Not A Rambling Man: Matthew Logan Vasquez talks sophomore LP, family, and more in hour long interview

He opens for Shovels & Rope in St. Petersburg on April 4.

click to enlarge Matthew Logan Vasquez, who plays State Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 4, 2017. - Marthe Løvsland Vasquez
Marthe Løvsland Vasquez
Matthew Logan Vasquez, who plays State Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 4, 2017.

Rambling is associated with things being lengthy, confusing or inconsequential. While CL’s conversation with Texas songwriter Matthew Logan Vasquez clocked in at almost an hour long, there wasn’t anything insignificant or trivial about it at all.

The origin of the phone call, which took place while he and his backing band — drummer Jud Johnson and bassist Brendan Bond — drove from Fayetteville to San Antonio was a discussion Vasquez’s forthcoming sophomore solo LP, Does What He Wants (due April 21 via Dine Alone Records). The new stuff strips away the immediacy and raw power of his debut full length (Solicitor Returns) and its follow up (the Austin EP) and trades it in for an emotionally peeled back, musically agnostic collection of songs that reflect on his new, strange, funny and fulfilling life as a family man. 

The majority of our call, in fact, centered around family. It touched on his new son, beautiful wife and recently passed on grandpa Manuel (aka Chuck). At one point in our talk, Vasquez laments the end of oral family history as we know it. If this window of time was a peek into the conversations Vasquez values, then he won’t have to worry about oral history being lost in his new nuclear family.

Read our full Q&A, and get more information on the show, below. A playlist featuring songs from the interview is streaming at the end of the post.


Shovels & Rope w/Matthew Logan Vasquez
Tues. April 4, 7 p.m., $19.
State Theatre, 687 Central Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

Hello?

Hey. Can you hear all clear?

Yeah.

Good.

Are you driving right now, like doing the actual driving?

Yeah, we played Fayetteville two nights ago, so we are in route now to uh…

San Antonio?

Yeah, San Antonio.

So does that mean you get to spend the night back home tonight?

Yes. Yes I do, so I am really excited about that. We have a day off, too, so that’s great.

What’s it feel like knowing you are going to be away from your family pretty much through May?

Well actually I have worked it out so I am only really gone three weeks at a time, and then I’m home again, which is kinda great.

Perfect. Does Thor realize that you’re going away? Does it get any easier with each tour, or does he take it pretty easy since mom isn’t going anywhere?

Oh, you know, it’s hard. My wife just started working so we have daycare and everything, so she’s gotta really hustle. It takes a village. My mom is nearby and she likes to help out — it’s kind of a crazy time. He’s getting really cute, too, which makes it even harder to leave.

He is really cute, how old is he now? He’s always been cute though. Has he had a haircut yet?

He’s at the 18-month mark. Yeah, he’s had a haircut. He’s kind of like got a little Brian Jones vibe going. Pretty cute.

He is really cute. You’ve kind of talked about how you felt like Marthe was out of your league, but did you think you could make that little guy?

Do you have any kids yet?


Not yet. Been having a conversation based around avoidance.

When it doubt, buy a cat. 

We have a cat, kind of took on a porch cat, but we have a dog.

Yeah, then you’re fucked. That’s your one little buffer you get, and then after that it’s all baby all the time man — it’s crazy.

He’s been awesome for you though, huh?

Yeah, it’s really shifted the direction and priorities in my life and brought on a lot of responsibility. It’s been an incredible experience and every little bit of it has been worth it. Getting to meet this young, little human being who will hopefully live longer than I do.

For sure, tell me about it.

It’s crazy.

You’ve talked about the financial difficulty you endured in 2016.

Yeah.

Was that just being unprepared for the kid, or did it have to do with your career, record deals, etc.? I know your deal with Delta Spirit was kind of weird where to signed each of you separately or something. I know you all get along and everything. The band isn’t broken up, and it’s still all good.

Yeah, um, I walked away from Delta Spirit for a period of time with no return date. The band isn’t broken up or anything like that. You know, I think in some ways, uh, there’s a mismanagement of our career in our own hands, you know. We’ve had incredibly devoted fans, and we still do. I often get asked about returning to Delta Spirit. People wouldn’t show up to my shows if they didn’t know about Delta Spirit, so there you go.

I mean, at a certain point that changes.

Yeah, yeah. I think I’ve been gaining a lot of fans, well definitely have been, since playing a bunch of shows with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, playing a few festivals. Doing that has been great, and I think the music — that’s kind of the other thing — I set out to make Solicitor Returns without even worrying about money because I wasn’t in the situation I am in. I made that record as more of a reaction to my musical taste within the band as well as production. Not being able to producer or engineer music, which is a big passion of mine. So I created Solicitor Returns and then I created Austin because it seemed logical since I wrote an 18-minute song, and I needed a vehicle for it.

You needed a B-side.

Haha, I guess. So I made those two things and had every intention of returning to Delta Spirit and then Marthe got pregnant a year after I recorded Solicitor Returns. I recorded it directly after Delta Spirit recorded Into the Wide. So I really was just sitting on it for two years waiting to work out the cycle with Delta Spirit and see what happens with that, you know, kind of have a time, plans, spending my off time planning my solo release so I could have kind of an art project where I do all of the artwork and self released everything to kind of have this experience.

The year leading up to it just happened to be kind of Delta Spirit’s worst financial year. It’s funny like, I remember a band like No Doubt who had sold platinum records and played in front of so many people every time they played. They were worth maybe 10,000 tickets at the time that they filed for bankruptcy. So it’s like how to run a small business, and it’s not like I’m raking in the bucks over here doing my own thing, but it’s definitely different. It’s not so much the split with the other musicians so much as it’s a split with a business manager, a lawyer taking a cut, your manager taking a cut and your booking agent taking a cut. You know it’s like, by the time it hits you it’s half gone off of the gross and before the expenses and then you get taxed on top of it. So, it’s not like getting one fifth. It’s more like getting one tenth actually returned to your pocket, or you reinvest it back into the business.

So it’s just like one of those things where in Delta Spirit I had found myself in kind of a precarious position where a lot of the band were kind of sorted out financially pretty well, and I was having to move back in with my mom  — and did for a year. I mean I had a dual income with my wife, and had put money away, so we could’ve kept the house we had, just barely probably as I am looking back now, but by the skin of our teeth we would of made it. Instead we moved back in with my mom, and financially restarted, and I had the support. But we, I mean I was bleeding money because the dual income I had with my wife just disappeared with the pregnancy. And people just don’t like to hire pregnant women.

Yeah, isn’t that kind of crazy. It’s kind of fucked…

It’s incredibly fucked up and sexist. It’s so fucked up. So my wife found herself with a part-time job that was promised to become full-time, but it didn’t. So then she tried to find a job that could help her get health insurance and then because she’s so sweet, she admitted to the employer as they're on the third round, of you know checking her out — it was basically like, ‘We’re gonna give you the job.” So at the end of that was like, “Oh by the way I’m pregnant.” The third round — it was crazy.

Yeah, it kind of makes you angry and sad and scared.

It’s actionable really. Like we could’ve...in the email they were like, “it’s not cause you’re pregnant, it’s not cause you’re pregnant,” but there was no other reason really. It was pretty tough, and we tried. Like I had tried to do some sync license stuff, which I had used to subsidize my income with Delta Spirit so that I can always make sure that our band didn’t always have to depend on me for making money, you know? And then it’s like here’s a baby. It costs $8,000 ready to go — when you count everything up that’s about what it was. You’ll see.

Yeah, you got me nervous over here.

But it all ended up working out. It’s all worth it. People poorer than I am can make a baby.

Well you’re never actually ready to have a baby, right?

Yeah, I’d say you do it and then you figure it out. You just gotta, if you have a passion in life, you just have to keep communicating that to your other half, and you gotta try to make it work, you know? And the amount of sleep that I’ve had at any time of my life, and the last two years of my life, is completely gone. It’s a really crazy thing. But I was also able to hunker down. I did 150 dates last year, and somehow kept a marriage together, and it was through her support, and her understanding, and my asking her and inviting her into the conversation, explaining how hard I had to do the job, but you know it was tough. We came out of it, you know? I ended up buying like the world’s cheapest house — it was like $100,000 dollars. I ended up putting 20 percent down so I didn’t have to pay the insurance on it, and then you spend a bunch more money doing a bunch of other shit — it’s insane.

So lemme get this straight. This is the place west of Austin? Is the studio inside of the house or is the studio separate from the house in a trailer?

So, west of Austin is the house. Or is a trailer that my mom’s boyfriend, it’s in kind of an unlivable zone — well, it’s livable but pretty rough — and he doesn’t live there. He doesn’t live there, he lives with my mom so we lived with my mom’s boyfriend, too. So Steve was his name. He has like probably about four acres of land when he was building his house, and he had the trailer at the time that was kind of dilapidated at the time, so he was like, “Why don’t you just use this to record in?” So every time that I would come home from tour I basically walked straight into the studio to work on this record. So, I was counting on that to be Delta Spirit time, but there came a point where, right before Solicitor Returns came out, and I’m looking around, maybe it was in the midst of the stress of the situation, maybe it was this or that, but it was also creative. Inter-social in a way. To make music and just figure out how to have fun again with a group of guys that I just love so much. That’s the other thing. So the last show we played was at this festival that we started, which was awesome.

The last show that Delta Spirit played? Was that out in L.A.?

Yeah out in Santa Ana. It was in front of 4,000 people opening for the band that first took us out on tour — Cold War Kids.

Cold War Kids, Tokyo Police Club tour I think.

Yea, that’s right. So, it’s just like, you know, it’s what it is. That was just such a fantastic and poignant time. Thinking about having another tour or doing a “remember when” thing just never seems appealing. I think we’re gonna find our time, and hopefully it’ll be around, you know, it’ll be 2020 (laughs).


There’s no drama there, though, and I think people are attracted the record you put out and the one that you’re gonna put out anyway.

Yeah, it’s not this or that really. It’s just, what music fans expect from bands that they love, or for me, what I would expect from a musician that I love is that they put out the thing that they are the most. When I was 23 and I started Delta Spirit with my best friends, and we had nothing to live for except for each other, and we made that music as a unit. Most of the songs Kelly supplemented, fucking songs like “California” and “People, Come On” — just an amazing talented human being. Then Sean left and we got Will who literally played, literally grew up next door to Jon and was at the local guitar shop. He was from San Diego and was playing in New York playing with Willows, which was a band that we grew up playing out of the same scene with. So he was already a brother for years. He was actually the first incarnation that brought Delta Spirit together which was at a fucking birthday party where Jon dressed in drag and I was Jack White, so we were like the fake White Stripes.

I don’t think you’re pale enough to be Jack White.

I put white makeup on. I think he does, too.

Yeah, he likes baseball, he seems pretty normal sometimes. I think sometimes people romanticize the weirdness.

I met him a couple times, and I think he’s great. His songwriting is pretty incredible. And how long of a career he’s had, the quality of his songs, and as a front person maintained his aesthetic at every step is nothing but impressive. There are a few people that do that, and Prince was one of them.

Speaking of Prince and funk. You talk about wanting to get back to producing your records, and I know you produced Daytrotter in New York. Musically, this record is so different. Lots of what sounds like electronic drums, some funk and almost disco riffs and harmonies that are different from a lot of what you’ve put out before (“Same” “Red Fish” the breaks in “Fired Down In Mexico”) — what gives? Is there a final version of “Dog Shit 808” on this record?

Okay, so that’s a multi-tiered question. So for the electric drums there’s an app called Funkbox. Richard Swift used it on Nathaniel Rateliff record, and I was like that sounds cool. It does do many things. So “Red Fish” has this kind of like island-y, halftime thing. I actually made a playlist on Spotify called "A Hueso" all about this South Texas, kind of vacation-y Mexican music.

You need to sell that to the tourism industry.

Yeah, I know, right? But it’s already out there. Like these tourist band somehow distributed on Spotify. They are really fucking good. And then there are some bands like the Texas Tornados and Augie (Meyers). But anyway, so that I wanted to implement in the music because it’s shit I listen to, and then like on it I kind of realized. It’s also a nod to my friend Jonny Fritz who I just love so much. I love his imagery and songwriting and campiness.

I have a Jonny Fritz question for later by the way.

Oh. Yeah, yeah that’s fine. The harmonies, I did most of them myself, but this time, I had all but finished the record before my summer tour leading up to Newport Folk Festival, and when we got to Newport Folk Festival I basically had the mixes of the record pretty much finished and they were just sitting there. I had listened to them a bunch of time, and I liked it, but was a little dissatisfied, like, “There’s just something missing here.” Then, the uh, Parkington Sisters came out of nowhere. I invited them up on stage with me to do a few songs, because I wanted to have a lot of friends on stage. Uh, John Hammond Sr., the guy who discovered Bob Dylan and Billie Holiday and shit — he’s a crazy motherfucker.

So he signed my drummer’s dad a long time ago, so I really wanted my drummer's dad to be a part of it because he’s part of that whole Woodstock folk scene and kind of an unknown, but he’s rad. It was amazing to get to a song with him and the other people involved with it, but when the girls came and we worked on the songs from Solicitor Returns and brought this femininity. My wife who had flown out, as we were laying in bed after the show was like, “You have to put them on the record.” I was like, “I know, but I don’t know how — we don’t have any time.” But we ended up working it out. They did almost all the strings on the record, they’re all real and mostly done with them and a lot of their harmonies along with my good friend, also a Newport thing that happened was that I lost my voice and had to take steroids and couldn’t hit certain notes, so my wonderful friend Kam Franklin. My deep friend, my homie. She came in on the clutch and learned “Theater,” which was actually suggested by the promoter a long time ago, and I was like, “I’m just gonna ask her to do it and see what happens.” We shared the stage during the Middle Brother set. So that’s her singing. I had already written a song, and I was like, “Man your voice would be so fucked on this song.” I had this idea for a kind of ELO, disco strings, just a record like the one Starsailor did with Phil Spector, the last thing Phil Spector did right before he went to jail. And it kind of has that kind of dry rock and roll, ELO, kind of thing and now live it just sounds like ZZ Top.


Is that because of the Bond Twins and, what is the guy’s name, is his name Judson Johnson?

Jud Johnson, yeah. JJ and BB. Jud Johnson and Brendan Bond. MLV. JJ, BB and then, uh, that’s who’d rolling around now with the Shovels clique. I’m also adding this guy, he’s really talented, Spencer Garland who’s in the band Berkshire Hounds.

He’s in your band?

Yea.

In the van right now?

Well not tonight, but tomorrow he will be.

Oh awesome, so he’ll be in St. Pete with you?

Yeah. Oh no, he won’t. That’s gonna be a trio. For two people, Shovels & Rope take up a lot of space.

Does Chris come out and play with you on your set?

Huh?

Chris Boosahda. Boosahda?

Boosahda. Chris recorded on the record, and so did Jud Johnson. I love Boosahda, man, he’s so great.

I just can’t say his name.

Just call him Boo. Everybody else does. But Jud Johnson is my drummer, and Brendan Bond is my bass player on this tour, and they are just awesome. Brendan Bond plays in a group called Bond Twins. I don’t know, is it paternal? Maternal? They look exactly alike, so that would be identical.

So what’s up with this guy Jonny Fritz? What are the chances of you guys coming to play Tampa Bay? We called Sweet Creep one of the best records of 2016, and we want you guys to come play a dog bar here or something.

Uh, I mean. Get a promoter to pay some money and we’ll show up. I love Jonny. We’ve toured together a ton.

You have one of his guitar straps, right?

Yeah, I do. I pretty much have evangelized. I don’t know if you saw on the Internet, but I basically pushed Sweet Creep so far up everyone in Nathaniel Rateliff’s band’s ass that uh we did “Chilidog Morning” together on some German blog.


That’s awesome.

Yeah. We’ve been friends forever, I mean Jon is one of a kind. I know he works so hard and strives for so much stuff, and that’s why he’s gonna stick around forever. So many have tried to copy the incredibleness, but he’s pretty fucked up, no one can touch him. He has the most unreal illusion and imagery. Metaphors, unreal, it’s all on point, too. The character he’s created.

He’s a monster. I wonder if he made himself bald to keep up with the character he’s created.

Him and Bonnie Prince Billy have the coolest bald hair.

Did you say Bonnie Prince Billy?

Yeah, have you ever seen Bonnie Prince Billy’s hair?

Let me know if it’s inappropriate to reference a private conversation in this interview, but last time we talked you were really romanticizing the idea of Florida. You were talking about wanting to explore it with your family and even pictured yourself living here? The details are fuzzy, we were in a bar, is that a real thing?

At certain points St. Augustine Beach is a pretty attractive place to live as far as the culture. It’s really similar to the beach culture life that I had in California. Like touring, and playing Café Eleven as much as I have. I mean I’ve partied with so many people there, not like stupid partying, but we’d have like casual hangs, conversations grab a beer and just chill. That’s the best of life. That’s what I’m doing in central Texas, except you have an ocean. And I like that, you know? It’s still not impossible to live there, you know. You know that northern part of Florida, I really like. I like that it has an off season, too, so no riff raff. Kinda cool.

I don’t think it’s too bad up in St. Augustine Beach or Crescent Beach, I don’t think you get too much riff raff.

Yeah, see that’s what I’m saying. That sounds great. But the only thing keeping me from doing it is family. I don’t have any family by me there. I think for Marthe, my wife who is from Norway, having family close is good. You know, we lived in Long Beach and in northern California. My dad was out there. My brothers and sisters live in Orange County, so we have ties. When we lived in New York City we didn’t have ties, but the flight to Norway was short. It’s only like a five hour flight or something. Now it’s Texas. My mom is here. I’m the only one of her kids that has a kid close by, so it’s kind of nice for her. It’s part of why we moved to Texas in the first place. If my mom saw St. Augustine and was like, “I kind of like that, I’d like to live here” then I might consider that.

I might, I’ve been doing these Airbnb records, and I just did a record with uh Kelsey Wilson from Wild Child, David Ramirez, Noah Gundersen, Jason Blum and the Night Sweats guys and Nathaniel, also, Nathaniel Rateliff. I rented an Airbnb for a week outside of Santa Fe in a place called Glorieta. All my stuff is in road cases, and I’ve been recording in a trailer, so it’s always been ready to move. I was just thinking wouldn’t it be cool. Florida has always been on that list, you know. It would be cool. That Airbnb situation isn’t undoable. Like trying to do it in Miami would be stupid. I like more of a quiet, laid back vibe, so you can work you know? You don’t even have to be in the sand to do it, you know? Just like a cool community. I would totally do it in St. Pete or St. Augustine, no question.

Oh damn.

Maybe I can do that. Maybe you can find me a really cool band that I can produce there. Travel out there with my gear.

There are tons of ‘em man. That’s awesome. Am I allowed to talk about that? It sounds like you’re scheming or have a plan with that.

So long as it’s not some creep cover band or something that only does ska versions of things that wants to be produced.

Like bringing back all the worst music of the 90s? Nothing against ska bands though.

I mean, it’s never been my cup of tea.

I know I don’t have that much time with you, so I am gonna try and squeeze in a couple more questions. Is that cool?

Yeah, that’s fine. I am driving. Like on the 35 right now.

Cool let me know if I get annoying or if it’s something you don’t want to talk about, but condolences about your Grandpa. I don’t know if you called him “abuelo…”

I didn’t, but he is.


It seemed like he had a really good life. I feel like you’ve written some pretty poignant stuff about him on some Delta Spirit albums. I realize it’s very fresh, but I know you loved him and everything he stood for, the way he lived his life. Often times, with people that rad, you make it a point to appreciate them while they are around. What’s your headspace like in these first days without him here on Earth? Is it hard to live up to him? Does he make it easier to be a good dad?

He carried the best traits. He was stubborn. We both hate mayonnaise.

Ate mayonnaise?

Little shit like that. He hated mayonnaise, and I hate mayonnaise, but it’s a special time. Those stories. My son will know, my great great great grandkids will know through my dad’s social media. All those things they can pull back and see all the mistakes he made will be frozen or some NSA hard drive or whatever. It’s like forever we’re enshrined on a hard drive someplace and, um, it’s the end of oral history. Oral family history. I actually tried to record, my grandma, she has alzheimer's, and she’s pretty much non-verbal at this point, but before she was diagnosed I had a chance to record and interview them for about an hour. Unfortunately that hard drive was stolen, it was heartbreaking, but I remember a bunch of the stories, and I retell them often. My grandpa is not surprising. He’s from a generation of people. You know, you’re a child in the great depression. That’s why they still cook purple meat, they just cook it really well. Why waste it? It’s still edible.

I’m Filipino, so I get that.

Yeah, just fucking thrift baby, you know. You know being a Mexican-American, being a kid in the 30s, you know the experiences he went through. My great grandfather would blow up mountains to find minerals in the desert. And he worked under him as a teenager. And then the Great Depression happened, his dad gave away all his money because he didn’t think it was fair that his friends didn’t have any. He knew he wasn’t going to get it back, but that was just the kind of person he was. And I think that charity, that vibe, my grandpa has always had that. Always taking care of people, and, uh yea. And then he went into the war. That’s why his name is Chuck. Or he went by the name of Chuck.

He changed his name to Chuck?

Well, you know, the name San Manuel…

Right.

Just trying to avoid all that racism. He got hit over the head and woke up in jail and spent a month in jail before he could see a judge, just because he was walking through a crowd of angry protestors because he just wanted to go to work when he was a machinist. He never, like, protested or did any crazy thing like that so much as he just lived an insanely honorable life. He was the highest rank you could be without being an officer in the Navy. He drove the diesel subs, and he drove the first nuclear submarine. He was a pretty cool guy.

My grandma worked at Fender, one of the first employees there. They actually modeled one of the first Fender factories after the house that my grandpa Manuel built from cinder block in Santa Ana, and it’s now a fucking parking lot, but he still built it. It was so inexpensive, and Leo was like, "Wow that was so inexpensive how you figured out how to do that," and he was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna do that,” so that’s exactly what Leo did. Pretty crazy. But you know, he is also really funny. I used to live in Long Beach, and he dated, you know The Pike is this area in Long Beach and it was kind of fun to be married and live there and kind of relive all this stuff through our eyes. You know, go to bars and just picture my grandpa in his 20s and my grandma. My grandpa, well both of them, were crazy good looking, handsome couple. Like Paz Vega marrying Mexican Frank Sinatra kind of thing.

Right on.

So he had this hot babe in town. And she was gonna go to Mexico to visit her family, and he was like, “Hey I really wanna meet your parents. I’m serious. I wanna court you. Don’t leave to Mexico without me,” she was like, “This has got to be serious or not serious.” So she left to Mexico, and my grandpa got set up. Oddly enough, that girl showed up at the bar a bar while they were there, and my grandma was like, “It’s okay you can go with her if you want,” and he was like, “No you wait here.” And he’s like, “You see her? I’m with her now.” And that was like forever. They loved each other together forever. They followed each other across the world, you know. Papa moved to Guinea, Guam, Australia, Hawaii.

These aren’t the grandparents from, I always imagined “Vivian” to be about him and your grandma. Is that them?

The song is. It’s my other set of grandparents on my mom’s side, who also married in Long Beach. They lived in New York, very quickly married. They died within a few months of each other. Seems like that’s going to happen again right now, so it’s pretty crazy.

Yeah, that’s a great song. One of the best you’ve written.

Thanks.


Where’s that voicemail from on “The Fighter” on the new record?

Oh that’s from my belated manager. My first manager. He owned Trident Studios in his 20s. With Malcom Toft who makes Toft consoles. He uh, he was my father figure that died almost two years ago now. He died of, basically brain cancer. Like he just got health insurance finally, and then he got in an accident on his bicycle with a car, and they found a tumor, and then they operated on the tumor, and then he, uh, passed away. But I used to call him in sickness and health every Father’s Day, Easter, Christmas without fail. Always catch up with each other. I remember when Obama became president, and how proud he was of our country. He’s from England.

So yeah, having those moments. He kind of held my hand into agnosticism, which is great. Showing me a very spiritual person. Like you can still be a loving human being and not be a Christian. I think I grew up out of that time when there was a Christian equivalent to every little band. Things didn’t work out early in my career when I was in my teens, and in my own way blamed my own righteousness and jumped back into the crazy church thing. He didn’t judge. But led with love, it really helped me out because blind faith is...you know. And also that God is in so many other things — if there is one. It’s about being in touch, and being open to that. You know, in life you can have this joy. This idea of the Christian kingdom of Heaven is a very living thing. It lives in a lot of different faiths, and a lot of non-faiths, too.

Yeah, that’s kind of crazy to hear you talk about that. I am going through a similar thing where someone is discovering a tumor after not being at the doctor or whatever. And the person is sort of agnostic, you has an idea that there is something bigger, so now we’re having those kind of conversations, and it's crazy.

Yeah, “Vivian,” it was a pretty tough song for me to write at the time because my grandpa was a pretty devout atheist, and uh, had come from a family with a history of atheism, so when he died, very much the idea of him not going to this place but still feeling like this haunting thing was pretty rad. And it was all a dream that my grandma had.

So the song was based in truth and story that you heard.

Yeah, totally.

You talk about being young, and being self righteous and your religious experience. I understand part of that might have been psychedelic.

Yeah, when I was young, I was 15 and I started using LSD. I did it quite a bit, and I went to the hospital and spent a year in kind of a suicidal anxiety. It was bad. That non-denominational Christianity and the youth group I fell into, and the youth pastor helped pull me out of that, you know? His compassion and love and desire to see me healthy and happy and fruitful and loving, and get down past that. A lot of that, in that period of time, I was living with my grandpa and living with my grandma. And the two of them had walked my uncle through drug and alcoholism, and the cocaine use in the 70s really hit one of my uncles. And because they had been through that they didn’t really wince or blink at all. They had nothing but love and also some serious discipline. I think how they did that together, I think I was ready to receive it because of how ashamed I felt being a kid and stressing out my family right in the middle of their bankruptcy. It’s like, “Hey we were middle class, and now we are fucking broke.”

Yeah, having to watch parents go into that bankruptcy protection and whatnot is pretty heartbreaking.

Yeah.

So you’ve been open about your psychedelic experiences — what are you gonna tell your son once he’s old enough to get into that stuff? Does it worry you?

No. It doesn’t worry me at all, you know. I would hope that he would wait a little longer. I don’t regret my experience at all because it’s definitely a Twainian way to get to, uh, adulthood, you know. But I got there, I found that, and I hope that, for me, I just want him to grow up and have a sense of spirituality. I don’t think that he should be afraid of alcohol or drugs. He can be susceptible to addiction, um, but I think that the moderation of those things can be really great, so there you have it. I don’t believe they are a source of pain, but overuse can be terrible. You know, there’s overuse of coffee. There’s overuse of being an asshole. You know sometimes being a little bit of an asshole can protect you can protect you and the people that you love, just a little bit though. That’s what it’s about, being a balanced human being.

Someday, I would hope he would use me as a map for that kind of stuff, that he wouldn’t jump straight into doings tabs of acid or straight into eating mushrooms, kind of being funny. I just hope that when that comes across his plate that it’s not something that defines him because it’s not something that defines me. It’s definitely a current that pushed and blew me in a direction. I’m fortunate because I feel like it was the right one because it led me to my wife, and it led me to the spiritual truth that I sit on and believe in. And led me to having him, so there. If he wants to go and do that someday because he’s an adult, well damn it I’m not one to tell him that he can’t do that. I don’t know where I would be able to say "no." I just hope he would just be kind. That deep down inside he would realize his kindness. That’s the fun part about being a parent. I know that his mom is going to make sure that he is sufficiently worried about.

Oh, so she does worry about him a lot.

How could you not? It’s impossible to not just freak out. I had a nightmare last night that he was dripping fluid out of his ears and I didn’t know how to take care of it. My friend, you know there are all sorts of horror stories, but they’re also like, “well my friend told their friend of another friend,” you know? You’d be surprised.

Their bodies are made to take a beating. They’re very durable when they are kids. They can like fall down stairs and totally bounce back.

Sure. That’s what it is man. 

Well I had more questions, but I feel like you answered most of them in the context of the other ones. I thought Solicitor Returns was really good, but Does What He Wants kind of feels like a confession. Did these songs exist when you were writing Solicitor? Why’d you really peel it back emotionally for this one?

I think the first one was a stylistic reaction. So, sometimes the empathy in characters are a little bit more removed. Replacing the empathy with a little more angst. Like song I wrote, “Bound To Her” is completely void of empathy because it’s just about murder. I guess that’s the thing. I wanted to have a stylistic idea. It wasn’t meant to be my only solo record or a well rounded statement. It was just to make a very simple point. I think with Dogshit 808 and the original Solicitor record I had not point to make other than [indecipherable]. I was thinking about putting that out, like doing a small pressing of 500 records and then doing a small tour of select places that could house it, but I want to do like a surround live sound show. You’re a Floridian, you’ve been to Disney World.

Sure.

Have you ever been to the Enchanted Tiki Room?

Yes.

Okay. I want to recreate the Enchanted Tiki Room, but with Solicitor, the original. I wanna make that happen. I don’t know if it will, but we’re talking about it. But for now, I need to just focus on one thing at a time, which is this record which I am pretty damn proud of it. Yeah, it goes deeper. I can’t wait to share it with people. At this point, with only 40 minutes to play, a lot of the new stuff gets showcased. They new record will be available at the merch table, but it will be out for y’all.

Anything else you want people to know about the record as they begin to listen to it or as you make your way over here.

No, I think we went through a pretty deep, select, bunch of stuff.

Yeah, you crushed it man. This is gonna be a transcribing session here.

Haha, good luck.

Ha, thanks man. Drive safe. We’ll see you when you get over here.

Thanks. Peace.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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