THE VACANT LOTS
The Vacant Lots initially came together in 2009 in their hometown of Burlington, Vermont, and made their recorded debut a couple years later with the ‘Confusion’ single, which was highly praised by Pitchfork for its “pared down sound, with all excess fat deliciously shorn to the bone, allowing a stone cold downer vibe to bludgeon the listener into a glorious, senseless stupor”.
This minimalist aesthetic is something they have developed over the past few years, not least by continuing as a two-piece. “We auditioned other guitarists and bass players early on, but were never able to find that connection with another member,” explains percussionist/singer Brian MacFadyen. “There are certain limitations imposed on two people, but the level of unspoken connection between us has allowed the process of everything to be quite efficient.” Guitarist/singer Jared Artaud agrees: “We are able to strip it down until the music becomes elementary and essential, until every note counts. We are constantly trying to explore the limits of what two people can do with sound.”
The notion of duality is also a recurring one, whether in the band’s fiercely monochrome artwork (there are even two versions of the scintillation grid that adorns the cover of ‘Departure’; white for the CD and, naturally, black for the vinyl LP), or their lyrics, which deal with life and death, love and loss, darkness and light. Essentially, they deal with the human condition and their ambiguity means the listener can find their own meaning.
The Vacant Lots see themselves very much in the lineage that stretches from Bo Diddley and Link Wray, via The Velvet Underground and The Stooges to Suicide, The Cramps, The Gun Club and Spacemen 3. Brian also cites Kraftwerk and New Order as influences, especially on the more synth based tunes such as ‘Paint This City’. This incorporation of electronics has brought the band’s sound right up to date, and also allows for a more diverse soundscape both in the studio and when they play live. To this end, Brian spends most of his spare time working with electronics, building pedals and custom effects.
Jared’s extra-curricular activities are based around the written word. He had his first book of poetry, ‘Empty Space’, published earlier this year and is careful to add his literary heroes to the band’s list of inspirations: Lautréamont, Baudelaire and Kafka sit alongside Television, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Albert Ayler. One listen to the spoken word and guitar drones on the epic ‘Make The Connection’ and this all makes perfect sense.
Burlington, VT (USA)
US: Samantha Tyson
UK/EU: Corrado Massari
Departure (LP) Arrival (EP) Split with Alan Vega