Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interview with John Kerr of Vit

Vit is a doom/black metal band from Ohio. They have just released their debut record which has been reviewed by The Inarguable. Their unique sound is a breath of fresh air for the underground US scene, and they are definitely on my artist to watch list! Here are some questions I had for drummer John Kerr. 

Being in bands myself, I know that it is a process to write music that you can stand by 100%. How does Vit go about writing material?

Ritualistically. We typically meet once a season and play for hours until something worthwhile comes of it. We all bring our seperate ideas and specialities until they culminate into one. After the seasonal 'practise', we are allowed to go free.

Your debut record has a very special feel to it. Many influences are present and melded together, while maintaining an individual voice. How do you feel about being compared to other bands? What bands do you call your main influences?

Any comparison to another band is likely imparted from the biases of the observer. We haven't seen many comments or reviews that have accurately described the things that influence our music. This is for one very simple reason: we ourselves do not know what influences the sounds we create. We congregate, collaborate, leave records, and depart.

How has growing up in the Midwest influenced your views and how you write music? Do you feel it is an overall positive or negative area for you?

The most obvious result of our Midwestern upbringing is in our aesthetic. The coverart for the record is a glorified depiction of how we see the environment in which we live and play. Cornfields are integral to the ideas and practices of Vit, so we would take it as an overall positive area. It facilitates us very well.

Can you explain what exactly ‘Swansylvania’ is and what the song is about?

Swansylvania is the town in which we all live and carry out the majority of our activities. It's a very small town of about 200 people in one of the more rural areas of Ohio with a vast expanse of practically uninhabited territory. The song is an aural representation of what goes on in this town, whether every resident knows about such activities or not.

I'm actually glad you asked this question. Vit is not from Athens. For some reason, a few promoters in the Athens area seem to believe we are and have plastered that information on a countless number of fliers. Just because we play in a city doesn't mean we're from there. No one in Vit lives in Athens.

The title of your debut album is ‘-‘. What is the significance of this title and how was the experience of creating a limited wood box edition of the record?

The fact of the matter is that the title has no significance. It fact, the album has no title. It is not untitled, or "unknown", we simply did not name it. Jon Rosenthal described it perfectly; a void.

I have some background in woodwork, so the idea of a wooden package came quite naturally. We were aware from the beginning that people would have no demand for an album that comes in a standard jewel case. We needed something that would accomplish visually and structurally what Vit represents in a manner which no sound could. The most important aspect of these boxes is not the disk itself; if it were, we wouldn't offer it for a free download. The box exists as a means to present the materials contained within it to our faithful listeners. I can't comment on exactly what is inside, as it unique to every box. Other than the album itself, no two boxes are the same.

What was the experience recording ‘-‘ like? Where did you record it and how long had you been writing the material that you recorded?

We took advantage of a friend of mine named Spenser Morris. He does work at Earthwork Studios in Newark, Ohio and he recorded and mixed our album. We stayed there for about a day and a half in total and recorded the entire album during that time.

The material on this record is fairly old. We've been together since the winter of 2006 and the majority of these songs have been around in some form since that time. Those more ancient songs have basically morphed and shifted throughout our seasonal gettogethers into how you hear them on the album. The last track on it was one of the first we came up with, and it was largely "written" spontaneously during one of our sessions. Because of this, the song is usually different everytime we play it; the one you hear on the record is just a version we happened to play when there were some microphones around. Every song on the album was recorded using live tracking without a click, so we had the opportunity to mold the songs as they progressed. In fact, the transtion from Part 2 to Part 3 in the Ascension Ritual was made up on the fly as we were recording. What you hear on the album is our improvisation.

Recently, the United States extreme metal scene has grown more and more self-reliant. There is an obvious difference in the recent bands coming up in the US compared to Europe and the rest of the world. What are your views on this?

American bands should be different. For a while, the majority of bands from the US just tried to imitate their European counterparts. This is especially true in the black metal genre, with everyone basically trying to be either Burzum or Darkthrone. You had a countless number of bands expressing "heathen pride" despite being born and raised in a country that's on the order of 200 years old. We don't hide the fact that we are an American band. We utilize American folk music that was bred in the very plains in which we reside. We do not borrow the traditions of a culture we have no connection to outside of a few ancestors we know nothing about.

The use of banjo and 12 string acoustic guitar gives a very ‘Americana’ influence to the record. How has folk music influenced you and are there plans to further develop this within the confines of Vit?

As stated in the last question, we do not try to hide the fact that we are an American band in a very American setting. Such a setting provides us with a unique avenue in which to express the feelings that we would like to convey.

The sounds that you hear in the first part of 'The Ascension Ritual" will be expanded on greatly in an upcoming EP. We will be having our first convention of the season this weekend and will compose most if not the entirety of the release during that time.

Where do you aim to take Vit in the future with releases, artwork, and tours?

3-4 songs for the next album have already been written, and were in fact around before we recorded this last one. It's unknown when it will be recorded, but we want to atleast wait until next year so that we don't put out too many things in such a short amount of time.

Another project we will be working on during our time together this weekend will be a revamped version of the debut's artwork and packaging. The wooden box format is getting costly to ship, so we will be developing a lighter package with features unique to this edition. This hasn't been finalized yet, but we will announce it when they become available.

As far as tours go, we could only logistically pull something like that off in the Summer and Winter months, as all of us have either unpredictable or stacked schedules. We'd like to put something together at some point, but we haven't gotten any offers.

In the meantime, we will continue to play shows in the Ohio area as usual. We're also up for making treks to the surrounding states if people would have us.

I thank you very much for talking the time to answer these questions. Cheers! 

It was my pleasure. Vit is forever grateful for your kind words and coverage.

Vit's debut, "-" is out now. Check out Jon's review here.


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