Alt Citizen Interview

Before we’re born. Before we die: An interview with Jared Artaud of The Vacant Lots

Polaroids by Luz Gallardo

“Spin the eddies of the sky inside these black petals. Shadows have covered the earth that bears us. Open a pathway to the ploughing amongst stars. Enlighten us, escort us with your host, Silver legions, on mortal course, Which we strive towards at the core of night.” – A.A.
     Ah, night…at it’s core. A few have dared impose onto her shoulders or kiss her in candle lit rooms of burgundy velvet, colors and wax at their finest, shadows in corners of soundproof warehouses, and I am on my way to the cocktail lounge, Night of Joy, in Brooklyn. Jared Artaud, of The Vacant Lots,  is there. We plan to have a chat (mainly, I will inquire about the duo’s latest EP, ‘Exit’, recorded in Berlin at Cobra Studio by psych-rock guru, Anton Newcombe.) The Vacant Lots have always flirted with the darker aspects of modern music, slicing off a piece of Vega’s meat, yet daring to believe and exist in their own unique sound. Throbbing drum machines, Silvertone amps pushed to their max, and gritty organ blurps, reminiscent of a time in New York City that may never return. Regardless, Jared and Brian display themselves in black and white. The Vacant Lots, don’t adhere to trends, rather they continue to work-out the voices in two heads, with a common goal — provide a listener with sonic truths. Whether this feeling is blissful or strange, it is for you and the night, to decide.
     The club…Jared is DJing. It’s his ‘Damage Control’ residency. The Telescopes, ‘Perfect Needle’ is playing as I walk in. He is clad in a black trench, sat next to a muted lantern in an otherwise dark venue. We greet. Grab a couple of pints, and dig right in…

The Vacant Lots are no longer a “new band” with something to prove to the World-at-Large, about how to tour internationally, release records on important labels, and record material that is as much “raw” as it is “well-produced”; how has time and attention effected the duo since starting out on this journey? Or, how have you departed from “Departure”?

Jared Artaud:  I think the records we make document the evolution of the band. Our sound has changed over the years, but the original vision of the band remains the same. We just continue to make the records we want to make and don’t worry about conforming to trends, just working within the limitations of two people. We consistently strive to push ourselves forward, sonically speaking, and continue to refine what we’re doing, even if our perspectives on life and art change over time.

Agreed. I feel the latest is very well produced, yet the focus of your debut is intact. On a similar note…a 2 part question — How has working with such legends as Anton, Sonic Boom, and Alan Vega affected your work? In the press release for the new EP, you discuss how much of a creative force Anton is in the studio, but I’m curious to know how much influence he had on sounds or arrangements? Also, I know you’re a producer in your own right, but do you find it intimidating when working with artists who have such an honored past and present or business as usual?

Jared:  Working with Anton in the studio for 10 hour days in a row, you learn a lot. There’s no time for overthinking when you’re constantly creating. When songs start to form from the ideas we brought into the studio, you really get a glimpse of what makes Anton such a unique songwriter and producer. I’m grateful cos working with someone like Anton has doubtlessly made me a better artist. I’ve always been inspired by the process of how things are made. So getting to collaborate with other musicians that made me want to make records in the first place is an incredible honor. Anton is extremely self-disciplined and continually innovates while making key decisions on the spot. I like the zone we get into with him in Berlin. He’s created an environment at his studio that I find inspiring and liberating.

I really enjoy the sonic reach of your latest single, ‘Bells’. It seems to have a late-80s UK vibe, meaning a wonderfully layered, yet minimalist feel, but many of these groups (like Echo & the Bunnymen or J&MC) had about five members in them; as a duo do you find it difficult to relay the songs live?

Jared: We never had a problem translating our songs live. The studio and the stage are two separate things. When we make records we aren’t thinking about the live set up. If we want bass, we don’t need a bass player, but one of us has to create it. At times it has been challenging but we’ve always managed to execute the sounds and ideas that we want. It helps that we both play a number of different instruments. We reinterpret our songs for live, we don’t carbon copy. We try to stay true to the song but they are usually reimagined both technically and aesthetically.

Will Vacant Lots forever be a 2-piece or have you ever considered expanding the band?

Jared: Expanding our sound, yes, always. But not the number. It’ll always be two.

The band is headlining at Sunnyvale in Brooklyn on Friday the their a difference in approach when being the draw as opposed to opening for bands such as, The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club & The Dandy’s?

Jared: There is usually more pressure from the promoter to sell tickets but since the show is free that isn’t the case. You play a longer set when you headline, so the dynamic and movement of the set is different. You’re not locked into a 30 minute time zone. The focus is less militant and more transportive.

Looking forward to that show, for sure. So what is next on Jared Artaud’s agenda? New LP or possibly another poetry book, and how difficult is it to maintain your focus on these two mediums?

Jared: I just want to make records and tour. Vacant Lots third album will be out next year and we’re in the process of mixing it right now. I finished a third poetry book and want to release that next year as well. I’m also mixing and producing a few other bands right now including working on an Alan Vega music project that I’m terribly psyched about.

I think it’s a balancing act. Making records and writing poetry books are two different mediums. You can infuse rock n roll songs with poetry but it cant suffocate the music. I like having another outlet. There is a totally different style and voice split from a shared vision when it comes to writing poetry than with lyrics. When I’m home I’m usually working on something whether it’s music, poetry or painting.

Well, thank you so much for your time Jared. It’s been a pleasure. One final question, I ask all my interviews: Life after death. Any thoughts?

Jared: What it was like before we were born is what it will be like when we die.

Warmth rushes between soft pink mind, as layers provide. Analog synths and solid guitars are made for a Funeral Party, so “let it rain.” As I step back onto the city streets, I asses: Artaud, is sincere in what he does. He loves music and it’s forever secrets. He lives it. The Vacant Lots have no intention of ending their craft anytime soon. They are friends, musicians, artists. They are not in this game to make popularity blogs (though that is what is happening.) The Vacant Lots, simply want to create music they, themselves, enjoy; who can’t get behind that?

Choosing Anton, to produce/record the latest album, only furthers my prior statement. Personally, I felt a bit lost and hopeless (many years back) with what was being pushed onto airwaves and record shelves, until The Brian Jonestown Massacre began recording again. Anton, consistently inspires and provides listeners with vast musical landscapes of beauty and psychic space. The Vacant Lots understand this. The duo has compiled it into their language. Stare closely at the optical art on ‘Exit’. Two beams. Hear the Bells? Get found. Get lost.

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