The Madison band plunges into the gloom as it works on a new album.
Madison band Vanishing Kids' work so far has been about finding coherence in a disoriented swirl of influences—brooding post-punk, jagged metal, synth-driven prog, preening psych-rock. On their last album, 2012's Spirit Visions, the balance among all those different sounds tends to change wildly from song to song.
But lately the band has been playing live sets of new material that pares it all down and explores a more focused vein of plodding, ghostly gloom. It probably helps that founding members Nikki Drohomyreky (synths, vocals) and Jason Hartman (guitar) have settled in with a long-term rhythm section for the first time since moving back to Madison from Portland several years ago. Bassist Jerry Sofran has spent years playing in metal bands in northern Illinois, and drummer Hart Allan Miller also plays for Appleton crust-metal blasters Wartorn, so naturally they accentuate Vanishing Kids' heavy side, but in a patient and restrained way.
"This lineup has really been a collaborative writing unit, so that has been a change in itself and a cerebral and visceral artistic process," Drohomyreky says. "Everyone is an experienced, skilled player, so it has been challenging learning when to lay back and when to shred, finding our places."
The laying-back part is what mostly carries the new track "Mockingbird." Miller and Sofran find the tension in a slow, doom-inspired groove, and Drohomyreky unspools a mournful and languid vocal melody. Drohomyreky's gorgeously warped vocal style and a fair bit of reverb obscure the words, except for the chorus' cry of "redeemer!" (The only thing she'll tell me about the theme of lyrics is "Ultimately, self worth is deceiving," so that's what cracking open a goth fortune cookie must be like.) The shredding part here falls to Hartman, in a fleet but appropriately wrenching solo near the end of the song.
"We are consciously trying to write in a more traditional song format," Hartman says. "We are all trying to focus on the song and omit anything that's unnecessary... In general our influences are always changing and in these new tracks I think we are mixing up psych, doom, classic rock and soul."
"Mockingbird" is one of four new songs the band is releasing on a tour EP, available starting at their Friday, May 6 show at The Frequency opening for L.A. Witch. They also plan to include these tracks on their next album. Give "Mockingbird" a listen here.