According to lead singer and guitarist Joshua Fleming, the Vandoliers’ latest album “Forever,” out Friday on Bloodshot Records, is more stripped down and raw than their previous studio offerings, a testament to producer Adam Hill’s desire to better translate who they are on stage to how they sound on a record.
The sonics aren’t the only place to feel that rawness either, as the frontman admits that many of the songs are extremely personal from a lyrical standpoint. “Fallen Again,” for example, speaks to his battles with situational depression and anxiety, and he calls seeing it come together – and ultimately make the album – “my rock bottom to my triumph.”
We recently sat down with Fleming to discuss creating a cohesive sound all their own, growing songs through respect and trust for their fellow bandmates, and why he considers himself more of a storyteller than a musician.
TrunkSpace: You guys are gearing up for the release of your Bloodshot Records debut, “Forever.” What emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to drop new music on the world?
Fleming: It’s nerve-racking, honestly. I can’t say I have ever worked harder on a project than this one, and the anxiety of releasing it is setting in. There are so many things you have to do to prepare for before the album drops, and in the eleventh hour it all seems to pile on at once. But once we are on the road, performing everything gets a little easier.
TrunkSpace: The band has been together since 2015 with its members traversing the music industry individually for many years before that. What felt different about bringing this album together that didn’t exist for you through other past experiences? What will stick with you about the process for the rest of your life?
Fleming: This recording experience was a change for us and it shows. We had time to write as much as we could to find the right songs. We took time on a mountain tour to compose the fiddles and horn parts. We went away from the distractions of home and went to Memphis for a week to record. The biggest difference was recording in the same room as a band. I hope we will be lucky enough to repeat this process for our next album.
TrunkSpace: We love what your producer Adam Hill has done with bands like Deer Tick in the past. As someone who is closer to the music than anyone else, where do hear his input/impact the most in the final mix of the album?
Fleming: Adam has a great ear, and he wanted this album to be stripped down and raw just like we perform on stage. It was all about getting the best take without relying on comps, whether it was the first go or the fifteenth. He pulled the best performances from us and it shows. We walked out of American Recording Studios a better band and it’s because Adam demanded greatness. I can’t thank him enough for that.
TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Fleming: Every song has its place, but I was vulnerable this past year. I have battled situational depression and high functioning anxiety during that time and, thankfully, I had an outlet to speak about it. “Fallen Again” is my most vulnerable and frustrated song to date, and my friend Rhett Miller helped me shape it and define it. I’m proud that this song blossomed instead of being put aside for another song. It meant so much to have the support of my band and my hero – together they transformed this song from my rock bottom to my triumph.
TrunkSpace: The band consists of six members, which is a lot of different creative brains all working under one roof. What is the process like in terms of songs coming together and implementing the input of the individual members?
Fleming: Individually each member brings experience and knowledge to the table. I trust these people, and I trust what they hear. Every song is different, but this album I co-wrote more than I ever have. After all of the songs were demo’d, we each took time to make a list of 10 songs we felt defined the moment we were in as a band, and we all decided which of the 50 songs made the cut. I work with the best musicians I know, and by allowing each member to have input we create a cohesive sound all are own. I couldn’t think of a better way to be a band.
TrunkSpace: What do you get working in a band atmosphere that you wouldn’t be able to achieve as a solo artist? Does effort inspire effort in the process, and by that we mean, does one person’s eureka moment inspire the others?
Fleming: It might start with a riff like “Shoshone Rose,” or a time signature change from 4/4 to 6/8 like “Fallen Again.” Everyone has ideas and when you respect and trust each other the songs benefit. Our bassist, Mark, also plays fiddle and helped write the intro to the album on “Miles and Miles.” Our guitarist Dustin wrote out and helped arrange the trumpet and fiddle parts. We all have a place in the creative process and that’s what attracts me to being in a band versus being a solo artist. I’m not alone, I am supported by people I trust and I’m better off in that environment.
TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life?
Fleming: No. I don’t have a choice anyway.
TrunkSpace: We often like to ask musicians if their roots – those places they grew up and live now – can directly influence their music identity, but we don’t feel like we have to do that here. “Forever” feels very Texas in terms of where it’s come from and where it’s going. The album seems to mix perfectly the vibe of the changing Texas landscape. Is that influence something that you guys consciously are aware of, or does the vibe of your surroundings just kind of seep into what you’re doing musically?
Fleming: We are a product of our region, we couldn’t help it if we tried. That being said it’s our responsibility to respect the traditions of the music we are inspired by, it’s also our obligation to push them to their limits. My hope is that our love for our regional music can be felt by the people who take a chance by listening to us.
TrunkSpace: We also love that your songs tell a story. Do you consider yourself a storyteller, and if so, what is the greatest story you’ve ever told in song form?
Fleming: I do consider myself a storyteller, more so than a musician, and memories are the breeding ground for inspiration. I don’t know if it’s my greatest story, but “Sixteen Years” means so much to me, because I was able to talk about my journey performing music for most of my life. I played my first show at a roller rink and I mark New Year’s of 2000 day one of my adventure. Within the lyrics I reference songs from past bands, trials and victories. At the root of the song, it’s my promise to never give up, and when the pressures of self-doubt piles on to me, the outward affirmation of chorus reminds me that I am alive, I am blessed and that it’s going to be OK.
TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could just ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your musical journey looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Fleming: I have already seen it, and all I have to do now is give it time.
“Forever” is available Friday from Bloodshot Records.