VIAL take a pickaxe to the patriarchy in upcoming punk rock album ‘LOUDMOUTH’
Photo credit: Awa Mally
With the release of VIAL’s sophomore album ‘LOUDMOUTH’ just around the corner, we caught up with the band and share a sneak preview of what to expect ahead of the 30th July.
“NOT A GIRL BAND” the Minneapolis-based quartet proudly brandishes across their Tik Tok account where they boast a hefty 121,000+ followers. Comprising of vocalist and keytarist Taylor Kraemer (she/they), bassist Kate Kanfield (they/them), guitarist KT Branscom (they/them), and drummer Katie Fischer (she/they), it’s clear from the get-go that these punk rockers aren’t here to fit any moulds.
“Our goal is to break all of those preconceived notions and make music that we want to hear and that no-one has really ever heard before. A lot of the energy we put into this band is focused on deliberately ignoring any preconceived notions of what our band should sound like, look like, or act.”
It’s been two years since the release of VIAL’s debut LP ‘Grow Up’ back in 2019 and, as we’re all aware, the world looks a little bit different since then. In anticipation of the new record, the band has had to adapt to a concert-less era by turning to the modern medicine of social media as a tool to connect with fans and new listeners alike. The one silver lining the pandemic has afforded, however, is a much slower pace of life: “the pandemic allowed us to take a lot of time with these twelve songs and really sit on them, demo them out, and continually add to them which really helped us mature our sound following ‘Grow Up’”.
Whilst ‘Grow Up’ was a coming of age album centred on self-discovery, the band’s upcoming follow up, ‘LOUDMOUTH’, serves as its more mature but still angst-ridden older sibling. ‘LOUDMOUTH’ is an extension of the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, but brings with it the confidence of character and self-expression that teen years rarely seem to afford, cementing the idea that’s been lurking in the air for some time now; 20s are the new teens.
The band themselves affirm this: ‘“LOUDMOUTH’ feels like a grown up ‘Grow Up’ for us. The word ‘loudmouth’ itself means someone who is outspoken and insistent on their own value and voice. Naming this record ‘LOUDMOUTH’ feels like a reclamation of so many things we’ve heard to describe us as a band and folks like us: unapologetically loud and proud.”
VIAL were kind enough to grant us an early listen, so here’s what you can expect ahead of ‘LOUDMOUTH’’s release.
‘LOUDMOUTH’: the preview
The record kicks off in full speed with the ruthless snarls of ‘Ego Death’, luring the listener in with a playful circus-like intro before exploding into punchy upbeat drums and guitars that support the ringmaster, in the form of lead singer Taylor, as they welcome us to “the best show in town”.
On the inspiration behind the song, VIAL shared that the circus ringmaster idea came about from “the absurdity of the power dynamics we experienced while playing live shows before the pandemic. Pre-COVID, we were still a baby band, and we allowed a lot of people to take advantage of us because of their seniority. ‘Ego Death’ is about taking the reins and the power back to yourself.”
“Liar! Liar! Gaslighter!” can be heard underpinning the track throughout, as the lyrics are explicit in their intention of taking the subject of the song “down a peg or two”. As the outro fades on a kerfuffle of menacing giggles, it’s clear that we’re witnessing the public execution of somebody’s ego alright.
This strong sense of holding manipulative behaviour to account is persistent throughout ‘LOUDMOUTH’, and none more so than in the track ‘Roadkill’. The bassline is groovy yet predatory, sneaking up on the melody like a hunter on the prowl, whilst Kraemer’s vocals are almost sung through bared teeth, enjoying the thrill of the hunt. ‘Roadkill’ is refreshingly unsubtle and firm on its stance on abuse in the music industry: “I can’t stand your condescending tone when you talk to me, and every other woman in the scene…men like you exploit others for the benefit of your own self and your scummy businesses”.
As the first release off of the album, the song is a not-so-veiled threat to run abusers over with a car as VIAL play with the idea of taking consequences into their own hands: “we wanted the first single we put out in over a year and a half to represent our values as a band and to be a punch in the face to anyone who misrepresents those values we hold. ‘Roadkill’ goes insanely hard, it is punk, it is fun, it is angry, it is cathartic, and it is a big screw-you to people who hold power and control for their own gain and who rain hatred and abuse down on the communities they’re in.”
‘Violet’ serves as a soft grunge fairly-lights-around-your-basement palette cleanser that showcases the band’s musical range, before the immediate high energy roars of ‘Planet Drool’. Opening with a Bikini Kill-inspired playground chant in which the band seemingly relays off some of the insults they’ve received – “You’re not punk! You’re not queer! Nobody even wants you here!” – the track is one big middle finger to said detractors.
“People try to put us into a box when it comes to genre and how we sound. Although being more online since the pandemic has led to more people voicing those preconceived notions on how we “should” sound, we’ve kindly dedicated the intro chant of ‘Planet Drool’ to everyone who tries to diminish our art.”
What follows is a punk powerhouse of a song with explosive instrumentals and intimidating vocals that exude confidence in every syllable. ‘Planet Drool’ reaches its pinnacle towards the end as the frustration reaches breaking point in the form of a blood-curdling scream, and back and forth yelling between the band members like one big riotous pendulum. Ultimately, it’s VIAL who has the last laugh: “we will never play by your rules”.
‘Mr Fuck You’ is a venomously angry heartbreak song, but in this reality there is no crying on your bedroom floor, only the realisation that you’re better than that (and them). ‘Something More’ and ‘Thumb’ juxtapose this with airy pop leanings, acting as breathers from the chaos. Interestingly, there is a noticeable difference in tone between the songs where the band focuses on their own flaws vs others’, with the former encased in softer and lighter melodies whilst the latter are often angrier and more vengeful. The band is understandably much gentler when talking about themselves.
‘Piss Punk’ sees the return of the angst with the marching drum beat fully picking the pace back up. “Look at me I’m better than you!” rings out so innocently yet matter-of-factly, it’d be hard to refute. The track is entertainingly unpredictable, with tempo changes so extreme it’s almost nauseating. If there’s one thing VIAL does well, it’s being able to convey the mood through the instrumentals alone.
This is followed by a call to action in ‘Therapy Pt II’ to “get therapy” in response to toxic masculinity, before leading onto ‘Vodka Lemonade’. When you take away the music and the attitude, VIAL is just a band of early 20-something year olds, and ‘Vodka Lemonade’ is a reminder of the innocent awkwardness that comes with this. Serving as a vulnerable confession of being anxious at parties and wanting to go home, Taylor conveys these relatable intrusive thoughts through a deceptively happy staccato vocal delivery.
The single is then rounded off by an unexpected trumpet solo: “the trumpet in ‘Vodka Lemonade’ is one of our favourite parts of the album…as soon as it was added, the whole song came together perfectly. I [Katie] knew the trumpet player, Beatrice Lawrence, from my high school band. I thought her background in jazz might add something special to the solo, and Beatrice absolutely shredded it.“
‘Addict’ and ‘21’ draw the album to a close as a reminder of the band’s youth, and the highs and lows that come with navigating this in a time of life where you’re still finding your place in the world, but accepting it as part of the process.
What to take away…
All in all, ‘LOUDMOUTH’ is an eclectic body of work that shows VIAL for what they are: an outspoken bunch of loudmouths unafraid to deliver some hard truths, challenge toxic masculinity, and maintain a firm stance on accountability – all whilst kicking any preconceived notions you might have of them to the curb. ‘LOUDMOUTH’ is a fun yet confrontational punk rock record that dissects the status quo and acts as a testament to the foursome’s growth as a band.
What does the band themselves hope you take away from ‘LOUDMOUTH’? Well…
Kate: “I hope that people take away 12 songs that they enjoy, one or two that can make them go completely feral, three or so that they can scream in the car with their friends and the general feeling that you can and should be who you are, unapologetically, and loudly.”
KT: “I want fans to hear ‘LOUDMOUTH’ and take away anything they desire. However people interpret the album is fine with me. If they hear the album and find it to be a good angry album to scream along with, then that’s wonderful. If they hear it and relate to it being a sad but upbeat look into early adulthood and the struggles that come with it, then that’s also amazing.”
Taylor: “I hope people take away from the album that they can speak their mind and insist on their truth, but honestly I’m just happy if people take this record and have fun with it this summer. It’s angry and rebellious, and I hope people hear the love that was put into this album.”
Katie: “Honestly, I just hope that people love the album as much as we do. So much love and work was put into the album not just by us, but by all the people we’ve worked with. Hopefully people will be able to feel that effort and resonate with it. I think there’s something on this album for everyone, and I can’t wait to hear what people think!”
‘LOUDMOUTH’ drops on the 30th July under Get Better Records: pre-order HERE.
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MR FUCK YOU
THERAPY PT II