2010 has been a big year for The Vasco Era. They released their critically acclaimed second album ‘Lucille’ in March, supported Placebo and Powderfinger around the country and have just arrived back in the country after a short tour of China as part of a cultural exchange program. To wrap up the year, the guys are on the road with their “Back From China Tour”. I caught up with Ted O’Neil while he was on break from teaching to discuss how 2010’s treated the band, and what’s in store for next year.

AM – You guys are doing your last tour for 2010, has this year treated you well?
TO – It’s been awesome, we’ve had heaps of fun. We got the album out which got pretty good reviews, managed to support some really good bands and do our own tour which went really well. Got over to China too!

AM – You guys just played in China as part of a cultural exchange, how was the exchange of culture?
TO – I’d never been and I didn’t know much about the day-to-day of the Chinese. The most surprising thing about it was the amount of freedom they have in their day-to-day lives. People associate communism with people not being able to do anything, but in people’s everyday lives there was no hint of it whatsoever. When there’s big events you see the police presence, but everyone’s pretty open to do a lot of things. We had a guy who came with us, an Australian guy living in Beijing who organised it, and he spoke fluent Mandarin. If we didn’t have him with us we would have been in so much trouble. We learnt basic stuff like “ni hao” and whatnot. I learnt how to say “no meat please” because I’m a vegetarian. Sid usually has a lot of banter between songs, but in China all he could do was say “ni hao”. He probably said it like twenty five times a show.

AM – You released Lucille earlier this year, what were the main differences between this album and Oh We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside?
TO – The ‘Seaside’ album was a very personal album, whereas ‘Lucille’ is more of a story. It still has elements of our experiences in it, but the whole thing’s a story about a couple. It’s a little bit more objective, and less emotional than the first album. Musically, the first album was very riff based and heavy, whereas the second one we tried to put more emphasis on melody and put more instrumentation on there.

AM – On your first album, the lyrics related directly to your personal experiences growing up in Apollo Bay, did you feel pressure with your brother and good friend being in the band in how you described events?
TO – Not really, we knew there’d be certain stories which might create a bit of backlash for the people who know about it, so we made a point of not discussing the details of the actual stories. It is dealing with a few different things, and we didn’t want to come out and say exactly what it was, because it’s not an album which is meant to hurt. It was an album which, especially for Sid, was written to deal with things which were going on. In interviews and stuff people wanted to know what it was about, but naturally we couldn’t really talk about it. But I think if you listen close enough you’ll be able to get an idea of what’s going on.

When you guys were making Lucille, I remember you guys being right into Wilco, what bands are you guys right into at the moment?
Pavement is a massive one at the moment. You’ll be able to hear a bit of the influence, I think. We’ve been listening to LCD Soundsystem a bit, but I can’t really see us busting out the Casio’s for this album. Steve Malkmus has got another band called The Silver Jews, we’ve been listening to them a lot too. As well as a lot of Eddy Current, The Drones, Bob Dylan and The Beatles as always. But mainly Pavement. It’s funny, when we were first searching for a band name, we thought “let’s call the band Pavement.” And we looked it up on the internet and saw there was already a band called that, and we thought “it’s probably some shit band nobody’s ever heard of”, and Sid just saw them and thought it was one of the best shows he’s ever seen.

AM – You guys went over to America to produce your first album, whilst your second one was recorded here, how different did it feel recording in America as opposed to Australia?
TO – There’s a little difference in the way that the industry works over there. The producer was really surprised as to how cruisy our label was. They weren’t constantly trying to ring and tell us which songs they wanted. Whereas if it were an American label, there’d be A&R guys in the studio the whole time telling the band to change this or that. Jeff Saltzman, the producer was really happy with that. With the first album, that was the first time we’d been in the studio at length. We’d recorded a couple of EP’s before but never really spent more than a couple of days recording. And so with the second album, we’d had more experience in the studio and so we knew what worked and what didn’t work. We’d like to record the next album quite live.

AM – What does 2011 have in store for you guys?
TO – We’ve got ten or twelve songs together at the moment that we’re going to try and record early next year. The songs are sounding a little more like the first album, a little simpler. But by the time we get into the studio we’ll probably throw thousands of layers on them, who knows. We want to get the album out next year, the songs are coming really easily, and so we want to try and tap into that. With the last album we’d finished recording the songs in March 2009, but the album wasn’t released til March this year, so we definitely want to avoid that.

You can check out the remaining dates and ticket prices of Vasco’s Back From China Tour, including Melbourne this Thursday, on the Tone Deaf gig guide here

-Alastair Matcott