Self-described “Nu-Hula” band Vacationer opened for Bleachers at Union Transfer Nov. 26. Their latest album that was released in June, “Relief,” features the two top songs “The Wild Life” and “Go Anywhere.” The band released a music video for “Go Anywhere” a month ago, now with over 4,000 views, and they also have almost 120,000 views on the video for their most popular song, “The Wild Life.”
Formed in 2010 and originating from both Philadelphia and Brooklyn, the band consists of Philadelphia native lead singer and bassist Kenny Vasoli, vibraphone and backup singer Matthew Young, drummer Ryan Zimmaro, keyboardist and backup vocalist Michael Mullin, and guitarist and backup vocalist Greg Altman. The Triangle sat down with Vasoli to talk about the band and what to expect at the concert.
The Triangle: Could you tell us where you’re from? How did Vacationer start? What inspires your music interest?
Kenny Vasoli: Totally. I live in the outskirts of Philadelphia; I pretty much live in the town that I grew up in. I started Vacationer in 2010, around the summer time. I was deeply in love and coming off the heels of playing in a bunch of rock ’n’ roll bands. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something that wasn’t blowing out my voice all night. I wasn’t just into guitars and loud crashing cymbals. I was really interested in what went into electronically produced music. So I linked up with these guys called Body Language: Matt Young and Grant Wheeler. We started throwing things against the wall. We ended up starting a song that session and meeting up every other week and just keep making music … [It’s really about] escaping the mundane out of life and being towards relaxed all the time.
TT: What’s the deal with the new music video “Go Anywhere?”
KV: [They] wanted to shoot a music video in hot air balloon. It was pretty much pitched to me that way. “Hey, you want to shoot a video in a hot air balloon?” It sounded like a perfect adventure and I pretty much let Grant take the reins. The day it was shot was our third attempt at doing it; we had shot it a couple other times before that. I think one time there was just too much wind. It was all of our first time in a hot air balloon. I was really excited about how that came out. We pretty much did that thing guerilla style.
TT: Can you tell me about the “Wild Life” music video?
KV: Sure, that was a great experience man. I got to go down to Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The head of my label, Josh Doyte, he was down there for a trip last winter. Just as he got the announcement for our record, he basically had the vision of sending me down there to do the video for “Wild Life” and I had a feeling that Costa Rica would be a beautiful place but it’s just really amazing just how extremely gorgeous it was. So that look of wonder joyfulness and amazement on my face is completely genuine in that video. It was just such a magical time for me. I had a blast. To do things like that, I don’t really have to work at all.
TT: You’ve basically been in Philadelphia your entire life, have you played here before?
KV: Oh yeah! I’ve played many, many shows in Philadelphia.
TT: How many of them at Union Transfer?
KV: We’ve actually played our first ever show at Union Transfer. It was the first show of our first tour. It was with Asteroids Galaxy Tour. I may have been getting that confused but I know played there with them. We also played there with Niki and the Dove, and that was the first day of that tour as well. I’ve been really impressed with how beautiful [Union Transfer] is. I don’t know if anybody knows this, but they can move the stage, specifically on wheels, so they can make it like a 500 capacity place to 700 or like 1,000 or a 1,200 cap, so it’s really cool how they can just house so many levels of bands and all sound so great. It has really good amenities and a great bar. Anytime I get to see a show there, it’s very enjoyable and to play there is such an honor.
TT: Most of your songs are very summery, very tropical. Just like your name says, “Vacationer.” You’re playing this concert pretty much in the winter. How does that feel? How are you going to get the crowd up in the cold?
KV: You know, I like to think that it works sort of both ways. With our music being warmer climate complimentary, the thing about playing in the winter, in colder climates places, I think people are sort of looking for an escape from that. I don’t think that everybody is trying to listen to music made by a coal miner or something like that. I don’t think they want to magnify the feeling of cold. I think they’re trying to get away from it, so it works for our band in all seasons.
TT: So what’s it going to be like playing with Bleachers?
KV: We’ve never toured with them. This is a one show. Originally we were slotted to headline that night at Union Transfer and a few weeks later we got a call saying that Bleachers is looking to get into the room on that night and if we would take the same guarantee and support them. We were having a little bit of trouble of finding work for the show on such short notice and Jack [Antonoff, lead singer for Bleachers], he’s been a friend of mine since we were teens so, it’s nice to be able to reconnect with him. I’m stoked to be close to such success like the Fun, and the Bleachers project.
TT: So what’re you like on stage? What’s the kind of vibe your band likes to do?
KV: Aw man, show vibes! I’ve been trying to dial in vibes right away. For me, I’m not like a Bon Jovi or Bruce Springer [sic] kind of front man. I don’t really have that rock ’n’ roll persona to try and like work the crowd into a frenzy. If people were looking for that, they’re going to have a rude awakening, but what I do try is to be a person. I try to show my personality with everybody. I put a lot of humor in our songs. I try to keep people giggling and make people feel comfortable at the show. It’s really apparent how I’m enjoying myself playing live. The goal is really for everybody to heat up and have the show whatever they feel is appropriate. I love it when people dance to our music but I don’t like it when you’re force feeding the crowd like clapping at certain parts or just like doing the “Hokey Pokey” like “Everyone put their hands up right now!” That’s just not my style. I like letting the crowd be its own identity. I just try to have my own good time up there and connect with the crowd.
TT: What’s your favorite song to play in concert?
KV: I think it would be a little shortsighted on my part to say I just like one song. There isn’t really a stand-out one. Certain ones are definitely more effortless to monopolize and certain ones get a little bit more of a reaction than the other. It always shifts. It’s all about that moment after a song when you’re like, “Aw man, we just nailed that one tonight.” I can just see it on the crowd. Some nights that’s “Wild Life” and some nights “Shining,” but often times the band will just sort of come together after the show and be like, “Aw man, that one.”
TT: How do you guys mentally prepare yourselves to get in front of people? How do you guys prepare to rock out?
KV: We’ve got a small warm-up scale and Ryan, our drummer, makes a little practice kit with a practice pad and puts it up against the wall. He’ll be doing his little warm-ups. And then the singers, we’ll be doing out vocal scales. And after that, we say, “Let’s go get ’em!” and we grab some waters and go up there. We just have the whole day to chill. Once it gets to 15 minutes until, we just put our game faces on and do that stuff.
TT: Should the people going to concert expect any surprises from Vacationer and Bleachers?
KV: Aw man, I would like that a lot. With the hierarchy, it’s Bleachers’ call if they want to do that.
TT: How do you guys feel about yourselves right now in terms of the music scene and where you are?
KV: I really love it, man. I’m self-aware enough to realize that we’re not the biggest band out there. We’re probably not the most hyped about band, but everything that we’ve accomplished we’ve fought tooth and nail for it. Everything in store is an incline. Our success keeps trickling in. … To play in huge stadiums [however] is not exactly a life goal for me. I live a very comfortable lifestyle right now. It’s still a very successful and modest place to be.
TT: Anything you want to say to the fans before the concert?
KV: Thanks so much coming out! Anybody who’s giving us time, I really appreciate it, and it’s guaranteed good vibes.