Having been in bands like Quicksand, Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Rival Schools, Walter Schreifels doesn't have anything left to prove. But rather than just sitting back, he started another band called Vanishing Life along with Zach Blair (Rise Against), Jamie Miller (…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Bad Religion) and Autry Fulbright (Trail of Dead). Their debut album, "Surveillance", will be out tomorrow via Dine Alone Records. But today, you can already read this email interview we did with the man.
PRT: Usually when people describe a band as a “supergroup”, its members are quick to dismiss the term. But I read somewhere that it was Autry who came up with the idea to start ‘a supergroup’. What does that term mean to you personally?
Walter: Seems to me it's a lazy way to describe a band, kind of a put down in the form of praise, it's not like we were in Led Zep or something. That said we do benefit from our past experiences and reputations so it's somewhat understandable. My view is that we've got a kick ass band with great songs and cool musicians that I like to play with. In this day and age it behooves a musician to be creative as possible and take chances, for me VL is an expression of that idea.
PRT: Vanishing Life got its start at Groezrock back in 2013. At the time, what did you think the chances were there would ever be a Vanishing Life full-length?
Walter: Chances were small at best. The way I understood it, it was meant to be more of a collective effort with multiple singers, less a traditional band. When things are like that it's like herding cats, me included, as a cat.
PRT: What is it that made you want to be a part of Vanishing Life?
Walter: Autry and Jamie rule, great guys and awesome musicians, seemed not a lot to follow through with a vocal. I wanted to rise to the occasion. I didn't have an expectation or ambition going much further than that though so I'm psyched to have this record come out, unexpected and great.
PRT: And on that same note, how does Vanishing Life compare to other bands you have been in?
Walter: It's more in line with my early HC work, that said it's a very modern take. That's how I approached it anyway, like how can I be in a HC band now and be my current self, rather than a nostalgic look at the formula. I'm happy with how it turned out and wouldn't have done it on my own had Autry and Jamie not asked me to check it out.
PRT: I read you recorded the 7” in two days, not even having played together in the same room before. Did you tackle the full-length with a same kind of blitzkrieg attitude? Or did you take your time for “Surveillance”?
Walter: Yes, pretty much, it's been hurry up offense the whole way. While I appreciate having time to develop sounds and aesthetics, there's something to be said for just doing stuff in the shortest time possible, questioning the process less. It's more like the approach I had when I was first starting, still in school and money to pay for rehearsal was scarce.
PRT: The album cover has a lone wolf on it. Do you see Vanishing Life as a lone wolf? Or am I reading way too much in it?
Walter: Besides just being a strong image, to me, the wolf represents the natural world being overtaken by the modern, paranoid and digital world that humans created and falling victim to ourselves. We invented nuclear weapons, global warming and FB, which will one day destroy the world. The lyrics are about finding humanity, life, love and joy in the confusion and fear in the cloud of our modern anxieties. This is even more important now Trump is going to lead the free world.
PRT: You released a 7” back in 2014 and if I’m not mistaken, it was Autry and Jamie who wrote those songs. Did they write the songs on “Surveillance” as well or is the album more of a collaborative effort?
Walter: Jamie wrote the music for the first two songs, I wrote the lyrics. Jamie continued to write music though I wrote a few songs as did Zach. I wrote all of the lyrics. There was collaboration in the arrangements and individual voices are certainly heard. The demos were very bare for this reason, so that we could all have fun in coloring them in.
PRT: With all of you being involved in different projects and not living in the same city, I can imagine it’s not always easy to get things done. Is there one person in the band who is the engine that keeps it all going? And if so, does everyone else have a specific role in the band as well (other than the obvious one)?
Walter: Autry is the main point of communication though we're all in touch. It was Autry that proposed the band to me in the first place so he naturally continued that admin role. That said everyone participates and has carried their weight and others weight where necessary, there are no passengers in VL.
PRT: I think Vanishing Life marks the first time for you to be onstage without a guitar. Did that take some getting used to?
Walter: That was the challenge to myself. I played guitar on the album but told Autry straight away I wanted to be the front man. Not for the glory but so that I won't have to bring a guitar to the airport for once, an extreme luxury.
PRT: Once the album is out… will there be plenty of touring? Possibly a show at the festival where the band started?
Walter: We have a tour in the US starting Friday, I'm very excited to tour now especially with Trump coming into office. People are shocked, crying in the street. I want to give people something to get their minds on something else, hopefully regroup. I looking forward for the chance to scream in public.
PRT: One last question… I’ve been hearing talk of your second solo album since 2011. Is “Jesus Is My Favorite Beatle” ever going to come out?
Walter: Yes, near complete, to be released when you least expect it. I've got two records in the cue already!