Seminal pop-punk band from the early 2000s, The Movielife, announced their reunion at the end of 2014, and it seemed perhaps frontman Vinnie Caruana would spend some time focused on that project. But that would be very unlike Vinnie. Between The Movielife and chant-along punk band I Am the Avalanche, he certainly has his hands full, but he’s found the time to write and record his first solo full-length too.
On his trip to the UK to promote Survivor’s Guilt we sat down with Vinnie at the Bodega in Nottingham on a very hot May afternoon. Doing this tour solo, it fills the gaps between a short run of Movielife shows. Vinnie describes it as more of a promo tour, with the aim to come back with a full band later in the year.
One thing often wondered is how musicians like Vinnie who have their hands full with not just a lot of musical projects, but very successful musical projects, is how they manage to consistently write for each one. How do you know which project you’re writing for? Vinnie explains, “these things go on in cycles. It is slightly different because when I sat down to write this record for the solo project, I knew exactly what I was writing for. So, there are slightly different nuances and approaches to the solo record.”
As for the main differences, the landscape of the whole record is approached from a different angle he explains, “for this record I wanted their to be peaks and troths. It builds and then the next song will punch you. It’s been constructing a record rather than just writing songs, so it’s more writing songs for a particular purpose.”
Vinnie released his first solo EP at the start of 2013, which was primarily acoustic, but for this record it sees a full band utilised, with Kellen Robson and Brett “The Ratt” Romnes from I Am the Avalanche as well as Steve Choi from Rx Bandits lending their help. He explains “half of the guitar tracks are acoustic, and half are electric, so there is that kind of feel still in there. The electric guitar tones are the same as what you’re used to hearing from me and my bands, though. Not too crunchy or dirty. Tasty rock tones. It’s more of a full band thing.”
Vinnie’s solo shows have become pretty regular now, finding him playing songs from all of his records, but will that change once the record comes out and he’s backed by a full band? “There will be a lot more solo stuff, than Movielife and I Am the Avalanche stuff, but that stuff will be sprinkled in still.”
While The Movielife has just played sold out shows at venues as big as Camden’s Electric Ballroom and Gorilla in Manchester, Vinnie says that he doesn’t find the difference too jarring. “It’s pretty easy to adjust. It’s nice because you’re not doing the same thing the whole time. We had a blast, those shows were so fun, then I took two days off at the beach in Brighton which probably helped. I guess I switched gears a little bit. It’s been beautiful the entire time I’ve been here, and at home it’s been rainy and windy. I’m hoping that it’ll last until I leave, then I can catch it when I’m home,” he laughs.
Despite playing a couple of shows here and there between 2010 and 2011, The Movielife are now back for good after their split back in 2003. Are the shows the same as they were 13 years ago? “It feels different because we approach it differently. We don’t have to tour all the time. This is how it works with The Movielife: this festivals wants us to come and play, and will give us enough money to actually get there… well then while we’re over there we could play some UK shows too. It’s just fun stuff and we love doing it. I think a lot of those songs stand the test of time and we love playing them. People who come to see us have a great time, they’re always smiling in the crowd and singing along.”
A couple of months back the band released their first song since their seminal 2003 release, Forty Hour Train Back to Penn, and Vinnie explains that it came about in the same way as their shows. “We just thought, oh, it’s 2016, why don’t we start writing music so that the set isn’t the same old thing? Then thought we’d also integrate some older songs we hadn’t revisited. We’re happy with the way it turned out. The Movielife in 2016 just feels nice. I didn’t know what it would sound like, but it sounds cool. Me and Brandon are gonna carry on writing now.”
What about reception? “It seems good. It doesn’t sound the same. I was 19 I think when our first record comes out. We’re not gonna write the same pop-punk tunes, it’s for a more melodic rock thing going on. We shouldn’t try to recreate what we did. We’re proud of our records, but we should be proud of new stuff too. I think people who’ve grown with us will probably love it, and people who are still listening to Drive-Thru pop-punk in their mid-30s, I would suggest they expand their music collections a little bit,” he laughs.
With all of this focus on the solo record and The Movielife, what does it mean for I Am the Avalanche? “It’s basically a recreational band. We toured without a couple of our members and it didn’t really feel right. It was just a year and we enjoyed it, but we decided to take a break. Not suspend the band, but just take a step back. Ratt started producing more records, and then I decided to start writing Survivor’s Guilt. I knew I’d be doing Movielife stuff, but I knew twenty shows wouldn’t fill my year.”
That’s not all though for Vinnie who recently started writing songs for other bands at a publishing house in New York. “It’s writing for major label artists who are generally quite young. I write lyrics, come up with melodies and ideas, maybe compose a whole song or assist them. It’s not something I did, I came from the punk scene and I never had the luxury to be put up in hotels and have people help write songs, but it’s just another way to ensure that I’m always around music.”
Survivor’s Guilt came out on May 27th, but it’s been a long time coming. Vinnie started writing for it in the winter of 2014, and finished recording at the end of 2015, so he’s been sat on it for a long time. “I am excited for everyone to hear it now. I have a lot of plans, I’m planning on coming back to the UK with a full-band after my US run, then just sprinkling in Movielife and Avalanche shows. Then besides all that, I’m excited to spend some time at home with my friends and family. I just found out I have the whole of August off, which I’m pretty excited about. August is gonna be my true summer.”