Interview: Vanna

On tour in the UK for the first time, Faye sat down with Boston’s Vanna at their sold out show in Newcastle. They talked about member changes, the curses that Curses brought them, and their frustration about reviewers, as well as a ton more!

Faye: Can you say your name and what you do?
Evan: We’re Vanna. I’m Evan, and I play guitar and sing.
Davey: I’m Davey and I do vocals.
Chris: I’m Chris and I play the drums.
Nick: I’m Nick and I play guitar.
Shawn: I’m Shawn and I play bass.

Faye: For those who are unfamiliar, can you tell me a bit of history?
Nick: We started the band in December 2004 and we really started playing shows in the summer of 2005. A couple of us were at school at the time, so we were taking it easy, just doing local shows and stuff. Epitaph Records got in contact with us and we ended up signing with them. We’ve put out three records, we put out an EP first called The Search Party Never Came and then our first full-length was called Curses and our second full-length is called A New Hope, and that’s where we’re at right now.

Faye: You replaced Chris, your vocalist, with Davey last year, didn’t you?
Evan: Yeah, we’ve had a couple of replacements. We replaced Chris Preece with Davey about a year ago.
Nick: Nearly a year, Davey’s first show was July 25th, but he was on tour with us before that.
Davey: Right, I had been on tour with you guys since June, so, yeah, this month is like my first year, and then you guys replaced Brandon our old drummer, who was on the first couple of records, with Chris ‘Rutland Badboy’ Campell.

Faye: Was there ever any uncertainty about the band’s future when Chris left?
Evan: He just had a different idea of where he wanted to go with his life and we’re friends still, and we supported him. It was kind of better for the band to move on and Davey’s filled that space better, he’s been the best singer we’ve ever had.
Davey: I came on Chris’s last tour and did songs with Chris, so I think it was an easy transition. They didn’t have to lose a singer, then search for a singer for months and months, it was just like a thing that fit.

Faye: Is it not weird for you to sing other people’s words and emotions?
Davey: It sort of is, but all the things that these guys have written about in the past and all the stuff they sing about, is stuff what I go through as well. We’re all from the same area and grew up the same, so I’ve got an understanding of the songs I’m singing and where they’re coming from, it’s good enough for me. There’s passion in their music and I have passion within me, so I think the two just met up. I think it was a really easy joining of forces, so it’s not weird singing other people’s songs. I like the fact we’re doing new stuff and I can’t wait to keep on playing more stuff that’s me and Evan writing lyrics. It’s not weird at all.
Nick: We all feel better with Davey and, no offence to Chris, but it’s funny how someone leaving a band can go from being such a disappointment, like, “Oh, fuck, we’re losing our singer, I don’t know what to do about that.” and going from feeling like that to getting a new vocalist, and being like, “Oh, wow, we’re fine, this is great.” We all feel a little more comfortable and closer together, so it’s pretty cool. It actually worked out really well.
Evan: We love you Chris, but fuck you. [laughs]
Davey: I think it’s definitely one of the best things that’s happened to the band, it’s definitely one of the best things that have happened to me.

Faye: So, you’re in the Europe and the UK for the first time, how’s that been?
Nick: Really cool.
Davey: We’ve gotten to see things that we were like, “Woah! We’ve seen that TV!” Like we got to go to Stonehenge and had a barbeque outside Stonehenge.
Chris: We set up grills and barbequed meat with shirts off, all dudes just drinking beer, listening to music. We were tailgating Stonehenge.
Davey: Besides being American pigs, we’ve also got to go to places like Germany, the Czech Republic, Amsterdam. We’ve just been experiencing the culture over here, which has been amazing.
Nick: At the same time, it can be really stressful being away from home that long, and it’s different when you tour in the US, because when we’re in the US, we can stay in contact with our family and our friends and girlfriends a lot easier, because we can actually use our phones – over here we don’t have service – so we have to rely on wireless and stuff like that. So, when we go all day without service, we can’t really contact anybody, so it gets kind of lonely sometimes. Today, there’s no wireless Internet, so none of us have spoke to anyone back home and can add stress, but at the same time, we’ve seen stuff that some people will never see in their entire lives, so we don’t take that for granted, ever.
Davey: It’s been amazing over here, though, it’s been worth the month away, we’ll make it up to our friends and girlfriends when we get home.

Faye: Did you have any expectations?
Davey: Ready to be crushed! [laughs] No, I think we were just ready for everything and we’ve been surprised about a lot of things, like everything from seeing the big sights to straight up rolling out a bar with locals, I think we’ve covered the base.
Chris: I think, because we’ve been a band for five years, we’ve got some sort of following in the US and we know we have fans in Europe, but we’ve never been over, so we were ready to start over at zero and play a show to 10 kids, but we were pleasantly surprised. We’ve gotten such good feedback from the fans and all the people that showed up, so we were really happy about it. I think it lays the ground to come back more and more often.
Nick: Next time around more people will know about it.

Faye: You’ve done well already considering tonight’s show is sold out.
Nick: Tonight is going to be the show of the tour, it’s going to be awesome.
Chris: Beside a festival we played, this is going to be the biggest show in the past month.
Nick: Yeah, this is the biggest regular club show we’ve played here, it’s pretty crazy.

Faye: I heard the barrier broke at the Bridlington show.
Davey: Yeah! We got to the club in Bridlington and I was like, “Uh, can you take that barrier down?” It was like a floor show with a barrier, and they were like, “You’re probably going to need it.” and I was like, “Nah, I don’t think so.” I was telling the promoter of the show this story, that one time we played a show in New Hampshire near our home, that we played a show an headlined, and probably in the second song, I was like, “I don’t like this fucking barrier, by the end of the show, rip this barrier down.” and the kids bent the metal apart and broke the barrier down, but I told him that won’t happen here. During our last song, though, the kids bent the barrier, got it down and threw it away.
Nick: It was just like being back at home, it was nuts, and a lot of those kids I’ve seen here tonight as well. They travelled three hours to come hang out, so that is rad.
Davey: So, yeah, future reference, if there’s a barrier at Vanna shows, break it. Sorry, promoters.

Faye: You released A New Hope last year, and it was a lot more melodic than Curses, was that intentional to reach a broader audience?
Evan: It was more of a group effort. It was Chris that joined the band, so that was like a new thing and we all just wrote it differently. We came to the other with our ideas and we kind of just melded everything together, in a different way than we did previously.
Davey: From an outside perspective, being their friend, since I wasn’t in the band yet, they toured forever on Curses and this was a really mature record that they delved into it. When I heard it, their tour manager came back and he was over my house and played the whole record for me, and I was like, “Woah! Are you kidding me?!” I think it was a really mature step-forward in their music, I thought it was awesome.
Chris: When Curses came out, I mean, it wasn’t a darker period, but I think what the stuff we wrote about was where we were as people and it was more serious. We toured on it and we had a lot of bad luck, Curses kind of lived up to its name a little bit, like we had this running joke where we were like, “Can we call the next record something more positive? Because this fucking sucks!” Literally, we had a truck slam in the back of our trailer in Texas and the spot that it hit, no lie, was this sticker we got from Epitaph, that was a weird one-off, it said ‘Vanna – Curses’, but this one didn’t say ‘Vanna’, it only said ‘Curses’ and where the direct impact was, was on that sticker. That was after a bunch of other bad things that had happened, like friends pass away and bad things happen on tour, money stolen and stuff. That was a bad year, we needed to pick ourselves back up, figure out what we’re doing, carry on and just break through, and do something that pushes us forward, so A New Hope kind of is exactly like that. We know it’s like the Star Wars thing, but we didn’t name it because of that, we were like, “Dude, you know what would be a great name for this, that embodies what we’re trying to do? A New Hope.” We thought people would be like, “That’s from Star Wars.” but we were like “Fuck it.”
Evan: That was me and Chris sitting in a room, writing the record, and we were talking how A New Hope was the best one out of the three originals, and it embodied everything that was going on and it just made perfect sense. It kind of works.
Nick: Basically, we wrote the entire record around Star Wars. [laughs] No, that’s a lie.
Chris: The next record is going to be called The Empire Strikes Back. Actually, we have a new record coming out soon, an EP out this summer, it’s called The Honest Hearts EP and we’re playing some stuff off it on this tour, so we’re eager to see how people react to it and we think it’s an even more mature step than A New Hope, and now we have Davey, it’s got a whole new intensity to it. We’re really excited to get that out.

Faye: Is it more melodic?
Nick: I think it fits with A New Hope really well, like if you listen to A New Hope and the three new songs, you’ll be like, “Oh, ok, I get it.”, but at the same time, it’s a little heavier and darker.
Davey: I don’t think it’s more or less, the one word I can describe it as is passionate. It’s like a representation of the last year of the band, in my eyes.
Nick: What’s funny, is that it seems like a heavier recording, but there’s a shitload of singing, as much singing as there is on A New Hope, it’s very, very melodic, but the music itself, kind of feels a bit darker and more heavier. It’s all the same stuff that Vanna’s always been, it’s a little fast, there’s the punk influences in there.

Faye: I read some harsh reviews for A New Hope, how did you feel about them?
Davey: I wasn’t even in the band when A New Hope got reviewed, and I opened AP magazine, and I was like, “These guys can suck it, that’s the worst review I’ve ever heard.”
Shawn: I don’t mind a bad review, if someone’s like, “I don’t like the record because of this…”, but there was no reasoning in anything they said, it was just slandering us.
Nick: A lot of them didn’t really say anything about the music, they just kind of ripped us apart for no reason.
Shawn: It seemed like they were attacking us personal and the genre, they compared us like, “What’s going to be next, like a Foo Fighters riff or Sonic Youth?” What?
Nick: Yeah, like we’re a hardcore band, why are you comparing us to Foo Fighters and Sonic Youth? Those bands are great, but we were really confused.
Davey: I was really upset for these guys and I didn’t talk to them about it until way later, but I didn’t think it was a good representation at all, the guy didn’t review the music, it seemed like the guy was mad at the genre and took it out on the record. So you can suck it, whoever did that review.
Nick: Phil Freeman! Wherever the fuck you are, Phil Freeman, you can suck it, bro.
Shawn: And the guy who was at Skate Fest can suck it too.
Davey: Yeah, when we were at home, we played Skate Fest, we co-headlined with The Receiving End of Sirens and I think we played one of the best sets we’ve played – at least in my career in the band. We had so much fun and we got so much support from friends and fans, people were absolutely crazy, we were so proud and some kid reviewed our set and couldn’t wait for it to be over on AbsolutePunk. My deal with people like that is if you can’t wait for something to be over, just fucking leave and don’t be a part of it. It’s cool if you don’t like the music and it’s cool if you can nitpick and say we were off time or something, that’s fine, but just when you take out your angst about the genre on a band, you can suck it. [laughs]
Nick: What was disappointing about that and some of the others was that they never saying anything like, “The singer missed a lot of his notes and couldn’t sing live.” They’re just making fun of what we do, they don’t like metal/hardcore, because they think they’re so over it, so any band that plays melodic kind of hardcore punk/metal stuff, they instantly just group into one category.
Chris: They even insulted our fans, which we were bummed about. They were like, “I guess kids like this shit, I can’t believe that they do.”
Nick: There was 2300 kids going nuts and that asshole sitting on the balcony going “Oh, I can’t wait for this to be over.” You know what else was bullshit about that too? Was that he specifically repped certain bands in his review that are cool to like right now – and I love these bands too – like I love Polar Bear Club, I love TREOS, I love VersaEmerge, but he it was like he wrote, “It’s not cool to like hardcore anymore, I’m so over hardcore.” It was just really weird that he was like, “Oh God, it sucked that I had to sit through Vanna, but I got to talk to the guys in Polar Bear Club, so that was a cool thing.” Just review the music for the music and that’s all. Reviews suck, whatever. Make your own judgement, don’t read reviews.

Faye: You called yourself a hardcore band, is that what you generally consider Vanna?
Nick: Yes.
Evan: We’re hardcore influenced, we like a lot of hardcore music.
Davey: I consider all this stuff like just an offshoot of punk rock, we’re just a punk rock, melodic hardcore band. There’s so many sub-genres, but when it comes down to it, I guess we’re just like an evolution of it.
Nick: Post-punk metalcore…
Davey: There’s so many sub-genres you can classify us in, but you can call us whatever you want. Just buy our records.
Chris: Whatever it takes you to buy our album, so you know what we sound like, cool, call us that.
Evan: Personally, I don’t like calling us in a genre at all, I just say we’re Vanna and do what we do, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine.
Davey: Go listen to us and see us at a show.

Faye: You’re from Boston, which is generally known for its hardcore scene, and since your sound is quite different, was it harder for you to make a name for yourself there?
Nick: Yeah, it was rough. Back when we started, the first year we started the band, we got made fun of a ton.
Davey: I used to go to Vanna shows and they used to make fun of them, but they didn’t really pay attention and, even beyond that, your live show, you just started head banging, going crazy into people to shut their mouths.
Chris: People that started fucking with them, they just started thrashing into them and they’d be like, “Oh, alright.” and then a couple of months later, they’re at our shows, singing along.
Davey: Vanna’s always been an uphill climb, but I think we’ve just earned the respect from back home. It takes a while, there’s a lot of hardcore bands at home that are very open-minded and very cool, and they don’t care, we’re all part of one musical community, then you get the kids that have attitudes, whether it’s jealousy or they straight up hate us, but I think we’ve won respect and we’re friends with the people at home, and we’ve established that. We don’t have anything to prove, just like no one else should have anything to prove. We’re just ourselves and I think people picked up on that.
Nick: I’m surprised it worked out too, back then we thought we’d be one of those bands forever that the fans really liked and anyone else that heard it, they’d be like, “Oh, Vanna, that’s so gay.” But over time, people actually kind of chilled out and were like, “Oh, Vanna, they’re good dudes and play well.”
Davey: Just like any other band ever, we’ll still get, “I don’t know why people like this band. Why’s everyone talking about Vanna? They suck.” Everyone’s talking about us, because maybe they like us? So, once again, call us whatever genre you like, but if you like it and are into it, then come hang out.

Faye: You seem to play a lot of diverse shows in the US, with bands like A Loss For Words, do you think that makes for more interesting shows and tours?
Davey:
We did a headliner with A Loss For Words and Therefore I Am, and that was so much fun. I think it’s cool not being a straight up hardcore band, because we can tour with a lot of different bands – metal bands, pop-punk bands, indie bands. I think it’s great, it expands us to be open to new genres. We just did a tour with this band called Oceana from Florida and they are amazing, they’re not really close to us at all musically, but it worked out great and developed a great friendship with those guys.
Nick: The same thing with A Loss For Words. Even though, people make fun of that transitional hardcore/metalcore thing, we don’t do it because we think it’s cool, we didn’t design the band to look cool, we just did exactly what we loved and this is what came out. I feel blessed we’re in a position where we can tour with pop-punk bands, we can tour with hardcore bands, we can tour with metal bands, we can tour with indie bands and we’ve toured with Finch! Bands that don’t sound like us, they’re just part of the same scene of people, but then when we go home, we’ll play a show with bands like Suicide Silence.
Shawn: I guess our inspirations are pretty diverse, so being able to play with all those bands kind of makes sense. We like to be friends with everyone, we like every type of music and we just like to meet new people, so the more different genres of bands we play with, the more different groups of people we can play to, we’re happy about that.

Faye: It seems like a really tight scene in Boston, I first heard about you from Four Year Strong, a couple years back, when they kept mentioning you in interviews.
Nick: Us, Four Year Strong, Therefore I Am, A Loss For Words – all of us have grown up together since we were kids, practically. We’ve been playing shows with all those bands since we were in high school pretty much, so it’s really cool to see Four Year Strong doing well, even A Loss For Words is catching on and Therefore I Am just got signed, and we’ve been signed for a little bit. It’s funny, I don’t know how it all worked out that well, but we all feel pretty lucky.
Davey: And there’s no competition, I think everyone deserves where they’re at and they’re doing really well.
Nick: That’s the thing, every single one of those bands sounds completely different from the other, but if we all play a show together, it’s works. That’s pretty cool, too.

Faye: So, after this, what’s next for Vanna?
Davey: We are home for a month, we’ve got a couple home shows and we’re going to be writing. Then we’re out for Warped Tour for a couple of weeks and then we’re home for a little while again, writing more of the new record and we do a full US tour in September.

Faye: Do you have any plans to come back here?
Nick: As soon as possible, that’s something we’ve been talking about to a few bands we know over here, and we’re trying to figure it out – maybe supporting a larger band from the UK, sometime late Fall, maybe next year, something like that. We really like the UK, the UK’s been so much fun, so we got to get back over here soon, for sure, and Newcastle’s amazing because it’s sold out upstairs, so that’s pretty cool, too.

Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Evan: Alexisonfire, City and Colour.
Nick: Armor For The Broken.
Davey: A Loss For Words, Therefore I Am, Oceana.
Nick: Gwen Stacy is chill.
Davey: The Ghost Inside, our old tour manager is playing bass for them, so we have to rep them. In Fear and Faith, those dudes are cool.
Nick: Iwrestledabearonce, awesome dudes and chick.
Evan: Memphis May Fire, I heard they’re coming over here soon.
Davey: Emarosa, they have a new record coming out you should pick up, and Jonny Craig, his solo stuff is awesome. Dead and Divine are great. I also think kids should go back listening to old bands, go back and listen to Finch and Glassjaw, to see where new bands are coming from.
Evan: Go listen to Hot Water Music and Converge.
Nick: Midtown and The Starting Line.
Shawn: Go listen to the new Deftones record, it’s the best record in years.

Faye: I think that’s about it, is there anything else you want to say?
Davey: Just come to a Vanna show and hang out with us, that’s it.

Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to Vanna for the interview, and for more information on the band, visit: www.myspace.com/vanna

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