VHS Collection Make A Great road trip album

VHS Collection interview with Northern Transmissions by Stephan Boissonneault
Interview with VHS Collection

Music tends to have more of an impact or sound better when you can link it to a time and place. When New York’s alternative indie, synth rockers, VHS Collection, were coming up with the concept for their upcoming album, Night Drive, they took this idea to heart—creating an album perfect for blasting on well, a night drive.

The opening track “The Dark” runs with this theme, featuring a music video that follows a car as it cruises through the fluorescent city streets, under diamond skies, and VHS Collection’s warm anthemic pounding synth choruses.

Ahead of Night Drive’s release, I spoke with the trio that makes VHS Collection (James Bohannon, Nils Vanderlip, Conor Cook) about the concept behind Night Drive, their constantly changing artistic process, and their love of old VHS movies.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Northern Transmissions: Where did the initial idea for creating Night Drive’s concept come from?

James Bohannon: There’s something about being in a car—when you’re in this isolated music box—and during the last couple years, when there was it was tough to get out of the house, the car was always an escape time capsule or time machine that you could jump in and play your favourite tunes.

NT: And as a band, you have obviously gone on a lot of night drives together?

Nils Vanderlip: (laughs) We’ve definitely been spent a lot of time together in various cars, buses, and vans. And the playlists for those experiences are always very important. And we thought, ‘What if we made the perfect playlist for a nice long road trip/night drive?

NT: What was the songwriting process like for Night Drive? We’re you able to meet up as a band during the pandemic?

JB: The three of us did a bunch of writing sessions. So we would sort of take a trip to LA or Nashville, or New York, and we would also write with a lot of great songwriters in the industry that we’ve been fortunate to work with. And on top of that, like we’re always sort of demoing, and exchanging song ideas, individually. Then we sort of share them remotely, which is a big part of the process.

NV: Yeah and with songwriting sessions, you’re trying to get a song idea in like four to five hours and it’s sort of like a sprint. We rented a house in Joshua Tree at one point…

Connor Cook: Did we actually come out with any songs in Joshua Tree or did we spend a bunch of money on a house and blow it?

NV: (laughs) Well the house was almost too cool for work. So it was a lot of us in the hot tub. I think at one point we realized, ‘Wow. Was this just a tremendous waste of money?’

NT: So it was intended to be a songwriting bonanza but turned into a little mini-vacation basically?

JB: Yeah it’s funny sometimes. You set yourself up to write this great song: set up with co-writers who have written a bunch of hits, you rent a house in Joshua Tree, and then, nothing comes from it. But then you could be with some random writer you’ve never heard of and you bang out two songs that go on the record.

NV: It’s like, the harder you try, the worse it is. But at the same time, part of the process for the natural organic part where the magic comes, is kind of letting go.

NT: So during this demo and songwriting process, were there any clear winners you all agreed had to be on the album?

CC: I think the singles “The Dark,” “Survive,” and “Anyway,” which is coming out in a couple of weeks were.

JB: Yeah “The Dark” was just so classic VHS in terms of the sonics and the songwriting.

NT: Your sound has always been very nostalgic for the synth era brought in the late ‘70s early ‘80s. What draws you to that sound?

NV: I think it’s just the time we grew up that has made us like you said, nostalgic for that sound. I don’t think it’s as intentional as it comes across, like attributing it to all bands of the ‘80s, but it’s just something our ears gravitate towards.

CC: I think for us, it was more about trying to have an electronic sound to our music but we wanted it to sound organic. We didn’t want to sound like an EDM act or something like that. So when we started learning how to produce as a band, learning how to write, we started playing around with different production techniques and synthesizers. And it just seemed to kind of work for our music.

JB: Yeah it was all very experimental in the beginning and we would reference bands like LCD Soundsystem, The Killers, and Daft Punk when we were making the records.

NT: Cool. Lastly, I’d love to hear some of your favourite VHS tapes, maybe some you’ve watched together as a band?

NV: The movie Magnolia, the PT Anderson film was a pretty special one that we watched sort of in the cabin. We were huge movie buffs, loved sort of quoting movies love like cinematic style. So the name definitely fits. I think on the tour bus, we were watching Fletch a lot?

JB: Oh yeah. Fletch is a classic VHS tape. Everyone should see that one.

Pre-order Night Drive buy VHS Collection HERE