Allegiance is available at:
New York, U.S.A.
19th May, 2017
IT has been a fair while since I have been to America for a review…
so I have made sure I have my vaccinations sorted and convert all my pounds into Trump Dollars. I am being facetious, of course, but wanted to talk about New York as a hub for music. Before I come to look at VISTA as a new creative force; a word on how duos/bands come together and the hard work inherent in a successful career; artists unsigned and ‘under the radar’, as said, in addition to a look at a new genre: Anthem-Rock. I will look at punchy and precise music (with popular appeal) and building up press for releases – and the best way of doing that. I will have a quick look at bands primed for arenas and a few other things but let’s take a look at New York. The VISTA guys hang around Long Island but make themselves known across New York. They are a primed and hungry act that consist Hope and Greg. They have a great local reputation but are playing in a state that has a hell of a lot of competition. In terms of historic and legendary acts from Long Island; one can discover Public Enemy, Good Rats and Taking Back Sunday. There has been a raft of terrific acts from the borough. I have written about New York artists before and always come to the same conclusion: there is variation depending on which borough you base yourself out of. I feel Manhattan has the most participants and is the busiest. It blends Rock and Indie with lighter sounds but is better represented by the media. Staten Island and Queens have a good selection of bands – I see fewer solo artists here – and some real grit to go with it (Queens, at least). The Bronx has that reputation for being a bit tougher and edgier: the same can be said of Brooklyn. If one wants to define New York, you have to look at the boroughs as separate entities as there is no such thing as a singular New York. There are clichés and stereotypes of New York and what each area offers music-lovers. I have not had that much exposure to Long Island and, although VISTA cover a lot of ground, it is a part of the country that has some epic venues and opportunities.
89 North Music Venue is over in Patchogue and is one of the most reputable venues in Long Island. The same can be said of The Paramount which is a dream destination for any aspiring band/artist in New York. Output and Schimanski are in Williamsburg whilst House of Brews, over in Port Jefferson, one can experience some phenomenal Blues music and wonderful nights. Revolution Bar & Music Hall is one of Amityville’s best spots and puts on a wonderful diary of musicians for all tastes – or, at least, those who like it a bit sweaty. I have strayed beyond the boundaries of Long Island a bit but it is such a populous area. Long Island encompasses Queens and Brooklyn but has Nassau and Suffolk over the over side. It is a varied and stunning patchwork of neighbourhoods that show the best of New York. Nassau and Suffolk has that proximity to New York City and is very popular with the trendy youth. The Rascals and Ramones hail from the area and are a couple of example of artists around the area. There is debate whether Long Island is only Nassau and Suffolk: many say it should encompass Brooklyn and Queens but those areas, in a way, like to have some independence against the autonomy of the region. It is interesting looking at the people and landscape – the near-eight-million inhabitants make it one of the most vivid and exciting parts of the world. If you thought the people were hard to pin down; the same can be said of the music. If one puts VISTA into New York as a state – rather than Long Island – Eddie Front, as Brooklyn magazine claims, she is one of the ones to watch in N.Y.C.:
“Tracks like “Gigantic,” and “Texas” have been bobbing on the internet’s shore since summer of 2012, but they’re tied to the pier on Marina, joining other torn piano and tinkering staccato ballads like “Prayer” or “Elevator.” Every song here is laced with anguish; the steep desperation that sets in after finally deciding to give up, the bloom of hope that follows this conclusion like a billow of sweet smoke. The record was mixed by John Agnello, and Carrescia’s father, a professional violinist, shows up on a few songs (“Sing Sing,” “Goldie”). Despite these guests, there seems to be no other presence on Marina but Front, who commands attention within languor like “Video Games”-era Lana Del Rey, or the mesmerizing and broken Cat Powers of The Covers Record”.
The same can be said of fellow female superstar Eartheater, who is one of the most intriguing artists around New York. She gets a lot of respect from Brooklyn – “Her voice is soft and silvery, and is most often accompanied by whispering, folkish instrumentation. And though it dwells mostly in the acoustic and finger-picked realms, Drewchin easily marries these more natural rhythms with staccato industrial noise, droning harmonies and occasional samples of film dialogue” – and is someone you need to keep an eye on very closely. Stunning to behold and hear: a definite mainstream future act who is making some incredible music.
Again, Vagabon, shows what depth and variation there is in terms of New York’s female artists:
“Vagabon are characterized by a distinct fusion of fuzzed out, aggressive noise and intimate, bare bones lyrics carried by Tamko’s yearning voice. Instead of clashing, these elements play off each other, creating a lovely tension that carries the band out of familiar reach and into some unexplored territory. Hopefully, the forthcoming full-length will push even farther into these tangles”.
Before moving on with other recommendations; there are two more tips that I thought bared mentioning. Ohal is someone – again, a great female artist – I am going to follow because her story is a fascinating and fraught one:
“Ohal is an Israeli-born composer and multi-instrumentalist who has been living in New York for over a decade, but this year marks the release of her debut solo album Acid Park. Trained as a classical pianist since she was four years old, she moved from Ashkelon, Israel to Paris as a teenager with just a Casio keyboard to her name, then quickly migrated to the American midwest for the usual teenage reasons, before ending up back on the east coast exploring New York just days before 9/11 hit. Watching Williamsburg and the surrounding city around her transform in the wake of this tragedy, and several rounds of gentrification, Ohal began to build a life within the musical community of Brooklyn”.
WALL – another New York band who put their name in capital letters – are growing and have evolved since they were featured in Brooklyn’s feature. The guys at the site were enthralled by the dynamic and songs of the eager young act:
“They’ve already evoked comparisons to Mission of Burma, Wire, and Pylon (York and Vanessa Briscoe are spiritual kin, even if their voices differ greatly), but it’s the surreal and absurdist lyrical depictions that cement WALL firmly in 2016. They may be building off the backbone of post-punk’s aggression and no wave’s atonality, but they’re inserting their own vertebrae into this musical spine, erecting a ragged, sneering barrier of a sound brick by brick”.
I shall leave it there but that gives you a flavour of New York’s new music and the type of sounds being favoured. If one wants to look at Long Island’s hottest community, Brooklyn, there are terrific artists like LE1F and Black Marble. The former makes some of the most engaging and body-moving music around and has caused many spectators to engage in spontaneous limb-swinging. The latter is an autumnal-sounding act that has been going a while but is among the most-special acts of Brooklyn. That is the tip of the iceberg but there are so many other treats one can enjoy.
Flip it back to VISTA and they are a fantastic proposition that effortlessly fits into the banquet of Long Island music. If one look around New York and towards areas such as Manhattan; it is impossible to get a grasp on things and take it all in. VISTA have the potential to rise to the top of critical lists and stand themselves out as mainstream stalwarts to come. There is something exciting and inspiring happening in New York which the likes of VISTA are feeding off. Yeah, so, where was I?! I think it is important looking at acts and how they come together because there is the assumption they sort of arrive fully-formed and have been friends from way back. Vista herself was a successful solo artist but there is only so much one can achieve and do. I guess a two-piece – more when performing live – means VISTA have many more options available. I would love to know how Greg found Hope and whether it was a more conventional route – an advert place or word-of-mouth – or something a bit more spectacular. I have reviewed a lot of duos and, aside from those in relationships; they start as a solo writer and then spot one another – either performing live or via social media. The majority of my subjects are British and I get to learn more about their origins and background. Take a powerful British Rock duo like Rews – an Irish lead and London-based drummer – and it seems unlikely they would ever have got together through conventional methods. In fact, they found one another through performance and a chance meeting, I think, but few take the trouble to see how artists form and what bonds them. Listening to VISTA and one discovers a tight and stunning act that understands one another and has a lot in common. It is an addictive and obvious friendship that means VISTA’s music is swaggering and anthemic but melodic and restrained enough to cross genre lines.
VISTA have a work ethic and attitude to music many can learn from. Music is becoming harder and harder to conquer because of the expanding competition and tough market. It is always risky leaping into music without a plan and a steely skin but, those who get it right and remain strong, often find rewards. I have seen a lot of acts misjudge and undermine the seriousness of music and how tough it really is. Yes, there are endless demands and it is a full-time job but one that can become easy after a few years. Once one is successful and established, life becomes better – even if the touring demands do rise. I know Hope because she does P.R. for other artists so knows what it takes to get along. I have received submissions from her and can attest to how good they are. Given her long years in music and experience; it is, perhaps, no big shock Hope is an assured and confident songwriter but still had many years ahead. She lends her expertise and time to other musicians but has to shoulder the rigours and challenges of her own career. So far, VISTA are getting under the critical skin and receiving a lot of buzz. Going forward, it is likely they will see new lands and achieve big things. The actual workrate needed to get a single out and promote it is immense. Allegiance has been promoted for a while and VISTA have ensured their social media followers have been informed and updated of its progress. I discovered it back in May and, since then, have been charting its progression on social media. Now it out in the ether; that is not to say the campaign has weakened at all. VISTA are promoting their E.P. – more on that later – and spending every day making sure their music gets to as many people as possible. Being in the U.K., I know many people here will be tuning into VISTA and discovering a brilliant new force.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jay Tamangan
VISTA are that curious and impressive thing: an unsigned, under-the-radar act. These are words I do not often apply to artists. I have reviewed, of course, a few unsigned acts but it is becoming less common. I am glad so many promising artists find management and representation but those who remain independent often have to take care of business themselves. Maybe their biography has changed in the last few days – which would make me sound like a dick – but the New York group are tirelessly working and pounding. I often wonder what it is REALLY like for an unsigned act and what a strain it can be. I guess, in terms of creativity, you are not being controlled and told what to do. That is liberating and refreshing for a group and can lead to a very free and effortlessly sound. One can hear this from VISTA. Despite Hope being in P.R.; there is still a lot to do of a day. I watch the social media fee of VISTA and there are regular updates and interactions. Too many artists do not take the necessary time to keep their fans in-the-loop and put the effort in. Music is exhausting but, if you do not have management backing, you need to promote, sell and finance music. I am split whether having a record label is better than not. I suppose that comfort net and expertise is what a lot of artists look for – they have to do less work and it is easier when you are less stressed. There is that aspect of creative freedom and how your career will go. A record label might take you in one direction that can be seen as undesirable. Perhaps there is validity on both sides but VISTA seem to thrive from their situation. Perhaps, when they do more international dates, there might be interest from a label abroad but it seems like their shared musical experience – and Hope’s P.R. background – means every inch is covered. One of the reasons VISTA are better as a freelance force is because of the music/genre they have crafted.
Anthem-Rock is a style of music one can apply to VISTA – in fact; it might be their own creation. One has all the benefits of stadium-sized sounds but some melody and restraint. It is hard to imagine without actual playing which makes it such a treat. I am not sure how they concocted the genre but I have seen a few acts take this approach. L.A. trio The Vim Dicta have their ‘Psychogroove’ which offers 1960s’ Psychedelia and warped strings with straight-ahead anatomic Rock and something grooved and danceable. It is a brilliant blend and one that has seen them gain huge popularity – not only in the U.S. but enormous demand over here. Perhaps that is the key to longevity and success: crafting your own style but one that has some familiar strands. It is brilliant hearing VISTA develop their craft and hone that stunning sound. To be fair, a lot of what they do is easy to appreciate because it is fairly similar to other acts. There is that hidden ingredient and extra bit of spice that sets them aside from their contemporaries. Maybe it is their influences and background; perhaps it is the way they connect and their live reputation but there is definitely something good at work. I would urge new artists to take guidance from their influences and favourite artists but be a bit more daring with sounds and genres. You do not have to descend into the territory of a mad scientist but an inventive attitude to music is needed. If VISTA were another Rock band who played for stadiums then I would not be as keen. The fact VISTA are gathering fans like it is going out of fashion means their music is connecting and differing from what is out there. What interests me about an American band is the political situation occurring in the country.
With Trump out of control and a barking jack-ass; there is plenty of scope for artists to capatlise on that buffoonery and incompetence. I know VISTA take their inspiration from other areas of society but they must be aware of how their country is changing under Trump and angered by it. In Democrat territory; there is annoyance and dissatisfaction – that need to get Trump out and welcome a President that speaks for the majority. VISTA have power and punch in their music which will satisfy those who want to vent a certain aggression and frustration out at gigs. When listening to songs like Allegiance, one can extrapolate a certain political voice and grievance but it extends beyond the state of the U.S. It is music that gets into the heart and head but does not force an agenda on the listener. Instead, there is that desire to get them involved and engaged with what is being played. VISTA’s forthcoming E.P. is likely to be even more electric and memorable than their previous material. They seem more pumped and inspired; their performances even more nuanced than before and there is renewed confidence in the ranks. The tight friendship of Greg and Hope extends to the studio and can be appreciated by everyone who listens. Allegiance is a song that instantly engrains itself on the mind but reveals more as time elapses. Rock and Alternative are genres that have many participants but few that really stand out. I am certain VISTA will continue to grow and establish themselves as one of the finest young acts around. There are not many like them in the U.K. so I am eager to see the guys here in the near-future. Their stunning, amazing sound is just what we need and guaranteed to get the body moving and the voices ringing. I have looked at what kind of artists are playing around New York and it shows what a competitive market there is.
It seems the mighty construct that is VISTA have the arsenal to make it in the mainstream but are crafting music they want to make. I am excited for them and predict there are some great things ahead. They are doing brilliantly promoting their music and have made big strides already. Hope has been in the business for many years so knows what it is like for an artist trying to make it. New York is a brilliant place for a musician to make a career for themselves but it can be daunting and scary. Imagine the sheer number of neighbours and you get an idea of the task that befalls VISTA. They are head of the competition in sheer terms of energy and dedication. Few artists expend as much time and passion into promoting their work and creating their music. It will reap big rewards but, for now, Allegiance is a perfect taster from their forthcoming E.P. The followers and fans of VISTA have paid tribute – reviews are flooding in – so there is a definite assurance and positivity in the ranks. I hope VISTA remain around New York for now because it is not only the venues and fellow artists that give them support and impetus. Whether remaining in Long Island or relocating a bit further towards Manhattan; they have a huge universe of music right at their feet. There are few parts of the world better equipped to deal with the influx of promising artists. I think London is pretty commodious and impressive but New York stands out on its own. I feel VISTA differ from most out there in the sense they are willing to follow their own path and not what critics expect. There are a lot of bands and artists conforming to expectations and that creates a rather worrying trend. Luckily, those willing to step out and take risks are being highlighted and celebrated.
There is intrigue and passion within the opening moments of Allegiance. Our hero is on the microphone and lets his voice rise and swoon. There is a clash between David Bowie and Brett Anderson (Suede) in the delivery which gives it a theatricality and quirkiness – but has plenty of seriousness and tenderness. Maybe it is directed at a lover or companion. A delicate flower who seems “ripe to bloom”; the other party is lacking a certain understanding or getting the wrong impression. Maybe it is about love and faith or, perhaps, it casts its net to social and political areas. The oblique lyrics are poetic and picturesque and certainly gets the mind wondering. In terms of clear interpretation; it takes a bit longer but you are interested in the song instantly. The vocal is a rare thing that does not force itself upon the listener but has a huge strength and passion. Getting caught up inside the swooning and electric delivery means everyone will bond with the song and curious to see where it goes next. Fragrant tales and dreams of sleep: there is the need for the rain to wash the dust from the petals. Maybe the hero is in a place where things are getting too much or there is a need for release. One casts their mind outside as the flower needs to bloom and open – suffocated by a lack of rain and the need to grow. In the background, there are tender beats and electronics that build the mood and create their own atmosphere. There are few that argue against the emotiveness and strength of the early stages. The track builds impressions and ideas but you never get a clear sense of what is being referred to – keeping the listener guessing and able to interpret their own way.
Before you get invested in the chorus; the pair unites vocals in a pah-pah skip that bubbles with effervescence. The electronics swim as the vocals coo and float. It is a graceful and powerful delivery that adds new colours and dimensions to the song. The dynamic changes as the hero talks about being broken – but not needing to be mended. Not all things due to break require fixing. The call to a lover – it seems clearer at this stage – seems to have its mind set on explanation. Given the song’s title, I wonder whether the two are on different pages or are not as connected as you’d hope. The hero/heroine might be breaking and in a different place but there does not need to be reconciliation or mediation – things have taken a turn but it is not a bad thing. Maybe there is a political aspect to it: a reflection on the state of U.S. politics and the way the President affiliates himself with certain factions. That might be over-complicating things but Allegiance is a song that builds the curiosity and takes the mind in different directions. The hero is telling his lover to go – as he already knows – and there is a distinct need to transgress the situation and move on. Mystery remains at the beating heart as one wonders what caused the split and why cracks are appearing. The lead vocal is always velvety and entrancing; enticing and smooth but complete with a sharp tongue and underlying sense of accusation. Backing up the hero is Hope who provides some gentle caress and honeyed senses to heighten the sense of beauty and intimacy. Against that warmth are darker and colder electronics that, bonding with some warmer notes, provide a detailed and deep composition that floats and glides in the mind. There is the power of Rock and potential for explosion but keeps its calm. It is epic and big but does not need to shred strings and pummel the skins. The strength of Allegiance is the harmony and connectivity of the players and the rich lyrics.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Durham
At every stage, you are following the story and taking something away from it. Whether your interpretation is the same as everyone else’s, that is hard to say. The beats, in fact, have a nice potency and power and create that audible heartbeat. The hero (or the pair) seeks the rain and there is a definite need for thirst to be quenched. Perhaps there is a truth that has been hidden – or the girl thought it was – but it is already been discovered. The electronics heighten and get more intense – almost like a siren – and the song gets tense. It is a full and frank song that, whilst baring its emotions does not reveal its truth and background. One has the chance to judge the song their own way but the general themes of trust and truth are clear. I listened to the song a few times after to drink in the get the full effect but it is really worth it. It has been a long while since I have heard a song anything like Allegiance but has provided a breath of fresh air. I am curious to discover more of the E.P. and how the remaining songs connect. Hearing Allegiance and one wonders whether it forms part of a story-arc and there is a general concept working away. As a free-standing track, it is a compelling and fantastic one: among its siblings; one feels new revelations and insights will come to mind. VISTA are one of the tightest and most together acts I have heard and, at every stage of the song, are on the same page and simpatico. That shows a deep understanding and clear friendship; a connection of like-minded souls who want to create something majestic and memorable – which they have done.
I have looked at an awesome song from a soon-to-be-released E.P. and it gives to an idea of who VISTA are and what they are about. Before I come back to my earlier points, I wanted to look at the points I related earlier. I’ll return to New York and the great artists defining the state; hard graft needed to forge a successful career and how duos/artists come together – a little more on press release/promotion and creating your own genre. I want to make a suggestion to VISTA that they come to the U.K. and play some here. I have not checked their diaries but I would love to see them come here and perform. I know London would love to have them and, in spite of turbulence and tough times, things will return to normal – the music existence is relatively unscathed by recent events. We need to embrace great live acts and, as was the case with The Vim Dicta; the British audiences are a lot more welcoming and encouraging than you’d think. In that case, the trio got so many bookings they had to remain here for months and were knackered when they returned home. I have heard a lot of U.S. bands come here and succeed so there is an appetite – regardless of genre, it seems. VISTA have an incredible sound and produce music of the highest calibre. There would be some great bookings in the capital but I could see them doing well in cities like Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow. In fact, The Vim Dicta played towns and smaller venues: it seemed the crowds here could not get enough of them! I am not saying that will definitely happen with VISTA but there is every possibility. Perhaps travel, money and accommodation will be a consideration but there are ‘modest’ and non-luxurious ways to spend time here. Maybe they have to hunker down on a sofa one night or two but the experience would be worth it. Similarly, Europe provides open arms and plenty of affection.
I am not sure what the guys are thinking of but it will be interesting seeing how the next few months unfold – and how the remainder of 2017 unravels. I said I’d get back to New York and, without much hesitation, the Brooklyn article that exposes the best new artists around New York. Take a look at the great interviews and photos and, I know it is risky promoting other sites and journalists, what the musicians have to say about the city – there are some real truths and hardships revealed throughout. Regardless, there are some rare treasures that deserve a larger audience. Michelle Zauner is a fantastic young artist and someone who has relocated from Philly to N.Y. As Brooklyn explains:
“…she recently devoted herself to Japanese Breakfast and relocated to New York. Lucky us. Psychopomp is the first fully produced and mastered full-length from Zauner and co, and the album is a prime example of sky-high, molten dream pop that doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. “Jane Cum” personifies the death of an orgasm with chilling intensity, teasing breakup pain and devastation out of the intimacy of a climax, while “In Heaven” plumbs deeper caverns of loss with more cheerful results. It’s when Zauner is singing about the loves that have worked out, or that she hopes will, that Japanese Breakfast really gets into a groove”.
There are terrific male artists all over the state but it seems the female acts are standing firm and getting into the critical mind-set. That is the case of the stunning Young M.A. She has lived all over East New York and been around Brooklyn and various areas. She claims the borough as her stomping-ground and she shows the sort of confidence few of her peers possess. Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Loren DiBlasi and Alice Suh form Patio:
“…a Brooklyn-based trio who deftly weave indie pop energy and post-punk inklings into a rattling, joyful combination. Their Luxury EP is the first offering from the band–who recently played a release show with another list member, WALL–and displays their ability to shift from dexterous and melodic pop-leaning songs toward the more jittery, existential spoken word of the EP’s title track”.
Plenty for anyone to get their teeth in and proof there is plenty of excellence around New York. VISTA are among those acts that showcase what one can experience if you look hard enough – a hard-working act that has come a long way. They put in the effort and tirelessly promote their music. You will see them keeping social media updated and connecting with their fans. It is necessary in the modern market but VISTA go that extra mile. That graft extends beyond promotion and goes into their work. Listening to a song like Allegiance and one hears instant memorability and long-lasting after-effects. I hope VISTA’s endless passion and determination sees them grow and expand as a force. They have a huge following in the U.S. and plenty of international admiration. That is down to, in no small part, their blending of arena-sized music and intimacy. Whether Melody-Rock or another sub-genre they seem to have done their own thing and taken music in a new direction. It is hard to compare VISTA with anyone else and, in terms of their music, that is especially true. Listening to the way they mesh sounds and ideas together shows how hard they have worked on their music. I know a lot of bands/acts put in a huge effort but you can tell sweat and blood go into VISTA’s music. The coming-together of one of New York’s most-promising new acts was not an instant thing. Forming from the solo career of Hope Vista; that decade-long career mutated into a group/duo that has plenty more to say. I am looking forward to seeing where they go and how their E.P. will be received. It is getting a lot of buzz and fans are picking up on various tracks but it may take a little long for the full effect to register. After that, who knows?! Once they have done amazing the people of the U.S., all that is left is to grab their gear; hop on a plane and…
PHOTO CREDIT: Holly Turner Photography
COME play the U.K.