Chatting with Vacations, by Ryan Williams / by Ryan Williams

About nine months ago, I met up with Krystyan and Campbell to talk about their fledgling endeavour, No-Fi Records – the same No-Fi we all know and love now – at Suspension. Let me set the scene: beautiful dogs everywhere, latte art aplenty, and birds arguing and shitting in the trees. A handsome summer afternoon.

 

For this new interview with Campbell, who’s one half of No-Fi and one big chunk of Newcastle band Vacations, I’d arranged the same table, chairs and café staff to be in the vicinity to recreate that hunky-spunky Saturday in February. I tried to track down all the customers who were there that day but they were all too ‘busy’.

 

So it's been about nine months since the No-Fi interview. What's changed since then? Has it all been what you expected? 

Campbell: I think everything is snowballing and getting gradually bigger in a lot of ways that we didn't expect. The first thing we were really surprised by was that Raave Tapes EP launch at King Street. Having around a hundred people waiting around before doors opened was crazy. So hard to imagine.

I feel like it's the kind of night people will talk about for a long time as well.

Everybody really came together. It was really sweet.

And Vacations are getting a bit of attention in America too? I went through your Facebook page.

Yeah, it really weirds me out every time. We never thought it was valuable for so long. I looked into it and it's really easy. We're on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal (which is really funny), everything. Once we finally got stuff on there we ended up getting a few plays – it was odd. All from America, and all for 'Day Dreamin', the first song off the Days EP. The rest of the songs are on 1000–2000 plays, but that one song is way up there. 

Through the internet we've been able to get to know a whole group of musicians from over there. It's been a really good response. It's definitely something I want to do eventually. 

You guys went to Brisbane pretty recently though, right?

Yeah, Brisbane has been really sweet for us thanks to a dude named Al and our mate Chris, who have had us up for shows. Given us a place to stay and everything. It's been really fun. There's a great network up there too, for touring as well as local musicians.

The Friends EP sounds like it's coming together well.

Yeah! The first two songs to have come out were ready two months ago – finally finished the recording about a week before the release.

Did you write all the songs before the collaboration or work on each individually?

The process has been really different for each artist. With David's song 'Never Tried', we were both just hanging out one day at his place and it came out of a jam we had. A similar thing happened for 'Be There' with Nate AKA H. Ford Escort. Writing face-to-face with someone for those two songs has been easier. Seeing the person in front of you and hanging out is what I'm used to. The other two songs are collaborations with people from the US. It's all been done over either SoundCloud or Dropbox, sending ideas back and forth. Through the message service on Instagram as well. 

You would get some sweet lo-fi phone speaker sounds over that.

[Laughs] Yeah. 

Who are the American artists?

Dakoda Watt and Miles Bandit. Miles is from California and Dakoda is from Hawaii (although I'm not too sure about that). They're both real sweet songs though. I mean, you see so much collaboration in rap or hip-hop. It happens in rock and indie music, but not nearly as much by comparison. I thought it would be an interesting concept for a release. Keeping a steady timeframe, once a week. I think it's been working out so far.

It's like a TV show almost. It's really cool.

It's all happening. I'm in the last stages of mixing for the new Vacations release. Hopefully we'll have it out before the end of the year.

So much hype. There'll be a few shows to announce after the release?

Definitely. We're keen to have it all organised this time. When we released Days we didn't tour or anything. Even listening back to the recordings now, I'm questioning why I did some things. I did it very amateurly. Mixed and mastered in an OK sort of way, but not ideally. 

I think for your first release people want to hear the raw-ness. 

I was really surprised at the reception it got, actually, for something that was so lo-fi. I feel like people took a shine to the songs – not so much the recording. 

I was talking to Josh Bailey from The Owls the other day, talking about local bands. He was really impressed when he saw you guys and the whole audience was singing 'Hamilton South' back to you. 

That song – I was trying to imitate Courtney Barnett. She does puns and funny lyrics all the time. It started out as not really a serious song at all.

It's always those ones – the easy ones – that work out.

‘Day Dreamin’ happened like that too. So easy to write and record.

So is it a new sound on the next EP? Are you recording it cleaner or better, in your opinion?

I just feel like I've had practice at doing this now. Playing live so much as well adds to it as well. Days doesn't have any chorus or modulation on the guitar, wavy guitar effects. I can't not use them now. 

Where are you doing the recording?

I've been working with Fraser Marshall from Pals in a really nice home studio. I wanted to go to him and have it done. I did all the guitars/bass; Harrison was back on the drums this time. 

You did most of the instruments on this?

Yeah. I just write the way I like it – it's quicker and easier for me to play the part and have it the way I intended. That being said, I've changed these parts around four or five times in the recording process [laughs].

Did Fraser have a little bit of input as well?

Definitely. Having a second voice/opinion in the studio is so good. Someone who understands drumming so well too. He can articulate phrases or rhythms across way better than me. [On] guitar tracking as well he'll have input. 

That's really good. 

Yeah. I had no idea he was so great at guitar as well as drums.

Yeah?

He would grab my guitar and start doing these crazy jazz licks [laughs]. 

Are you going to do hard copies of the new EP? Christmas presents?

Yeah, of course. CDs and maybe some cassettes. Fairly small runs. Online for sure. We're looking at new shirt designs right now too. 

Stickers are cool.

Yes they are.

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