Having finished a summer tour and restructuring their line-up to a three piece, Brooklyn-based Vagabon, who gained traction after the release of their Persian Garden EP with its compulsive guitar freak-outs and leader Laetitia’s smokey vocals, sit down for a quick chat about their June tour, what’s next for the band, and their influences (or lack thereof).
You guys recently went on tour this summer, how was that?
Laetitia: Yeah we did an East Coast tour with Bethlehem Steel early June, and it was incredible. That was my first tour experience. I think it was great.
Eva: It was my fourth tour this year and directly after we came home I went on a fifth tour so for me I would describe it as my life. It was a great time and I felt like we grew a lot as a band especially since that was our first steady experience with this new line-up. We sort of solidified our sound.
Laetitia: We had a different drummer and a second guitarist before, so the tour was her [drummer Elise] first time playing extensively with us.
What changed with the band’s sound?
Eva: I only heard the song a couple of times and now we’ve sat on them for a little while, I’m doing a lot of different stuff that is making it fuller and giving it a more refined sound.
Laetitia: It’s just… better. Everyone is giving input to make the set sound better so we ended up with this set that sounds completely different from our record, but much better, I’d say.
Any tour stories?
Eva: Laetitia’s car broke down on the side of the road in Philly. Didn’t have a donut or triple-A, just a 103 degrees on the side of the road for hours.
Laetitia: No AC in my car. I literally felt I was killing everybody. At some point Elise had to call in a prescription for her inhaler. That’s the worst feeling when you’re driving and you feel like you’re killing everyone.
Eva: But it was a great tour, like I said, I’ve done a lot of touring and I think part of what stood out about this tour is that we played a lot of house shows and safe space-oriented places and the reception there was overwhelmingly positive. People came out and were interested in fostering a community, which is definitely not always the case on a first tour. A lot of first tours… dive bars, rough venues.
Laetitia, how would you describe your vocal style?
Laetitia: I like to listen to vocalists who aren’t too safe and I’m into a lot of vocalists who scream and I think the duality of both is really cool and interesting. I feel on the record, vocally, I was playing it safe because I never recorded anything or been in a band. Then I started playing with my new bandmates, and it was like whoa, I can kind of go wherever I want with this, they roll with it.
Laetitia: I love Nina Simone, that’s all that comes to my mind… that’s fucked up *laughs*
On tour, what scenes are channeling some really great music right now?
Eva: In my time playing around, the city I’ve been most impressed with is Johnson City, Tennessee. If you want to see a rock show, this one place, the Hideaway, is pretty much where you have to go and I think more than any other venue I’ve been to, it’s a place where they’re inclusive, and people are really interested in seeing music and hanging out with each other and being part of this scene that’s about shared musical interests and respecting other people in the community. You wouldn’t expect a place like Tennessee (as a stuck-up New Yorker) but that’s the place with the most transgendered people and people of color are getting along, and not doing it in a way where everyone is patting each other on the backs. People are genuinely there to support each other so they get a shout out.
Laetitia: There’s a lot of great bands in Philly obviously. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sheer Mag.
Eva: I think there is a conception of Brooklyn as being this hub of independent music but the scene almost works against itself. There’s so much going on, you can’t get people to pay attention and a lot of cities are really into helping each other grow and it’s small enough that they can actually succeed. I would definitely say the Brooklyn and New York scenes are oversaturated.
How would you guys describe Vagabon’s sound?
Laetitia: I think a lot of the songs always start off as folk songs as I’m writing them and then there’s different layers that everyone else adds which I think makes it what it is.
Eva: The songs are harmonically very folky and very simple but melodically and lyrically, Laetitia has a lot more going on top of that and I think we [drummer Elise] just try to sort of make it curve underneath that dynamic and give it shape.
Any musical influences?
Laetitia: *long pause* I don’t think about anybody, nobody influences me. I just don’t know where it comes from.
Eva: I guess as far as Vagabon’s music goes, I don’t know, this might be kind of a bullshit question, we don’t really have any common ground musically except for Thundercat.
Plans for a new album soon?
Laetitia: We’re not recording right now, I’m trying to write some new stuff. I’d like to get in a room and try to hash things out. For Persian Garden, I had these full songs that I wrote, it just happened. I didn’t know I was going to record it or play in a band that’s playing actively. We just gotta have these things ready, have the songs ready, hash them out.
Any hints on the sonic direction?
Eva: We had a couple of ideas floating around, the way we’re playing the old songs is so different now, it feels new. It may well be worth our time to include some of them in a full length LP because they really don’t sound anything like the EP.
For fans of Persian Garden ….
Eva: They can all go to hell! (We appreciate your respect and return it in full.)
Laetitia: Thanks for liking it!
What should current fans be expecting next?
Eva: You’ll have to come to our show to find out.
Laetitia: Definitely bigger and badder. People who liked the EP tell me our live set is different, but they’re not disappointed. I’m really eager to work with Elise and Eva to make something that I’m really proud of and that we’re all really proud of. It’s kind of like leveling up.
Eva: Oh yeah, there’s gonna be a difference.
Keep an eye out for Vagabon’s forthcoming debut album next year. Check out the Persian Garden EP on Bandcamp.