It’s Tuesday, October 25 and I’m sitting in my car in a Chic-Fil-A parking lot calling Joey Vannucchi, the brainchild and songwriter behind From Indian Lakes, to talk about his latest album and current headlining tour through the US which will make a stop at the Observatory in Santa Ana this Friday.
From Indian Lakes (Vannucchi + a group of friends that play as his touring band) are on the road somewhere between San Antonio and Phoenix and that somewhere is a place with real shitty cell phone reception. I’d attach the audio file of our interview just so you could suffer through the pre-2000’s flip phone level of call quality, but I don’t want you to hear me embarrassingly tell Vannucchi that I’ll “talk to him soon” at the end of our conversation. I never know how to end these things. Or maybe it’s that I hoped I would talk to Vannucchi again soon because I can’t seem to stop spinning his new record.
Joey Vannucchi has a hell of a back story. He grew up on 40 acres of land just outside of Yosemite National Park with no electricity save for a sparingly used generator. He instead spent his days connecting with nature and obsessively perfecting a whole gang of instruments. Because, you know, no internet. Early influences ranged from The Eagles, to Deftones with jazz, classic rock and other experimental music mixed in for good measure. What ever albums he could get his hands on obsessively occupied his CD walkman for months.
And while his peers were interested in pursuing hard rock, metal or pop-punk bands, Vannucchi was more intrigued by creating a sound he felt was sorely missing.
“I just wanted to do something that I wasn’t really hearing people doing,” Vannucchi says. “Indie-rock with a really ambient, experimental side. And I now know people were doing it, but I hadn’t been exposed to it so I thought it would be cool to dive into.”
Over their first three albums, From Indian Lakes’ music leaned more toward traditional indie-rock, albeit with an interesting mix of time signatures and a wide range of instrumentation. The sound was unique and garnered considerable buzz, but when it came time to start writing what would end up as Everything Feels Better Now, Vannucchi was ready for a new approach.
“I think I just noticed that I was playing it a little safe within the genre I was dwelling in.” Vannucchi says. “I just went into this record telling myself that I'm going to try to make a record that I've never heard before. And not even have a ‘oh it's kinda like this meets this’ or ‘it's like a good version of this’ I didn't want any of that. I just wanted to push myself as hard as possible to be as creative as possible.”
In the time honored tradition of indie rock records having great creation stories, Everything Feels Better Now is no different. Vannucchi relocated to Chico, Calif., and rented out the basement of a coffee shop for a couple hundred bucks a month to use as a makeshift studio. It was filled out with any vintage gear Vannucchi could get his hands on and brought to life watching YouTube tutorial videos. This would become Vannucchi’s creative space for the next several months as he began crafting a more dreamy and organic aesthetic to his music. He found new life in the tattered vintage gear, squeezing out a warmness that is palatable on the record.
With the 20 or so coffee shop demos whittled down to 12, Vannucchi packed up for Los Angeles to record at Fairfax Recordings with Kevin Augunas. There was again a major focus on vintage gear and analogue processes, with no editing to either vocals or instrumentation throughout the recording process.
“Delays were made using tape machines,” says Vannucchi, who played all the instruments heard on the album. “And other effects were made using various vintage equipment leftover from Sound City Studios. We used vintage synth equipment and vintage drums and guitar amps. When writing and recording this album I was really trying to capture a lo-fi aesthetic, while still retaining a sense of thoughtfulness. All the vintage stuff and the rawness of the process totally flipped my idea of what making music had to be like.”
The result is a slow-burning, deep and layered album. There’s a hint of emo-rock there. Shoegaze-y indie accounted for as well. All wrapped up in a dreamy, moody, flowing, vision of something completely new. It’s not definable until you have this specific record as a reference point, and even then, it’s no easy task.
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I’m finishing up my conversation with Vannucchi and I have to strain to hear what he is saying over the blaring of Travis Scott’s “Antidote” playing in the tour van. Vannucchi dishes out some recommendations for a day trip to Yosemite (grueling hike in the park early morning followed by a stop at the Bug Hostel in Midpines with its $12 community spa.) I ask Vannucchi what he hopes people are able to take away from the album and for the first time in our conversation he draws a blank.
“I hope it's just kinda like...you know I haven’t really thought about that. I don’t really know how to answer that one.”
I guess that was Vannucchi’s goal all along.
From Indian Lakes perform on Oct. 28 at the Constellation Room, 9 p.m. $12. For full details, click here.