“In Spanish there is a word for which I can’t find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.” – John Steinbeck, fromTravels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962
When Vacilando began as a vehicle for the solo work of John Shepski, the idea was simple… create an environment where the song could live and breathe in a space of it’s own, expanding and contracting as it’s surroundings (the room, the audience, the mood) dictated. The songs would incorporate ambient sounds and voices from the world around us, but they would also clearly be “songwriter” songs at heart. They would be loosely structured, but structured just the same. Ideally the songs would be performed by a rotating cast of friends and musicians, with the core of the band changing to suit the venue/mood/environment. That concept proved to be short lived. When Juniana Lanning (ambient soundscapes, percussion, vocals) and Chad Lanning (bass, bass synth) joined Shepski for a rehearsal at Fluff and Gravy Studios it was clear that the core of this band needed to be these three musicians. Born of 90’s College Radio and Indie Rock, John’s songs immediately took on new life when they met Juniana’s ambient/experimental leanings and Chad’s classic sensibilities. Joined by Jason Montgomery (pedal steel) and featuring Sharon Cannon (violin), the band is set to release their debut album, While They Were Dancing (Fluff and Gravy Records), on July 17, 2015.
At it’s heart, While They Were Dancing is slow and atmospheric, breathing deeply with vast empty spaces underneath heart-in-hand lyrics and a humble delivery. The band is fond of describing their record alternately as Bummercore or Bleak Midwestern Soundscapes, but just when the listener is drawn in and seemingly transported to another time and place, the band brings them crashing back to earth in a sonic explosion of screaming guitars and feedback. The music feels at once nostalgic and timeless, all while remaining grounded in the present.
In the end, Steinbeck’s description may sum the band up perfectly. In Vacilando’s world, the songs are indeed going somewhere, but they seem to be in no hurry to get there. Sometimes it’s enough to simply enjoy the ride.
Esmé Patterson is songwriter, gambler, singer, lover, thinker and explorer. She began as a member of the Denver Folk Pop septet, Paper Bird, and has written two records as a solo act. 2012's All Princes, I
and her second and most recent release, Woman to Woman, which is a concept album of responses from female characters in a broad range of well known love songs. The Guardian called it "defiant and witty", the New York Times found her voice "wiry and candid" with songs that "hint at mystery and mortality". Audiotree touts "By putting herself in the minds of characters like Jolene, Eleanor Rigby, and Billie Jean, Patterson has crafted a witty, dark, and intimate twist on the popular tracks." Esmé performs in multiple incarnations. She adds members to raise the volume and cadence of her tunes but remains powerful alone. Patterson is a magnetic performer and has appeared on the Leno, Conan and Letterman programs. Her co-writing with Shakey Graves led to sold out shows nationwide and millions of downloads of their collaborations. Esmé lives in Portland, Oregon, happily small under tall trees.
Jeffrey likes to say that some of his earliest memories are of his dad’s old tapes, all kept in a ragged leather travel case. He would thumb through them in the backseat, and then hand the chosen ones forward; Jackson Browne, Harry Chapin, Neil Young, Graham Nash. He’d watch as his dad was moved by the power of word and sound, as he would rewind certain sections of songs to be heard again and again.
His dad was a pastor, a lyricist of sorts, and his grandfather was a life-long English professor. His mom encouraged him to learn to play the cello in 6th grade. For Jeffrey, music and words were suspended in tension from a very young age, not yet intermingling, but humming with energy to do so.
There was the day Jeffrey’s uncle gave him an old dreadnaught with a split down the face. It had been bought many years before, promptly broken, repaired, and then put away where is sat aging to perfection while nearly forgotten. Jeffrey disappeared into his bedroom and hunched over the radio, where with his softest touch he began to pick out the notes that fit. He didn’t reemerge from his bedroom for a year. Jeffrey has written every one of his songs on that old guitar and it is still the only guitar he plays today.
Martin’s inspiration comes in broad shapes and colors, not limited to music alone. On writing, Jeffrey had this to say, “Holden Caulfield makes me want to walk around in the cold and smoke cigarettes and get raw, and Neil Young makes want to grow old and gentle, and E.E. Cummings makes me want be more joyful. There are words filled with power, and those without; whether they are in song form or not matters very little. I want my words to make people want to do things. Jeffrey Martin’s music has been compared to songwriters like Josh Ritter and Joe Pug. “I’m a writer more than I am a musician. If I could play guitar half as well as I can write I’d be wearing nicer pants.”
In 2012 Jeffrey Martin was selected to perform at the NPR Mountain Stage New Song Contest in New York City. Since then he has gone on to tour nationally, and perform at numerous folk festivals (most notably Kerrville Folk Festival in 2014.) His songwriting has earned him opening slots for the likes of Anais Mitchell, Sean Hayes, Frank Fairfield, Joe Pug, Jeffrey Foucault, David Wilcox, and others.
Jeffrey Martin has recently partnered with Fluff and Gravy Records in Portland, OR, and is releasing a full length album with them on August 19. The album, entitled Dogs in the Daylight, is an ambitious 15-track collection that is full of weight and intricacy. While the new album is bigger than his previous self-released albums, complete with piano, bass, fiddle, drums, and even trumpet, the songs are still largely carried by Jeffrey’s voice and the sincerity of this songwriting – the very qualities that separate him from his peers.
Dogs in the Daylight will be released on August 19, 2014 on cd and digital formats. Jeffrey will be touring through 2014 in support of the record.
Find Jeffrey Martin here http://jeffreymartinmusic.com/