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Unlocked: The past, practice and perception that make Vacationer’s perfect electro-pop

Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer | Photo via facebook.com/vacationermusic
Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer | Photo via facebook.com/vacationermusic

Residents on this quiet street in Horsham probably don’t mind the sounds coming from Kenny Vasoli’s childhood home.

Vasoli is leading practice for his electro-pop band Vacationer inside, down in his parent’s finished garage area that has been converted into a basement. Waters and beers are handed out. Guacamole and chips are set down in the corner of the room. It’s the first time the band coming together to run through their new live show – songs like “Stay,” “Go Anywhere” and “Shining” from their new album, Relief, released this week on Downtown Records.

The new tunes are quite audible from outside the house, but neighbors probably don’t mind chill serenade to their summer evening. Several years earlier there was probably much louder, angrier music coming from this house, as Vasoli started his career in popular pop-punk band The Starting Line, which formed in 1999 and disbanded in 2008, save for sporadic reunion shows and a recent tour.

Those who know Vasoli from those days may not recognize him now. His curly, chin-length hair is tucked beneath a backwards maroon Phillies cap. He’s surrounded by new band mates playing a new variety of instruments, a few of which would never be seen on stage for a punk show. But one instrument has remained through Vasoli’s time spent in both bands – his soothing, very distinct vocals.

Vacationer at SXSW 2013 | Photo by John Vettese
Vacationer at SXSW 2013 | Photo by John Vettese

“My favorite is when [fans] say, “You sound so much like that guy from The Starting Line,’” recalls guitarist Greg Altman of various Vacationer shows since the band started touring more than two years ago.

“It’s happened more times than you would think,” adds Vasoli. “What’s that Val Kilmer movie, The Saint? I’m like The Saint of emo.”

Though Vasoli’s comment definitely was not meant in the context, early 2000 Starting Line fans might have considered him a “saint” of the genre. The music Vasoli was moved to make more than 10 years later couldn’t be more different than what his admirers might have expected from him, but they and other fans have seemed to latch on to Vacationer, no questions asked.

“I’ve really started to embrace the whole emo back story thing, because at this point, I’m confident enough in the music that I make with Vacationer and we’ve sort of cemented some fans in there enough for me to be little more confident in who I was and who I am,” Vasoli says. “It’s nice, I don’t really have to compartmentalize too much anymore, or keep anything a secret anymore, because the people who are into it are into it, and the people that aren’t are just kind of waiting for another one of those records. With anything else in my life, I like not focusing on the past too much, and also not on the future.”

Living in the moment is an idea that Vacationer holds dear, and that comes out on Relief. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Despite frequent “Trips,” watch Vacationer cater to hometown audience

 

Vacationer | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Vacationer | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

Vacationer does exactly what their name would suggest.

The Philadelphia-based band has toured and traveled all over the world. They’ve shot videos in Hawaii and Costa Rica. They’ve played festivals in Iceland, and toured all over the U.S. alongside bands like Bombay Bicycle Club, Tennis, Hellogoodbye and The Naked and Famous.

But the Vacationer hasn’t always taken their party on the road. They’ve also played Philly enough times since 2012 to make it hard to keep track of. The band has brought its chill-wave sounds to venues like Union Transfer, the Theater of the Living Arts and the Dock Street Brewing Company, as well as outdoor festivals like 2nd Street Festival in Northern Liberties and the Fishtown River City Festival. Their home-away-from-tour, however, seems to be Underground Arts, where Vacationer has played a handful of shows including the two installments of the “Nude Beach” concert series the band started.

To celebrate tonight’s release show and the band’s first time performing at Johnny Brenda’s, we’re recapping a few of Vacationer’s most memorable hometown shows in the live videos below. You can also catch them playing the first day of the Made in America festival on August 30th, Vacationer being the only local band announced on the bill so far. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Fourplay at the Keswick Theater, Vacationer at Johnny Brenda’s

Nathan East | photo courtesy of the artist via www.nathaneast.com/media
Nathan East | photo courtesy of the artist via www.nathaneast.com/media

A long-running collaboration of jazz scene vets, Fourplay comes to the Keswick Theater tonight. Among the players is bassist Nathan East, who might not enjoy the name recognition as his bandmates – keyboardist Bob James and guitarist Lee Ritenour have long established solo careers, while drummer Harvey Mason has long played in Herbie Hancock’s band – but nevertheleass, East has a long career as a session player for a range of artists: Stevie Wonder to Sting, B.B. King to Babyface, and even Daft Punk. Learn more about East in Shaun Brady’s interview from yesterday and get tickets and information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Unlocked: The Key’s review of Relief by Vacationer

vacationer
Vacationer’s Relief | via vacationermusic.com

Relief is full of what one might describe as “Bali Hai” moments.

The album is Philadelphia dream pop band Vacationer’s sophomore release, out today via Downtown Records. Though it features modern technology – electric guitars, vibraphone flourishes and Logic-produced beats – Relief echoes the score of 1949 Rogers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific.” In the show, Bali Hai is the name of the magical, mysterious island that is seen as an exotic paradise to the main characters. The native Tonkinese people invite American troops fighting during World War II to visit the island, and it becomes a tropical haven for the soldiers to forget about the fighting and killing that surrounds them. Every time that Bali Hai is mentioned or seen off in the distance, the show’s score elicits waves of brass, strings and a chorus of voices that bolster the island’s enchanting qualities.

The musical motif that starts Relief feels like an invitation from Vacationer to join the band on its own version of Bali Hai. Voices swell and fifes sound as the album launches into the first track, “Stay,” and frontman Kenny Vasoli sings, “Want you to taste summer winds as they’re gusting around/ I want you shaking those habits just in time, worth it if you look around.”

On Vacationer’s enchanted musical island, there are definitely no signs of the war, racism or other hardships that thicken the plot of “South Pacific.” But Relief also isn’t all chill waves, summer sun and good vibes like its predecessor, 2012’s Gone. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Download “In The Grass” from Vacationer’s sophomore album Relief

 

Vacay
Photo via Facebook.com/Vacationermusic

Vacationer wrote “In The Grass,” along with most recent single “Wild Life,” in the span of one day. Both tracks are featured on the Philadelphia-based, self-proclaimed “Nu Hula” band’s sophomore release, Relief, out tomorrow on Downtown Records.

“They were both buzzer-beaters,” says bassist and frontman Kenny Vasoli, adding jokingly, “we were already mixing the record and the label sort of kindly asked us to write more. They were like, “Hey this is great, but can you write more stuff that’s better?”

What the label wanted were radio hits, and what they got were two summer anthems that showed no signs of being a rushed job. “In The Grass” has a notable disco feel that the band attributes to its affinity for LCD Soundsystem. It’s a prime example of the broader range of influences that Vacationer called upon for Relief, the highly anticipated follow up to their 2012 break-out debut, Gone.

And though they aimed to do things a little differently this time around, Vacationer still delivers on Relief what has become their mantra about the power of music – it’s exotic, layered, blissful dream pop that has the ability to take the listener far, far away from here. Rife with smart riffs, genuine beats and good vibes, Relief isn’t just the soundtrack to summer 2014 — it’s the feel-good LP that you’ll want to give a spin, no matter what the season.

“Overwhelmed over nothing,’ Vasoli sings. “When the days start dragging, mood starts dragging you down … You can lay your head down in the grass. Be yourself with open eyes, every time.”

Sometimes it really is that easy.

Download “In The Grass” above, courtesy of Downtown Records. Check back throughout this week as we spotlight Relief on Unlocked, The Key’s regular spotlight on new and significant releases by Philadelphia area artists. Tomorrow we’ll post a review of the album, Wednesday we’ll chronicle live videos from a few of the band’s local shows, Thursday we’ll have a feature interview and Friday we’ll provide an inside glimpse into the everyday lives of a Vacationer.

 

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5 Shows to See in June: Streets of Laredo, Kins, Young & Sick, Vacationer, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Streets of Laredo | Photo via facebook.com/streetsoflaredo
Streets of Laredo | Photo via facebook.com/streetsoflaredo

Summer is officially here and we’re welcoming the warm weather with 5 awesome concerts throughout the month of June.  Here’s a quick preview of what you can expect from each of these bands (and yes, some hail from Philly!)

Streets of Laredo @ Boot & Saddle, 6/4

At first listen, you may not be aware that New Zealand via Brooklyn five-piece Streets of Laredo are newbies to playing music. They come across so experienced and polished! Their 70’s inspired sound is indie, folk, and country pleasantly blended into catchy tunes that will be hard to get out of your head.  Last year released two five-track EPs; Streets of Laredo Vol I and Streets of Laredo Vol II, and they have a handful of demo collections in their back catalog. Check out a video for “I’m Living” from Vol II, and get tickets and info on the show here.

Kins w/ Ryley Walker @ Boot & Saddle, 6/16

Australian quartet Kins have a unique vibe.  If we had to place them somewhere, they would fall into an alt-electronic category but they maintain a cohesiveness of indie bands like Real Estate or Grizzly Bear.  They like to say they “specialize in the sound of doubt, detachment and muted aggression.”  After playing this year’s Bonnaroo, they will stop by Philly to give us a taste of their self-titled album, Kins. Tickets and info can be found here. Listen to “Mockasins” below, and check out their World Cafe Session recorded live at SXSW.

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Review: Vacationer’s Ode 2 Summer mixtape

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

Vacationer‘s Ode 2 Summer mixtape is just a little treat before their new record Relief comes out on June 24th; and this one takes you beyond the beach (though it sounds like they’ve set up DJ equipment right on the sand for the bulk of the set). We only hear singer Kenny Vasoli’s crisp vocals on the opener “Ode 2 Summer”, “Woke Up”, and closing send-off serenade “Held High”. The rest is strictly experimental with touches of hip-hop and old soul.

Beginning with the steady bass and elegant strings of “Moab,” the mixtape digs into hip-hop inspired percussion on “Vibe” and even sneaks in an excellent old school soul sample by the end. “Lake Wynonoah” is a chill follow-up that bleeds right into “Eyes” which ends with the sound of the ocean and an airplane flying in overhead. Timbaland-inspired jam “Newport” has that knock and pull that gives life to hip-hop production. So maybe this section of the mixtape is all a dream…Vasoli sings of waking up with a “hurt head” on “Woke Up” and it sounds like he’s floating back to consciousness with each lyric.

The stuttering beat of “Hawthorne” builds up right into “San Joaquin which features some great drum work. Off we go to “Toronto”, the tape’s 10th and final urban-influenced instrumental and it’s a sweet mid-tempo groove that ends this impressive section. The tape as a whole ends on a mellow but uplifting note with “Held High” as all the melodic meanderings come full circle back around to that simple Vacationer sound.

Download it for free here.

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Vacationer keep the dreams and breeze coming on new track “In The Grass”

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

Every one of their songs takes you somewhere, which may be why they call themselves Vacationer. This time, it’s “In The Grass”, the latest cut from their forthcoming LP Relief (due June 24th). Summer is a more like a state of mind and vocalist Kenny Vasoli cements this idea with his carefree vocal delivery as the bouncy instrumentation pieces the entire aesthetic together. In this respect, it’s a catchy continuation of first single “The Wild Life”. Check out “In the Grass” below.

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Vacationer & Hellogoodbye double header at Underground Arts

Vacationer | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

Last night, power-pop vets Hellogoodbye teamed up with summery locals Vacationer to headline a packed performance at Underground Arts. A lot has changed with Hellogoodbye since their breakout album in 2006, when “Touchdown Turnaround” was the sound track on innumerable summer mix tapes. Since those wasted teenage years the band has released two full lengths, Would it Kill You? on their own label, Wasted Summer, followed by Everything is Debatable in 2013 on Old Friends Records. Philly favorites, Vacationer rounded out the bill delivering their breezy lullabies and synthpop tunes from Gone. The band is currently working on a new album called Relief, to be released in June. The new song, “The Wild Life” has a cool afropop, ‘circle of life’ theme. The Austin, TX band Heavenly Beat opened the show with their buzzing pop vibes. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Weekender / Delco Pacers at Ortlieb’s , Oldermost at Boot and Saddle, Vacationer at Underground Arts and more

Philly Tapes Philly collaboration with Weekender and Delco Pacers | Photo by Wendy McCardle | wendymccardle.com
Philly Tapes Philly collaboration with Weekender and Delco Pacers | Photo by Wendy McCardle | wendymccardle.com

Local pop bands Weekender and Delco Pacers will hit the Ortlieb’s stage tonight in celebration of their collaborative mixtape, Philly Tapes Philly Volume 2. The first 50 people to the show will receive a free copy of the limited edition cassette. More details here.

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