You know Pharcyde’s Runnin’, that iconic chorus? “Can’t keep runnin’ awaaaaaaaay…” Well, that was the first thing that popped into my head when I first received Vsitor’s new record and read the title: Keep On Running. So many years down the line and that Pharcyde song is still branded into my memory banks! If I ever find the time, I’ll see if I can make a mash up using both of these records.
Digression aside, Vsitor is the type of hybrid indie pop which will appeal to those who love that early THE XX, but could also get down with some of Jamie’s solo releases and remixes. It’s important to point out, though, that Vsitor’s music is emotionally more mature than the teen-angsty formula that the XX have been perfecting. As per their mild clubby inclinations – if you could even call them that – they mostly remain buried under layers of of beautiful noise, which is definitely a thing on this release. And even when the beats and bass-lines align to really create this straight-forward drive, you probably won’t put your drink down and start dancing. In fact, I would say that this is the type of record that you’ll get the most out of if you listen to it alone and with the lights off or, perhaps, on a long and solitary night drive. This music is blue and contemplative, filled with things painful and hopeful in equal measure. If you’re recovering from heartbreak and in need of a sonic balm of sorts, this could be your soundtrack.
Vsitor consist of vocalist Lea Maria Fries, guitar player and effects tinkerer David Koch and drum programmer / dummer Valentin Liechti. Their LP is available courtesy of Red Brick Chapel Records.
Here is a short q&a with Lea Fries and David Koch:
How long have you been running?
Lea: David and I started Vsitor together in 2014. We were a duo back then. I played the drum pads and sang and David played bass on a synth, and guitar. After a while, we realised that we wanted to have a drummer with us on stage, to transport more energy and make the beats sound more vivid. Then I met Valentin, over fondue, at a friend’s house. We ended up talking about music over this big pot of cheese and we really connected. I asked him to join us for a gig. When we played together it felt so right, so he stayed with us.
Do you think it’s actually possible to run away from anything in life?
Lea: I’m convinced that it’s not possible. I think that whatever it is that you’re trying to run away from, you need to get to the bottom of what it is and go through it. If you don’t, you won’t be able to grow or move forward and change the things that need to be changed. But, of course, we get stuck with our own fears and our personal issues and our situation might become dissatisfying, and we can develop bad habits to hide from the actual problem. But wait! Maybe it is actually possible to run away? But then that means that you have to keep on running and never stop and never reflect. I think if you do that you’ll never be able to find peace. Or at least, for me, it would be like this. Perhaps it works for other people. Either way, I think that it’s not really healthy and it becomes very stressful.
Apparently, Keep On Running is the product of an intense non-linear production process, what does that mean exactly?
David: It means that we didn’t just go to a studio for 2 weeks and recorded the music in that time frame, and went home with a finished record. I guess most albums these days are non-linear productions. Let me use the 4th track from the record – Fainting Giants – as an example of what I mean. The song started when we recorded drums for another piece in our rehearsal space in Berlin. We used an old, broken microphone. Every time Valentin hit the bass drum it created this huge low end. We looped it, and that’s what you now hear in the verse. Then I added the arpeggiating synths and composed the main melody. We took this version to Switzerland, to our studio there, and recorded the drums that you hear in the chorus. Back in Berlin, while I was at home, I came up with these piano chords which are on the verse now. I sent this to Lea and she came up with this picture of the universe: outer space vs the microcosm. Based on this idea she wrote the lyrics. Then we recorded the vocals back in Switzerland and, 6 months later, we recorded the flute and the bass-clarinet, which you can now hear in the intro. It was recorded in an old abbey in my hometown. Later, we took these recordings and ran them through a vintage guitar amp. Oh, and a few days before mastering the record, I took this intro and played it back at 1/4th of the speed – minus 2 octaves – and reversed it. This is the first minute of the track now. This is what I mean by non-linear. (laughs)
But if everyone works on the same song, separately, how do you know which version to keep? Or do you combine them all?
David: Most of the time one person takes the “lead“ on a given song, or everyone is just responsible for different things. Lea always writes the lyrics, Valentin, for example, programmed and played a lot of the beats. There are also times when the three of us work on the songs together. We sit in our rehearsal space and jam, talk and vibe. But if somebody worked on the tracks on their own, we always listen to the results together. We trust each other a lot. We’re picky, but we also make space for the other band members and their ideas. Sometimes, a song might have a few different versions and the one you hear on the record is the one which we loved most.
The recording session for the LP took place in Berlin, would you say that the city had an influence on the sound? In other words, do you think these songs would have sounded differently if they would’ve been recorded somewhere else?
Lea: Berlin definitely had an influence on us as people and as musicians, so it had to have had an influence on our music, as well. Berlin is a very liberal city, it’s very open. So I think for us moving there from Switzerland was a really good thing, not easy, but good. We really enjoyed living together, just the three of us. We worked all day and went out afterwards. We just let it all flow and let the inspiration find us. Plus, the sounds of this city shaped the music: from my fucked up piano in the rehearsal room, to what we heard at clubs or just the noisy streets.
What could we expect from Vsitor live? How is the live show different from the way the songs were captured on the record?
David: We’ve been playing live for many years so we’ve had the time to figure out what’s important for us when when we play. We don’t have any computers on stage and we don’t use any backing tracks. Everything you hear is played live. This is important because it creates that real live energy and it also makes the music honest. And that’s what we want. The live set might be a bit rockier, punkier and maybe even rougher, but it’s still very much a part of the Vsitor sound universe. A lot of textures you heart on the record were made with my guitar and effects pedals, and I also have them on stage with me.
Any closing words?
If you you are in desperate need of a cool t-shirt with horse on it, we got some!