If you’re looking for a throwback to the ’70s, indie-psych rockers Vanaprasta are trying to bring you back there. The California five-piece—Steven Wilkin, Collin Desha, Taylor Brown, Cameron Dmytryk, and Ben Smiley—has reinvented its sound over the past three years. After recording its Effie House Sessions on Spotify, the band gained more recognition for its California indie-rock stylings. Vanaprasta has been playing in Los Angeles (and even headlined the popular “It’s A School Night” party) as of late, but plans to make its way to the East Coast to play CMJ this year in New York City.
Vanaprasta hopes to release a sophomore record—a follow-up to its 2011 debut Healthy Geometry—this year. In the meantime, we’re excited to premiere “Flash Flood Warning,” a standalone single featuring the band’s dreamier, ’70s nostalgic sound. The track features gorgeous harmonies with some surf-rock and California allusions. We spoke with Cameron Dmytryk about re-imagining Vanaprasta’s sound, its unique band name, and skipping SXSW.
ILANA KAPLAN: Are you guys in L.A.?
CAMERON DMYTRYK: We’re actually in the studio today. We’re just hanging out and doing stuff.
KAPLAN: I’ve been following you guys for a while, since I heard your Effie House Spotify Sessions. Spotify was starting to get traction, but wasn’t as established as it is now. A lot of bands at that time hadn’t done Spotify sessions, and you were one of the first. How did that come about?
DMYTRYK: I know. Now, so many huge bands do. It was really cool. We actually had met someone who introduced us to Spotify a while back. We did the Effie House Sessions; it was an EP with songs from our debut album. It was the other side of the songs: more stripped-down versions and more acoustic versions. We debuted it with them exclusively, so there were the ads. You could listen to it just there for a month or so. Ever since then, they’ve been really good. After it debuted, other people picked it up. It’s great, because there are so many new ways of distributing music.
KAPLAN: Awesome. Are you guys heading down to SXSW?
DMYTRYK: No, actually. We released a track in January, and we’re doing this one with you next week. We just started to unroll the new material and the overall new image; there wasn’t enough time to make SXSW work this year. We’ve done SXSW so many times, and every year it’s gotten a little denser and more of a drinking festival that Kanye West is playing down the street. It’s gotten a little bit harder if you don’t have the good shows to make a good impression, you’re just a young band spending a lot of money down there. I’d like to go as a fan, but when you see the Paste, Filter, and Pitchfork—all of those lineups, they’re pretty much the same. As a SXSW artist, you kind of know if your time is worth it at this point.
KAPLAN: I understand that. How did you guys come up with Vanaprasta as your band name?
DMYTRYK: We heard it from an Eastern philosopher named Alan Watts. When you’re older, people go into “Vanaprasta,” which means living like a hermit, going out into the woods and using that time to take whatever you’ve learned in your past and apply it into the present, so you can figure out what to do with your life in the future. We chose that name because we all came from different backgrounds, musical preferences and styles. We were very influenced by the past and we wanted to make something more futuristic with everything that’s influenced us up to that point. The name just kind of fit really well. It’s been a hard name to stick by sometimes because we play a bunch of loud clubs and people come up to us and say, “What are you guys called?” We say “Vanaprasta,” and they say, “What?” Then we have to explain it.
KAPLAN: It’s a cool name, for sure. I feel like the explanation is pretty cool too. So, we’re premiering “Flash Flood Warning.” How did you guys come up with the track, and how is it representative of your sound?
DMYTRYK: The idea for it came from our bassist and singer, Steven and Taylor. They were trying to get more psychedelic. The stuff on our new album is deeper into our more psychedelic side and taps into our catchier side as well, depending on the track. This song, we wanted to make a dream-like piece. That was one of the key parts about it. All of the parts came together at once, and it took a lot of stepping back and re-arranging to really make it feel right. It has an airy lift to it, but also has a sense of danger and emergency to it. I think combining those two elements to make you feel safe, but at the same time, you’re not sure if you’re about to encroach upon a nightmare.
KAPLAN: I can definitely see that. How did you decide on “NYF (Numb Your Feelings)” as your first single featuring your new sound?
DMYTRYK: Well, “NYF” went through a lot of changes as well. It was more straightforward at first, but we wanted to approach that one and get a little bit more minimalism into it. We have this stockpile of songs we’re compiling into an album. With that one, we saw it as a catchier number. With our re-emergence after being in the studio for a year, we decided we wanted to showcase its delicate side that follows the Effie House Sessions better.
KAPLAN: You guys definitely put in a lot of work. Who are some of your psychedelic influences that listeners can hear on your new tracks?
DMYTRYK: A lot of new stuff. We sat down before we did any recording or writing after our last album, all five of us in the dark in our friend’s basement listening to Meddle by Pink Floyd. It’s one of those ‘70s albums that are five tracks, and they have so much movement to them. It’s like classical pieces, a 17-minute movement, then there’s an acoustic pop song. It all just moves in one piece. That mixed new tones like anything from Burial to Darkside. We wanted to mix the feelings that ’70s psychedelia had and take advantage of new equipment. We wanted to make something psychedelic with all of the new electronics that are out there now.