Change is intrinsic. Even when it’s intentions are understood, it’s something we avoid on first instinct. On the song “In Retrospect”, Vacations’ primary, Campbell Burns croons:
Changes got me sentimental Learning your true worth wasn’t accidental The only way ahead is straight and true Out of the deep blue turning you into something new
The growth process takes us out of the familiar and constant comforts Releasing a series of excellent EPs over the past two years, the solo project has solidified into a band with members Jake Johnson , Nate Delizzotti, Joseph Van Lier joining Burns for the recording of their debut LP, Changes. From the optimistic “Anything Can Happen” to the pensive “In Retrospect”, Changes is a conceptual record that explores life’s moving parts as Burns reflects upon the changes in his own life.
The melodic jazzy accents that coat Vacations’ previous efforts are still here but with some expansions. “Telephones” and “Club Social” deal with the creeping feeling of digital lives which can be hindrances in our own progress. “Soft” evokes warm tones with lushly sparkled guitars that give way to a slow burning saxophone coda. “Anything Can Happen” simmers in with a recursively churning drone that fades in with ruminating bass lines that tie into elements of post-punk and shoegaze that leak into the svelte opener. The record’s lead single “Moving Out” is a maudlin earworm where Burns recants his own recent experience of moving out of his family home, only to be much more anticlimactic than he anticipated. Even with effusive optimism, change takes a toll, and tracks like the melancholic “Steady” take note of those close that are close to you to provide stability. After the tides of alterations recede and the shores settle, the culmination is a period of relief and reflection
With Changes, Vacations has compiled a collection of genuine music that ruminate on basic ebbs n flows of life.
The record is out on March 25th digitally and physical formats via Human Sounds Records with the early stream above. We spoke to Burns via email on the origins of Vacations, the recording and writing process for Changes, and his cereal pairing for his record of choice.
Cereal+Sounds: How did the Vacations come about?
Campbell Burns: _Vacations started out as a musical outlet for myself when I was 17/18, it was under my own name back when it was strictly just a bedroom recording project. I wanted to expand and start playing shows live so I talked the idea of a band over with my friend Jake Johnson who was keen on bass, and he passed the news over to Harrison Chapman, who was our first drummer. Using my own name for live shows and branding my_self felt self-indulgent, especially with the project starting to mold more into a band, so me and Jake would throw band names at each other whenever we could when we hung out. We went back and forth for what felt like months till we got asked to play our first house show (RIP GROUSE HOUSE). We picked out “Vacations” and it’s stayed since after line-up changes, touring, and multiple releases.
Vacations is: Myself, Jake Johnson , Nate Delizzotti, Joseph Van Lier
C+S: You (Campbell) are the primary creative force behind these songs and Vacations had originally started as a solo project. With the lineup expanding to a full band for live shows, do you see that solo project designation for Vacations turn into a band for future material?
CB: With this album, things were a bit different. I still wrote and recorded a majority of the material but there was more collaboration with myself and the gang. Nate brought the opening track to the band as a demo which we both worked on over a couple of months and we re-worked Be There which was a song that featured on the Friends EP. Mixing was also handled by me and Nate, this was great because we both have different production backgrounds so we bounce off each other well and get good results. Jake and Joey would both sit in from time to time and give us a second opinion when we started to get cabin fever (which happened a lot). Even outside of the album, we handled a lot of decision making as a band rather than me dictating. Merchandise, shows, release plans, touring, art direction and a lot more are all talked over as a group. Still, I do see each release being dynamic working together as a group vs. solo. I’ve already started drafting the second album which is going to be a lot more conceptual/emotional on my part.
C+S: What were your musical influences for this record?
CB: Kinda going back now but I think I was listening to a lot of Hoops, Steve Lacy, Porches, Frankie Cosmos, Alex G, Alvvays + Australian bands like Morning TV, IV League, and Eddy Dillon.
C+S: Different styles subtly worked their way into various aspects of the record. I’ve heard post-punk, new wave (though some would argue is post-punk), shoegaze, and a sexy saxophone makes an appearance to close out a song. Did you find yourself experimenting a bit on this record?
CB: Definitely, I aimed to improve my songwriting and production with this release and I’ve learned a lot. I’m still trying to hone in on what my sound is, I don’t think I’ll ever get there and that’s okay with me honestly. It keeps me constantly pushing myself, not getting too comfortable. I think that’s why this release is a lot more varied than everything else I’ve done. A friend lent me his old synth to play around with which was a huge help. I started throwing together chords and synth leads with Nate to make our songs more atmospheric, give it some depth. Speaking of layering, my vocals are one of the main things I experimented on, I went full Brian Wilson on some songs by having the microphone right next to my laptop and just recording track after track on the spot and seeing what I could come up with. I always wanted saxophone in a song so I called up my friend, and long-time collaborator, David Fulham and we spent a few hours working on some melodies till we locked in his part.
C+S: Both “Telephones“ and “Club Social“ touch on “addictions” to personal devices and social media. Did these songs come out of your own personal assessment of your usage?
CB: They sure did. Telephones came from me staying up way too late before going to bed just scrolling through instagrams explore tag during a period when I was feeling down. Club Social on the other hand came from a hyper awareness of our internet popularity which grew quickly in such a short time frame last year. It’s that realisation that our music actually goes well beyond our hometown and maybe a few cities over, it’s everyone’s to consume from all corners of the globe. They’ll chew and spit it out how they please. Learning to accept that took time and I’m all the better for it.
C+S: Change is the theme that’s throughout the record, as the record’s title would imply. Was this the initial mindset when you began writing these songs, with the idea of change as the overarching theme, or did this come about later on in the writing/recording process? You’ve mentioned in an interview that the title for your EP, Vibes, came about on a whim with no attachment to the word initially but grew on you over time in terms of meaning. Did the concept of change develop over time as you’ve started to experience change in your own personal life?
CB: The album started to take shape on that concept over time, I never went into it from the beginning. I went through a lot of experiences which built up my character over the course of last year and most of the songs document that, some quite literal and others are more subtle. I didn’t even realise that album got kinda conceptual till I had everything written, it was definitely unintentional. The title was chosen on purpose though so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
C+S: You co-founded the Newcastle DIY collective, No-Fi. How has being part of a community like as No-Fi helped develop you as a musician?
CB: Without No-Fi I wouldn’t be where I am now. The shared experiences of musicians, artists, and most importantly good friends, all working together towards a common goal has made me more open as a person and given myself access to a lot of opportunities that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
This branches out with other creatives through collaboration with groups like Banshee, Love + Rent, and more. We always aim to help each other out where we can so that we can boost our profiles and get Newcastle recognised as a strong diverse community that’s full talented people.
C+S: You were recently here for SXSW, how was your first trip to the States?
CB: Amazing. It was the first time I had ever flown internationally by myself. My band couldn’t make it due to money and VISAs issues so I tee’d up a group of musicians from Chicago to back me up for SXSW thanks to social media. Flying over by yourself to the other side of the world, to play with musicians you’ve never met so you can perform at one of the worlds biggest showcases is nothing short of anxiety inducing. That first practice washed away any worries I had, we were a tight act from the first note.
All of our showcases were so much fun, most of them were packed out with people singing all the words and dancing their hearts out. I got to met so many fans and wonderful people. It was incredibly reassuring for me that this music thing is working out.
C+S: I know you have a short Australian tour coming up in the next month, with a big European road trip after. A plan for a more extensive tour of the United States is in the works I presume (and hope)?
CB: I hope so too! I met a ton of people during my visit for SXSW who were eager to sort out shows in Chicago, Austin, Washington, and a few places over in California. The major issues with the USA is finding the money for flights but more so for the work VISAs, I don’t think most people know how expensive and rigorous that can be.
C+S: Pair a cereal to your all-time or current favorite record.
CB: Frosty Flakes + Blue Album by Weezer.