New Slanged: Kenny Harris & Tori Vasquez of Estelline

Photos by Thomas D. Mooney

by: Thomas D. Mooney

We recently caught up with Kenny Harris and Tori Vasquez to discuss the recording of Estelline’s sophomore album, Vasquez’s recent European tour, and the bands’ upcoming move to Nashville, Tenn. Estelline will be playing this Sunday at Red Velvet Music Festival at Wreckers. Like Estelline on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

New Slang: I guess first off, where are you guys at in the recording process?

Kenny Harris: We’re tracking currently. Just getting all the parts tracked. We’re getting closer. Still have a few things here and there. It’s just a process.

NS: Yeah. About how many songs?

KH: We’ve got about 10 laid down.

NS: This is the second Estelline album. What are you expecting out of it?

KH: I want something that people can put on and listen to all the way through. A real continuous kind of album–nothing that has just one or two highlights. We’ve been really planning it real carefully. I’m really expecting it to be something that we can have before we go to Nashville. It be something we have in hand and something that we leave here with and be proud of. 

NS: As far as differences between the two albums, what have you learned since the first album?

KH: Really, trying to make it flow a little better. Having it move all together instead of piecing it all together. Also, a little bit more mature writing and more mature musically. A little bit more freedom in the recording process with ideas, you know? A little bit more odd things coming into play.

NS: A few weeks back, I was talking to Sean [Troyer] about Westerner and we also talked about recording this album and everything. With him writing, how’s that had an influence and impact on your own writing?

KH: He plays into a lot of it, especially melodically. He helps songs build up and get bigger and get a little wilder at times. He’s real good at that. He’s writing for that (Westerner), but you know, we’ll ask for each other’s opinion. It helps. Musically, it goes better. 

NS: For the people who have the first album, who have seen you guys play the last few years, is there anything new and different that they’ll see and hear? Is there new instruments and sounds that you guys are trying to incorporate?

KH: Yeah, definitely. There’s going to be more organ and we’re going to put a lot more string stuff. And a lot of the songs we’ve been playing–we’ve been playing a lot of new songs–they’re songs they’ve heard, but now you know, now they’ll have them. 

NS: [Turns to Tori] What about you? What are your thoughts so far on the album?

Tori Vasquez: You know, I’m just trying to stick to backup vocal stuff–which is always a lot of fun for me.

KH: She’s going to be playing some violin too.

TV: Yeah. Some of that too. I really enjoy doing backup vocals because he gives me a lot of freedom in that area.

KH: That’s always one of the last things that gets added when you’re recording. Right now, it’s just trying to get all the instruments tracked right. But you know, it’s something that can really make or break a song too (referring to backup vocals).

TV: Yeah. There’s a lot of really, really good songs. You’ve got probably enough songs for another two albums anyway. It’s just deciding what you want to put on this one [laughs].

KH: Yeah, I’m really pulling from a set that’s much larger–there’s a lot more songs. I have probably 40 songs to record, but I’m picking from them. Then the next album, picking from the rest for the next 10 to 15.

NS: What’s going through your head when choosing those songs? What goes into that process? Are you trying to choose song that work well theme wise, sound wise? Or just the “best 15?”

KH: Yeah. Right now, I’ve got enough where I can pick and choose those that flow better together. But then again, you get to where you want to be able to throw people off at that right point. So I can’t say definitely exactly track to track where we’re going yet. A lot of them can be interchanged. 

NS: Is there a song in particular that you can talk about that you’re not only excited to play, but that you really want to unveil to the audience?

KH: Yeah. we have this new song called “Head Up.” It just gets wild all the way through. I don’t want to give it away or say the lyrics or anything. But I’ve been playing it acoustic and it’s been grabbing everyone’s attention. You know I’ve always been focused more on lyrics, but this one, musically it’s just wild. It really has it together both lyrically and musically. Even the wildest tracks from the first album–well, for us, wild–this one is more progressive.

TV: It’s (the album) going to be a lot less contained. I guess compressed in a way.

KH: Yeah, it’s going to a lot more raw. We’re going to do a few live track songs on the album. 

NS: That’s something that gets brought up when talking about new albums with bands. You know, trying to capture that “live” feel in the studio. With you guys, you really can sound better when you’re feeding off the crowd. Have you started figuring out how to capture that live energy in the studio?

KH: You just have to learn–and it comes with maturing. With this second one, the singing is much wilder. Trying to close your eyes and act like you’re fucking singing in front of a crowd.

TV: Exactly. Being in the studio is just so different.

KH: It is so much different because everything is so clean and you can hear everything so well. 

TV: You have to be less in control in the studio, but it’s hard to do that. You’re just stuck in a booth basically singing to yourself.

NS: You guys have a relative set date you guys want to have it released by?

KH: We’re going to try for July–or during July. 

NS: [Directed to Tori] So how was the European tour?

TV: Oh man. It was just insanely fun. I had a lot of fun being able to play every night for 30 minutes. It was great to meet new people and to get a new vibe from new crowds. It was just so cool and different. People are a lot more appreciative over there. I got really good responses and kind of sad I had to come back. I could have stayed for a few more weeks [laughs]. And I learned a lot–a lot about the touring rules.

NS: How big were the crowds?

TV: The biggest ones we had were 400 people. A lot of them were smaller venues… I was just so surprised by how many people were die-hard fans for Blue October there were. The thing about Blue October is that they don’t have millions upon millions of fans, but the fans they do have are really die-hard. There were a few people in the U.K. that went to three or four shows while we were there. They just followed them. It was nice. There was a lot of really nice people. 

NS: You said the crowds were different. More appreciative. Do they sit down and watch rather than casually watch?

TV: Yeah. Most of the time, they would sit down and watch. Even when it was at a bar, I guess there’s always some people talking because they’re getting wasted, but everyone really listened. You could tell–and, I got more nervous that way. This one show in Germany, it was at this auditorium and everyone had to sit down and be quiet and all. That was extremely nerve-wrecking [laughs]. I’d never played a show like that. And especially in front of 400 strangers with no one you know. That was probably my most nerve-wrecking show. It wasn’t my best either, but you learn from stuff like that. You learn how to get through awkward silences. I’m pretty terrible at talking to crowds. It just helps you get through things.

NS: Looking forward–other than the album, what are you guys looking forward to?

KH: Yeah. Just really trying to get this album out. Towards the end of the summer is when I’ll be trying to do some touring around. Right now, I just have to get it out [laughs].

TV: I’ll probably get a new music video out soon for “Painting a Picture.” It’s been sitting around for a while so we’ll get it out there. Hopefully something good will happen by the time we get to Nashville. We have a few feet in the door.

NS: Moving to Nashville, I take that it’s happening [laughs]. When?

TV: Yeah. By August, we will be in Nashville. It’ll be crazy, but you know, right now, there’s nothing more here for us. He’s definitely played at all the places he can here. We’ve done all the biggest things we can do. It’s just time to move on. It’s just part of being a musician.

KH: We’ll always come back and play.

TV: Yeah, of course.

KH: Just trying out a bigger market, a bigger pond. 


6 responses to “New Slanged: Kenny Harris & Tori Vasquez of Estelline

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