Psych pop pie
Vasas’ darkly sunny sounds are built on a foundation of solid friendships
It’s a chilly Monday night, and the members of Vasas are camped out in the alley behind Time Tested Books. Guitarist Pablo Gutierrez pulls a freshly made Key lime pie from his car, sets the dish on the hood and starts slicing. He’s brought ceramic plates and real utensils. It all feels festive.
But why pie? Is it a special occasion?
“Absolutely not. I just said I’d make a pie,” Gutierrez says as the band settles onto folding chairs and starts eating at the onset of a recent interview.
Still, somehow the appearance of homemade dessert says much about the Sacramento psych-pop quartet. That is to say: This is not just a group built on the usual foundation of friendship, collaboration and inspiration, but also one that’s free of irony and pretense.
And, the band—which also includes guitarist Andrew Naify, drummer Finian Scott-Small and bassist Aaron Zeff—is marking a special occasion with the release of its new album Diving Bells on Bearded Beauty Records. There’s also a video for the single “Such a Dog,” which recently premiered on Sly Vinyl, featuring the band accompanied by not a canine, but a large papier-mâché cat. Shot in rich, oversaturated colors, the clip and its mood, coupled with the song’s melancholy vibe, capture Vasas at its inventive, melodic best.
The band formed approximately five years ago. Vasas quickly established itself as a local must-hear act, well-regarded for smart sonic tracks that hint at a love for the Kinks and beyond.
“We’re bridging the gap between psych and poppy,” Zeff says.
Naify, Zeff and Gutierrez each write and sing. Instead of making for a disjointed record, however, the tracks on Diving Bells seamlessly dip and soar with catchy melodies and a darkly sunny ethos. The guitar intro for “Bad Farkle Day” revs with urgency; “Stoners” exudes a ’60s-era vintage feel; and “Jenny,” a cover of a Minders song—a band Naify once played with—sounds gorgeous and bittersweet.
Vasas’ approach to recording has been decidedly unorthodox. Instead of holing up in a studio for a few days, the group recorded the tracks over a long stretch at every place possible (bookstores, warehouses, basements, etc.) using every format available (tape, four-track, digital, etc.).
“It’s fun to mess around and start something on tape and then add something on computer and not be on the clock at all,” says Naify, who produced the record.
By the end, they had multiple versions of each track, something that might have proved problematic in the wrong hands.
The process has solidified and polished the band’s sound. So has its endless slew of gigs—a bit of a rule-breaker for a local band that should theoretically be worried about not exhausting its fan base.
“We play too goddamned much,” Gutierrez says with a laugh.
“What happens is you agree to play a show to fill out a bill that’s two months away and then another show comes up that you really want to play,” Scott-Small says. “Then you end up playing two shows in two days.”
In the end, though, that’s OK. After all, this is a band that turned a broken-down tour van in Idaho into a weeklong vacation bonding over karaoke and dips in the lake. It’s about making music and good times, they say.
It’s about eating pie with your mates in an alley just after sundown.