Their debut album is Peace, with a lineup including Garcia, Bjork and guitarist Bruno Fevery. Oliveri appeared on the album, but Mike Dean (Corrosion of Conformity), who also appeared on the album, has been playing live shows with the band. I spoke with Garcia, who gives us the scoop on Vista Chino.
Chad Bowar: You’ve been together for a few years now. When did you decide to start writing new music for what became Peace?
John Garcia: It was about a year ago when I first expressed my will and need and want to fill a void by playing with Brant Bjork and Bruno Fevery and doing another record. Luckily they obliged me and said yes. It just started from there. Brant and Bruno did the majority of the music writing, which gave me wonderful palettes to write my lyrics and melodies along with Brant. It was a very close writing process.
Did Brant produce the album as well?
He did produce it. The whole process of me being back in the studio with Brant again required a tremendous amount of getting to retrust each other. And when Brant said he wanted to produce the record, I trusted him to do it. When he asked me to sing a specific lyric or line, he trusted that I could make this lyric or line my own. That’s how the process began and ended. The end product was the rekindling of the studio and writing process. There’s nothing better than sitting down and writing and talking about a song. I have a line and melody and Brant listens to that line and adds his line and his melody. Sometimes they marry well and sometimes they don’t.
The songs that we presented to one another and to the general public, I think they marry well. There are some reminiscences of Kyuss in there, songs like “Dargona Dragona,” “Adona,” “Sweet Remain” and “The Gambling Moose.” There’s a lot of exploration in there as well. The process was cool, it was rad, and there was an incredible amount of trust going around. I’m very pleased with it.
Everything was meant to sound the way it sounds. Brant had very specific views in regard to the process and not recording on Pro Tools, and we didn’t. It was recorded on 2-inch tape on an old analog board in a studio in Joshua Tree that was built from the ground up. Everything you hear, from the overdriven, distorted vocals to the soft-spoken speech level vocals, everything was meant to sound the way it was meant to sound. It was a very organic record, and a pleasure doing it.
Do you want a lot of feedback or direction from a producer when you’re recording vocals?
Once the melody and the lyric is written, the song writes itself. That’s part of the process, saying ‘I hear this song with a touch of distortion, let’s try it.’ We try all kinds of things, use different kinds of microphones. You hear a very high key song, vocal-wise such as “Sweet Remain,” and then you go down to the lower end, which is more in my comfort zone of “Dargona Dragona” and “The Gambling Moose.”
So the range and the mics I used really spoke to me. A lot of it came from our engineer Harper Hart. He had a lot of ideas that I thought were good. But generally, you do have a pretty good idea of how you are hearing your vocals in a song. Sometimes I get a little anxiety. I’m an emotional guy anyway. I’m a perfectionist, and sometimes it takes a little while. I did eight different versions of “Acidize,” but I finally got one that worked. Some songs will write themselves in an hour or a day, and other songs will write themselves in a month.
The album is being released by Napalm Records. How did you come to sign with them?
A lot of different labels wanted to be involved with us. We wanted a label that had a more traditional type of record deal. The industry has changed drastically. Most importantly, we wanted somebody with a shared enthusiasm. That’s what drew us together. Plus they are not known for the type of rock acts like Vista Chino. But they’ve recently started to branch out. They did Monster Magnet, they did Karma To Burn and now Vista Chino. Overall they have been doing a very good job in promoting it and marketing it. When it does get released, I’m confident they will do a very good job.
You played your first show as Vista Chino earlier this year at Metallica’s Orion Festival. It seems like it has a different vibe than the typical American festival. Was that the case?
It was awesome. It was really cool to be invited by Metallica. It was very fitting. As far as festivals, you’re right. It was a very European-esque type of festival or like Soundwave in Australia. It was fitting because Metallica gave Kyuss our first break. We opened up for them in Australia back in the ‘90s. For the end of Kyuss Lives! it was fitting we opened up for Metallica at Soundwave. So they invited us for our very first Vista Chino show with Metallica. It was an honor and really cool and I can’t thank them enough.
As we speak, you’re on tour in Europe and the album hasn’t come out. How much Vista Chino material are you playing live?
We are playing five songs, half the record. Of course, we are obviously playing the classic, more popular Kyuss songs. It’s a good portion of the set, 5 of 13 songs, and eventually we’re going to be playing the entire record. It’s an exciting time. All the bulls--t has passed, from the lawsuit to other rings of fire we had to jump through. This is really what it's all about, what we're doing now.
I think a lot of people, especially Josh Homme and Scott Reeder, expected us fail, and we didn't. We're here at the other end. This is where we're supposed to be. It just took us a little bit longer to get here, and we're in a good spot. The tour is starting. We're going to be on the road up until the end of next summer, and there's already talk about another record.
We’re all excited. We’ve got Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity on bass, and it’s a pleasure sharing the stage with him. We’re in a good spot.
How did he come to play with you guys?
We’re musicheads. In high school Brant used to draw pictures of Mike Dean on his folder. Basically we were getting ourselves into a bit of a situation where we needed to have a committed, solid bass player. At the time, Nick had a few issues and couldn’t commit. I had somebody in mind, and Brant had somebody in mind. Brant said, ‘Who would be my dream bass player?” and it was Mike Dean. We thought he would be the perfect fit, and our inclination and our feelings and our emotions were correct.
Will Mike still tour with you in North America, or will Nick come back and play shows with you?
I hope that Mike Dean will come back on the road with us. Nick has the unofficial title of always being the bass player for Vista Chino. He played bass on the record, Brant played bass on the record, Mike Dean played bass on the record. It’s always going to be Brant, Bruno and myself. I don’t think this band will ever have a solidified bass player. I think we’re fine with that. Again, I hope that Mike is able to come out on the road with us. He’s certainly a great fit, but we’ll see when that time comes.