A Q&A with VYIE

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Electronic act VYIE got their start back in 2012 when like-minded friends Jessi Monroe and Janey Criss stole three days from their busy lives to conduct what they both considered a musical experiment of sorts, and the result was “Darrrk Knight,” a track that manages to possess an uneasy, anxious tension between a lush, densely layered sound and an icy, stark minimalism. It’s dark, moody and yet incredibly seductive. Certainly, as a first single, it’s an appropriate introduction to the sound listeners should expect from their debut EP, which Post Echo Records will be officially releasing on February 19th. And based on the initial response I’ve come across among my fellow colleagues, Nightingale will be highly anticipated. 

Enlisting drummer, Alex Yeager to flesh out the band’s sound, the trio is in the middle of tour across much of the eastern half of the United States – they’ve already played dates in Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; Jacksonville, FL; Tampa FL; Columbia, SC; and Raleigh, NC before heading north for an NYC area date at Piano’s on Valentine’s Day. 

I caught up with VYIE’s Jessi Monroe and Janey Criss while on the road. And in this Q&A, we speak about their forthcoming release Nightingale, what you should expect from a live VYIE set and their plans for another EP – an EP which should see a summer release. And if you’re an aspiring artist, I think the duo’s advice will be quite enlightening. Check it out below…

WRH: How did you get into music?

Janey Criss and Jessi Monroe: I was born.

WRH: How did the band form?

JC: It really just happened. It was like a Taoist flow that we didn’t feel the urge to go against. Jessi and I got together and wrote a song – “Darrrk Knight.” She was in town for three days, I think, so we just hunkered down and finished it completely. Afterward, we knew that we had a sound that was unique, so we started pulling more material and writing new as VYIE. 

JM: It was as random as it was strategic in a sense. We were living in different cities, working on projects that weren’t fulfilling us. The more we talked about what we were wanting to do, the quicker we concluded that our desires were pretty spot on with one another. One weekend changed everything, about our then, about our now.

WRH: How would you describe your sound?

JC: Deathpop 

JM: As an honest journey full of turbulence.

WRH: Who are your influences? 

JC: The people who invented noise, those guys from Fraggle Rock, Johnny Marr, Kat Bjelland, Kelly Johnson, Terri Reid, Jem, My Dying Bride, Dethklok… so forth. 

JM: I’d agree with most of the for-mentioned, but I would also throw Bjork, Kendra Malia, Bianca and Sierra Casady, the Cocteau Twins and of course Kim Deal in there.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

JC: Ugly Kid Joe

JM: James Blake 

WRH What inspired the band’s name?

JC: History, and how individuals of particular cultures and places, even in present passing, can become revered histories.

JM: VYIE is that of a dead language. When we first started writing we began throwing ideas around for band names, and when we approached VYIE, all previous possibilities just came to a halt.

WRH: I’ve heard an advanced copy of Nightingale and I find the material fascinating. Upon repeated listens I can’t help but notice that the material possesses an anxious, uneasy tension – as though each song is tugging between a lush, layered sound and an icy, stark minimalism. And the lyrical content seems to probe deeply into the psyche, thoughts and feelings of its characters. While listening I couldn’t help but wonder what the band’s songwriting process was. Did the band come into the studio with fully fleshed ideas or did things take shape more or less as you were working on them? 

JC: Yeah, the songs do struggle between density and minimalism, I think – thanks for that observation. Jessi and I, as curators of the songs, struggle with embracing both sides of that, too, when we’re producing them. As far as process – each song is different, really. Though some roles do occur naturally, we try not to limit ourselves to them, so that we can both contribute as efficiently and productively as possible with regard to music, lyrics and song structures.

JM: I agree with that completely. We definitely have our fortes and buttons that we have to hammer in order to feel like we have contributed the part of our beings that needed to project, but each and every song was been produced, or pre-produced, in a different fashion. With Nightingale, we had several songs we demoed out and when we were ready we set down and re-recorded vocals, changed, added, tweaked, rewired and fine tuned each bit of instrumentation and then spent a week harbored away with our headphones and slippers mixing away until Nightingale was ready to fly. 

WRH: When can we expect a full length? And what should listeners expect on the full-length?

JC: Well, putting out a full-length isn’t really priority over putting out pertinent material, though next year probably isn’t a bad guess. You’ll see at least another EP before that time. I, personally, don’t think it’s as conducive to make full-lengths anymore but, as any VYIE record will be, you can expect a centralized theme bothered by moments of intensity and the expression of new dreams and concepts through fun, new toys that we pick up along the way.

JM: And we’ve picked up a lot of them in the past couple of months. Definitely keep your eyes out for another EP this summer. We’ll be rising a little closer to the light, that’s all I’ll say…

WRH: You’re currently on a tour which has you bouncing around quite a bit of the Southeast with some stops in the Midwest and Northeast – including a Valentine’s Day show at NYC’s Piano’s. What should folks expect if they catch you at their local venue? And what’s the response been so far? 

JC: Live, you’ll get a much more fluid, real-time experience of what the record purports. Since the tour is in support of VYIE Nightingale, we’re trying to really breathe life into her so that the audience can have some meaningful experience with each part – whether that experience is akin to our own or different. 

JM: Our shows project all but nonsense. It’s an experience to say the least, which tends to result in a magnitude of responses, typically extremely different ones, but all with a tie to an enticing sense of self discovery. As you mentioned before, each song on Nightingale tells a story or represents a journey. So whether it be a real interpersonal experience or a projection of conscious thought, each of our songs hold a great deal of depth to us personally and that reads very clear live.

WRH: What advice would you give to other artists trying to make a name for themselves?

JC: Figure out, quickly, what kind of product you have, and then be prepared to give up everything for it. Time and commitment are of the essence. 

JM: Don’t force anything. Just do. The more you write and the more time you spend investing into your abilities and broadening your skill set, the more things make sense, more or less because you don’t have to rely on other people to project your own thoughts. And through that i believe things are able to start taking shape, because you can add, change, toss, drag and do whatever you need to do in order for the result to sound pleasing to you and only you. When that happens, you can run a lot faster without hesitation. If you are lucky enough to come across someone that resides on a sonic cloud that mirrors yours, take it as one of the greatest blessings you could ever receive and never stop communicating with them. Apply honesty, in every form and fashion. I’ve been making music for over a decade and I’m just now in a place where I feel proud of what I am doing, and feel as though the road I’m walking down will land me where I want to be. It took a lot of fucking up to get here. You can’t be afraid of making mistakes. More than that, you can’t be too proud to acknowledge the ones you’ve already made.