By: Shelby Lum
The Brooklyn band has been gaining a significant about of respect in the music arena since its EP in 2007, and after creating the newest album, “an A.merican D.ream” VietNam took to some interesting tactics to raise money for their tour, which they are taking nationally. Check out Atlanta Music Guide’s exclusive interview with Michael Gerner, the mastermind behind VietNam:
You funded your tour through KickStarter. What was that process like and did you expect to get as much support in just 4 days as you did?
The KickStarter experience was really positive. My friend Matt Anderson helped us put together the video, and we used some shameless self-promotional social-media tactics to spread the word. And the fact that we hit our goal for this tour in 4 or 5 days was totally encouraging. It’s been a few years since we’ve really been an active band, and the fact that so many people were quick to help us out made the prospect of hitting the road again that much more exciting. I’ve always thought of Vietnam as a more of a live band, so having this opportunity to do a more extensive tour is just awesome. Plus it’s always nice to know you’ve still got a few fans out there!
What was the process like making “an A.merican D.ream?” Did it turn out like you thought it would?
A couple of years ago I starting thinking about making a record that would mimic the dream sequences that we go through during sleep. I’d been working on material for a new record since the last Vietnam tour, and it seemed to develop into a semi-linked series of stories and characters. I also wanted to involve some of the dreamy Moog-scapes I’d been experimenting with in LA. Mexican Summer was totally generous to let us loose in the studio for a couple of weeks. I brought in several musician friends to play & sing on the record, and with some incredible engineering from Matt & Davey it all congealed into this weird tale of American life in 21st century. I love the album.
After 5 years, this new album seems like a long awaited return, why did you choose to wait before releasing more material?
After being on the road for almost 2 years straight, the band decided to take a break for a couple months. I went to Austin to relax, clear my head, and kept working on new material. I also started getting back into synthesizers, and made a bunch of recordings with the DA, mostly for relaxation purposes: salt-baths, floatation tanks, that kind of thing. We moved to LA and continued doing electronic music, but it definitely took a darker turn thematically. We’d play on our rooftop close to a LAPD gun range, and the constant shooting and the buzz of helicopters and crazy training exercises would accompany the music. I also continued work on the American Dream material, but the environment definitely had its influence on those songs as well. I started working sound for a documentary by Matt Anderson, who I mentioned earlier, called Fall & Winter, and did a lot of travelling to various parts of the country. After filming and recording a few songs for the soundtrack I came back to New York and started the initial recordings for an A.merican D.ream.
Has lineup changes changed the sound or style of your music at all?
After a short tour to SXSW and back, the new lineup has started to gel really well, and the sound has definitely changed, as it always does when new people come in. Vietnam has gone through several lineup changes since 2000, and every band seems to find a unique way of playing the songs. Moog & violin definitely take it in a new direction, but the sound is unmistakably still Vietnam.
Your music and lyrics are pretty dark and edgy, where does that inspiration come from?
Probably the overflow of anxiety-based news-ertainment, which is weaving our collective nightmares about the fear of violence, police states, religious absolutism, the growing social & economic disparity, global destruction of natural resources, nuclear war, trolls, that kind of thing. Not that the songs were all based on really heavy shit. Some are very simple, joyous & beautiful. Flying. What’s better than those dreams that you can just take off and fly whenever & wherever you want?
What is the craziest thing a fan has done for you?
Ha…..stuck around all these years!
It’s been almost 10 years since your first EP “The concrete’s always grayer on the other side of the street” what has been the biggest thing you have learned since the beginning? What’s the biggest thing you have changed?
Music is what pulls me through it all. I need it in my life. I need to be submersed with it. It’s a life long process filled with peaks and valleys. I don’t like to be stationary with songs or ideas. Always moving. Always pushing forward… not much has changed and not much is the same, you know? I guess I shaved my beard a few months ago…