by Mark Anthony Brennan
ID: You’re from Dublin. How did you end up in Toronto?
V: I went to a party and ended up meeting this one guy. He was Canadian. We stayed in touch for a couple of years. Then I was working in Dublin in finance and a gaming start-up. The gaming start-up went down in flames and the finance thing wasn’t doing so great. So I thought, “Get a visa. Do a new start in Toronto for a couple of years and see what happens”. The music was incidental. Vancorvid was not in the cards until I moved, so it just sort of came out.
ID: What’s the story behind the new track “Summon”?
V: What’s behind it is a little dark. When I came up with the idea I was in a really bad place. I had nearly just been deported. What happened eventually is I made a a conscious decision to summon up some grit — to drive yourself out of the house to do the things you need to do. Sometimes people get out of a dark place by calling upon something even darker to give them strength, but it doesn’t give them the right kind of strength. For me, I was trying to come up with something that was strong but not bad. Not particularly governed by “bad” or “good”. That’s why I like crows. They’re just the thing that makes the most sense.
ID: Does the music come in to support the lyrics, or do they come together at the same time?
V: The lyrics tend to happen first. Usually I’ll be feeling a particular thing and the lyrics are a distillation of that. When I start working on the music it’s iterating that feeling over and over. It’s fun to come up with the beats that work with that and take some time. Even the beats for “Summons” there was probably some confusion because the beats are different from the actual melody. I wrote them in two separate parts and combined them. It was trying to find that point at which kind of structure isn’t your friend.
ID: So you start with the lyrics and then go from there?
V: Mostly, yes. Sometimes I will just be working on loops and I’ll put something together. But for me it’s what I express because my phone is in my hand. I can always write. I can always take notes. But I don’t always have access to my violin or my laptop to make beats to produce. So the melody can get a little bit strangled. It doesn’t have a chance to be developed in the point of time. Whereas the lyrics, they’re there. They’re written down.
Sometimes I get a germ of an idea months before the actual piece develops. “Summon” took months and months. It’s based on something that happened to me. I managed to catch a sparrow. Weird story. I was working in a cafe with a big glass roof. The sparrow accidentally flew in and panicked. It did what all birds did, which is batter against the glass to get out. So I had to catch and release. Sometimes you can catch a sparrow in a hoodie. I was thinking about how it would struggle. Because you’ve reached a feeling — of your life, of your experience. That’s where the first lyrics came from — how it [the sparrow] needed something more to help it, which in that case was me.
ID: Is your live performance another creative process again?
V: Yes. It can be because I’m a classically trained violinist so I tend to work with a violin on stage. That’s one difference from my recorded work. I also take whatever I’ve recorded and add layers on top of that. I can hear pieces of melody happening all over the place, so that’s what I share in my piece. I could keep adding and adding and adding, but then I’d break my engineer’s heart.
ID: Do you try for a certain sound, or does it just come naturally?
V: I don’t always know what my emotions are until I pick up a violin. So whatever I’m able to play it is truth. Sheer poetry.
I need the words so that I can have a sort of anchor to show people. One thing that you might notice is that some of the lyrics aren’t in English, they’re in Irish. Every language has its strengths and weaknesses because language is tied to the land. For me it’s understanding that and one of the things I do is collect fairy tales. From every country you get to know about what was important to the people who lived there, the geography, about what they thought was worth passing down by word of mouth, which takes memory, takes work, takes attention. Understanding that means it can inform language.