Seattle’s VATS make offbeat and compelling post-punk that never comes at you from the same angle. Their new album Green Glass Room abounds with strange cityscapes, intense declarations about humanity’s relationship with technology, and energetic musical arrangements. The trio is currently in the midst of a US tour–they’ll be at Alphaville this Sunday–and it was from the road that we talked with Jessica James about the album, the tour, and more.
How is your tour going so far?
It’s refreshing to play so many new cities. We’re writing from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where they made us a chili dinner and took us swimming. The swimming holes in Austin were also great.
You’ve covered Malaria!’s “Your Turn to Run” on both this album and a tour EP from 2015. When did you first hear the song? How did it become something that you wanted to cover?
Sarah and Gabe had a compilation of videos by weirdo 80’s bands and there was a video for that song. JJ already knew the song so it kind of seemed meant to be. It was the first song she sang on.
The image of a green glass room is an immediately concrete one. Where did that concept come from?
It’s funny you say that because the Green Glass Room is a place that doesn’t exist in physical reality.
“Melting Culture” features images of discarded outmoded technology. Is there one particular piece of electronics-turned-trash that’s struck you as particularly absurd?
We used to all live within a block of each other and we’d walk around our neighborhood a lot. There’s always something on the street that used to be really expensive, like big screen TVs or stereo systems. It made us think about the lifespan of these objects.
The lyric “Find what you love and let it kill you” is a particularly bleak one. Is it used mostly to play on the popular saying, or does it come from somewhere more personal?
Our friend Marius drew some art for us that had those words on it. Someone later told us that it’s a line from a Bukowski book?
There are several distinctive vocal approaches used by the band. Where do the vocals generally come into play as you’re writing a song?
We like variety. We get bored and look for new ways to fit everything together. Usually vocals come last. All 3 of us have written lyrics and come up with song names.
On Green Glass Room, there are several lyrical references made to technology. The album closes with “Half Night,” which contains the lyrics “My body is mine/ My value is mine.” What parallels do you find between human autonomy and questions of technology and obsolescence?
Cool question. I think we’re definitely conflicted about our relationship with technology. We are distancing ourselves from “reality” by placing screens between us and the world, which often feels like a limitation or dependence… but we can’t deny how much freedom and creativity and knowledge flows from the Internet. It’s a love/hate relationship.
Photo: Keith Feltis