That gratifying feeling of completion has been a fleeting sensation for Gold Coast group Von Villains, particularly in the past year.
Who knows why so many Gold Coast bands are susceptible to member changes or even total dismemberment, but coming out the tail end of some last minute line up changes has kept Von Villains stronger than ever. Jake Wilton sat down with the group to discuss new recordings, some recent potholes for the band and why there’s a dad in all of us.
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Hump day, Wednesday night. An alluring invitation to Mexican food and beers couldn’t sound more pleasing. I was quickly proved wrong when I met my company for the night. I had the pleasure of joining Jack Field (vocals/guitar), Lewi Hart (bass), Anthony Vallone (drums) and Ben Stagg (guitar) for a brisk night in Nobby Beach. Having caught the band live several times in the past, it was nothing but a delight to realise the group’s charm and down-to-earthiness in person.
Von Villains are a Gold Coast-cross-Byron Bay four piece who’ve been on the scene for a few years. Achieving small goals here and there, as a band climbing the metaphorical ladder of success. Though most ladders have their blunders; some cracks in the line which inevitably cause slip ups. In Von Villains case, it was the departure of band members which, in hindsight, wasn’t as bad as you’d imagine.
“It’s basically a completely different band… Regardless, if I was to listen back on the EP [self-titled 2013 release] now it would probably be time for a change,” stated Lewi.
Described as a “tug of war” by Jack Von Villains was forced to reassess. Everything from play style to genre, the Von Villains you knew no longer exists.
“It’s about meeting in the middle,” reassures Anthony. “There are still points where we write a song that’s more in someone else’s favour.”
“You’ve just got to have confidence with the other members. For instance, Anthony and Lewi, might come up with a killer line. It might not be my style, but if they like it so do I because I respect them as musicians,” confirms Jack.
The camaraderie and musical passion between all four members is staggering considering recent events – Ben only being in the band since late 2014. It seems Ben was in fact, the last piece of the puzzle for Von Villains. With Ben’s sudden appearance in the group, the guys began to compromise with each other rather than against.
While the shifting of members has stilted the band’s ability to record and release music on a schedule, it’s not to say that the creative juices didn’t flow. As Ben and Anthony neatly fitted into place in Von Villains, the band found confidence again to record and start playing around with sounds. Toying with a, “less juvenile” approach to song writing, Von Villains have had enough unexpected occurrences in the past eight months to warrant a more powerful approach on this new release.
A song titled 625 remains unrecorded as the band want to do this justice. Influenced by the passing of a very close family member to Jack, he and the other band members find it an important and mature step for the band to write and record a song of this emotional calibre.
“That song still stands up to be one of our best,” relates Lewi.
Part of what makes this reshaped Von Villains return to the scene so entertaining and exclusive is related to the abrupt halt of local indie-pop greats Oceanics. Having released their highly anticipated, and acclaimed, self-titled debut album earlier in the year, the band called it quits. With a drummer sent abroad and other members relocating from the Gold Coast, it didn’t seem fair to the band to allow the project to struggle to continue. So begs the question: Has Oceanics’ departure from the Gold Coast music scene paved the way for Von Villains to swipe the crown?
“It was good to have another band that was on your wavelength,” said Lewi. “Even if there was any competition between [us and Oceanics] we didn’t feel it. It was always more of a collaboration.”
“These days, though, we’re a completely different band. It used to be similar [in genre] but now it’s really different,” teases Anthony.
For what they were, Oceanics were a big deal. Not to say Von Villains haven’t got a few things to add to their collective resumes. Already opening for Dune Rats on Australia Day and Glass Towers a few years ago. Although, as Jack reveals, Von Villains were on the brink of breaking success if it hadn’t been for the loss of band members.
“We could have had a gig with the Rubens and Flight Facilities. Every time we get close, we end up having to take a step back. This time around, I feel, is good because we’ve written heaps of songs that weren’t a time waster,” said Jack.
“Like you said, turn a negative into a positive,” comforts Anthony.
Von Villains will launch their new single Five Minutes at their, and my, favourite Gold Coast venue and watering hole, elsewhere this week,having only played Brisbane’s the Zoo the week beforeand the Oceanics’ album launch in March. Von Villains are more than ready to flex their new sounds and reclaim their rightful position in the Gold Coast music scene.
What about the prospect of new music for the band? Well Anthony paved the band’s release schedule nicely.
“I think the EP’s dead. People are so inundated with music consumption that they don’t have the time to sit through an EP anymore. A single can grab people a lot quicker.”
“At the moment, it’s more beneficiary for us to only be doing singles as we’re exploring different styles. Instead of trying to force together five or six songs that probably won’t work together [stylistically], we figure it’d be better to release them as finish them,” states Lewi.
“You don’t want to feel forced to write and record songs which most debut EPs do sound like,” said Ben.
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Five Minutes will be wafting through Surfers Paradise when Von Villains land at elsewhere this Friday 22 May. The track is out now through the band’s website and you can expect more material and shows from Von Villains before the year’s end.