An Interview With: Vasa

Vasa are an exciting Scottish, Glasgow-based four piece instrumental rock band. Forming back in 2011, the band garnered a lot of positive feedback in the wake of the release of their first EP ‘Never Have Dreams’ (2012). They have since played extensively, spreading their sound across Glasgow, and now they’re back with a brand new double-single, ‘Not a Cop’.

With, ‘Never Have Dreams’, Vasa certainly threw themselves into the consciousness of instrumental-rock fans with an EP that roared with intent. Across the EP the band effortlessly shifted between the soft delicate instrumentation, huge, aggressive crescendos and some brilliant offbeat, upbeat riffs (‘Empty Orchestra’). The way in which Vasa drew influence from across the board of this vast genre really helped them to develop a very distinctive and eclectic sound. Obviously comparisons to their national forefathers, Mogwai were unavoidable but the inclusion of sounds which are more akin to the frenetic, punky approach of bands like As I Watched You From Afar, definitely set Vasa apart.

‘Not a Cop’, it seems, seeks to diversify Vasa’s sound even more. The song begins with hyper guitar looped leads set against a slow-build bassdrum before smashing into life over the continual lead pattern. The song twists and turns through some insanely cool instrumentation that pulls Vasa alongside anyone in this genre. While ‘Not a Cop’ bursts into life over and over, and while Vasa have managed to pack a relatively short song so full of interest and content what is surprisingly refreshing is the way in which the song doesn’t conform to the usual instrumental formula of the constant build and instead weaves itself into a continual, exciting journey of under four minutes.

The single’s B-side, ‘Something Awful’, although being much more straight forward than the single’s A-side still provides some really interesting soundscapes. The wailing distortion beneath the main riff creates a really full, eerie sound. Vasa have the ability to create fantastic music and really experimental, intriguing sounds and we look forward to seeing what more they have to give.

I caught up with the guys this week to chat about their new single and what the future holds for Vasa…

First off, who are Vasa? 
We are Blaine (guitar), John (bass), Scott (other guitar) and Alex (drums). John met Blaine when he joined his university course and Blaine brought Scott in as he’d known him from years as they’re both from Perth. We met Alex by accident. Somebody was handing out Geordies on the street and we snapped one up. It gives us that exotic vibe we were searching for.

Who and what have been your main creative influences individually and as a collective?
John – Primus, Intronaut, (anything Les Claypool [vocalist & Bassist in Primus] puts into existence), This Will Destroy You, anything ambient/droney. Being probably the worst person in existence.
Scott – Biffy Clyro, As I Watched You From Afar, Aereogramme. Also, the Sun newspaper, prancing through meadows and tantric lovemaking.
Blaine – ASIWYFA, The Mars Volta, getting cheap thrills when purchasing pedals.
Alex – Deafheaven, Sigur Ros. Doing farts so potent they are briefly visible to the naked eye.

Collectively we are all into ASIWYFA, Adebisi Shank and a bunch of others that will take up too much interview space.

What have been your proudest musical achievements as Vasa to date?
There’s quite a few. Playing T in the Park last year was amazing as was playing Wickerman. It was our first time playing festivals so it was a terrifying yet brilliant experience. Another cool wee thing that happened was after our set supporting Deafheaven when none other than Simon Neil came up to us, gave us a hug and told us that he really enjoyed our set. He caught about two thirds of it which was really cool knowing someone as successful as him enjoyed what we had to offer. Getting our first radio play was great as well. There’s been quite a lot of great things it’s hard to remember all of them!

The new double single feels quite removed from the slightly more ‘sprawling’ tracks of ‘Never Have Dreams’ (2012). ‘Not A Cop’ in particular, although maintaining an expansive ‘math-rock’ finesse, certainly seems to be a much more honed song, boasting a heavy use of electronics and a very modest track length for an instrumental band. Was this change in sound a conscious decision to be experimental or just a natural progression?
It was a pretty conscious decision. When we started writing ‘Not a Cop’ Blaine had said he wanted to write something a little heavier and then a little further down the line we agreed it’d be cool to write a few songs that were a lot shorter and sharper than what we had previously done.

What can we expect from Vasa in the future?
Well touring, obviously. After that we are taking a wee break from playing Glasgow gigs, as we have done it to death, and we are going to write more songs to record for our album which we will hopefully start recording at the tail end of this year. There is another thing happening pretty soon after tour but we’re not allowed to mention that yet.

You must be really excited to be getting out on the road with Shrine on your upcoming UK tour. Why should we come to see Vasa live?
Yeah. We really are. We had an absolutely fantastic time on our last tour and to be heading again out on a longer tour alongside a band who we love and are really good friends with is amazing. Seeing Shrine 14 days in a row is going to be a treat. They’re fantastic so we can’t wait to be doing this joint headline tour. Can’t speak of them highly enough.

As an instrumental band, how does the song writing generally occur? Is it mainly born through improvisation and experiment? 
Usually Blaine writes something in his flat then he’ll send us a rough mix and we’ll go in, play about with it, change stuff around as we see fit and just work on it until it’s done. We did write ‘Not Now, But Soon’, from our last EP, by just jamming around with an idea and letting it go from there but mainly it comes from the mind of Blaine Thompson Esq IV.

What do you make of the Scottish music scene of today?
The scene is really good. 99% are incredibly supportive of each other. It’s a good place to be. There a bunch of great bands from Glasgow who we really like. For example Mast, Shambles in a Husk, Owls in Antarctica, Bear Arms, Pinact, Poor Things, Cutty’s Gym, Young Philadelphia, Mountains Under Oceans, Felix Champion, Inuit and so many more that we apologise if we have forgotten to include. There’s also a bunch of fantastic bands from outside of Glasgow that more people should check out. TIDINGS, Sectioned, DIRTDRINKER, Bonehouse to name a few.

Tour Dates 
01/05/2014 – Non Zero’s / Dundee
02/05/2014 – Opium / Edinburgh

Words: Leo Bargery