Saturday, February 6, 2010

Interview: Jacob Vanags

>>Out of the interviews I've done so far, this is definitely one of my favorites. I asked Jacob Vanags a whole bunch of questions, and he answered them thoughtfully, and with a great sense of humor. Let's just say his answers are pretty "Stellarific". :)

Tell us a little about yourself.
Jacob John Vanags (NOT John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt... so don't start singing), 22, and Kent, Ohio (a.k.a. K-Town)

Are there any significant differences between the music scenes in Ohio and Long Island?
Yes... many. I grew up in a huge indie music scene... I listened to Death Cab for Cutie, Sufjan Stevens, Of Montreal, The Shins, The Format, etc. as well as the more pop/rock piano-driven music. I don't have any special attachments to the iconic Long Island bands like Brand New, Glassjaw, Taking Back Sunday, etc.... At home, people go to see shows that can range from mellow indie shows to rock indie shows... it tends to be more "chill," I guess. We appreciate each others' company socially, we hang out afterward, we talk about the music. Here, I understand the pop punk and harder rock influences and I enjoy the high energy shows... its not always my thing but I do appreciate the scene and the massive support everyone brings to shows. It seems more of a social event where people are looking for fun... and the music tends to deliver. There are plenty of bands on Long Island, but the ones that make something out of their music are the ones that pay attention to what they are playing and what they are saying... those are the bands that will develop a national audience instead of just a Long Island audience.

Who would you consider to be your biggest influences, musical and otherwise?
Musical: Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens, Death Cab, Snow Patrol... many others!
Otherwise: unity, love, compassion, positivity, travel, people and their actions

When did you start writing music?
Mmmmm... 8 years old? ...when I stopped playing my lesson music and started making up random junk. Actual songs with words?... probably 11 years old.

What is your writing process like?
It seems to go like this: I am super inspired from a movie, a song, a show, an act of human compassion, a thought about world peace, a girl, a friend... I then get in a mood that matches that inspiration... I go to a room with a piano, turn the lights off, and create. Once I land on something I love, something that hooks and pulls at you, I sing melodies on top with gibberish words.... Over time, I find something that really affects me and I inject those words into the song... sometimes it takes me a few hours, other times it takes me years (when I pull some piano part from way back and finally input some appropriate words).

Your album, Pulses are Pluses, was released this past November. Tell us about it.
Pulses are Pluses is an album about positivity... Its about coming to the realization that we all have SO MUCH its unreal. Even the most unfortunate situations pale in comparison to what others are going through all over the world... so basically, get over the pettiness and focus on what counts... be positive and you will be happy, love and you will be satisfied. I am my brother's keeper.

>What was your main inspiration behind it?
See above? And also people being people, everything we do... the VERY good and the bad.

>How did you come up with the album title?
As I've said in previous questions, we have a lot to live for... why not treat it that way? Why not live positively and try to make this world a better place instead of just try to bring it down. Our "Pulses" (our lives, living, existing) are "Pluses" (living is a good thing... its a "plus"... especially when you make an effort to understand what you have in your hands and in front of you and make the most out of it). "PuLses are PLuses."

>Who was the mastermind behind the promo video?
I don't know about mastermind, haha... but it was 2 days until the release and I thought it be a cool promotional idea to have a kickass promo video. I wrote out the time line and my friend/manager, Ryan, did the photographing... I then put the music together and edited the pictures into the final product. Just another Sunday afternoon.

>How many songs are on it? 6!

>Who played on it, band-wise?
Piano, vocals - Me. Drums, trumpet - Zach Periharos of Escape the Skyline and Lion of Ido. Bass, Double Bass - Nick Cantatore of This Condition. Violin - Dylan Ebrahimian of Gabriel the Marine. Cello - Jeremy Landis of The Jeremy Landis Band. Choir - Hofstra's Sigma'capella.

>Where can it be purchased?
itunes, amazon mp3, amazon (physical),,

>Anything else you'd like to mention? I am going to be up on sometime this month! Its a long screening and music-genome-database-break-down process..... but I'll let you know! Make me a radio station! haha

Out of all the songs you've written, which are you most proud of?
"Antarctica." That song took more vision than anything else. To write all the music in my head, then write it on paper, and then relay it to the performers who have no idea what the final product is supposed to sound like... and have it come out the way it did was amazing. It's my favorite puzzle ever completed.

If you could do a song with anyone you wanted, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Sufjan Stevens. To be a part of so many moving and intricate parts making up an ocean of uplifting and unifying sound would make my day... and life.

For those who haven’t heard it yet, how would you describe your music?
Driving piano indie pop/rock. Its fun and catchy, its deep and mellow, its pulsing and epic, it hopefully builds something up inside of you that you just can't ignore.

Have you ever been compared to other artists?
Yessss. Ben Folds, The Format, Death Cab - vocals, Sufjan - orchestration/choirs, Snow Patrol - build, and interestingly... I am often times I'm told I sound like Jason Mraz.

What do you think sets your music apart from other bands?
Hmmm... depends on which bands, haha.... I would say that playing piano with out a lot, if any, guitar creates hugely different sound at most shows from the bands around me. I'd also say that I try to mix creative feeling with a decent amount of musicianship... I change time signatures, write out choral parts, add strings, etc.... Its not always four basic (power) chords.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far?
That I'm still moving forward and haven't plateaued. That I have some people actually believing in my music and giving me confidence to go with it. That I can play for 2 people and play for 1,000. Its the whole package... I think the accomplishment is that I am continually making music my life.

Do you have any shows coming up?
YES. I have been in a new bassist and drummer search for about 2 months and its almost complete (you'll meet them soon!). So that has been my top priority lately and I haven't worried too much about booking bigger gigs (I've played plenty of solo stuff), because I would like to have a settled band first. BUT. I have a show February 27th at The Charleston in Brooklyn and plenty more will follow once we've got the guys we need!

Describe a typical Jacob Vanags show in 3 words.
Surprising. Engaging. Stellarific.

What are some of the goals you wish to accomplish with your music?
I would be happy knowing that my music affects one person, but it would be amazing if it could reach across the nation and possibly beyond... gotta have a vision.

How do you usually find new music to listen to?
Pandora, a friend, a show, a commercial and/or movie/tv show, radio.

What are the best and weirdest gifts you’ve received from fans?
Couldn't tell you :(

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Antarctica. Its one of the hardest places to travel to (physically and financially)... and I were given the opportunity somehow to go "anywhere" I would utilize it to the max.

Is there a certain song or artist you consider to be your guilty pleasure?
Oh its never guilty... but for some reason people think Third Eye Blind is a guilty pleasure now that were not in the 90s... I don't care what you say, I LOVE their first 3 CDs... haven't heard enough of their latest. and then... you know... there's some miley. and "toxic" by britney spears freaking makes me move like never before....

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life?
Will Smith for sure. It doesn't really fit, I know... but I have a man-crush on him for sure.

What would that movie be called?
Ummm... The Interracial Story of Jacobus Maximus Vanagus.

Bonus Round:

Movie? Minority Report, Finding Neverland
Album(s)? Whatever and Ever Amen - Ben Folds, Come On Feel the Illinoise - Sufjan Stevens, Transatlanticism - Death Cab, Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind
Song to Play Live? Public Transit, Speak Up Now
Thing to do on a rainy day? Scuba Dive
Band/artist(s)? Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens, Death Cab
Artist you've seen live? Ben Folds... seriously, the guy is crazy good/hilarious
Social networking site? The book o' face.

This or that:
Blackberry or iPhone? iphone
VMA or Grammy? grammy
Calling or texting? depends... but i like hearing people's voices sometimes, you know?
Albums or Singles? Albums

Behind The Scenes:
What else should we know? I'm half Latvian.... Latvia? yes, Latvia.
Special talents? Beatboxing, piano/singing/songwriting?
Hobbies? songwriting, soccer, volleyball, basketball, TRAVELING, adventures and adventure sports, the Cleveland Cavaliers
Pet peeves? When people eat grossly and/or make really loud, what I call... "mushy banana noises," when they eat. It kills me.
Jakey V, Jake the Snake, Jujubee, Maximus J - self-given bowling name

Anything else you'd like to say?
God is in the details.

Thanks again to Jacob Vanags and Ryan Daniels :)

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