Kenny Vasoli’s Vacationer is his electronic apprenticeship
Vacationer isn’t Kenny Vasoli’s first foray into the business of making music, but it might be the most successful as far as one of his biggest fans is concerned. Reached at home in Philadelphia, the easygoing veteran of emo-punk acts like the Starting Line relates that his electronica project’s debut disc, Gone, gets plenty of airplay around the house of a woman he couldn’t possibly love more.
“My mom is always playing the record,” Vasoli says with a laugh. “She’s always been really supportive as far as going to my shows and buying shirts and stuff. But this is the first time that I’ve actually caught her listening to music that I’m making. She really took a liking to Vacationer, even before the CD was pressed or anything. I think it resonates a little bit more with her musically. She’s always liked new-wave music, more so than my dad. She grew up listening to New Order and Alphaville—stuff like that.”
Even if no one is going to confuse Gone with New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies, the album is a definite departure from the sound that helped make Vasoli a household name among kids who subscribe to Alternative Press. The musician has jokingly tagged Vacationer’s sound as “nu hula”, no doubt with the intent to lure in folks who live for those two weeks of the year when they get to kick back on a palm-tree–studded beach. It makes sense, then, that the only thing missing from the breezy synth-pop confection “Trip” is a complimentary umbrella drink. Later on, “Dreamlike” fires up a monster spliff in the birthplace of Jamaican dub, while “Be With You” finishes things off in the land of rum-soaked sambas.
Ultimately, it’s all worlds removed from the power-pop guitars and teenage-angst template that helped the 28-year-old buy a home in Philadelphia.
That shift was intentional. As much as the Starting Line has paid the bills, Vasoli at some point started to feel as if he’d painted himself into a corner.
“I didn’t have any expectations of this project,” he says of Vacationer. “It really just came out of frustration with the constraints that I’d given myself before. Actually, constraints isn’t really the right word. With the formula I was using to write songs before, I felt like I sort of hit a wall.
“I’d been building up an admiration for electronic music since about 2005, when I started digging into things like Four Tet and Aphex Twin, so I really wanted to do something that had electronic elements to it,” he continues. “Deep down, I feel that’s the way the evolution of music is headed. So I wanted to surround myself with people who knew that world.”
Those people include Matt Young and Grant Wheeler of Brooklyn-based Body Language. That’s right: while Gone might sound like the work of one guy planting his synths in powder-white sands, Vacationer is actually a fully functioning group, both on the stage and in the studio. Evidently, Vasoli’s mom isn’t the only person onboard with the new direction.
“This has been almost like an apprenticeship to figure out how this music gets made,” the newly minted electronica artist says. “I wanted to make the kind of music that I listen to while I’m riding around on my bike on summer days or sitting around my house chilling out—music that doesn’t have a whole lot of abrasiveness or spikes to it. I mean, I like that kind of music too, but I also wanted to be part of something that wasn’t blasting in my ears the whole time. Playing rock ’n’ roll music my whole younger life has, honestly, given me a headache. I needed some relief.”