By Amanda DK
It’s no big secret that artists need to have solid live show to be successful. Similarly, it’s always a disappointment when a great album does not translate to a dynamic live show.Los Angeles quintet Vanaprasta does not have that issue. For the past few years the band has built a strong reputation almost entirely by their larger than life stage presence. They are a fixture on the music scene here, turning heads at the Sunset Strip Music Festival in 2010 and impressing audiences at their Satellite residency this past November. Nor are they strangers to the national arena; Vanaprasta made waves at this year’s CMJ Festival and have played at least a couple shows at every SXSW since 2009, really taking the festival by storm in 2011 with a total of eight shows during their time in Austin.
That said, while frontman Steven Wilkin may have been trained in opera as a child, these days he’s better known for leading the charge in rowdy, aggressive guitar rock that blows the roof off while still having memorable hooks.
After much anticipation, an EP, contributions to a compilation benefiting AIDS Project Los Angeles, and many, many live performances, Vanaprasta finally released their debut full-length album, Healthy Geometry, on 11/01/11. Thankfully, each one of the nine songs accurately captures their wild energy. Soon after, the band appeared on Fuel TV’s The Daily Habit, and Healthy Geometry was featured by iTunes as “New and Noteworthy.” It’s only a matter of time before their arena-ready sound reaches ears around the globe.
A band known for their live sound, it only seemed appropriate that Vanaprasta’s mixtape be a nod to great performances that have, as they say, “thumped their skulls.” Check out their picks below – a great combination of local gems and major artists – as well as pre-show rituals, weird venues and the secret to their killer live show.
Songs from Bands Who Have Thumped Our Skulls Live
1. Portugal. The Man “Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujahs)” – Collin Desha (Guitar/Vocals/Keys)
2. WU LYF “Dirt”
The best show I’ve ever seen at the Echo, and by far the most energized crowd. This song really got everyone going.” – Taylor Brown (Bass)
3. White Arrows “Coming or Going” (RAC Mix)
“A cool, infectious staple of their live show, which is a can’t miss in LA.” – Brown
4. Incan Abraham “Third Man”
“Stumbled across one of their shows at a random art party and was thoroughly impressed.” – Brown
5. The Antlers “Kettering”
“We caught them at the El Rey, and the way this song off (of their debut album, Hospice) translates in the live setting with a full band is flat out exhilarating.” – Brown
6. Eastern Conference Champions “Attica”
“Saw these guys kill it at Bloomfest in Downtown LA this year. This is one of my favorite tracks off their new album, and live, it builds and flourishes in a really awesome way at the end of the song.” – Brown
7. Unknown Mortal Orchestra “Nerve Damage!”
“That opening lick destroyed my brain at The Satellite!” – Cameron Dmytryk (Guitar)
8. The Arctic Monkeys “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”
“They did a magnificent job with this song at the Hollywood Bowl.” – Ben Smiley (Drums)
9. Wise Blood “Loud Mouths”
“I saw him several times this year, but at his Echo performance he looked like he was rearing to punch someone in the crowd at any given point.” – Dmytryk
10. The National “Available”
“They played this wonderfully aggressive track at the Hollywood Bowl this year. I’ve seen them four times in always progressively bigger venues. I had never seen this particular song before and it’s one of their most brutally intoxicating and honest.” – Dmytryk
TA: So what was your favorite show that you’ve ever played and why?
Ben Smiley: I would have to say when we played The Belmont at SXSW in 2009. Its an outdoor stage in downtown Austin, TX and the sun was setting. It was a pretty magical experience for all of us early in our career.
TA: Are there any local bands that you cannot understand why they haven’t blown up yet? Any that you’re sure will in 2012 (other than Vanaprasta of course)?
BS: I’m pretty surprised Voxhaul Broadcast hasn’t blown up to a huge status they’re pretty phenomenal. I think 2012 will be a big year for Chasing Kings, they’re one of my favorite LA bands.
TA: What is the weirdest location that you’ve ever played a show?
BS: We played a show inside an RV for a thing called Jam in the Van. We’re a 5 piece with a decent amount of gear so that was tricky. In the early days as a band we played whatever we could so we played lots of weird shit but we always had a good time doing it.
TA: Vanaprasta is oft touted for an excellent live show. What is going through your head during each show?
BS: Our live shows are pretty intense. I used to think about every little detail but I feel like the more you play together as a band and develop that chemistry the easier it is to kind of just play off each other. I just think about not fucking up most of the time.
TA: Do you or the band have any pre-show rituals?
BS: I usually have a shot of Jameson, beers, stretch a little bit, chew some gum and then go play.
TA: Did performing come easily to you, to the band as a whole? Or was it something you had to work at?
Cameron Dmytryk: Not really, we love it more than basically anything. As far as working at it, it really came with the hair.
TA: In your opinion, what are three key essential elements that make an amazing live show? High energy, playing songs true to the album, adding unique flourishes, interacting with the audience, etc.
CD: High energy is always great, but if you can captivate you don’t need to go that crazy. Future Island are an incredible live band and the band itself are just providing lush atmosphere while the singer mesmerizes the crowd. For me it’s all about captivating presence, extended sections where you’re building on a song of yours everyone knows (an example would be Local Natives live rendition of Sun Hands), and…well, lights (never underestimate them).
TA: What bands or songs are on your “must see live before I die” list?
CD: I’ve checked quite a few off…Fugazi for sure. For some reason still haven’t seen Mars Volta. Honestly the big one for me is a Minneapolis punk band called Dillinger 4. They’ve been my fav punk band since high school and they barely tour and I’ve somehow missed them every damn time. Last time they went through LA I heard they were a drunken sloppy mess and Paddy their bass player (who almost always gets naked behind the bass) got arrested on Hollywood Blvd.
TA: What band have you seen more times than any other?
CD: Built To Spill – 11; Modest Mouse – 9
TA: What do you love most about the local LA music scene?
CD: The local LA music scene in Silverlake/Echo Park is such a wonderful sure fire way to find people rid of the LA stereotypes (greed, selfishness, backstabbing) and make life long friends with people who push and influence you musically. It’s the best part of living in Los Angeles.
TA: Who are some of your influences? As performers, musicians, and/or songwriters?
Taylor Brown: As performers, we admire the big stage presence, energy, and showmanship of festival bands like Muse and My Morning Jacket. I’ve also become completely enamored with how The National transforms their songs live, and Matt Berninger is quite possibly my favorite frontman at the moment. As far as songwriting and musicianmanship goes, the list is pretty long for all of us…I think the grander landscapes of Pink Floyd is something we’re all kind of looking back upon as we look ahead. They were so innovative. Risk takers.
TA: What is your favorite song to perform live?
TA: Was it a challenge translating the anthemic, powerful quality of your live performances to recorded tracks?
TB: It was a constant struggle for about two and a half years. We just struggled to capture the energy of our live show recorded, just kept falling flat. Then on our third attempt with Dave Schiffman, we finally got it right.
TA: As I understand it, the album was completed long before the release date – which was chosen (and correct me if I’m wrong) for numerological reasons. Was it difficult having it ready and having to wait to show it to people?
TB: Actually, there was a previous version of the album that we never released. Different recordings and for the most part, different songs. It was really, really tough to decide to not release it, but we knew that it wasn’t right and that we had to keep taking a crack at it until it was. The album that’s out now…we knew this was the right one as soon as we had it done. We completed it this summer and then decided on the 11/1/11 release date. We were definitely anxious to get it out, but patience and timing is important to a young band like us.
TA: What’s coming up for the band in 2012?
TB: We’re looking to firm up some touring throughout the year. We’ll also be releasing some videos, as well as some alternate versions of songs from the album. We’re also in the process of producing a long form video that goes along to the whole album…just a matter of putting all the pieces together. Making your own 40 minute short film is a bit of an undertaking, but we’re excited about it.
Click here to download Vanaprasta “Nine Equals Nine” for FREE!
Purchase Healthy Geometry on Vanaprasta’s website.