There are deep records and then there are DEEEEEP records!. Keep On Running, the debut LP from Swiss / Berlin-based trio Vsitor, definitely falls into the latter category. Talk about a record that feels like a sonic M. C. Escher maze of sorts, full of unexpected reversals and arrangement solutions. This is the type of long player that elicits repeated listening and delivers something new with every single spin. We’ve had this record here for a couple of weeks now and it still feels like we’re nowhere close to wearing it out.
Sound-wise, Keep On Running is a hybrid – an electronica, pop, art rock alloy of sorts with some noise and experimental accents to boot. There are songs on here that would make Jamie XX smile, but fans of the noisier end of the art rock spectrum wouldn’t walk away empty handed either. You get the picture?
Vsitor are: Lea Maria Fries, David Koch and Valentin Liechti. Red Brick Chapel is the name of the label behind this wonderful release.
Let’s start at the deep end, how does it feel to make such an intense record? Or did you not notice that you were under water while making it?
Lea: Thank you. I think, honestly, we did not really notice that we were under water like this, being caught up in the process. We just worked continuously on the tracks and the album, following our gut instincts. And now Keep On Running is out and with a bit of distance to it, we feel mighty good and proud of it.
These songs are so full of textures and layers and the sound design is so immaculate that I’m wondering what how it all translates when you play live? Because it’s almost as if you made a record for audiophiles.
David: Over the years we developed our live performance and we learned, experienced and realised what’s important for us when we play live. We don’t have any computers on stage and also do not use any backing tracks. Everything you hear is played at that very moment. That’s important to us, because it creates real live energy, punch and something of an honest directness. That’s what we want. So the live set might be a bit rockier, punkier and rougher, BUT it’s still completely in the Vsitor sound universe. A lot of textures on this record were made with my guitar and effects, and I also have all this stuff on stage. For example the outro of R.U.N. we’re actually able to recreate that live with our instruments. Even though Keep On Running is a detailed production, most of the textures on the record were recorded live over the full song.
Apparently you also manufactures some of these DIY effects modules that you used on this record. Was it that you couldn’t find this equipment on the market or did you want to make sure that you have a unique sound?
David: I started to make these effect pedals just for myself. I couldn’t find what I wanted on the market. I owned some very unique pedals which I really loved and I realised that I can expand their sound possibilities with some modifications. Instead of buying new pedals, I just tweaked the ones I had. And this also created a unique sound, of course, and that’s a big plus! But I never went out of my way to create a unique sound, I just tweak stuff and do a lot of research, and this comes from an inner urge, I just need to do it.
Do you think that people still appreciate an original sound?
David: Yes! But people need some “energy” to appreciate an original sound. They need to take some time off to really listen to something and feel it, they need to be open minded and receptive to a new sound. Maybe you need to listen to our music a few times to really feel it. And there’s the problem with today’s music industry, I doubt that you would fall in love with Vsitor if you only listened to it for 30 seconds on Spotify.
Can you tell us a bit how this record was written and recorded?
David: A lot of the songs came out of an initial sound or texture that Valentin or I produced with our analog gear. Sometimes it also started with a melody or a chord progression, but the sound and the sonic character were nearly always defining the direction for the song. You can still hear a lot of these early sounds untouched on the final record! The next thing that happened was that Lea listened to these sketches like hundreds of times and worked out a picture in her mind, which she then wrote down. With the addition of the lyrics the music would get a new dimension, the song structure also became clearer. We recorded the music over a period of two years, by ourselves, in Berlin, but and also in our favourite recording studio in Switzerland. We took the songs back and forth and the idea of the record developed over time. We had nearly forty sketches, and we took the time that the record needed to really mature.
From your point of view, what did you achieve with Keep On Running?
Lea: Keep On Running is the result of an intense collaboration between the three of us. Before we started to work on it, we were playing a lot all over Europe and then we moved together to Berlin. Through all of this we grew together even more and processed all the things that we lived through, not only as individuals, but also as a trio. And then we created new songs and sketches together. So in the end, Keep On Running is the outcome of a long journey together. I think you can hear this deep connection on our album. And you can see and feel it also when we are playing out live. Keep on Running is a reflection on humanity, on fears, on hopes, on relations of all kinds, whether at a microcosmic level, between two people, or between us humans, our world and the much bigger universe which is around us. We merged all of this into an album and a story, our story, but in such a way that I think everybody can still relate to it. I think you feel something when you dare to dive into it. Like with a good book or a movie, but in this case it’s illustrated by sounds and noises, the type of moods that we love and feel.
Lea: For now we mainly want to play this album out live. We had our first couple of shows and it is so much fun to finally be on the road again and share this music with a live audience. We’ll tour in Switzerland and Germany and hopefully in many other countries as well. There are also some new ideas coming up. And I’m sure touring will fuel us all and give us a lot of new input to work with. I can’t wait to work on new stuff for this band and to show it to you guys.