Brooklyn’s Vassals return with the Halogen Days EP out now on Post Fun Records: four songs of noisy dynamic minimalism and conflicted rage. Led by “vocalist/bassist/transgirl” Shay Spence (she / her), the material here is frantic but muted, morose but unpredictable oscillating somewhere between the fuzzy slacker riffs of early Weezer, the collossal walls of percussion of Shellac and the big-beating heart anthems of Pixies Each lung bursting, thrilling song riven with Spence’s introspection that places you at the eye of her maelstrom of melancholia. We have a track by track of the EP read below:
Ok. Cryptic vague phrases, swallowed in delay and tucked behind droning guitars: that’s my favorite. The way lyrics can sound so precise and bolstered by the instrumentation but obscured and unknowable always felt so cool to me. That’s not how this song turned out though. All I wanted was to have some darkish words around a cool major/minor thing and instead wrote these lyrics that read as really personal. As a band we tend to put vocals pretty upfront in mixes. In a review for Wand’s Golem, Zach Lipez touched on this trope of psych bands’ lyrics being myopic and focused on “the mind”. I guess this one is too. I didn’t realize at the time the mind I was focused on was trans, but it seems pretty clear in retrospect. The title of our EP, Halogen Days, comes from this song. I meant it to describe moments or emotions that are intensely, maybe artificially bright, via nostalgia or substances or upswinging mania. Side note: I love starting a record with huge drums and now I want to do it every time.
Apparently some people never get drunk alone at home. This song isn’t for them. Not to sound like such a nonsocial alcoholic, but drinking alone at home is one of my favorite things. I almost always find something to create in the process; sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s just a mess. This one is all about feeling buzzed and cagey at your kitchen table and crafting some mythology to explain the weirdness you feel all the time. It was a new moon that night and I thought “yeah, I bet when the moon is gone I feel extra dark because the whole night is extra dark”. I don’t think I’ve written anything with so many “ohohohoh”s and I’m glad I used them all in this one. The demo version of this song is just acoustic guitar and sparse nord, and now it’s this huge loud/quiet monster and I love it to pieces.
This song was written during a very trying shopping excursion. I thought it would be fun to name-check a New York neighborhood, and SoHo felt like an appropriate target. Since the writing of this song, I’ve learned better strategies for buying clothes/existing in New York, but every now and then everyone has to brave the dizzying body pits. When we play this live, Jeff does this pedal magic that makes his guitar warble so much it sounds like it’s going to fall over. For the recording, we played a lot with the tape speed and got super goofy before finding a happy spot. I love messing with tape speeds so so much.
Relationships. The title and refrain came from some dialogue in an episode (maybe the first one?) of Twin Peaks. We’re introduced to Ben and Catherine and their affair and I think he says to her “now I know how the hours turn to days”. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it so don’t quote me. Anyway, I thought that line was beautiful and I fit it into this song that I suppose is about mid-relationship insecurities. Even your soulmate can accidentally make you feel worried, especially if your self-esteem is nil and you’re having some Real Moments. This is the only song on the EP I never demoed because I knew it’d only work as a parabolic full-band curve. The end section is so much fun for me with my slick bass riffs. For awhile we really tried to work in some extra lyrics, but in my opinion, it’s the greatest to just turn away from the mic and lock in/eyes with Jon while Jeff does his noises thing.