Cori Elliott of The Vim Dicta
IN the coming days, some great bands and solo acts are coming to my attention…
with a lot of variation- in terms of sound and geography- being covered. The Vim Dicta are one of the hottest and most compelling bands coming out of the scene. The L.A.-based ‘Psychogroove’/Rock band are setting tongues wagging with their stunning music. The guys are planning a trip to the U.K.: a chance to show crowds here their unique blend of passion, power and wonder. Before they arrive here, I was keen to catch up with their singer/songwriter/guitarist/bass player Cori Elliott. She chats about the struggles associated with making music, the band’s plans for 2016- in addition to her recommendations with regards new music.
Hi Cori. How has your week been? Any plans before Christmas?
Hey! It’s been good. Just been gearing up for the holidays. As far as plans before Christmas; we just played a benefit show for the Skid Row Housing Trust (they provide homes for the homeless) in Downtown L.A. But mostly we’re just rehearsing and trying to finish up mixing on our new recordings.
For those new to the music of The Vim Dicta; can you tell us a bit about you guys
I’m originally from Austin, TX. Matt is from L.A. and Chris is from Chicago. Matt and I are the original members of the band as we had a different drummer when we first started back in 2011. Matt and I met at Coachella in 2009. About a year later, I reached out to him and we started jamming in his garage. I would say my roots are definitely in Folk. Bob Dylan is what got me into writing my own music, lyrics mean a lot to me. Matt studied the great guitar players (Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, etc.) and as we started writing together it brought out my tendencies towards heavier music. Chris studied drumming of all kinds by listening to old records and playing with them. Eventually it led to him becoming a hired gun in many major cities including Chicago, New York and Nashville. The three of us together culminate a large array of influences. Musically we are inspired by Rock, Jazz, Soul/R&B, Funk, the list goes on…bit may be cliché to say but there really are no limits to what can inspire us and our style. To sum it up shortly, we’ve coined the term “Psychogroove” as our “genre” which sort of lends itself to an interpretation that makes sense upon listening to us and especially seeing us live.
You (and the band) are based out of L.A. The city is fostering some terrific and varied music. What is it about L.A. that leads to such great music and acts?
L.A., like New York, attracts people of all types from around the world. When you have a major city like that with lots of music history, it will continuously draw in that much diversity.
The Vim Dicta has a sound that mixes ‘60s Psychedelia, Blues-Rock and Progressive-Rock. Which bands and acts were important to you guys growing up?
Upon listening to our first E.P., I think you would definitely find those styles you listed in there because they are a part of our roots as musicians. We recorded that at a time when we three had just come together as a unit and were beginning to get a handle on the direction and style of the band. In two years, we have definitely evolved and I think more and more of our influences are beginning to come through as signifiers of a sound that’s less defined by conventional genre types of which we can call our own. Bands and acts that were important to us: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Etta James, James Brown; Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Frank Zappa, Velvet Underground, Talking Heads; Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley; The Meters, Can, Pixies, Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, Sam Cooke; Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Black Sabbath, The Mars Volta; Serge Gainsbourg, King Krimson- the list goes on..
When I hear your vocals I detect shades of Billie Holiday and Blues legends. Were the likes of Holiday important to you early on? How as that voice created/crafted?
Thank you! That’s a huge compliment for me. I absolutely love her. She’s one of the top influences for me vocally. I would often find songs by her or other vocalists I’d admired and listen to the songs over and over to try and sing it exactly like them, phrasing and everything. I think Billie’s voice is transcendent and you can really hear true pain in it. She once said: “If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.” I really took that to heart and won’t ever forget it. I live by it in a way, especially creatively.
Which acts would you recommend- either in the U.S. or elsewhere- coming through at the moment?
Honestly, I would say there’s just a few right now. I recently got turned on to Ezra Furman. I saw him at the Echo here in L.A. I think he’s fun and quirky; they’ve got this cool blend of ‘50s Rock n’ Roll/Doo-Wop-meet’s ‘70s Glam. He’s a great lyricist. We also love Unknown Mortal Orchestra; Courtney Barnett has got a cool thing going; love Laura Marling too.
Few bands mix gender, sounds and genres to create their sound- which causes predictability and stagnation. Do you think it is vital for you guys to be original and bold from the off?
I think that’s very vital. There’s too much of the same going around and it makes me crazy. The fact that there are so many bands/music now does make it harder for people to sift through it all too. I am a believer that the cream does rise to the top. I also think that if you don’t apply the original and bold mentality from the get go; you inevitably will have a shorter shelf-life as an artist. Something new and different takes time to be realized and appreciated. I’d like to apply what I was saying earlier about that Billie Holiday quote in a more general statement. If I’m going to sound like something/someone else, then I don’t need to do it at all.
What influences you to write? Any particular mind-frame or inspiration or is it just a case of ‘when the inspiration hits…’?
There really is no limit to it. It’s mostly spontaneous. For me, a lot of the time, it comes down to sitting alone with a riff that came to me and the melody arriving next, sort of swimming in the pool of the feeling that the riff creates; eventually rising to the top. As I sing the melody a couple of times, the lyrics start to form in my mouth without too much thought. It’s very subconscious. The initial point of all that we create as a band is almost completely subconscious. From the jam to the decided parts; it isn’t until the bones are completely there that we begin to flesh out the final structure, form and nuances.
You are visiting the U.K. next year with the band. Can you tell us a bit more about that
We’ve spent a good amount of time in L.A. honing our sound. We haven’t toured too much as we’ve felt it has been very important to spend a good amount of time developing as a band (sound, musicianship, personally). In the summer of 2013 we moved ourselves to Brooklyn, N.Y. for about 2 months and played all around the New York area. That’s when we found Chris and in all honesty, it was some of the most exponential growth the band ever had in that short amount of time- it really challenged us for the better. We’ve always gotten feedback that’d we’d do well overseas in Europe. Based off of that feedback, music history, what we know about the country and it being very musically open and our instincts; we’ve felt that we should go there and now we feel ready to do that.
Any other plans for 2016? A new E.P. or album?
We’re always open to new opportunities; the future is unwritten. Yes, we do have a new album in the works—it’s being mixed right now. We worked with an amazing engineer/producer named Dave Way. He really understands our sound and is really fun to work with. It’s a big departure from the “Von Tango” E.P. and I’m happy about that; I wouldn’t have it any other way because I feel like we’ve shed our skin into a whole new band.
A lot of bands and singers will want to follow your steps. What advice would you give to new acts coming through?
My advice would be to know who you are with enough room to still find yourself to learn and grow. Know what your goals are, don’t live your life in fear and take that chance to find out who will respond strongly to your music. Yes, it’s great that we have the ability to discover new artists online but listening online will never compare to being moved by a live performance.
Many musicians face stresses and anxieties; financial and commercial pressures. Do you think it is becoming harder to make it in music these days?
I think it’s extremely hard. I ’m not sure if that stress/anxiety/pressure ever completely goes away. It comes with being an artist. We’ve been extremely lucky to have attracted amazing people that really believe in the band. We got to spend some time with Michael Beinhorn (producer for Soundgarden, Marilyn Manson, Hole and Red Hot Chili Peppers) and it gave us a whole new perspective on writing. It’s really easy to focus on the stresses of the current condition of things. While it’s important to live “in the now”, you really have to find that balance between that and looking at “the big picture”. For me, I try to remind myself that time isn’t linear and nothing happens how you expect it to or when you expect it to. If we didn’t feel this undeniable, unexplainable force behind doing this, it would be tough to justify. We do this because we HAVE to.
You guys have such a close bond and tight sound. What is about The Vim Dicta that results in that stunningly close and compelling music?
I think all three of us have a general unspoken understanding of why we do music and how it moves us. We’ve realized the combination of us three can create something greater than each of us alone. Almost as if the combination of every sound that comes from each of us creates one “sound” and connection that forms a fourth person. There is definitely a strong energy when we play that we feel and hopefully can be felt by the audience. We thrive when we play live.
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