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10 Questions: VHS Collection

A smooth blend of alternative rock and electronic pop.

Cece Starkman

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Learn all about the NYC-based trio that is VHS Collection!

The New York City-based band known as VHS Collection can be best described as a smooth blend of alternative rock and electronic pop (or as my go-to music choice when I’m driving through town on a sunny day).

The band consists of Conor Cook, James Bohannon, and Nils Vanderlip, who all have played music with each other for most of their lives. On top of kicking off a tour in 2019, the band also released a new single, “Dreaming,” in February.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Cook, who told me all about their origins, musical influences, and their 2019 Retrofuturism Tour in this edition of CMN’s 10 Questions

CS: All right. So to start off, is there a story behind the name VHS Collection?

CC: So basically we were trying to think of our our band name. We’re doing a lot of writing sessions and practice sessions in upstate New York and there were all these VHS collections at these houses. And yeah, we got to talking about them and the name just kind of came from that. Basically you know, we kind of grew up in it, in the VHS era. It was a big part of our childhood. So it just kind of clicked.

CS: Who would you say are your biggest influences when it comes to making music?

CC: I would say it’s quite different for each of us in the band. First of all, I would say I personally have a super eclectic taste in music and I’m a music obsessed person, but I’ve gone through so many different phases and I love so many different genres. So you know I grew up kind of listening to Sublime and Rage Against the Machine and a lot of like hip-hop stuff. Wyclef: The Carnival was like one of my first favorite albums. Then I  kind of got into jam bands when I was in college and I started playing instruments. Then I was really into the band Phish and then I was really into electronic music. I produced electronic music as well so I’m super into that genre. I think like for direct influences on the band,  I mean you know we love Daft Punk we love Phoenix, M83, Two Door Cinema Club; a lot of kind of European, electronic kind of alternative-rock bands. We like The Strokes,  LCD Soundsystem too. 

CS: If you didn’t pursue music where do you think you’d be right now?

CC: Probably working a corporate job like everyone else. I mean I used to have corporate jobs; I prefer doing music. I was somebody who did music on the side for a lot of years and then kind of transitioned to doing it full time when I could. 

CS: What was the first concert you ever went to?

CC: First concert I ever went to… I saw The Roots in New York.

CS: What genre would you say best encapsulates your music?

CC: It’s alternative rock. I mean I would say it leans a little bit on the electronic side of that but I would say it’s alternative rock. It’s a mix you know, it’s a band. Guitar, drummer, bass and what not, but we program a lot of stuff too. We do a lot of stuff on the computer, we have a lot of synths.

CS: What are you most excited about for the Retrofuturism tour?

CC: We are excited to go play a bunch of new markets and meet lots of fans. We were always just amazed when we show up at some new place we had never played before and people knew the words to the songs. And you know sold out shows are the preferred types of shows so we’re excited for those. Plus we’ve never been on a bus before. I’ve always driven ourselves and this is the first tour where we’re just gonna be on the bus all the time so hopefully it’ll be more pleasant for us.

CS: I love your song Sign, what was the inspiration behind it?

CC:  It’s about the feeling of having a strong connection with somebody and realizing that its difficult to replace. It’s kind of about “Yes” signs and, you know it’s funny, weird little things happen every now and again and you’re wondering if it was a sign. I feel like a lot of people we talk to have stories like that, you know?  Where I was I was sitting there like looking at the stars and I was thinking to myself “Show me a sign sign if what I’m thinking is right or wrong.” It’s weird but we feel like everybody has those feelings. We all have stories like that. It’s about New York and L.A. the half way out of New York line is one that kind of rings true to us because we’re always halfway out of New York.I mean I feel like a lot of people when they grow up they leave places and its just kind of about all that. 

CS: Do you have a favorite song to perform?

CC: I like “Ghost” a lot. I like playing “Late Night” a lot too because that’s such a chill song, and its very easy to play and kind of just sounds good. I’ve been enjoying playing “One” a lot lately.

CS: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

CC: A couple of beers.

CS: What is one thing that you want people to know about VHS Collection?

CC: I guess that we are an independent, self managed band. We get ourselves from the beginning and we never get a label and that’s created a lot of problems but it’s also created a lot of benefits. Now we’re in a position where we’re getting to the point of being known. So being independent is actually starting to be on our side. It’s just it’s cool that we’re not the only artists in this situation. Theres lots of artists who do this now it is really built off of platforms like Spotify connecting us to the fans and then the fans engaging and supporting the music. So we’re going on tour because people have been listening to us on Spotify, and because people are buying tickets, and people are going to buy t-shirts that’s going to pay for the tour, and that’s going to pay for us to make more music. You know of course maybe part of us would like to have a million dollars to make videos, but we’re able to be a band and get traction without that.

VHS Collection is on tour through March 23, 2019- see all the dates here.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Cece Starkman is a senior art student at The University of South Carolina with a passion for live music and photography. After growing up only a train ride away from NYC, she hopes that her creativity and determination will bring her back to a big city after she graduates from college. Cece’s love for concerts and cameras is only matched by her love for The Killers and her dog, Cleo. In her spare time you can find Cece hogging the aux cord or planning her next trip to Bonnaroo.

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