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Interview: The Vacant Lots

The Vacant Lots are usually described as being a quintessentially New York band. The sound a mixture of chaos, grit and light — occupying a space somewhere in between New Wave and the post-Strokes rock landscape. In their short time as a band they’ve managed to work with some of the most seminal musicians to have graced or influenced New York’s rock scene (the late Alan Vega, Anton Newcombe). The band which has of late started to feel a little like a New York band in Exile — recording an EP in and named Berlin, spending time in Amsterdam to work on a new EP, the New York band is finally back in New York for their only show of 2017 this coming Friday June 30th at Sunnyvale. Follow our conversation with one half of the Vacant Lots, Jared Artaud, below.

So why is this your only New York show this year?

I think just by the logistics of how touring has worked with our different agents, we started off the year in LA and then we just got back from Europe a few days ago from a four week tour there and then I guess we’re wrapping up the album tour in Brooklyn. A couple of months from now we’re going back to Europe to support Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It’s really hard to play New York more than once or twice a year and I think the last time we played New York was when we opened for Suicide, that was a couple of years ago at Webster Hall…


Yeah it’s pretty hard to top that show

Yeah I can imagine it being pretty rough performing in New York after Alan Vega’s death too 

Yeah that really hit hard. But we’ve been doing a lot more touring in Europe not so much by design so much as just where the offers have been coming from.

Ah got it, so it’s not like escaping after the election…

Oh god no. I mean it’s not like “fuck this place we’re not gonna play here.” Most of these tours are booked like 6-10 months in advance. As dismayed as we are with the world of American politics by no means are we exiling ourselves or not playing here because of it. I mean I don’t give a fucking shit I’ll play where we want to [laughs]

Are you guy still based in New York? Has the energy or the scene changed much for you?

Yeah I am, I’m in Brooklyn and Brian’s in Burlington, Vermont. I’ve lived here for a few years

We made both of our records in New York city primarily. We mixed our album Endless Night here in Brooklyn and we used the same studio as our first album Departure. We’ve been very productive from a studio standpoint here but also in Berlin we made the Berlin EP with Anton Newcombe from Brian Jonestown Massacre and on our tour a few weeks ago we made another EP with him in Berlin. So between New York and Berlin I think there’s something there.

In terms of the scene in New York I don’t know how much I can comment on. We played Glasslands and Death By Audio, those places don’t exist anymore. I think places come and go all the time you can also see with festivals, for the past five or six years there was a psych fest in like every fucking city and now Austin Psych Fest isn’t Austin Psych Fest. 

What was the experience like for you recording in Berlin? It’s become this mecca for creative people recently, a little like New York was at some point.

A lot of my friends moved there from London, New York, LA and Paris primarily because the rent’s so cheap. You can actually pay really low rent and you can have a two bedroom apartment which is kind of unheard of in Brooklyn, but you’re also centrally located in Europe. I wont lie I really appreciate certain aspects of history like in New York City —what happened with Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine and Punk, disco, more so the music than the culture of disco, but Punk the roots of that kind of rock and roll — I feel like you tap into that subconsciously. Then of course in Berlin being inspired by Brian Eno, Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s records.

As a pretty young band, having worked already with some really seminal musicians who’s left on your bucket list?

Yeah! We feel very honored to have worked with so many influential musical mentors. In terms of other people that we’d like to collaborate with off the top of my head I’d love to work with Richard Hell in some way or Tom Verlaine, Iggy Pop would be great. From a producer’s standpoint I don’t know if he does that but Jamie from The Kills — I’d really love to work with him on making a whole record or having him produce us. I think the evolution of that band is pretty amazing, I love his guitar style too — I think he fucked his middle finger up and can’t really use it when he plays now and he’s still able to take pretty incredible risks that I find innovative and fresh sounding on the records.

What’s the difference for you guys playing in Europe versus playing in the States?

In Europe the people that go to the shows are the same fucking people that saw the Clash and they come up to you and say oh last time I saw Suicide open for the Clash and people were throwing shit at them luckily they didn’t do that for you guys tonight. It’s just hearing weird shit like that, there are stories about Jeffrey Lee Pierce coming on stage and being completely out of it but it still being one of the best shows that this guy has ever seen.

There isn’t this kind of this 21 and over bullshit that happens a lot in the states and I think that kind of deters— I mean it prevented me when I was in high school from going to a number of shows. I had to go see Sonic Youth in Philadelphia growing up in New Jersey because I couldn’t see them in New York. From what I’ve seen in Europe, there are parents that bring their kids that are teenagers to shows. Their kids whose extent of underground knowledge is the Velvet Underground, but they’re still coming to these shows and being exposed to newer forms on independent types of music.

There seems to be a greater enthusiasm, the people who come to the shows they come beforehand and talk to you or ask you to sign records, they’ll talk about your entire discography and then see the show, come afterwards and offer to buy you a drink and get into just a general conversation about music. It really makes you forget all the dreary bullshit of being on tour and the fatigue because it’s actually shit you do in New York City — you go meet up with your friends, you go have a couple of drinks and you end up talking about music or art or whatever, politics and you get this on a night to night basis.

So what do we have to look forward to with the Sunnyvale show?

Well it’s the last show of this album tour, we haven’t played New York in a couple of years and this is going to be the last show before we go on the road with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. People keep asking — like the last time we were in London I had ten stitches in my hand and broke a small bone in my wrist, they actually had to super glue maybe an inch and a half scar together… That was the last time we played London so there was loads of blood and DNA splattered. So in terms of what’ll happen in New York I don’t know it really depends on the night. I’m just hoping that we have a good show and that it’s a good crowd. hopefully it’ll give a gage for playing another show there.

The Vacant Lots released their sophomore LP Endless Night in April. Catch them this Friday at Sunnyvale for their only New York show of 2017. 21+, tickets and details here

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