The vinyl-crammed confines of Lost and Found Records, where Vaygues’ singer/organist/guitarist Nathan Moses has worked for over a decade, is the perfect place to discuss the band’s history, future, and new 7-inch record. Moses, guitarist/singer Matt Juroff, and drummer Graham McCorkle previously played in Bitter Pills, a ’60s-drenched house-rocking outfit that had a sizable loyal following during its initial run, from 1999 to 2002. More often than not they played at Pilot Light, where their lively rave-ups had crowds dancing at a time when the most common pose at rock shows there was folded arms and maybe a bit of head-nodding. The Bitter Pills reformed in 2006, playing sporadically before winding down for good in 2008. (The band played a club-record 41 shows at Pilot Light, according to the club’s website.)
After the split, Moses continued writing songs and working with McCorkle, and along with Juroff decided to start a new group. The trio needed a bassist, and after playing with a couple of musicians who didn’t quite fit, they asked Israel “Izzy” Miller, their friend and former frontman for local garage punks Thee Infidelz, to join up. Within seven months of the Pills’ dissolution, the Vaygues were born.
“We started over again on purpose, to think about a completely different band with all new material,” Moses says. “We wrote 21 new songs in a little over a year, which, compared to Bitter Pills, is really prolific.”
Those familiar with the Bitter Pills will definitely hear similarities, but the Vaygues draw from a wider range of influences than just three-chord garage rock, most notably ’70s power pop and ’80s college rock.
Still, they acknowledge the ’60s sound continues to influence them, and probably always will.
“That’s about all we listen to,” Moses says. “We can’t help it. It just sort of creeps in.”
The Vaygues recently released a self-recorded 7-inch 45 with two songs that demonstrate both the band’s more refined side and its devotion to old-school garage rock. “Dead Town” is a slow, sober number written and sung by Moses that’s miles away from their standard uptempo party vibe. Featuring reflective lyrics, tasteful guitar solos, and backup vocals of the “ahhh ahhh” sort, it recalls the Replacements as much as the Raspberries. “Not Taking Chances,” co-written by Juroff and Miller, is the type of upbeat, Farfisa organ-driven song the band excels at in a live setting. Though the recording was made on a 16-track digital machine, it has an intentionally lo-fi sound—but not in the noisy way that deliberately obscures the music with distortion.
The Vaygues will soon be recording two more songs for another single, which will probably be released within the next six months. With almost two dozen songs in their repertoire, they could easily record a full-length CD or two. But they’re vinyl loyalists, preferring the format for aesthetic and ideological reasons.
“Beyond the fact that we’re trying to be traditionalists about it, going for a time when singles were a bigger deal than albums, we like the challenge of writing a three-minute pop song that can keep you interested,” Juroff says.
“The neat thing about a 45 is you can’t put a lot of quantity on it,” Moses adds. “There’s more quality control. Too many CDs are oversaturated with too much material. I’d rather release a smaller amount of things I’m really sure of.”
“Plus, a CD is not something that anybody really cherishes,” McCorkle says. “If CDs are laying on the floor and you get out of bed and step on them, it’s like ‘Oh, well.’ This is something for people to keep and remember you by, especially when you play shows out of town.”
Rather than defaulting into an unofficial house band for a local club, the Vaygues want to make a concerted effort to play in nearby cities like Asheville, Atlanta, and Chattanooga as much as possible, or at least as much as rising gas prices and lack of name recognition will allow. The Bitter Pills had fans in these cities, but Moses says with a new name and new material, it’s basically like starting from square one.
“Starting over again is hard,” he says. “No matter who you are you have to prove yourself again. We’re trying to keep consistent about playing live. Before we could have a drunken show and it wouldn’t matter as much. But these songs are more than three chords, there are more parts, so we have to take a little more seriously.”
In recent years, there have been a slew of younger bands cropping up who are enamored with lo-fi recordings and 7-inch records crammed with hooks and choruses from the ’60s garage-rock handbook, but when asked if they feel any affinity with the so-called “garage explosion” (as the title of a recent Vice TV documentary calls it), a collective momentary silence falls on the members of the Vaygues.
“Are there a lot of bands like that right now?” Juroff finally asks.
“We don’t really have our finger on the pulse,” McCorkle adds.
“We don’t really keep up,” admits Moses. “I listen to a few modern things, but working in a record store, I’m constantly finding older things that inspire me, or I’m rediscovering the Pretty Things or bands like that. Having access to that stuff definitely encourages songwriting.”
“We’ve always kind of followed our own muse,” Juroff says. “Sometimes to the point of being belligerent.”