Fronted by Walter Schreifels (Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools, Quicksand) and featuring Autry Fulbright II (…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead) Bad Religion drummer Jamie Miller, and Zach Blair (Rise Against), Vanishing Life have just released their amazing debut album, Surveillance. Walter Schreifels answered to all our questions regarding this exciting, awesome, and brand new project.
Who approached who about starting this project?
Autry approached me at Groezrock Festival in 2014, seemed like fun to do a project with someone outside my New York circle of musicians and friends. Also, I knew Jamie from touring with Trail Of Dead so I knew the musical quality would be really high.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first time you are 100% focused on just singing. Was that always your intention with Vanishing Life?
I did play guitar on the album and wrote my share of the songs but I am primarily focused on the singing, most of the music was written by Jamie. I wrote all of the lyrics. In the love setting I just sing, which I’m enjoying. In taking on the project it was important to me that I not have to carry a guitar to the airport and lead singing is the best way around that.
Being just the vocalist, was it more challenging than you were expecting? Does it allow you to have a different perspective on the creative process?
Creatively it’s great, I definitely approach singing differently when I don’t have to worry about playing the song. That’s the approach I took with Quicksand, which made it much tougher when it came time to play live. Having only done 8 shows with Vaninshing Life I’m enjoying being the lead singer but there are different challenges. Staying healthy is an important one, no voice,no show and as lead singer it’s on you in a much bigger way. I love the challenge of it though.
What about performing with only a microphone in your hands? At least must be fun not having to carry all the gear.
Not carrying a guitar rules. So far I’m a singer with the mic stand type guy. In the last few shows I got to talking to the audience a little and that was good, was too shy at first. It’s fun to have to develop a new skill set/frontman identity on the fly, so far so good.
Talking about the creative process. What was that like for Vanishing Life?
The creative process is very smooth, the songs were written individually for the most part, but I don’t think it’d be easy to tell who wrote what, we all understood the musical style. As for the vocals I developed a voice that I thought was aggressive in a way but thoughtful and comfortable for me to sing, the lyrics are about the struggles of living in our modern world.
I know you recorded your first seven-inch in two days. Was the recording process for Surveillance also a fast one?
The album was tracked in 7 days, wetook a while with the mix and our record company went out of business, which also set us back, but the actual recording was very intense but also fun, productive.
From the band’s name to the title of the album to even the subjects of your lyrics, there’s some heaviness and deep analysis of the current state of affairs. Was always your goal to go down “this road”?
The subject matter seemed to fit the music which has a heavy edge to it. In going after contemporary life there’s a lot of tough news to report but I also made sure to find the humor and hope in it. Our first song “People Running” kind of set me in that direction, our society is in flux, panic, music can help one to deal.
I know the new album was also inspired by a visit you took to the Stasi museum. Can you please talk about that?
The Stasi museum in Berlin is on location at the former Stasi HQ in East Berlin. The East German secret police (Stasi) were masters of surveillance and creating paranoia as a means of control. The methods were derived from psychoanalysis, Edward Bernays, the KGB, the nazis, you see the same techniques being used today in advertising, at Guantanamo Bay and Facebook. The Stasi were all James Bond about their methods as well, very futuristic.
You’ve been involved in many bands/projects throughout the years. Is there something different to Vanishing Life?
Vanishing Life is unique in that I’m working out of my usual circle of New York friends, the creative process also took place mostly over the Internet. Lastly, I was asked to join rather than starting the band myself, I liked the idea of joining something. That and the chemistry within the recording band and now with the live band (including Nathan Aguilar [Dead Heavens] and Don De Vore [Ink And Dagger]) has a sound all its own.
Can we expect more albums from Vanishing Life or was this just one off?
We’d all like to keep going, playing live is a challenge but we’re making it work. We’re hoping to get a new single out in the Spring, there’s definitely a lot of great ideas hanging around.
I know you were one of the many persons that weren’t expecting Trump to win. How have been these last few weeks for you? I know Jill Stein is currently raising funds for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania…
I was as surprised as anyone. I know there are many fearful people, some with very good reason. Having experienced Bush and Reagan I know what bad presidents are like and it hasn’t been the end of the world yet. This wave of xenophobia etc. is something that has always existed in the country, maybe it’s a good thing to have it play out in the open at this point in history. I’m doubtful that Jill Stein’s effort will bear fruit but I approve the idea of questioning authority. Meanwhile I’m keeping my eyes open, looking out for my fellow man, choosing love.
I’ve got to ask. Any chance of a new Quicksand record in the future?
I’d love to do a Quicksand record, but Vanishing Life is my focus now followed by Dead Heavens, I’m working over here.