Analogue Music | Vacations


By Matt Conner

Like so many other artists and bands, Joey Van Lier says he and his bandmates were ready to hit the road. Then Vacations were told to stay home.

Just like that, an exciting 2020 touring season was shelved, one in which the Newcastle, Australian indie rock band was going to build on their growing international buzz. The tour dates were there, and the band had written a brand new album for this exact moment—bigger songs with an expansive sound intended to maximize the love show they're known for. Instead, Forever in Bloom came out months into a still-ongoing global pandemic.

Van Lier is quick to count his blessings in a year like this. Such a trying year will reprioritize a lot of things for a lot of people. That said, he says he and his Vacations bandmates—Campbell Burns, Jake Johnson, Nate Delizzotti—were sad to see Forever in Bloom stranded on the runway. Yes, it was released, but not in the way in which they'd hoped. But in a way, the band has also internalized their own words on "Take Care," beautiful lines that remind us, "Take note, this won't last forever."

We recently caught up with Van Lier to hear more about the emotions of making music and staying afloat as artists in a COVID-infected world.

Analogue: You’re in a holding pattern, like the rest of the industry, at the present moment, with an album that came out in the midst of a pandemic. How are you holding up with all of this?

Joey Van Lier: When it first started, I remember there was a bit of a push of people saying, ‘Well you might as well just write new albums” or “there better be a lot of material written.” But we weren’t really keen to do that, I guess. There was a lot of hype within the band to get on the road. We were really at the time where we needed to start to be on the road in our release schedule and that sort of thing.

So it definitely came at a bad time for us, but we’re also always conscious of the fact that we’re really lucky. A lot of people out there are a lot worse off than us, especially with the pandemic, so we do count our blessings. But yeah, it did prevent us from doing a lot of the stuff we’d planned to do.

"As soon as the shutdown happened, it sounds defeatist, but we all just said, ‘Oh, well, put it out. Whatever happens happens.’"

Analogue: Obviously anyone who has their health feels fortunate compared to so many others, so I don’t want to set you up to complain when, as you said, you have things to be grateful for. But I also don’t want to dismiss things there either. Does it feel unfair in a way to the music you did make? Like it didn't get a fair shot?

Joey: I think you make a really good point there. Definitely. I think the whole idea with Forever in Bloom and what we were doing with that was related to what we were doing with live gigs. This is definitely the album that’s most influenced by our experiences touring internationally. It was always intended to be performed live, and that was something we were excited to do and how people what we were working on. That’s an element that nobody has ever seen and that’s still true. It was the motif for the album in a lot of ways.

But to be positive, we’ll still show people what we’re going to do, but it’s obviously just a bit delayed. So it didn’t get the push we expected, but we also figured it out pretty quick as soon as the pandemic happened. As soon as the shutdown happened, it sounds defeatist, but we all just said, ‘Oh, well, put it out. Whatever happens happens.’

Analogue: What does that do to your relationship to the music? It’s still new and yet you’re moving on to other things, yet it will remain new in a way for a long time.

Joey: It definitely differs member to member, but we’re all really still excited to show it live. That’s the main thing is that we’re still really excited about it because we know there’s a massive element to that sound that will come to life and will really get a chance to shine in that context. There’s a lot of big noises on big stages, and we really come into our own there.

But there’s also a bit of a Vacations thing to write and create something and then get it out and move onto the next thing. We’ve always been that way, so there’s a battle between those ideologies happening. We are still in love with it, but we’re also doing other things. I guess we’re doing both approaches at once, in a weird way.

Analogue: How much have you been able to work together on things during the pandemic?

Joey: We all keep busy outside of the band. That’s for sure. We’re all pretty hard-working people I guess and we’ve always got other creative outlets happening as well, whether that’s working behind closed doors with other bands or whether that’s us personally working on things. I know Campbell does photography work and those sorts of things. We also have jobs each. They never get in the way of each other, though.

We’re always still working on the band and we’re all obsessed with it. There’s never a morale problem. We’re always working toward it. We have regular practices and regular hanging out sessions. We try to make an effort once a week, whenever we can, to at least hang out and get some beers or have dinner. Morale is still very high and we’re still absolutely working away at getting things done.

Analogue: You sound really positive there, but this feels like a big test for any band. What do you learn about yourself in a lockdown?

Joey: It definitely tests your mettle. It makes you consider what aspects of it that you get anything of. What I mean is that not being able to play live is obviously a strange thing for a musician. If that’s what you get the most out of, then all of a sudden having that taken away completely will make you reassess things.

For us, the solution to that was thinking more about the future a bit and thinking about working on other creative things. It’s film clips or interesting ways to interact with the fans, like the “Young” video, which was fun to work on. It’s been a good creative outlet for the band. I think those are good to keep us all interested in it. It’s a long-running thing and it’ll be a long-running thing for a lot longer.

Analogue: You said everyone had their creative outlet. What did that mean for you personally?

Joey: It’s been fun to expand out as a session musician for another band and also working on studio sessions with bands that Campbell is actually producing for. That’s all under lock and key at the moment. Studio sessions have been really fun. I’ve always loved the recording side of what we do in Vacations and music at-large. That time spent in the studio perfecting sounds and working on tones is an extremely interesting thing. You can lose weeks and months to the studio and it’s great fun. We’re also very grateful that we have access to great studio space and that we can do that when we want.

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