IT has been interesting speaking with VC Pines…
about his new single, Golden Gai, and its evocative story. I ask the songwriter what it is like writing music with a condition called chromesthesia; if there is going to be more material later this year – Jack (VC Pines) talks about moving from a band, The Carnabys, to life as a solo artist.
I was eager to know whether there are gigs coming up and which upcoming acts VC Pines recommends; the three albums that mean the most to him; how he chills away from music – the songwriter gives some useful advice for artists starting out.
Hi, VC Pines. How are you? How has your week been?
Not bad, thanks. Recovering from Lovebox last night - Childish Gambino was unreal.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
It's like an Alternative-Soul vibe; contemporary-sounding beats and sounds with classic brass and voodoo organ sounds. Soulful vocals, too.
Golden Gai is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind it?
Haha. It's a memory from being on tour in Tokyo. Me and the bassist were walking through Kabukichō after drinking in the Golden Gai; we kind of got ushered into this lift that was on the street and just went with it. When we got out, we were suddenly in this run-down, after-hours massage parlour with all the lights off. These people were screaming at us and tried to take our money etc. But, yeah, we managed to slip around and sprint down the stairs and out of the weird parlour, wallets intact - and lived to write a song about it.
Will there be further material this year, do you think? How far are you looking ahead?
Yeah, for sure, I'm writing all the time; constantly working on new material and finishing off older stuff. New stuff in the wings, for sure.
Jack. As a former member of The Carnabys; was it hard adapting, in terms of formation and style, to working on what you do now?
If I were to tell myself I'd be working like this a couple of years ago it'd be hard to get my head around, but it's all just fallen into place quite bizarrely and it's how I love to work. I can try things out, bin it or keep it; go with styles that are a bit more out-there and they grow on me every day.
You have a condition called chromesthesia. How does it affect the way you write and perceive music? Does it make creating music more difficult than otherwise?
If anything, it makes it easier. I have a clear vision of the song before it's even written and use colour to help to keep things that fit together like a puzzle - especially in the studio when colour coding gets used. It really helps to see it all in front of you rather than have things laid out in my head. It makes things quick and easy: like having two computers on the go, except only one has a screen.
Given the name, ‘VC’ (Violet Coloured) Pines; is there significance behind the moniker? How do they relate to your chromesthesia?
Some of my favourite music I've written is violet/purple in my head. The name helps keep things going in a certain direction for me. ‘Pines’ comes from my temporal lobe epilepsy, of which I think my synaesthesia/chromesthesia is a symptom.
I was taken to Wolfboro, in North America, when I was a child. I hardly remember any of it but, sometimes, if I'm having an episode I get these memories in my head I didn't think were there - and they're of these massive pine trees and the snow around them.
Did you grow up around a lot of music? Which artists inspired you when you were young?
I got into music through my dad's C.D.s. He had all these Punk C.D.s; so, I instantly loved people like The Stranglers, Ian Dury; Wire, The Clash and The Damned etc. He's also a big Motown fan and, through that, I found Soul music which really captured me. We used to sing Across 110th Street (Bobby Womack) at each other in the car.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I haven't really thought of that! Haha. Maybe I should start. I've just been taking each day as it comes - each song, as they arrive in my head, and going with it all.
Will there be any tour dates? Where can we see you play?
1st August at The Social - be there!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I've loved every second of being in music, from touring globally; the European tours and the tours up and down the U.K. It's fuc*ing fun and that's why I do it. Looking forward to getting back on the road with VC Pines. Tours are full of laughs, but one particular memory I have is when we played a house party in Brighton and we were so close to falling through the floor.
Everyone was jumping but there was this one guy that wasn't - though his head was bobbing up and down by a foot or so, which meant the floor was bending. The moment I said “stop jumping” he went nuts and starting stamping everywhere.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say?
That's such a hard question…there are so, so many. There are some I fall in and out love with and others that I never forget about. They're all so different! I'm gonna say:
Sound & Color - Alabama Shakes
Me and my girlfriend listened to it start to finish the other day in the car and it reminded me of being on tour when it first came out. It's an album full of memories for me.
Grace - Jeff Buckley
One of the most incredible albums ever written. He was a true, true genius.
Remain in Light - Talking Heads
It reminds me of my dad from the first to last second. It's literally an album full of his sense of humour and emotions. David Byrne is also a hero.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Not only are his songs written with his dark brilliance but his live arrangements are even better. He has so much energy on stage - and so do the Bad Seeds. To have a career like his would be a dream.
My riders are pretty easy: beer, rum; towels, water…depends on what's happening after the show.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Make the music that you would play if someone asked you to describe yourself. Hold nothing back on stage and don't listen to assholes. Oh…and anyone that mentions percentages within the first five minutes can fu*k off, too: let things grow.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I don't really. The only thing I do to chill is not listening to it (music). When I'm not writing, I'm at work at my mate's shop. So, I end up playing my favourite music all day. Love it.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Sick. Let's go with the last song I listened to: Chicago - Tom Waits
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