By Rachael Bohlander, Contributor, DC Music Live
That’s how long it’s been since Michael Gerner, the force behind gritty, urban blues and rock band, Vietnam, disappeared out to the West Coast, taking the band with him. And he’s been in a submarine.
Well, maybe not technically. But it has been five years since Gerner embarked on his hiatus, and he and the band do refer to their live-in practice space as The Submarine.
So what , you ,might ask yourself, does an accomplished musician/vocalist/songwriter, who reached critical acclaim and success, do during for five years while disappeared?
Here at DC Music Live, we wondered this too. But as luck would have it, we had a chance to catch up with Gerner as he prepared to hit the road with a new six-piece line-up and present Vietnam’s newly release full-length album, an A.merican D.ream.
DCML: Vietnam had been on a long hiatus until releasing the single, Kitchen Kongas, last December, and the new full-length album, an A.merican D.ream in February. How does it feel to be back with Vietnam and getting ready to go back out on tour?
Gerner: Hiatus from the public. It’s been a long workshed period with a handful of projects, including the an A.merican D.reamLP. At this point it’s just great to see them all in fruition and finally be able to present the public with a bouquet of finished pieces.
We just did a short two-week tour down to SXSW and back and it was really amazing. To get out of The Submarine for a bit and see the country, even though a large majority of it was seen in a rearview mirror. But it makes you excited for the bigger tour of the entire united states that’s coming up in a bit.
DCML: During your time away from Vietnam, you were out on the West Coast exploring your interest in ambient analog synth soundscapes. How did your work during that time influence an A.merican D.ream? In what ways is it different than Vietnam’s previous records?
Gerner: We were workin’ on both simultaneously on the West Coast, so there is a definitive conscience bleed over – workin’ towards the concept of makin’ the album a dream sequence.
I would say orchestration is the predominate difference from the previous records. With a larger band it’s brought back earlier influences of minimalism , simply so you don’t step on anyone’s toes seein’ that most of the open space has been taken.
DCML: How do you think you have evolved as an artist and musician between the last album and an A.merican D.ream?
Gerner: Well, I’ve learned to play a completely new instrument in that time. As for how I’ve evolved? I’ll let you know once i get a break to reflect. Ha!
DCML: Are there other musical influences or experiences from the hiatus that are incorporated into the new album and songs? What are they? How do they affect the music?
Gerner: Gavin Bryars’ “Sinking of the Titanic” is a good steppin’ stone of where we’ve been. I think there’s always a rotating cast of influences that creep there way into what you’re doing.
I feel like workin’ on the documentary “fall & winter” had a huge impact on the record – traveling around the country and listening rather then playing.
DCML: What are you listening to now?
Gerner: Right now? Xian is playin’ “Leb’ Wohl” in The Submarine.
DCML: Once the tour is wrapped up, what are your next plans?
Gerner: Well, we’re still workin’ on tour plans. We’ve been lucky enough to start recording songs in various friends’ studios across the country. On this last one we recorded a song at our friend Rick Nelson’s studio in New Orleans. Some very strange things came into play there. And on this tour we plan on recording at our friend Kenny Wood’s studio out in LA, for another new song.
Once done, I don’t think any of us know exactly what our next plan is, but I think moving is in the cards. I don’t want to get too specific, but fans can expect less of a break.
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