the sound we are moving towards in the future. I believe it is the most refined song we’ve produced to date and the record finishes with a snapshot of where we are at as a band right now.
Jeremy: Adding to what Alex has said, ‘Heirloom’ has a bit of a different vibe to our other songs and I feel like it’s pushed all of us to write to the best of our ability. The writing style and process is something we’re definitely going to take note of when we start writing music in the future.
Good to hear, guys. Furthermore, and as the title suggests, you’ve reused your first release’s three songs – ‘Shiver’, ‘Back Bay’ and ‘Inner Peace’ – for this new EP. Why the inclusion of those previously released tracks here – just to fill out this release more or because they share similar concepts and themes? Also, have any of these songs been re-recorded or remixed or have they been left as is?
Callum: We released Reflect as a three track in October last year and planned to release a second three track called ‘Respond’ in February. We had a few delays in the recording process that put us back a few months but it turned out to be a blessing. Literally days before we were about to release ‘Respond’, we were contacted by Mutant League. We signed with them, finished off another song and decided to put it out as a seven track EP as it was. Both three tracks are part of the same concept and theme so I think it’s worked out better that they’re all on the same release.
I’d say so too. As you mentioned, ‘Reflect, Respond’ is coming out under Mutant League Records, who you’ve also signed with. I have a feeling I know the answer already, but why go with a U.S. label and not an Australian label? Where the offers you got from locals (if any) not what you were looking, or do you think that Nate Steinheimer/Mutant League can provide the absolute best leg up for Vacant Home as a band?
Callum: To be honest, we didn’t have any local interest. We had about four or five offers from small US labels which was crazy for us because we’d been a band for all of about two months. Early this year Manny at Dreambound put us in contact with Nate and we got chatting. Right from the start, Nate came across as a passionate, hard-working dude who genuinely cared about getting the most out of the bands he works with. He presented us with a great opportunity to get our music out across Australia and the US and to be a part of their label so we jumped at it. Mutant League has some sick bands on their roster like Seaway and Ambleside, who are doing really well at the moment, which was another big factor in our decision too.
Alex: Also, getting a foot in the door in the States is a big thing and is hard to do without label backing. We felt that we could grow in Australia ourselves but would need Mutant League to start that process off over there and take us forward.
That’s true – having a foot in the door for America could help lead to some solid tour opportunities in the future. Now, prior to this EP’s release and even with being such a young band, you’ve seen some pretty big numbers for a band of your ilk on your singles and film clips. Does that instil you with confidence that this new EP will not only be received well by listeners but may also do somewhat well for the band financially?
Callum: We never expected to receive the response we’ve been getting for our music and to be honest we’re still blown away by it. We’ve been receiving messages from people in countries all over the world saying how our songs have impacted them which is insane. I know it sounds cliche but we’re probably going to make next to nothing from the record but that doesn’t bother us at the moment. We’re just going to ride the wave and see how far it takes us.
Shifting gears now. With ‘Shiver’, how difficult was it to the convey the musical and lyrical emotion of losing a family member is such a horrible way, but to then present that suitably with a music video? Do you think that you achieved that goal?
Callum: Right from the start we really wanted the film clip to tell a visual story that would complement the song and I feel we’ve achieved that. My grandfather had such a huge impact on me and ‘Shiver’ was my way of honouring him and his life. Because of this I was really inspired and focused on making the song and the video the very best they could be. I’m really proud of the end result and I think he would be too.
Likewise with the film clip for ‘Shiver’, the one-shot, one-take approach is a very popular one lately. Foxblood did it for ‘Die Young’, Belle Haven did it for ‘The Carving Knife’, Sleep Talk did it for ‘Sorry’ and of course, Casey did it for their first clip, ‘Hell’. So, do you think that the nature and delivery of this clip stand up against what many of your genre peers have created in their respective art?
Alex: We had watched Casey’s and Sleep Talk’s videos and always thought they were a sweet idea; they looked beautiful. We wanted to put our own take on the concept and try and make it our own which I believe we managed.
Jeremy: All of the bands mentioned have done a terrific job with their own respective music videos and are all amazing bands. We all liked the visual behind a one-shot video and thought it was the best way to go for both ‘Bliss’ and ‘Shiver’. Of course, much like Westy said, we’ve added our own idea to the ‘one-take’ and feel as if it explains the narrative of the story well.
Callum: Our mates Will and Jamie at Split Mask Media filmed all of our music videos and have killed it each and every time. I think the visual aspect makes the lyrics really hit home hard and have more of an impact. The Split Mask boys are a big part of the reason why Shiver received the response it did, so I definitely think it stands up.
Yeah, I’ve noticed that Split Mask have done all of your videos. I hope that that relationship holds moving forward as you both gel so well! Also, who was the elderly man in the clip, and how many run-throughs were needed until you got “the” take for ‘Shiver’?
Alex: The man in the clip was our drummer Dejon’s family friend, Dennis, who is an absolute legend. He gave us his Saturday in return for a slab of VB, so it was a win-win for everyone. The shot used was actually the first take we filmed.
Callum: We actually planned to do three takes. We nailed the first two on the first try and thought we’ll do one more to be safe. This is where we found out $2 glasses from Red Dot are practically indestructible. The fucking thing would not break! We threw it, dropped it, we did everything but it would just not break. Eventually, after like the 12th take it finally shattered. In the end, we decided to use the very first take we filmed so the whole glass breaking saga ended up being for nothing.
[Laughs] Well, now the saga of the broken glass will live on. Your other single, ‘Heirloom’, deals with the topic of alcoholism, and I’m curious, who in the band writes the lyrics and how autobiographical is that song for that member?
Callum: I write the majority of the lyrics and they all come from personal experience. At the time I was struggling internally a bit with a few things and like many people do, turned to alcohol to distract myself from what I was feeling. I’m in no way an alcoholic; I’m not heading out and getting drunk every weekend. The song was more of a snapshot of what I was feeling at a certain point in time.
Right! Thanks for clarifying that. Do you find that the kind of heavy music that Vacant Home performs allows for such emotionally heavy topics to translate better and make that much more of an impact on the listener than say if you were a pop-punk or metalcore band?
Jeremy: I feel both the music and the lyrics written compliment well with each other – the drive/mood of the song overall wouldn’t be as powerful without one or another. Music is able to connect with people so strongly; writing music and having it to be able to affect and connect with someone in one way or another is something that personally I’ve always wanted to do, as that’s happened to me with the bands I’ve listened to over the years. If someone is able to relate to a line of a song or if they’re able to become emotionally invested within the instrumentation, we’ve done our job.
Again on lyrics, do you ever find yourselves over-exaggerating or bending the truth at all in any of your lyrics in order to help “sell” the song(s) better?
Callum: Everything that’s talked about on this record comes from personal experience. The songs were a representation of how I felt at the time I wrote them. I didn’t go out trying to write the saddest songs I possibly could just for the sake of it or write about themes that I didn’t relate with or care about. I’m in a completely different space now to where I was twelve or eighteen months ago when I first started writing for ‘Reflect, Respond’. We’ve already begun writing new material and lyrically it will be quite different.
And in being in a different headspace since writing these songs, I’m keen to see what future Vacant Home musci tackles. In terms of your videos, there is always a very strong house-show feel to your performances and clips. Does that simply come out of the band playing a lot of actual house shows in and around Perth (as you did recently for someone’s 18th) or is that just me?
Callum: Yes and no. We love playing house shows and I feel people here in Perth love them too (just ask the Hindsight boys). But in terms of the film clips, there isn’t much of a link between house shows and the video setting; we chose what we liked and what was available for us to use.
Fair enough. Oh, and how fucking stoked were you all when that table flip landed perfectly in the ‘Bliss’ music video?
Alex: I didn’t even realise until I watched it back the first time.
Jeremy: Yeah, I remember watching it back for the first time and losing my shit laughing!
Callum: Once it got released it was the first thing everyone noticed and I thought oh fuck, this is the only thing anyone’s going to take out of this whole clip.
You weren’t wrong, as I’ve just proved! With your tour with Eat Your Heart Out, and with the band’s bio noting how Perth is the “most isolated capital city”, how has your geographical location affected Vacant Home financially, in terms of musical reach and what can and has been achieved?
Alex: Flying to Indonesia and half of South-East Asia is cheaper than flying to Adelaide for us, so it’s definitely financially taxing to start touring over East. However, the internet is such a great tool for us to gain exposure outside of Perth that we can’t achieve through touring. This way we’ve managed to create a base to start touring on without our location hindering us too much. The internet changes the game for artists in places similar to us and putting our songs on Dreambound has enabled us to share our music on a global scale.
Callum: Straight off the bat it costs $2000-$3000 just for airfares to get to and from Perth so it’s always going to be a little bit of a financial struggle for us to tour. But in saying that all of us boys just want to play shows and take this as far as we can so we’ll do what we can to make it work.
Finally, with the obvious exception of Saviour (I’d also mention Break Even but they haven’t been a thing in a long bloody while), do you think that your band fills a solid space in the Australian melodic hardcore scene and especially that of Perth’s scene?
Jeremy: In Perth, there weren’t very many melodic things happening at the time when we started out. Because of that, I feel like we’ve made a bit of an impact with Shiver here at home because it’s something different. Our tour with Eat Your Heart Out is our first national one, so I’m very interested to see how we’re received on the east coast.
Callum: I think it’s too early to tell where we stand in the national scheme of things but it is such an exciting time to be a part of the melodic hardcore scene right now. There are so many sick bands killing it such as Ambleside, Stepson, Hindsight, Sleep Talk, The Comfort and Belle Haven which are motivating us to write music and keep smashing out shows. It’s the same with the Perth heavy scene too; you’ve got bands like Cursed Earth, Statues, Daybreak and Glass Wave all doing well which is sick to see. It’s just a real exciting time.
Alex: Man, we miss Break Even.
Callum: It’s been too long. Someone get a hold of Mawds and get them playing again. And Miles Away too!
PC: Split Mask Media. Vacant Home’s new EP, ‘Reflect, Respond’, is out now and you can stream it below and you can get it here. Click here for more info on the band’s current tour with Eat Your Heart Out, False Plaintiff, and Blue Velvet.
And yeah, I miss Break Even too. Mark Bawden, please respond.