Each song on A. Vos’s debut EP Water Brings the Rapids holds within it a delicate intensity that can only be described as slow-release catharsis. His dreamy, folk-tinged melodies command an incredible amount of tonal space, and yet, due to the warmth they emit, simultaneously feel as if you could cradle them in your hands and hold them close. When accompanied by his earnest, passionate vocals, they ultimately seem to soar to a place of revelatory peace; it is, essentially, the musical equivalent of shedding layers of your past self in favor of realizing the strength underneath – something that you later realize has always been innate, inherent, and intransient. I was lucky enough to interview the Atlanta-based artist earlier this week about the EP – read while listening to a few tracks below.
Kid With A Vinyl: This is a question I like to ask all musicians, because the answer varies each time: do you believe that abstractions like nostalgia are inevitable by-products of genres such as dream pop or folk pop, or something that is deliberately constructed, and what are your thoughts on expressing such ideas within your own music? What would you want your ideal listener to feel while listening?
A. Vos: I think those genres are ripe for nostalgia because of the method of expression. That being said it seems like there are a lot of ham-fisted, lo-fi recordings attempting to spoon-feed nostalgia, and that’s no fun. When I’m creating or listening to the right song I feel like life actually has meaning. If I could hope for anything, it’s for my audience to experience an ounce of what I felt creating the song. Music is the perfect vessel to spread love, even if it isn’t particularly cheery – it comes in many different forms.
KWAV: You mentioned recently that “Fire on the Back Porch” is your favorite track from the EP – why is this?
A. Vos: It’s special to me because it went through so many iterations. I think I started recording that song from scratch about 5 times before I landed on the one. I’m proud of the arrangement, lots of layers and textures. I wanted the instruments to feel like a fire moving in on you. The song came to me on the porch of my old apartment and I paced back and forth like a mad man until the second verse came to me. It’s about my tendency to allow thoughts to shut me down and trap me in corners. Sort of a meta track because the process of writing can really weigh you down, but once the song is finished you can start to let go.
KWAV: Walk us through your writing/recording process, if possible!
A. Vos: The initial idea for a song usually comes when I’m playing guitar or piano. From there it can go many different ways. Sometimes if I can hear what the song will be, I’ll just slam my head against the wall with an instrument in my hand until the rest comes. If it’s a song like “Seafoam (((Stardust)))” for example, the production blurs into the songwriting in a way. That song came from an instrumental I made on a rainy day, and I felt the song had a lot more to say. It would only take another 18 months of fishing to find it.
KWAV: If I had to pick two favorites from the EP, it would be the absolutely gorgeous “Lemon Moon” and the esoteric, otherworldly “Seafoam (((Stardust))).” The way both of these tracks swell and build between verses and choruses is breathtaking. Can you speak a bit about either (or both)?
A. Vos: Both of these songs have that infinite feeling to them that I’m very much addicted to. “Lemon Moon” is intended to be about a boundless moment of pure love, that one can escape reality and revisit down the line. I find the song uplifting. I’m always wishing I was back dancing under that Lemon Moon.
“Seafoam (((Stardust)))” is a mash up of two opposing ideas. The former half of the song is about my personal struggle with depression and a sort of continuation from “Fire on the Back Porch,” but with its opposing element, water. The latter half of the song completely opens up and delivers the repeating line, “We are stardust hurling forwards,” which is quite a literal interpretation of what we are. I try to remind myself of this truth when I’m in a bad place and it seems to help a little. In the end the only things that matter are the things you choose to matter.
KWAV: Were there any moments in between the initial conception and the final execution of this album that left you feeling overwhelmed, uninspired, or discouraged? How do you usually overcome mental blocks in creativity?
A. Vos: I had several moments where I wondered if I should focus on making something more approachable. This is the first A. Vos EP and of course I want my music to reach a wider audience just like everyone else does. But about two years ago when I started writing music for this project I told myself that I was going to be me. If I get good enough at being me maybe people will want to hear what I have to say.
KWAV: Which track was the most challenging to write/record/complete?
A. Vos: “Seafoam (((Stardust)))” was probably the most challenging. I almost scrapped it because it was just so out there, but eventually I figured out a progression that worked and everything came together in the end. It just goes to show when you really believe in an idea it’s worth it to be patient.
KWAV: Darby Cici from The Antlers provided trumpet accompaniment on the stunning track “Be the Same.” What was it like working with him?
A. Vos: He was really wonderful to work with, it really wasn’t a big thing. I reached out to him about possibly laying down some trumpet on a song and he was kind enough to record some takes and send them over. I’m so stoked to have him on this EP, he’s a part of several records that were pivotal for me when I rediscovered my love for music many years ago.
KWAV: Finally, what are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?
A. Vos: Son Lux have been putting out insane music the past year, some next level musicianship and production all over it. Also highly recommend The Antler’s new record Green to Gold and Ian Sweet’s record Show Me How You Disappear.
Water Brings the Rapids is out now.