This week we’re featuring New Jersey’s Vexes in Meet The Band. They recently released their debut album Ancient Geometry. Guitarist John Klagholz introduces us to his band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Vexes.
John Klagholz: Charlie (vocals/guitar) and I played in a band prior to Vexes called Vessl. We released an album, and had another recorded and ready to go before we disbanded. After Vessl ended, I had a few riffs from our writing sessions that were a little out of the scope of what we would have used in that band, so I asked Charlie if he would come by the studio and help craft them into some songs.
One thing led to another and over the course of about a year we had 10 songs that we had recorded and mixed. At the same time, Justin (drums/ex-A Life Once Lost) had sent out a post on Facebook if there were any musicians local to his area that might want to start a new project. We sent Justin the song ideas we had, and he liked them and was very interested in getting together to jam and add to them. Within the span of a few months, we had the songs completed and added Bobby (bass/ex-A Life Once Lost) to the mix, and the rest is history.
Describe the songwriting and recording process for Ancient Geometry.
The creative process (for me at least) was extremely relaxed and casual. Since we recorded, engineered and mixed the record ourselves, it offered ample amounts of time to be able to nail down exactly what we were going for with respect to tones, song structures, etc. Sometimes being in that type of setting, it becomes difficult to actually say “when” and be decisive enough to call a song and the overall record complete, but we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, and we hope everyone shares that view with us.
Really the only “challenge” we encountered was knowing when to say when, from a writing or a producing standpoint. When you have unlimited time in which to work on a project, sometimes you can get a little too far down the rabbit hole and not realize when to call a composition complete. I suspect it has to be much along the same lines as being a tattoo artist, you have to just “know” when a piece is complete and when to move on. Otherwise the recording process was a pleasure. We love being in the studio and we can’t wait until we have enough material to head back in and record the follow up to Ancient Geometry.
How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
I would have to say that we’ve attempted to incorporate as many of our collective influences as we could and still keep a potential audience off guard. I would like to think that we did a good job with that. You will definitely hear a healthy dose of Deftones, who are without a doubt my favorite band, but you will also hear other influences such as Norma Jean, Poison The Well, Circa Survive, Cave In, Blindside, Thrice, Failure, etc. The bands that appeal to us are the ones that can effectively mix an experimental style with melody and still maintain an appeal across a wide spectrum of listeners. If you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned above, we would be confident in thinking you would be a fan of ours.
How did the guest appearance by Islander’s Mikey Carvajal come about, and how did it impact the album?
I was an enormous fan of Islander and their early EPs. When they released their debut Violence and Destruction, it cemented my love for the band. I was taken especially by the way that Mikey was/is able to combine aspects of hip-hop/reggae/hardcore seemingly at once in his singing style. Just on a whim one day I emailed the band and asked if he would be willing to put some vocals on a track that we were having some trouble finding the right second verse to. We sent him the track and he agreed to work with us, so we flew him out from Indianapolis and he spent the day with us in the studio, and what you hear was basically done within one or two takes. Mikey is the man.
As far as how it impacts/impacted the album, I think it’s safe to say that we don’t consider ourselves a rap-rock band, but we are all fans of that style of band that can pull it off effectively. I think it was important for us as a band to show our range a bit, and I think Mikey’s vocals mixed perfectly with the song. We’re very proud of how it turned out and most people that have heard the entire record put “No Color” on their list of favorite songs.
Is there a lyrical theme or thread?
For “No Color” specifically, the theme was basically written from the standpoint of a young child, afraid of not only monsters and the dark etc., but the fading of the light in general, and having someone there to comfort you and reassure you can make a world of difference. For the album in general, we don’t have a particular lyrical theme. We’re all in our mid to late 30’s and we have families, jobs, responsibilities, etc. so much of what you hear is our way of dealing with those daily responsibilities and the feelings that can sometimes come from that. Otherwise, lyrically it’s more of just a state of the world for us.
Why did you decide to go the independent route?
We would have been very happy to work with a label throughout this process, but as I mentioned with respect to the recording of Ancient Geometry, luckily we’ve been afforded the opportunity to call our own shots, work with who we have wanted to and basically chart our own course. We are still open to the possibility of working with a label in the future, but hopefully the situation will arise with a label that is more of a partnership and less of a dictatorship. We need to feel a sense of control, it’s just what we’ve become accustomed to.
What are you goals and expectations for the album?
We really just want as many people to hear the record as possible. So much of success for a band in today’s world, especially if you cannot tour extensively, relies on word of mouth from fans. We’ve tried to engage as many as possible on social media sites and forums, and ultimately we hope to get the record into the hands of a wide variety of listeners. We’re trying to strategically plan shows around the areas of the country that make the most sense, from a listener’s perspective. When we first started out recording these songs, Charlie and I really didn’t have much of an expectation at all; we really just wanted to make a record that, even if no one heard, we could be proud of and have it be something that we could listen to years from now and enjoy.
How do you feel about the response to the songs you’ve released so far?
The response has been completely overwhelming, far beyond anything we could have ever imagined. We’ve received orders for merchandise from places like Luxembourg, South Africa, Thialand, China, Russia, Sheboygan. To have someone, anyone, name this record as a top 5 in their listening history or call us their new favorite band, it’s just incredibly humbling and unexpected, to be honest. We are so thankful for everyone that has listened so far.
Do you have any upcoming show/tour plans?
At the moment, nothing planned just yet. Again, we’re trying to get a gauge on what makes sense for us personally and strategically, so we can reach as many of our fans as possible with not being able to embark on a 3-4 week tour.
How did you get started in music, and what drew you to metal?
I’ve been playing guitar for what seems like an eternity, about 25 years. I’ve been in hardcore bands, stoner bands and everything in between. I’ve been through so many phases of music, from shoegaze and Britpop to ambient instrumental and extreme death metal. As many times as I’ve wandered off the path of metal, it’s always brought me back in. I can remember to this day when and where I was when I first heard bands like Slayer, Metallica, Deftones, etc. I guess I always liked the raw emotion and angst in metal music, and even though that term “metal” continually changes over the years, it’s always something that I’ll embrace.
What was the first concert you attended, and what is the best concert you’ve attended?
Wow, this is really going to date me and be off the wall. The first show I remember attending was Kiss’s Animalize Tour, November 1984 at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Still to this day, the loudest show I have ever been to. I’ve seen too many shows to actually call one the best, but a couple that stand out. From an arena standpoint, it was the Judas Priest Painkiller tour with Megadeth and Testament in East Rutherford, N.J., December 1990. From a small club standpoint, I saw a very fledgling Deftones play at The Saint in Asbury Park N.J. really before anyone knew who they were, which I’m going to venture to say was March of 1996.
Seen any good movies/DVDs lately?
Not lately, but I’ll give you three that have come out most recently that will remain in my top movies for a very long time: The Arrival, Interstellar and Lincoln.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
If we’re talking just very recent, heavy rotation, is Norma Jean – Polar Similar, Letters From The Colony – Vignette and Agent Fresco – Destrier. Records that never seem to leave my rotation are The Contortionist – Language, Cave In – Antenna and Uneven Structure – >Februus.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
We can’t thank everyone enough for all of the support and good wishes that we have received so far. It truly is humbling. We’ve done our best to put out a record that is representative of all of our influences but still incorporates a huge degree of originality, so hopefully everyone hears what we hear! We hope to see everyone out on the road at some point in 2018! Thanks again and we love you!
(interview published March 10, 2018)
Watch Vexes – “Decisions Are Death Here” Video