INTERVIEW: Vinyl Theatre | Anything but entropy | The Social Orlando | November 15, 2015

by • November 24, 2015

My name strikes the air. I turn to find a man pulling a cigarette out of his mouth. John, the tour manager, is more like a guy sitting in the back of your Thursday night Astronomy course that you hope you get grouped with in a class project; a source of sarcastic solace. We round the corner of Orange Avenue, and he informs me that the band arrived just two hours prior. Their schedule is quite tight this tour. He reassures me that even though there is no time for soundcheck, with him in their corner, there’s nothing to worry about. I told you, total ace in the hole.

The next thing my eyes meet is a group of guys, some in backwards baseball caps, all in tight jeans, casually standing by a trailer. If I didn’t already recognize them as the foursome comprising Vinyl Theatre, and follow all their social media accounts, I’d have no choice but to deduce that these were the guys whom I was interviewing tonight. They stood there as if they hadn’t hit #1 on Billboard’s Next Big Sound Chart in 2014 or that they hadn’t toured with labelmates and now worldwide phenoms, Twenty One Pilots, where they absolutely stole the show. Our smiles meet, hands hug, and it’s clear that if their feet were anymore firmly planted on the ground, they would be statues.

We briefly re-enact a scene from Scooby Doo, rapidly moving from inside the venue to back outside to see where the best location for sound would be. Each time we cross the threshold we agree someone has undoubtedly christened the doorway as the stench of urine reaches our nostrils. A safe distance is garnered as we begin our sidewalk session.

“It’s been go, go, go. We’ve hardly had anytime but to get ourselves ready for the show,” Keegan Calmes, lead vocals and guitarist, animates to me, not wavering once. They’ve been on the road now for three weeks with fellow Fueled by Ramen mates, Against the Current and Jules Vera. There’s been no downtime for the boys, but they don’t look phased in the slightest. In fact, they already have another tour lined-up on the cusp of 2016. They’ll be hitting the road with Finish Ticket, who, not unlike themselves, have seen a tour with Twenty One Pilots. Coincidence?

“We are under the same booking agency, and we got word they were doing a tour and instantly. we were just like this makes sense,” Keegan explains. The guys got the chance to visit San Francisco to meet their tourmates and think they have the chemistry to make a great combination. I can’t say I disagree. Finish Ticket’s reminiscence of The Wombats to their own Killers’ vibe will be sweet musical alchemy.

Keegan and keyboardist Chris Senner originally bonded over their love for The Killers’ Hot Fuss, but they don’t take comparisons lightly anymore.

Replica. It speaks to how much the earth’s population is growing and at what rate and everybody is trying to find themselves unique but we can’t and we trip over it and try way too hard,” Keegan articulates. “We’ve been throwing it around in lyrics a lot lately. I’m just so tired of it. A lot of people will tell us, in comments I no longer read anymore; ‘you look like this, or you sound like this, you’re trying to be this.’ I’m not. I was influenced, and there’s nature and nurture. I’m going to sound like the things I’ve heard.”

The lead singer notes it as what he believes is the most detrimental word. Again, no disagreements here. (Although, I thought the earth’s core had stopped spinning the first time I heard ‘bae,’ but I digress.) In a world where music is so accessible, it can all get jumbled together and start to blur on who did what first or what exactly  originality is. I quote a tweet from Keegan on the meaning behind “Breaking up my Bones.”

Some of the most talented artists will go undiscovered and they’ll be under appreciated because it’s so over saturated now. Social media, the internet. It’s about who’s the loudest sometimes and that kills me. I can’t stand it.”

His face turns into a tiny toy soldier (a little) at hearing his own words, but he elaborates, “You’re trying to be loud, you’re trying to get noticed, but only your music can talk for itself.  If the music is not good … I genuinely believe people can see through crappy music.” His staunch beliefs in making authentic music are shared by all. Bassist Josh Pothier adds, “We’ve [feel] you can actually tell when it’s a band who has 12 people writing for them and who’s a real band.”

Drummer Nick Cesarz emerges from the shadow his hats’ brim casts on his face and chimes in: “It’s almost subconscious. When you see the band and hear the songs there has to be a kind of cohesiveness. You can tell when there’s a disconnect.”

Their values are rooted in the pursuit of music that’s made as a collective. “…and as big as some of these terrible pop songs get, and some are fantastic and the lyrics are good, but it’s a team of 12 people. Which is fine. That’s its own thing. But as a band, we write everything. The four of us are really dedicated to the music and the lyrics mean something.” Keegan is adamant in explaining this. “We’re a touring band. We have a small fanbase right now and they’re growing and they’re extremely strong. Strong-willed people who enjoy good lyrics and we enjoy a lot of the same things. It’s kind of like a family.”

This fanbase Keegan speaks of calls themselves The Tribe. They are loyal indeed and the guys are not intent on letting them down anytime soon. Touring can take its toll, but try as the old asphalt might, it hasn’t worn the band down yet. “We know we’re not huge by any means, but this is our proving ground. If we don’t have a good show then we all come out pissed off. We don’t really party. We really want to sound the best. We get in that headspace, but it’s an all day thing,” Keegan notes. It’s difficult traveling on the road without breaks and the boys feel the difference between touring in a bus or van. “The Gravity Tour” has them in a van. They don’t mind, as they feel the small quarters brings them closer. It can be tough on to get the sound right, but the quartet have managed to pen it down quite a bit.

Keegan answers the question on the end of my tongue immediately. “To be honest, we have two new albums written. It’s about getting them through the label. We believe in these songs way beyond anything on ‘Electrogram.’” He pauses to add, “I love our label. They are super supportive and we have so much creative control but there’s always going to be an ebb and flow, and right now we’re learning how to take and how to give.” The singer’s vantage point on the business aspect of making music is mature. There will always be a give and take in discussion when art is involved.

Keegan, Chris, Josh, and Nick are no strangers to this concept, though. They dish it out while laughing at each other and themselves throughout the whole interview. Their friendship and dedication to their craft shines through any superficial fog that clouds what can be a music scene overwrought with disingenuous personas and selfish pursuits. Beyond the tour with Finish Ticket, they have a big headlining tour in the making. “We put a lot of time into the next headliner. It’s going to be a much better show; bigger, more lights, everything!” Keegan exclaims.

I somehow haven’t exhausted the guys and they’re up for my patented lightning round.

Coffee or Tea?

Keegan is quick to note tea as he just had his first coffee experience on this tour. “I had like a Starbucks Frappuccino and it tasted like death. I’m 26; it’s too late for me to try coffee now, maybe when I’m like 80 or something.” The rest of the camp is divided.

Whiskey or Wine?

Nick can’t decide, as he likes a good Macallan and a nice wine. A true dilemma. The ever quiet Chris ends up picking whiskey, but only after some hesitation. There’s a good story there I’m sure, maybe for another time.

‘Forrest Gump’ or ‘Castaway?’

The whole group is rooting for Forrest until Keegan jumps in with, “I’m going to say Castaway for one reason, and you should agree. Being a runner, I can’t even tell you the times I’ve had, ruuunnn Forrest runnnn!’ shouted at me! I know Cross Country isn’t the coolest sport, but it would’ve been just a little bit cooler if that didn’t happen all the time.” We both ran in college (both D2 but let’s not compare hardware, okay?) and I’m on his side.

Spirit Animal for the new album?

Keegan=lynx. Nick=sphinx. Josh=minx. There aren’t any rhyming animals left for Chris, and Keegan states matter of factly, “I can tell you what our new album is not like, a platypus. They’re just boring.” I toss my hat in the ring for that to be their new album artwork, keep ‘em guessing.

If you had to get your lyrics tattooed on you, which ones would they be?

Josh, “I’ve actually thought about a VT related tattoo. I think it would be, ‘resound my soul.’ I’ve always had an attachment to Gold.

Keegan, “Yea, I would have to say, ‘we exist just to live body and soul.’ [That] would be the most definitive lyric of our band, that would be the way we felt collectively.”

The conversation comes to a close naturally. An ebb and flow. A give and take. The guys are gracious enough to help me perform surgery on a friend’s camera I borrowed to capture them. It should be embarrassing how little I know about the contraption, but they laugh with me as we all gawk at how to turn the flash on. Their band photographer, Jake Maciosek, comes to our rescue and steers me in the right direction. I squat low onto Washington Ave as each of them sits comfortably on the curb. Peering through, all four of their empyreal eyes pierce the lens and it’s then I realize … I cannot capture them the way I want, the way I feel would be most truthful. It kills m,e but a smile reaches each of my ears: that is what their music is for and it truly does speak for itself. (Which reminds me, I need to get in line for the show!)

Vinyl Theatre Interview Orlando

As we exchange goodbyes and hugs, I feel more as if I’m leaving friends than acquaintances. And may I just say, my friends are f*cking alive onstage. But before I get to see Keegan leading the crowd in an anthemic chorus to “Breaking up my Bones,” before I watch in awe at Chris’ ability to energetically flit around and play the keys at the same time, before I hear Nick’s perfect rhythm, and before I see Josh’s face light up as he strums out “Gold,” I gather my notebook, make sure the camera is in tow, and radiate happiness on my walk down the street.

It never quite feels like fall in Florida. But I have no need for a jacket tonight; an electricity courses through me as each stranger’s glance changes my story passing by. I check my name at the front, crossover into the dark, and all I hear is noise.

Catch the Vinyl Theatre guys on Live Nations ‘Ones to Watch’ co-headlining tour with Finish Ticket starting this February and grab your tickets here!

Check out the official press release and don’t miss out!

Finish Ticket Vinyl Theatre ONES TO WATCH TOUR – FINAL

Vinyl Theatre Interview by Sarah Schumaker, edited by Matthew Weller

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