Vacation Dad: I want to create a modern psychedelic classic

Categories: Interview
vacation_dad_Leore_Wohl.jpg
Photo by Leore Wohl
This Friday, the Triple Rock will play host to several impressive up-and-coming acts ready to inject some life into the glacial drag of winter. The lineup is stacked with a wide range of sounds, including the electronic grime ballads of the recently Picked to Click Pony Bwoy, the deep glitch-groove R&B of Psymun and K. Raydio, the new wave romanticism of Baltimore's Chiffon, and the electro-synth sheen of the oft-nude Tickle Torture.

Vacation Dad of MJ MJ Records, who will also be doing a set of his own chilled instrumentals, said he curated the show "with a purpose." Gimme Noise caught up with the psychedelic solo artist to talk about this show and his own creative work.
Gimme Noise: Tell me about the origins of MJ MJ and some of the artists that have been involved. 

Vacation Dad: It started in the deepest, darkest part of a particularly cold winter in Eau Claire. I had just been laid off, and my buddy Charlie had just gone through some tough shit. So we took to drinking a lot and playing NBA Street Vol. 2 in our bathrobes. We quickly discovered that you could have both the '96 and '89 Michael Jordan on your team at the same time. Thus, Two Michael Jordans Records was born. We've done 23 records so far, with the 24th tape coming out January 28. There's no formula I follow for deciding what I'm gonna put out, I never wanted to be a genre label.

The only thing that mattered is if the music gave me goosebumps. I didn't want to be one of these tape labels that would just pump out five or six tapes a month. I set out to curate a catalogue of great albums and to put a lot of time and energy into each release. And we've got a really great roster. Catamaran, Dream Panther, Yalls, Teenage Moods, Psymun, Slyy, Dakota Bones, Blackhawks, the list goes on. Each one of these records came across my desk and blew me away.

What led you to curate this particular lineup at the Triple Rock? What's your thought process when putting shows like these together?

I've actually been dreaming about this exact lineup for a year and a half. At FMLY Fest Brooklyn 2012, I saw Chiffon play and they absolutely blew me away. Their set was one of the sweatiest, grindiest shows I've ever seen. But it wasn't just the sex. The music and performance and craftsmanship was just out the fucking park. Soon as I saw them I thought, "I need to get these guys on stage with Tickle Torture and Pony Bwoy." This was before I knew Psymun. So its been almost two years, and Chase from Chiffon says to me, "Hey we're coming to Minneapolis." The only thing I said is, "Make damn sure it's a weekend and this will be the best show of your tour."

I had no idea if I was gonna be able get this bill together, but it all ended up working out. My approach to throwing shows is give them something new that they're not gonna forget. Anyone can throw a party. I'm trying to curate an environment. This particular show is a pretty simple concept. It's all about sensuality, maybe a little bit of grinding, maybe a little bit of tasteful nudity, who knows? The point is, I want it to be memorable. I want two people to meet and have the greatest one-night stand of their lives.

What does a Vacation Dad set look like? 

A lot of sweat. Lotta hair. I don't use any samplers or sequencers so I stay very busy the whole time. Lots of careful looping and synth solos, knob twiddling, you know. Its an endurance test for me. A lot of people think I've got a laptop up there or I'm DJing or something. But it's all being made in real time. It's fucking tough, but really fun.  


Tell me about your some of your experiences touring. You mentioned running into trouble in L.A.?

Oh god, I've been across the country enough times to have picked up enough stories to melt your ear off. Basically, its been the most fun, rewarding, sometimes terrifying experience of my life. I absolutely love touring. I don't go in for the whole tour manager/booking agent thing. I feel so bad for these guys I meet, the "successful musicians" who are on the road 160 days out of the year and dread going on tour to play at thankless clubs night after night. I book the tours I want to play. Make sure I've got days off where I want 'em so I can go surfing, make sure I avoid Wyoming like the plague, play the right house shows in the right towns, the right clubs in the right cities. Yeah, L.A. was a trip. Me and my friend Charlie, who I started MJ MJ with, made the move out west in 2011.

It started out real exciting, it was that idyllic drive into the sunset every night. The label was just starting to pick up speed, and we had never lived outside of Wisconsin before. But that quickly turned around when we were robbed blind, shortly before I was hit by a truck and crippled. Next thing you know we're living in our friend's van down by the beach in the biggest, craziest city in the world. Meanwhile, I'm hobbling around the city in a neck brace and crutches throwing parties and hustling tapes. The end of our time in L.A. culminated in our helping throw the most magical music festival I've ever seen, FMLY Fest LA 2011. There was a fucking Christmas tree forest.  

Tell me about your upcoming full-length. Do you have a release date yet? What went into creating the new material?

The release date has been... tricky to nail down. I've been working on this record for about nine months now and I've got this problem where I do too damn much. I booked about 200 shows last year alone, run a record label single-handedly, a booking agency, and I toured over the summer. Now, I had planned on just sitting down to record this thing and hanging out with my girlfriend, but I got this problem. I just want it all, you know? My idea for this thing is that its gotta be perfect. I mean, I've been Vacation Dad for three years now without a proper debut full-length. I'm not gonna be a schmuck and plop out something mediocre. I want to create a modern psychedelic classic.

Vacation Dad started as a way for me to try and cram as many gorgeous sounds into a song as possible. I want to keep that experimentation and lush sonic backdrop, but tie it into a deep groove. It's really funky, percussion-driven, there's a horn section, tons of guest players. It takes me a long time to finish each track 'cause I'm such a perfectionist and I record in my bedroom with a bunch of guitar pedals and toy keyboards, and I'm constantly rewriting and rethinking songs. Honestly, I have no idea when this fucker is gonna get done. But it'll be good, promise.  

Catch Vacation Dad with Pony Bwoy, Psymun and K. Raydio, Chiffon, and Tickle Torture at the Triple Rock, Friday January 24, $7, 18+, 8 p.m.




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