Interview with Visions Of Trees

"Er, you got any I.D, mate?"

Visions Of Trees Mixmag mixtape on Soundcloud (click for tracklist)

What is it with people and 90s R’n’B just now? Maybe I’m basing this on a few unconnected encounters involving old TLC tracks at parties/festivals this summer, but a glut of electronica acts seem to be either referencing it in their music, or using it as one of the prime genres in the standard ‘so what are your influences’ interview question.

Visions Of Trees have done it. OK, I mentioned it first, but still. It was obvious. That and trance.

Take Real Lyfe Sucks, which samples Ashanti (yes, that one) and an icy (sexy?) voice which occasionally whispers what sounds like “Ashanti”.

On one level it’s like being in a crappy club – let’s call it Infinities – aged fifteen, sucking glowing blue liquid up through straws and waiting to feel euphoric, like the people already on the dancefloor. But then – a rumbling, low bass drum; sweet, crisp snares; a sense that the entire track is vibrating. They’ve taken two fairly incompatible genres and cemented them together with new bits. Infinities and its carpeted stairs has just melted away, replaced by a disused shed on a deserted industrial estate, possibly in East London, but really it could be Anycity. No carpet – just brick, falling apart furniture and muffled bass you can already hear from the deserted car park, bleak but beautiful at the same time.

I’m sure there was some sort of wider journalistic observation to be made here regarding the resurgence of 90s R’n’B amongst 21-year-old dance fans, possibly drawing up a mock equation involving nostalgia, end of adolescence, UK funky (whether a progression from, or rejection of) and a new type of legal drug on the market being marketed as dog food…

…but I sensed that it was neither the time nor the place so I just asked him some more questions instead.

G.L.I.S.C.O:  Your story is quite inspiring for young producers out there, being picked up by your label very soon after first forming. How did it all come about?

Joni:  We started as Visions of Trees about two years ago. We didn’t know each other before starting the band, but we both felt we wanted to do something different with our lives…

I was in a noise band at the time and had been in punk and metal bands before, but I’d always been into pop music as well, and after meeting Sara it just felt right. We started to play shows at loads of east London dives and managed to get on a few blogs and it just kinda picked up from there. We never really had any massive aspirations to get involved with labels and stuff.

Much is made of you growing up in the Finnish wilderness and how this inspired the band name, as well as the music and image. Firstly, is this true? And if so, how does living in London work for you now, in terms of finding inspiration?

Yeah that’s totally true. It’s a weird one, I’ve always had this love/hate thing with it. Like I always wanted to escape it but I’ve learned to embrace and channel it bit more these days as it’s always gonna be a massive part of me. I’ve never really felt attached to any place so i think I could make this music where ever I go. Same goes for living in London. It just happens to be where I live now but I don’t feel part of any sort of a scene here or anything like that. I’ve always felt quite isolated and detached.

I also read that you also make music for adverts. Is this something to pay the rent, or is it something you enjoy?

That’s a total misquote, I did a few bits for a friend who did some weird viral stuff but it certainly never paid the rent.

From your press shots/branding so far you can see straight away that you have a definite style. Does this come from an interest in fashion, or is it more based on art or aesthetics?

I don’t follow fashion the slightest. I’ve got like one pair of jeans and a fucking hoodie i always wear. We’ve had to do few photo shoots wearing weird clothes that we both kinda despised so I don’t think we’ll ever be doing that again. Sara has got loads clothes I guess. She’s pretty good at packing for tours and festivals though.

Your tumblr reminds me a lot of Wu Lyf. Is this something you’re aware
of (and happy about?) or simply a coincidence?

Oh really? That’s cool, I’m not really sure if I know how to even use it properly so I’ll take that as a compliment.

With the current political and social unrest, there’s something really appealing about the idea of young people making music from their bedrooms on whatever equipment they can find. What equipment do you use, and is this an active choice, or are you just waiting until you can afford the better stuff?

My set up is really basic. I’ve got a piece-of-shit PC I run Cubase on that all Visions of Trees stuff has been recorded with. Live, it’s all hardware as I wouldn’t risk using my laptop live. I’ve never really had any expensive gear but I’d probably get a few new bits if I ever make enough money. I’m not really into technology so I’d need some help with what to get.

A few people have been sneaking accusations of ‘dubstep’ into their reviews, but personally I hear more of an amalgamation of other influences such as chart R’n’B and trance. What’s your verdict on the genre – are you a fan, and do you think it exists in your music?

Yeah, I don’t there’s an electronic act these days that don’t get labeled as dubstep at some stage. I do like some of it but I think the stuff I’m into sounds more like UK garage and grime, although it might be classed as dubstep or whatever. It’s definitely a word that’s been thrown around far too loosely recently. A lot of our new songs have got trance elements, definitely, especially melodically and stuff. Our live set is pretty heavy and dancey, although I’ve never really listened to that much dance music and I’ve never been clubbing or anything.

The 90s R’n’B influence has been cited a few times. What were your favourite acts, and what have you taken from them?

Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah, early Timbaland stuff… There’s tons of amazing modern R’n’B too, and I think it’s a genre that’s been crossing over a lot in electronic music in the past few years. We love how melodic a lot of it is and its energy, but lyrically and emotionally we’re probably closer to post punk or black metal or something.

You’ve labelled your tracks on Soundcloud so far with a range of genres – from deathpop to gothictrance. Are these a bit of a pisstake, or are you genuinely trying to categorise the tracks in a comprehensive way?

I hate when you have to label your own music with a single word so they were just the first stupid thing that popped into my mind at the time.

You’ve established yourselves as one of the key underground names to watch without having released many of your own tracks. What would you say are the main things getting people so excited? Are you feeling confident about the new single and album?

I really don’t know. We’re just kinda doing our thing and not really bothered following what’s going on around us. I’ve always made music on my own terms, not really expecting anyone to listen to it, but if people can relate to what we’re doing and what we’re saying then that’s really amazing. I’m not a very confident person so I never read anything that’s written about us. We are quite excited about our debut album though. It’ll be out early next year.

You’re playing in Glasgow this November with L-Vis 1990 and Azari & III – two acts similarly channelling 90s music. Are you into either of the acts yourself?

I’m aware of them both, I like some stuff Night Slugs label put out and I think L-Vis 1990 is one of the founders? I might be full of shit though. [Don’t worry Joni, you’re not] But yeah, I don’t listen to that much dance music so I wouldn’t say I know their music at all to be honest. Really looking forward to checking them out though.

And finally… Last time we saw you in Glasgow was at Death Disco during a very cold January, and, from the sound of a rather painful interview on, you had a bit of a wet time at this year’s Rockness. How much do you hate Scotland and its weather on a scale of 1-10?

We’ve always actually had a really good time in Scotland and I like cold weather so I’m gonna say 11.

Catch Visions Of Trees playing with L-Vis 1990 and Azari & III at the Arches on Saturday 12th November.

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