Photo Credit: Anita Louise Photography
INTERVIEW: Vanishing Shores
Hi Kevin, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I am doing very well. I am in a very exciting time of creativity in my life. Thanks so much for reaching out to talk about the music and the future of the band.
Can you talk to us more about your song “In Between”?
‘In Between’ was the first song written for this project and it really sets the emotional tone for the whole EP. As I was writing the song I didn’t have a specific idea or individual in mind, but as the weeks progressed I really came to view this song as being written for Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip. But even though it is as an emotional reaction to his passing, the song is also universal in its tone and focus. A lot of our life seems to be caught in extremes, both extreme longing and disappointment. We rarely seem to be able to get to the middle ground or ‘center’ in our lives. This is not to say that the extremes are not important, they are, but there has to be something more than that in order for us to really experience love and friendship. Through it all the goal is connection. I want to live a life that ultimately ends in the reality of knowing and being known, not in disconnection or the feeling of remaining a ‘stranger’ to the ones I love.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
I have had some preliminary talks with a filmmaker friend about doing a number of live videos for tracks from the album, so we are definitely heading in that direction. Video has an almost limitless potential to bring out different feelings for a song and so I would love to explore that side further in the coming months.
The single comes off your new self-titled EP – why naming the record after yourself?
The idea to start a new project and name it Vanishing Shores came about through conversations with a friend who suggested that I record some songs on my own, just to be able to get more songs released and to play some solo shows. This sounded like a good idea, but I didn’t want to be a ‘singer/songwriter’ type. I don’t like the idea, personally, of going out under just my own name. I like the idea of being in a band. I like the community aspect of it and the shared purpose that being in a band brings. However, I also wanted to do something that was completely apart from my other band. So even though Vanishing Shores is a solo project, I view it more as a musical collective, where I can have friends come and go in their participation in the band, but also feel like they are still intimately connected to the songs. Vanishing Shores, for me, is all about connection or the attempt at least to connect with the listener in an honest and vulnerable way. The name itself is meant to evoke the image of the boundaries and the things that keep us apart disappearing. Our very moment in history is one that is in desperate need of relationship, with each other and so much more.
How was the recording and writing process?
The one rule I had going into this project was that I could not use any song associated with the other band I was in, even if I had only sent the guys in the band a demo of it. So although I already had a backlog of unreleased songs that I could have drawn from for this collection, I wrote an entirely new set of songs that I knew would only be used for Vanishing Shores. Without thinking thematically, I think they just started to develop that way. The order of the songs on the album is the order in which they were written, except for ‘Always’ which was added at the very last minute because I thought it was a good ‘pop’ song for indie radio. However, even that song seems to fit into the larger context in a way that I would not have been able to plan if I had tried it from a more logical and less emotional standpoint.
When I had originally envisioned recording these songs, I thought they would be a more lo-fi, DIY kind of production. I figured that I would play the majority of the instruments and just have Dave Douglas (of Relient K) add his drums. As the songs began to develop, I realized that I just wasn’t up to the task of doing it myself and to do so would be a disservice to the songs themselves. Therefore, I asked Dave Douglas to really shepherd the whole project to completion, ensuring the best possible outcome.
What role does Cleveland play in your music?
That is a very interesting question. I have lived in the Cleveland area my entire life, but I never really took a lot of time to reflect on what that means to me as a person and as a writer. Over the last couple of years where I have had the privilege to interact with a number of other musicians in the local community, I have come to realize that we are all united by a certain restless ‘hunger’ for more. Now I don’t think it is a feeling that is entirely unique to the Cleveland area, but I do think it in many ways defines the re-birth that has been occurring in the community over the last number of decades. Going back to Gord Downie for a moment, he once said that “a great song’s greatest attribute is how it hints at more.” That is what I wanted with this collection of songs, to ‘hint’ at something more and I think that is directly inspired by the way the community around me continues to pursue that through not only art, but through relationship building as well.
How has Neil Finn and Elvis Costello influenced your writing?
From the earliest age I can remember, I have been a huge lover of The Beatles, both as a unit and their solo work. I can remember at 11 years old, waiting in line to get tickets to see Paul McCartney at the old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland. It was at this time that I also first discovered Elvis Costello through his short songwriter partnership with Paul McCartney. I know this phrase is overused, but that discovery literally changed my life. Now obviously Elvis is untouchable in his songwriting ability, but it wasn’t just the words he used but also the way he would sing a phrase. He is a vastly underrated singer and that style of singing and use of melody continues to be a source inspiration to me. In regards to Neil Finn, he is simply without a doubt one of the best pop songwriters of all-time. He also has the rare gift of being able to be vulnerable and yet universal in his lyrical approach within a song. I find his influence in many songs on this EP where I wanted to be personal but also draw the listener into the story and hopefully have their story become a part of my own as well.
What aspect of your life did you get to explore on this record?
Have we ever been in a time that has pulled us more to distraction than the present? We are continually assaulted with images and technology that seem to desire nothing less than total and complete superficiality in every aspect of our life, and yet the thing ‘we need the most’ is right there in front of us waiting to be recognized. I wrote a number of these songs influenced by a memory of a concert I attended where I was deeply affected by how many people were there but how distant and disconnected everyone seemed to be from one another. I can spend large portions of my day unaware of the beauty and the wonder that is around me. I wrote these songs as a warning to myself, first and foremost, to not just laugh it off but to seek connection and true engagement with those around me. To seek to truly listen and become a part of another person’s story. To stop worrying about the damn screen and who has ‘liked’ a certain post or song and instead to try and love, in all of its complexity and messiness, those who are a part of my life. I want to be truly present and not lose the gift of the moment.
Any plans to hit the road?
We are currently in the beginning stages of planning shows for the next year. I would like to set-up a number of 2 week ‘mini-tours’ to hit as many of the key markets as possible. I feel as if these songs are just beginning to come to life and performing live is the best way to do that for me. The connection with the listener is always the most fulfilling part about songwriting and performing for me.
What else is happening next in Vanishing Shores’ world?
Our next step is just bringing these songs to as many people as possible in the coming months. I am looking forward to the journey these new songs have provided for me. It is an exciting and challenging time and a moment I don’t intend to waste.
Following Suckers’ demise in 2012, Pan began a new project. Reverting back to his love …