Vinnie Caruana Gives The Most Depressing Interview of His Career – Kerrang!

Posted: October 2, 2019 at 4:42 am


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Its a glorious late summer day in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Vinnie Caruana is sitting outside a bar just a few blocks from where he singer lives with his wife, Laura. Theyre going on honeymoon in two daysthe sun is shining and the beer is flowing, and The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche singer is talking about death. A lot. But then, deathand mortality in generalhas been on his mind a lotrecently.

Not that hes letting it slow him down at all. In a week or so, Constant Elevationthe hardcore band formed by Vinnie and scene (and former Movielife) drummer Sammy Sieglerwill play their first ever gig. A week or so after that, Vinnie will see in his 40th birthday (a milestone for anybody, but especially a punk musician) with a solo show in Brooklyn. Its all evidence that the title of his new solo EP, Aging Frontman, is more of a joke than a fact, despite the somber nature of its songs and the contemplative, mortality-obsessed mood Vinnie is intoday.

Six tracks long, Aging Frontman is, to some extent, the culmination of the two decades Vinnie has spent playing in bands, something that started after his older brothers introduced him to the Long Island hardcore scene when he was a teenager. It begins with the brooding Better, a slow, savagely melancholy lament that drips with the kind of regret only felt by someone who feels that the good old days are long gone. Yet at the same time, theres a hope there, too: that we can always make more good old days, that no matter how tough things canget.

Thats an attitude shared by the EPs five other songs anddespite admissions about a downturn in his mental health and his preoccupation with mortalityalso by Vinnie himself in conversation. For though he will later admit that this is the most depressing interview hes ever done, his defiance, his happiness, and his love for his wife undeniably shinethrough.

Obviously the title of your new EP is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but are there some deep-rooted fears there, too?

Vinnie Caruana: Yeah. Its not like Im being melodramatic about turning 40, but it is a milestone, especially for all the guys like me that arent rock stars that dont have to worry about anything and have their big houses and thousands of people coming to see them. Ive always had a modestly-sized fanbase but loyal and amazing and I see people getting older and fanbases getting older and having kids. We sold a lot of onesies on the last tour! Its not like I see an end to my career or anything, but everyone whos in my position and depends on music to make a living, they have their doubts. And I still have them all thetime.

So thats part of it: Im getting older and Im going to have to do something else. Im not going to be 55 years old expecting everyone to want to come and see me play still. Not that Im going to stop playing musicbut what am I going to do along with playing music thats not bartending? Because every time I went back to bartending, my creativity would cease, because in New York bars close at 4am and after you get done counting the money and cleaning, you get home at six in the morning and you sleep all day. If its the winter, you dont see daylight. When am I writing music during that time? So thats part ofit.

The other part of it isand I get complimented on it all the timeYou dont look like youre turning 40. Youre in good shape! And the answer is always that its the inside thats falling apart. There are tons of trouble areas with bones and tendons and joints going wrong, and I feel it. Im in pain. All that stuff I was dealing with when I was doing the City By The Sea record, and all the stuff I wrote about on Wolverines is still there. I have chronic pain that only gets worse and it spreads. Theres new chronic pain! And then theres the part thats still tongue-in-cheek where I have friends of mine who are 50 and still sing in bands and stuff and I sent them my record and theyre like Ah, fuck you! Youre young! And Iknow.

Its not like this serious thing of Oh no, Im getting older! but more that I think its funny. I think Aging Frontman is the best title Ive ever come up with for anything. The lyrics are really heavy sometimes depressing, and all the time very serious and I thought it would be nice to have a juxtaposition between that and the title and the cover of the record.

But you turning 40 had nothing to do with the more mellow sound of this record? Its just what felt right for this project?

Right. Im in enough rock bands. I dont want to be a rock band on my solo stuff. Even Survivors Guilt was kind of a full band-sounding album, because artistically, thats just what I wanted to do. This is a look at what other shit Im into. Movielife is considered a pop-punk band by some people, some people call it a post-hardcore band. I certainly dont listen to pop-punk and Movielife wrote a lot of that stuff when we were really young when maybe I was listening to some stuff like that. But this is more of a glimpse into who I am now. I want to be able to tour by myself with a guitar and I want to be able to play songs that make sense in thatsetting.

Would you say your solo stuff is more purelyyou?

Generally speaking, yes. 110%. I wrote an entire record that was more in this folky sort of realmbecause this was going to be a full-length and I changed my mind. I scrapped about 10 songs, poached a few good parts from some of them and I wrote Better. And many songs on this EP are my favorite songs that Ive done. Better is probably my favorite song that Ive ever done and it was written in like, 10 minutes, and theres only a handful of songs in my career that Ive written that quickly. Jamestown was one of those songs,too.

But I wrote Better, and the whole view of the landscape for my record changed; I began writing the record from that fork in the road. So to answer your question, it is all me, but Alone is a song I wrote with another songwriter and producer, Alex Fitz. I also work in publishing, and [Alex and I] got together to write because we like to create music for no reason and then figure out where its supposed to go. Sometimes it goes to a car commercial, sometimes itll go to another artist for their record. This song was always something that I really loved, and when Better opened my eyes to what the record could be, I had to revisit it and we brought it to a place where it made sense on my solorecord.

How has your approach to writing songs changed over theyears?

A lot of the early Movielife stuff, I wrote the lyrics on trains which is why I sing about trains so much. I didnt mean to, but I would always be on the train. I was working in the city, living on Long Island, and dating a girl in the city, so I would bring cassette tapes because wed tape the songs at practice and then I would write to it. I still sometimes do it, but I dont feel inspired during the day at all. I very, very seldomly write lyrics during the day. Although when I write lyrics for publishing, the sessions are in daytime, but Im not writing for myself then. I dont have any of myhang-ups.

The press release for this EP states quite emphatically that a big part of this solo EP is tackling the issue of your mental health to make sure that people know that youre okay, but also to make them know that its okay for them to not be okay. Did these songs offer the same kind of therapy that songwriting has always provided for you, or is there adifference?

Theres a difference. Its been a few years, and things have gotten more bleak since the last time I wrote a record. I dont want to write a bleak recordI like to think that theres hope in all of the despair that you find in my tunesbut this one felt different. I have a friend in Ireland who asked me to do an interview for his podcast relating to addiction and mental illness. We check in with our friends and make sure everyones good. And over the last few years has been the first time where Ive thought What is fucking going on? Why am I feeling this way? Because my answer was always that I dont have those problems. And then in the past few years Ive been like Oh, here it is heres what everyone has been dealing with. Not that I havent had anxiety issues and things like that, but this is a different feeling, where I know what that term mental illness means now. You feel mentally and physically sick from it. And thats something thats crept into my realm and something Im very happy Im aware of and that my receptors are open to that and recognizing it before its too late and thingsunravel.

So this is a new feeling completely and these are the first lyrics Ive written for myself with this new friend in tow. Ive never been shy of sharing everything with the listener theres just a passenger now who is part of me and who hangs out and I need to make sure that passenger is fed lots of healthy fruits andvegetables!

Do you know why that passenger has decided to joinyou?

Maybe reaching this point in my life. Theres new sets of problems and worries and new responsibilities, a new world that we live in, mortality, losing people. Every time you lose someone close to you it becomes this mark on your heart. And that keeps happening. I didnt really experience real loss until I was an adult, which is a blessing, but its also a curse because it all started happening a lot. Even with younger bands that weve played with on the road, people who arent my best buds but it affects me. I remember breaking down when Caleb [Scofield] from Cave In passed away, and I didnt even know him. I just feel like were in the same weird boat. And I cant even tell you how many times Ive read about and watched the whole thing unfold with [Scott Hutchison] of Frightened Rabbit. I didnt know him either, but I felt somehow connected to it because were all soldiers in this thing. Its really heartbreaking to me.

That seems to one of the unavoidable truths in life that the older you get, the more people youlose.

Right. And I watch my parents, who are in their 70s, and we speak about this stuff. My parents are very aware that theyre getting up there and that their friends are dying. And I see them living, like Damn the torpedoes lets go to fucking Sweden! Thats my parents vibe and I fucking love it because it makes me so hopeful that Im going to live and I fucking have to make sure that I live. Its very inspiring watching my parents do the thing, and any time Im like Oh, my back, my foot, my knee all these new things Im feeling mentally and physically I look at them and I go, Youre good. Youre 40,man!

Man, this is most depressinginterview!

But thats kind of the point. Because, in the context of Aging Frontman, you presumably never imagined having to deal with this stuff when you started The Movielife. And yet here you are now, having to deal with all this extrabaggage.

Right. The things Im writing about now arent things that just pop into my head. Im really considering itall.

But at the same time, you said Better is your favorite thing youve ever written. So would you trade any of thatin?

Absolutely not. And as much as its difficult, and therell be more. Thats what lifes going to be theres going to be extreme moments of bliss, theres going to be boring mediocrity and theres going to be extreme moments of devastation. And we dont know when theyre coming. But it feels awfully good to sing about it and helps me to feel kind of leveled out mentally. And boy, does it feel good to sing these in front of a crowd of people that I know feel what Im talking about. Im lucky that I get to do that. I dont know where Id be without being able to have that release and that outlet to write about it and then perform it. It keeps me happy. And thats the thing: You could hear the record and be like Fuck, man but another reason Im happyand Im not always happy, theres darknessis that Im able to do my thing and enjoylife.

And theres nothing like the fear of death to make you want to make the most of your own life. But at the same time, its also easy to forget to do that because real life always takes over again. Do you want this record to act as that kind of catalyst forpeople?

I feel like it always turns out that way. Because when we all connect and I come back to their town, wherever it is in the world, and Im singing these songs, people will sing along and theyre never sad. Theyre singing it and theyre smiling because its doing what its supposed to do. Its supposed to make you feel good. Like, Im a big David Bazan fan, and I feel amazing from his sad songs. Theyre not meant to make you feel sad. Theyre meant to be like Hey man, Im here, too! Lets fucking get through this shit. Could you imagine if it was just sad songs that made you feel more sad? Sad songs are so inspiring tome.

Bringing this back around to your career, do you think you would have ended up here now had The Movielife not encountered all that trouble with Drive-ThruRecords?

No. If The Movielife had kept on playing in the early days and we didnt break up in 2003, then no, I wouldnt have become the songwriter that I am right now. Because I wasnt really writing songs. I was more the singer and I was contributing way more by just writing vocals over songs. Id be there for arrangements and stuff, but Id let Brandon [Reilly] do all that stuff. So I wouldnt have grown into the songwriter I am right now if The Movielife had kept going in 2003. So anybodys whos mad that we broke up in 2003 and who has listened to Better and loves it I would never have written that song if I would have stayed in that comfort zone and kept writing lyrics over Movielifesongs.

So presumably you wouldnt change how any of that wentdown?

I wouldnt have changed anything. If The Movielife didnt break up and things didnt fall apart, then I wouldnt have moved to where I moved and met my first wife and then have that fall apart and learn a lot and become a better person and start I Am The Avalanche, who are some of my best friends. None of them were my best friends when we started. It was just a bunch of people that I brought together to see if we could be a band. And you can go down a real wormhole with those chain reactions, but I think that all the hard times and all the great times and everything in between has brought me to where I am right now. Where am I? Im married to the love of my life writing the best music of my life. Somehow still making music and people are still coming out to see me sing. Im just grateful that some of the songs Ive been writing mean something to some people still. And I wouldnt be writing any of them if I didnt go through all of this. We all have these journeys that build us into the person that we arelets hope that most of the time its for thebetter.

As you say, youre married to the love of your life and youre about to go on your honeymoon in two days. So how do you reconcile the disparity between the life youre living with your wife, and the melancholy of yoursongs?

When Im with Laura, Im never unhappy, because Im in the moment with her and our life together. Were not always just floating on a cloud were living the same life that everyone else is living and were trying to get by and be happy. But the moment Im aloneyou know, those days where you order a sandwich in a deli or something and your voice cracks because you realize you havent said anything all day, when every single word thats spoken is to yourself in your headis where itswitches.

So whatsnext?

I think The Movielife has done a lot since we reformed and we should mellow out a little bit. So Vinnie solo stuff is going to be the move, and some Avalanche fun could be something that happens in 2020. Thats something that means a lot to me and I want to make sure it stays alive. But I really want to write and release a summer record. My entire life, Ive never released a record in the summer, and Id really like to dothat.

Posted on October 1st 2019, 6:00pm

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Vinnie Caruana Gives The Most Depressing Interview of His Career - Kerrang!

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