Meet the boys in VHS Collection in our new interview!

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When starting this new project, a goal for me was to start exploring the new class of what is coming out. One that instantly caught our team’s attention was NYC boys VHS Collection who just released the incredibly catchy track Lean as well as a new EP. The band is still incredibly new and we actually caught them on their first show EVER out of New York. With the song already at over 200,000 streams on Spotify, it’s clear this band is going places and we are grateful we were able to catch them in the beginning of their journey!
We already talked about how you guys having all known each other since high school.
James: Yeah we all grew up in the New York City area. Conor and I actually went to grade school together. So I’ve known him since I was about seven years old. Started playing music as kids. Around sixth or seventh grade, I got an acoustic guitar and stuff like that. Then we kind of separately went to different high schools. In high school, I met Nils who’s the keyboardist. Nils and I were in a band in high school called The Curfew Refugees. Curfew was a big deal in high school. We wanted this bad ass name so Curfew Refugees is what came up. Yeah we were kind of these high school heroes. Meanwhile, Conor was down at Vanderbilt. He’s going to school, playing music with other bands. Kind of developing relationships with a lot of the bands we are now friends with like Moon Taxi. Love those guys. We basically linked up after college. Nils and I were in different musical groups in high school. We added Conor to the mix and the three of us kind of had this diluted sound. We just kind of had it from there. We added a drummer, a bassist that matched as well. We started doing live gigs. That was kind of when the band came to be.

And you’ve obviously like you said have known each other for a long time but maybe when did this idea fully form? Is this an idea that you had been working on for years? Is it always something that you guys wanted to do together, VHS Collection?
Nils: It’s been in the back of our minds since high school. I mean, for me it was like I always wanted to be a musician and then when I got to Kent and met this guy who was super into music. It got serious only about a year ago. We realized we had very similar writing styles. We really complement each other in a nice way.
James: Yeah! First time I met Nils at Kent, I walked into the room and I think he was playing a guitar. He was ripping this Phish song and he was nasty. He was way better then anyone that was there and we immediately clicked about music. Music was what started the friendship.
Nils: We were really into Phish and I didn’t know anyone else who liked Phish. As soon As I found out he was into it, we started talking about it. I was like ‘Oh man, I can’t believe we’re into the same stuff’. Sort of easy from there.
James:And the musical backgrounds. There’s definitely like a jam band element. Classic rock element and then there’s like an indie element. Nils is definitely the most instrumentally talented musician. Great natural musician. Conor brings more of the more darker, dancer electronic feel and I’m a melody, song and dance guy. So that’s how the vibe kind of comes across, like the mix. The sound is like indie electronic mixed with rock and roll. Sorry I’m talking so much.

No it’s good!
Nils: We haven’t even let you ask questions yet.
Just kind of rambling, no I like it. Then I wanted to ask, obviously ‘Lean’  has already gotten some attention. Pretty much right off the bat. With the EP coming out. Maybe the story behind that song in particular. 

James: The story behind Lean, okay. So Lean was a song that’s kind of had many shapes. It started as like an acoustic song really. Then the band forum really allowed it to take a life of it’s own. As like a dancy funk song. I’d say the story behind it is about kind of growing up. It’s a coming of age growing up tale. Really about old friends growing up. You really rely on your friends a lot more then even your family as a kid. As a kid, they are the ones there for you all the time. You end up kind of looking to your friends a lot more then anyone else. So it’s really just kind of a song about that. About growing up in the city. About kind of a lot of the challenges and stuff. The lyrics of the song kind of talk about these different pockets. We mention some names in there and some places and some references and things like that. So it’s kind of a celebration and I think the line at the end is kind of a renaissance. Big fun concept. It’s supposed to be a fun, happy song but also with like a real element to it.

And I know you’ve released the EP. Is it a good indication of what’s to come? Obviously you’re not playing the three songs and done when you’re playing these shows.
Nils: It’s probably a perfect example of why this band works well because the song that James wrote originally he just used a guitar which we thought was great and then it kind of took on a life of its own once we brought it into the studio. Laid that synth riff over it and Conor did the thing on guitar. It had a very unique sound that nobody else was doing. With that great memorable lyric, it’s just kind of a quintessential song. We had to struggle with it in the studio. We weren’t even sure we were going to release it. It was kind of on the back burner and we wrestled it. It took on this magical vibe.
James: In terms of what’s to come, we have a pretty large catalogue. We have a set of probably thirty songs that we play regularly. We needed to just get something out. We needed to get something on paper. We needed some sort of product because people were like yo, we need some recordings. So that was our first attempt at it. Once we brought it to light, it was well-received. First song, people dug it.
Nils:We didn’t expect that all.
James: Yeah we didn’t expect that. First one, then we were like okay maybe we should record more. So right now, we’re recording. That’s going to be part of a full album that we’re going to release. We’re planning to now this summer really pick up the speed on recording. We’re going to do a show here and there.
Nils: All three of us are songwriters. Each of the songs we’re working on in the studio, we all work on. We kind of have a batch of eighteen that we are thinking about and we chose the best three out of those. It just kind of ended up where like I was at the helm of one. Wrote most of it and one was one of James’ and one was Conor’s. We didn’t really realize it till we had gotten through them. It was like ‘Oh, it’s one of each of our songs’. They all fit together but they’re like uniquely our own. So it’s very powerful having three like good songwriters in the same band.

I know you said you three are all songwriters but do you ever work on songs together where you like prep it together, maybe cowrite together?
James : I’d say we all kind of cowrite to some degree. I think we all kind of have very different roles in the songwriting process. Like structure and theme and feel and production is kind of Conor’s feel. Lines, melodies, instrumentation and composition musically is Nils’. My realm is in like the words and the vocal melodies. Like that’s really all I know how to do.
Nils: We take the strength of each of us and combine them.
James: And those three elements kind of complement together on different degrees in pretty much all the songs.

Maybe a softer one for each of you, the first CD or cassette you can remember buying as a kid and the first concert you can remember going to?
Nils: My first CD ever was Steve Miller Band greatest hits. I got a CD player, that CD and a pair of headphones. That was my one CD.
And you played it many times.
Nils: I played it incessantly. Like I had no control over it. I just consumed it non-stop. It was like, ‘oh this is my music’. Then the first concert I ever went to was a Phish concert, 2001. I’ve been listening to them all my life. To get to see them in person just blew me away.
James: So the first cassette I bought was ‘Dookie’ by Green Day and I loved it because it had all the swear words and I was I like third or fourth grade. I was like this is wild stuff. First CD I bought was Blues Traveler (volume) Four. Which was beautiful. I bought it at Long Island Sound. First concert I went to, I think I was like a kid. I don’t know. I can’t even remember. I think Dave Matthews on my own was the first one where I was like you know I’m going to go to a concert. I think I wore pajama pants because Dave always had the pajama pants going. Some assholes were like ‘Nice pajama pants, dude!’ and it broke my heart. But it was a great concert, so it’s all good. That’s all that counts.

Like you said, you’re about a year and a half into this band. You’re playing out of New York which is still new for you guys. Kind of what’s in the plans for VHS Collection, maybe for like this year?

Nils: We have some big shows, big festivals booked that we can’t talk about.
James: Yeah we have some big stuff coming up.
Nils: In like Spring and Summer. Our goal right now is to get as much new music written and recorded as possible then concentrate on playing live.
James: Then ideally, putting together a good enough product to tour on in the full blown capacity. So that’s probably our six to eight week plan.

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Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.

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