Photo: Cecilia Alejandra
It isn’t often that a seasoned musical veteran like Walter Schreifels (Quicksand, Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools) gets to do something that takes him out of his comfort zone but that’s certainly true of Schreifels’ role in his latest musical project, Vanishing Life. The band—which features Schreifels (guitar/vocals), Rise Against’s Zach Blair (guitar), ….And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s Autry Fulbright (bass) and Jamie Miller (drums)—was conceptualized at a music festival and now you can check out their song “People Running” from their upcoming seven-inch on Collect Records which comes out on October 14.
Earlier this week, we spoke to Schreifels about how the project came together, what it’s like for him to be in a band where he isn’t responsible for writing the songs and why he’s looking forward performing live without a guitar. Better yet, you can see for yourself when the act make their debut with two performance/signings on October 18 at 2 PM at Generation Records in New York City and at 6 PM at Looney Tunes Records in West Babylon, New York.
Noisey: How did Vanishing Life come together?
Walter Schreifels: I was at Groezrock Festival in 2013 and Geoff [Rickly, of Thursday] and Trail Of Dead were there too and we were hanging out and Autry wanted to start this supergroup. He wanted it to be him and Jamie and Jason [Reece] from Trail Of Dead and Geoff. It wasn’t even specific who would do what but probably me Jason and Geoff would be singing in different ways. So I thought, “OK, great, likely nothing will happen. But fuck it. If anyone sends me anything, I’ll do something.” Months later, I got a few demos for the project and I was like, “Wow, I guess this is happening.” I sang on a couple of songs in my GarageBand and those guys were really stoked and that kind of got it going.
How did Zach get involved?
It turned out Geoff was too busy with all the different things that he’s doing. We never heard anything from him and same with Jason, so then it was just us. What ultimately ended up happening was those guys live in Austin and I was at Fun Fun Fun Fest and Zach from Rise Against heard Autry and Jamie were doing a project and really wanted to be in it. So we thought, “Great, fuck it. He’s amazing. That will be cool.” So that was how it all came together. Finally, Autry played some demos for Geoff and in the end he ended up being a participant in the project because he wanted to put it out on his label. So here we are, we’ve got this seven-inch coming out. We’ve since written some other material and we’ll see where it leads us.
What was the appeal of Vanishing Life for you?
For me, the appeal was that I didn’t have to write the songs; I was just singing and playing guitar on it, which is something that is different for me. With this project, I am purposely stepping back from being at the center of writing and arranging, kind of just being the singer and not really having to dig into that. That’s been really cool.
Why was that something you were interested in?
I think it allowed me to flex different muscles and develop them by looking at one aspect of the music and contributing from that angle. The other thing that drew me to this project was the fact that while these guys are in known bands, none of them have put out albums on Revelation Records. [Laughs.] This is a funny thing because I feel like I have played with my same group of friends from high school in one way or another for my whole career. That brings in a different mix as well for me and I’m finding that that is how this band is separate for me from the other things I’m doing. In order for me to get into another band, it needs to be something different for me, which is what I initially saw. It’s great that as soon as we did something that there was a reaction to it, just being like, “Wow, this is really great!” so I like it.
Could you talk a little bit about how you approached “People Running” and how it came together?
I think Jamie wrote that one and he is one of these all-around, musical genius-type of people that can just play everything and is good at all of them and at the same time is totally cool and humble. So it has that sort of simplistic, hardcore vernacular kind of thing with Jamie’s special touch—and for me, it was easy to plug into that because I felt like it hit both levels and it was more using that language in a modern way. With my vocals, I wasn't trying to scream in some sort of way that I feel like I’ve done, I wanted to approach it with how I’m feeling now and see how that mixes with this kind of old-school kind of vibe. I understand how to use certain words to get people psyched but I also wanted to do something that could be read on a few different levels as opposed to being a strict narrative.
How long did it take you to record the two songs on the seven-inch?
Just two days. We had never even played in the same room together until that day so that was also new for me. But at the same time, back in the hardcore days, we would be doing stuff like that as well: You’d lay down some songs and the next thing you know, Revelation would put it out and then people are into it. In that way, I relate to that spontaneity and quickness. Over the years, I’ve had the luxury to develop things more, which is great because you can work out the bugs, but I also appreciate the quickness and spontaneity of this project.
What is the plan as far as possible full-length touring? Playing it by ear?
For me, I would love to play shows. A few years ago, Gorilla Biscuits played in Brazil and Civ, our singer, broke his ankle in Argentina and couldn’t make the Brazilian shows but, long story, we ended up in Brazil and the promoter was like, “If you guys don’t want to play that’s cool but then I lose $40,000 and I’m your only friend and you’ve got a dude with a broken ankle. You might want to consider figuring something else out.” So we talked about it and I ended up singing on that tour. We did three shows in Brazil and singing for Gorilla Biscuits was one of the funnest fucking things I’ve ever done. It was such a blast just to have the freedom of a microphone, running around, not playing guitar, just getting that energy from the crowd It was completely dangerous—I got really hurt by full-grown men trying to jump on you and sing along and I don’t expect Vanishing Life to be that—but I am into the idea of just singing and trying to have that interaction… and not having to check a guitar at the airport. [Laughs.]
Jonah Bayer is a writer and also plays in a supergroup of sorts called United Nations. Follow him on Twitter - @mynameisjonah