Gotta get to know em: Death Vacation
I caught up with Death Vacation fresh off of their most recent tour along the east coast to find out how tour went, and what they’ve got planned next. Here’s what they had to say:
S16/Bobby – Why don’t you start by introducing yourselves and telling us what you do in the band.
DV/Casey – I’m Casey. I live In Brooklyn, NY. I play guitar for Death Vacation but I mostly just do pick slides.
DV/Mike – My name is Mike, I’m from Maplewood NJ, and I play the drums. I also record, mix and master our recordings.
DV/Alex – My names Alex, currently living in Brooklyn and playing bass for Death Vacation.
DV/Michelle – I’m Michelle. I do vocals for Death Vacation. I live in Jersey.
S16 – Okay cool. So for the people that are still unfamiliar with you, can you give us a quick story on how you came to be?
Michelle – About five years ago Casey and I started a slightly different band, and by slightly different I mean we were a posi hardcore band.. we really liked Kid Dynamite. A few line up changes in and Mike joined. We started to change our sound and eventually landed on what Death Vacation is (now). Alex joined last year, and here we are today.. a lot less posi. According to everyone lately, a lot less hardcore- more grindcore.. which is news to us.
S16 – And what would you say are your biggest influences, musically, for Death vacation?
Michelle – Initial State, Left for Dead, Sacrilege, Rudimentary Peni. A mix of bands I love and bands [whose] vocals and lyrics inspire me.
Mike – My general musical influences are fairly broad within the rock and punk world, but more specifically for what I’m doing in Death Vacation I am very influenced by 90’s era crust punk. I also feel that my dislike for a lot of hardcore music that the other members of Death Vacation listen to has a big effect on our sound. I am not a big fan of breakdowns and am always looking for interesting ways to mix up the tempo and rhythm while avoiding more traditional sounding breakdowns.
Casey – Dropdead, Youth of Today, Contravene
S16 – One thing I always find really interesting to learn about the bands I listen to is their first experiences with the music they love. I still remember the way I felt the first time I listened to Bad Religion, or Cock Sparrer.. and then again the first time I heard Aus-Rotten and Fall of Efrafa, and those feelings have stayed with me throughout my life as some of my favorites. What was your first real experience with discovering punk rock, and how did it effect you?
Alex – When I was a kid my dad would always play Metallica and Ted Nugent when we’d drive around doing errands and stuff. We would “turn it up” so loud that my brother would plug his ears, and we even blew the car’s speakers once. The radio in the 90’s was a big part of hearing different bands like Offspring and Butthole Surfers, and also finding music I didn’t like – realizing what I wanted to hear. Michelle is going to hate me for this part, but It wasn’t till about 4th grade when I started my own music discovery. I specifically remember buying “Iowa” by Slipknot at the mall and being mesmerized by the art and amount of content that came within the foiled booklet. It was instantly like I was part of a club — like I knew something other people didn’t. All the satanic symbols and the abrasive darkness within the album felt like I unlocked something I wasn’t supposed to see or hear. In middle school I moved out to the country and was too young to drive, so I spent most of my time online discovering bands and illegally downloading songs to make burned CDs to trade with friends. My friend Isabelle’s mom would drive us to the city to see a bunch of hardcore/metal/screamo shows. This all opened my mind to new and old music, and I’m still learning and discovering. 2016 has already offered a hell of a lot of good, new stuff.
Michelle – I have to credit my older brother, Chris, for getting me into punk and hardcore at an early age. In sixth grade he started taking me to local shows and showing me bands. Like most punks around my age at that time, Rancid and The Distillers became fast favorites. As middle school went on I started to discover more music on my own and became friends with other punks my age. Chris started listening to “beatdown” hardcore bands while I was starting high school, and quickly realized crust punk was way more my style. I guess I can give my father credit too.. in elementary school he showed me The Clash, Ramones, and X.
Casey – My father got me in to punk when I was probably about 11. He would play me his Buzzcocks, Ramones, Clash, and Pistols records at first. I was mesmerized by the energy and sound. He then moved on to showing me things such as the Dead Kennedys, Joy Division, Anti Nowhere League, Sham 69, so on and so forth. From there on it was all over.. I was hooked. I remember Listening to his soundtrack for “Repo Man” all the time and wishing I could be in a band like those bands. A couple years later he took me to buy my first record.. I guess I was about 13. I picked out GBH the “The Clay Years” and now here I am.
S16 – That’s really cool. Thanks for sharing those experiences. Now, you guys just got home from tour.. so how was it?
Alex – Tour was weird and a lot of fun. It was nice to have a brand new audience every night rather than the comfort of friends and familiar faces that we see at home. The Milestone in Charlotte NC was the most accommodating of any venue we played. They treat bands well there. It was our last stop on tour before heading home. Clearly a venue for the bands and not promoters, or cliques and crews — we hope to go back soon. Being exhausted from another long drive and run down from tour, we were greeted with drink tickets and employees that were excited we came out to play, which we are still super grateful for. Its hard to say that there was one best experience, I guess it was just nice to not have any bunk shows that weren’t worth playing. As someone who runs a label it was also nice how many record shops took on our releases!
Michelle – This was my first tour. We’ve done weekends before but this was two weeks long, a legit tour. Richmond may have been my favorite show. Small basement but packed with tons of rad people. I would rather that than playing a bar or venue honestly. I missed my cats a whole lot. We met tons of sweet companion animals, but none of them compare to Whiskey and Hops.
Mike – Tour was fun, a lot of good shows. I don’t have a smartphone so I really enjoyed not being on the internet for almost 2 weeks. Overall, it was a nice way to explore the country, hear some new music, and cleanse my brain of life’s anxieties.
Casey – Loved Richmond. A lot of great vibes and people. all the bands were incredible. Missed my bed the most.
S16 – So, now that everyone has a bit of experience on tour, what is one thing that you think is a necessity to have with you in the van?
Casey – Ruk Shuk, the game of stacking rocks. Mike bought ruk shuk from a flea market in western Mass on our second day of tour. We all made fun of it a first but it quickly became the game we played after shows. Crowd favorite.
Mike – Four square ball. There are many great activities that involve a four square ball, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. The rest of the band does not agree.. and by the end of tour tried throwing it out the window numerous times.
Michelle – I brought my Magic deck thinking we’d have time to play some games. We only ended up playing one night, in Providence though.
Alex – Well I was an idiot and didn’t bring a pillow or blanket, so maybe I should double-check my own checklist of necessities. Aside from that though, music seemed to be the driving force of our long rides. The more variety and options the better; Cds, iPod, radio, cassette player, etc..
S16 – Do any of you have any upcoming projects you’re working on for Death Vacation? I know you have independent things going on as well, so are there any things in the works for you individually?
Casey – We’re currently writing songs for a 7 inch.
Michelle – Aside from writing new songs, most of our band has other projects within the community. I run a fest called Not Just a Boys Club here in Jersey. It’s organized to showcase femmes in punk and hardcore. All the bands that play have at least one non male identifying member. There are a bunch of layers to it including art, vendors, food, raffles, zines; and all the proceeds go to an LGBTQ safe house a few towns away from where I live. I’ve run two fests in the last year and a half. The last one was in August, and it takes a lot to plan them so I’ve been working on the next one already.
Alex – I help run Serenity Now, a small label that puts out cassettes and is dipping into other media like vinyl. We just released Death Vacations Flexi “Bones Grow Cold” and are about to put out a split 7″ Stinger and Mauler. Its a bit scary to invest the money and time needed to put out these kind of releases, but we are excited none the less. Our line up of cassettes coming up is really exciting too. Toxicology, Ides, Ratstab, and more should all be coming out in the next few months! We’re staying busy.
S16 – What would you say is the main message you want to convey through your music?
Michelle – Lyrically our songs promote feminism and veganism. Our whole band is passionate about feminism and half our band is vegan — although I will say the other half love vegan food, they haven’t made the switch yet.. yet. I, as well Casey who co-writes with me, write about what [affects] our lives and what’s important to us. Body dysmorphia issues, police brutality, general hatred of mankind.
S16 – Are there any upcoming tours in the works?
Casey – Definitely weekend tours to come until the spring where we plan to hit the midwest/south and the coast.
Be sure to keep your eye on this band if you’re a fan of punk rock, especially the crust punk and powerviolence/grindcore subgenres of punk rock. You can keep up with the band by checking them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DeathVacation and support them at deathvacation.bandcamp.com by picking up a t-shirt or three to go along with the new music they’re giving you. If physical copies of music is more your style, stop by serenitynowtapes.bandcamp.com and pick up some new things to make your ears happy.