Vows are a band from New Jersey, who play a gentle mixture of folk, indie rock and dream pop, and have recently released their debut album “Winter’s Grave” for free via Bandcamp. M3 had a chat with the band about piracy, art and the DIY approach…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Vows – We’ve all been friends for years, grew up in the same area in New Jersey. We’re all in our mid 20’s and work day jobs to get by but music has always been our passion. Any free time that we have is spent either recording or practicing.
What inspired you to form Vows? What are your own musical backgrounds?
Vows was born out of simply trying something different musically than what we had always been used to playing. We’ve always been playing and recording more acoustic, unplugged, singer/songwriter style music as separate entities. Vows was more a challenge for ourselves to push our sound into something more fluid and organic that could grow as a band. We pretty much decided to combine forces to form this band and perform under one moniker. It’s something we can also stick to and develop.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
It honestly depends what genre of music fits the form. We’re all into such a varied range of tunes and each fits its own medium. Vinyl is always a favorite of ours, as it suits a nice lo-fi sound (eg. old folk songs, acoustic music, even modern bands that have a “vintage sound”). But we all enjoy popping in a tape every now and then and putting an MP3 play list on shuffle, simply because of the immediacy it provides.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
It’s a double-edged sword. The digital age has become the most efficient and speedy way to spread music online and from one place to another, but it really is just the bare bones – one just receives the songs and a digital image of the album cover. However, the idea of an album to us has always held true as being an entity as a full package. Hearing the soft scuffle of a record playing as you sit, hold, touch, feel, and hear a cohesive package is the most sensory activating experience. There’s more to take away when the senses are combined. Jasper Johns, a “pop” artist from the 50’s, left behind a great quote in saying, (something along the lines of) “Take something. Do something to it. Then do something else to it.” That is the truest sense of art.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
It has added a whole new element to the music industry but it hasn’t killed it. It’s certainly opened up new outlets for obtaining music but it has also affected the business aspect of distribution. Piracy is an issue, but then again there are bands releasing music for free – it’s certainly helped Vows in getting recognition in the online world. It’s all sort of contradictory too, because ultimately, we’d love to release an album on vinyl, which is the opposite of the digital age. Sound is really just pushing airwaves around, so the means of doing it doesn’t change the result. You’re ultimately left with energy for your eardrums. Music is just more advanced than humans are and we’re all trying to find ways to catch up with its progressions.
Similarly, do you feel that the abundance of recorded music that is easily available on the internet has led people to place more importance on the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to hear music?
If a band’s music is truly important to a fan or listener, they will find a way to see them live. The live experience is entirely different, again because it utilizes more of the senses than just listening. It’s alive. It’s not necessarily the ‘authentic’ way to experience music, because there are acts out that don’t even write their own music and actually lip-synch live. But they may mask that with over-the-top stage antics (fire, flashy lights, etc). That is a totally different realm. We can’t say if that is “art” or not. We just know what we’re used to I guess. But who are we to say anyway?
Do you think the digital age has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
We’d hope that copyright still holds some meaning. We’ve seen our album Winter’s Grave for sale through distributors without our permission and that sucks of course. However at the same time our name is inherently attached to the art. We’re obviously not the Beatles, but anyone who runs around saying they wrote “Hey Jude” other than the Beatles is just an idiot. But the Beatles have inherent credit for their songs monetarily for eternity. We’d hope someone out there attributes our songs to our name.
What is your take on the recent SOPA controversy?
It’s an understandable act, certainly. People should be able to spread music, but it relates back to copyright issues and money. There really is no “good” way to go about eliminating the spread of music online, but there’s also no “good” way to spread music online without stepping on someone’s toes.
Do you think the traditional major label set up is outdated, or do you think it has some advantages over the DIY approach?
We honestly don’t know the ins and outs of life on a major label, however the fact that an album or song can spread like wildfire simply by posting it on a blog means that big labels aren’t the only way. Exposure is available to anyone who has created something great simply via the Internet. However as far as touring and producing and distribution and making any money at all – you probably need a good label. We have always self released all of our albums through our home label “Crystal Mountain Music Collective”, however it gets too involved and time consuming. We can only really put it out there online at this point because what we really know is the music, not marketing, etc. For us, and probably a lot of other musicians, a good label could take a lot of strain off taking care everything else involved.
What do you personally believe the future of music distribution will look like?
Albums as a packaged art form will always remain in stores, whether they’re online or in physical form, we’d hope. People will always have that need to obtain the art and show it to someone and enjoy. That is something very important to us as a band and to our sound, which has always been DIY and home-recorded. Again, sound will advance, and the industry will be chasing after it finding ways to catch up.
Finally, what does the future hold for Vows?
We are currently in the mixing process of our second album, which we’re excited about. We always have plans for a slew of shoes in June and tours once the album is finished. We’re making some new changes with our lineup too. Our live drummer is moving to Austin, TX and we’re working with another guitarist/vocalist to step in. All of which are close friends and have played in the Crystal Mountain Music Collective. We are also working with integrating more electronic drum rhythms in our live sound by using tapes and old 4-track recorders. It’ll be an interesting growth process. It all goes well in the notion that Vows is constantly growing and evolving – and we’re finding ways to catch up!