Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn
By the time they returned from tour the band was ready to get the
hell out of Selinsgrove – particularly because the storefront
where they stayed just prior to moving had a couple of open bedrooms.
So they loaded up the truck and moved to South Gernersburg. One
of their roommates, Will Lemon, who you may recognize from Devendra
Banhardt’s live show or his song “Will’s My Friend,”
is the freak folk Herbie Mann and has his own group Moon and Moon
with Ivan. So a good chunk of the band’s live shows in the
last year or so have included cameos by Mr. Lemon’s echo-drenched
flute. By this point the guys bunked together two to a room, shared
the same clothes, and had the communal living thing down to a science.
only problem with the new digs was that the old tenants hadn’t
paid their electricity bill for some time, to the tune of a couple
of thousand dollars. The electricity remained off for a couple of
months during that hot summer. The band made due with an old cassette
recorder, some thrift shop tapes, some candlelight, and a door opened
to the sidewalk. Vietnam’s open-door policy made them, by
default, the hipster ambassadors to the locals in one of the last
sections of the neighborhood that isn’t yet 100% gentrified.
Sometimes I’d come to the door and kids from the block would
be crowded around the door checking out the music inside. Another
time I found a local senior citizen teaching the guys Puerto Rican
folk songs on the acoustic guitar. Soon they had constant around
the clock visitors and humid candle-lit impromptu parties nightly.
that year Mickey Madden from the pop group Maroon 5 offered to finance
a full-length Vietnam record. The plan was to begin preproduction
in New York with Madden and Farmer Dave of the Beachwood Sparks.
By the time the two arrived, the power was already off and, with
the exception of a little time spent at practice spaces, most of
the record was worked out with acoustic guitars in the living room.
In August Madden flew them to Los Angeles for a month of recording
with Dave behind the boards. An odd mix of talents including Jenny
Lewis, Future Pigeon, Paz, and Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5 all
dropped in to lay down tracks. Due to a mixture of financial, logistical,
and legal issues, the LP wasn’t mixed until last month and
is still yet to be mastered.
band is still talking to labels about who will release the final
product. In the meantime they’re putting out a series of three
twelve-inch EP’s with their friends at The Social Registry.
The EP’s will each include a track from the L.A. session and
couple more recorded by the engineer of The Concrete is Always
Grayer On The Other Side Of The Street, the Magic Shop’s
Matt Boynton. They’re also slated to do a couple of limited
edition seven-inches with cover songs for my label. Do the math
- despite their slim current output, Vietnam expects to have six
new releases floating around by the end of the year.
then, the band is once again saving money – but for the first
time they’re not moving away to do so – remaining busy
with a variety of projects. In the last year Vietnam has played
regularly - including a residency at Scenic and openers for Jenny
Lewis, Fiery Furnaces, Nicky Sudden, Gris Gris, and other friends.
The boys’ve also been supplementing their income with modeling
gigs, including two separate shoots for Italian Vogue. They composed
the score for a performance piece staged at Bard earlier this month.
And, as I write, their friend and occasional collaborator, Texas
legend Gibby Haynes, is at their house making fantastic and freaky
sounds for a TV show theme they were commissioned to record.
Vietnam has to show for five years of hard labor is an unmistakable
sound, a solid lineup, and some serious recordings in the bag…
New York Night Train , 2006