Interview: Vanimal

The 'Stand is thrilled to host the electro-wave of Portland's VANIMAL to record live here February 26th with Seattle's The Titans of Industry. It's going to be a rad show that you should totally be at: RSVP on Facebook. To get you pumped for the evening: Tim John O'Brien told us a bit about VANIMAL's history, sound and thoughts on recording live.

Update, 2/24: Though Tim John O'Brien was our contact for this interview, interview responses come from all of Vanimal. We'd previously credited answers only to Tim John. Sorry for this confusion.

Banana Stand: How long has the band been together in its current form? How did it come together?

VANIMAL: Tim John O'Brien started the band after his last project with a specific sound and concept in mind. He began playing with Nick Ramsdell first about 9 months ago.

BS: How would you describe your sound? What are your key influences?

V: New wave/Electro/Post-post-post/Cetra/Cetra/Gary Numan on crack-cocaine. We all listen to different things, sometimes they intersect. It ranges from 30 year old French new wave to LCD Soundsystem to Trans Am to Wire to Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark to Brian Eno, Talking Heads, Nitzer Ebb, Robyn, Cameo, Knife, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Serge Gainsbourg, Lou Reed, Les Rita Mitsouko, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Matthew Dear, Prince, New Order, Orange Juice, Ol' Dirty Bastard. You know, all the usual hit-makers. We tear through influences rather quickly to really say in any specific terms. No artist in particular is more important.

BS: Tell us your thoughts about recording live. What makes you interested in recording live?

V: Documentation and perspective. There really isn't any reason not to. We suppose if you are signed it's a good way to get out of a contract. Yea, God, why not? There are definitely more than enough differences in how we sound on the EP we're recording in studio and how we sound live. We're a live band, we sound different from show to show.

BS: What's your favorite memory of a live show? Least favorite?

V: Shows are expressive. We've got the Stand's show and 1 more coming up and we'll be hiatus-ing from live shows for a little bit to finish this EP we're making with Karl Kling of Remix Artist Collective. We'll be writing new material in this time so we can be playing new stuff this summer. Brent wants to learn 7 cover songs from 1 artist for learning purposes or something from what I understand. He says he's serious. Tim John and Nick want to screen print this EP in their basement, which will be an effort, for certain. We've got a lot to do so we're excited to do these things, then hit it hard in the summer again. 

BS: What are your favorite live albums?

V: “Urgh! A Music War!” is a VHS documentary but I think that still counts. That's pretty inspirational to some of us. It features an amazing amount of artists performing from the early 80's. It's a rich combination of great performances of all kinds of new wave bands and more. Klaus Nomi is in it.

BS: What other projects are you all involved with?

V: Brent has “A Gentleman's Picnic” with his partner Devon, which is really exciting. Nick has always called his solo work “Arcs”, and he continues to write and perform that growing body of work with a rotating cast of other musicians. It is very different than Vanimal. Jakub is always very involved with visual arts. Andrew is going to school again and day dreams about furniture, we're led to believe. Tim John does graphic design (timjohnobrien.tumblr.com) and recently did some soundtrack work.

BS: What are you working on lately?

V: New songs. A new EP. Constantly changing up the sound and the gear. We're all practicing DJing on vinyl, what with the beatmatching and such. If we DJ at our shows then we won't have to hear some playlist on someone's iPod between sets anymore. We're moving towards attempting to create a more cohesive environment for an evening's trajectory during all of our shows and it requires a lot of attention to detail. Learning to DJ on vinyl is a bit of a process but we think it'll be really worth it. There is a lot of music one can play to paint the air with to properly contextualize and encapsulate Vanimal's set.

Huge thanks to VANIMAL's Tim John O'Brien being our touch-point for this interview. VANIMAL is Tim John, Brent Braun, Jakub Jerzy, Nicholas Ramsdell, Andrew Meininger. They're recording live at the Banana Stand this Saturday (February 26th) with The Titans of Industry. You should totally be here: RSVP on Facebook.

You can find more from VANIMAL on Facebook and MySpace.