Interview: Vela Ceras
Earlier in the month, Mind Equals Blown staffer Steve Alcala had the chance to talk to Guitarist Andrew Selkow and Vocalist/Bassist Kyle Talbot of Vela Ceras. Both explained the band’s formation, writing and recording, geometry, their relationship with the illuminati and more.
First thing we’d like to start off with is for readers who may not aware of your band, can you tell us your names and your roles in the band?
Andrew Selkow: Well our band is called Vela Ceras. Our singer is Jack and I’m the beanstalk! (Laughs) Actually, I’m Andrew and I play lead guitar and Kyle [Talbot] sings and plays bass for Vela Ceras.
What brought you all together and when did you decide that you wanted to pursue music together?
Kyle Talbot: Myspace! (Laughs)
Selkow: What brought us together was Myspace. (Laughs) Yeah, no lie, Myspace. We’ve gone through a lot of memories together and stuff and I came about through Myspace.
Talbot: I started the band with my brother. We added a guitarist, or we were trying to and put an ad on Myspace and Andrew responded. Later, my brother quit and that’s when Andrew became the guitarist.
Selkow: Yeah, I had no car. I had to have my uncle drive me! So that’s how that happened.
Talbot: And pretty much since then, we’ve kind of just bonded by really playing music together.
Alright, sounds cool! With that, how did you decide on the name Vela Ceras and is there a meaning behind it?
Talbot: Um, well, initially I just made it up (Laughs) and then found out that it was Spanish for a couple things and they have various other meanings. But it used to be one word and then we split it up when we found out that, according to someone…
Selkow: An unknown source! It means “to start from square one.”
Talbot: Yeah, in some kind of slang.
Selkow: Some kind of slang like from another planet, we don’t really know, but we heard it. It used to mean “Ship of Wax.” That’s what we thought it meant, because we were formerly “The Vela Ceras” and we have a bunch of old crap on YouTube and this stuff before we actually started releasing new music. That was then and when we changed the name we just decided to split it up and then we happened to find out that it meant “to start from square one” which is pretty cool, so that’s what we’re going with.
That sounds like that worked out pretty well!
Selkow: Yeah man!
Well since you have an EP, When We Fold, on the way, I guess we can go ahead and talk about the writing process. How was that?
Selkow: Well, it started once we actually wrote four songs that we had, and we were going to go to Baltimore and record this EP with Brian McTernan, who did Circa [Survive], Senses Fail, [and] HRVRD over at Salad Day. And that kinda got screwed up, he cancelled on us. Well, he didn’t really cancel on us because I don’t want to say that but his schedule got filled up and we already had planned to come up there and we kind of were like “You know what, screw it.” And we trashed all the songs and stuffed them and then we were like, “Alright, let’s make the best of this and write our songs.”
Talbot: A bunch of better songs! So, we wrote four brand new songs, and then we rewrote the last track on the EP from a really old song, like three years old, and then kind of refined the one that we had from the previous EP that we were going to record in Baltimore. And so that’s how the EP kind of came out.
Selkow: Yeah, the first song we ended up recording was “Mind Is A Drought” and we only went with Brooks [Paschal] at Mockingbird [Studios] because our friends, Makari, go with him and say he’s really good. And once we went to him for that one song, we were hooked on him. So we were like, “Let’s do an EP and let’s just continue recording with him!”
Talbot: We recorded two songs on two separate dates and did the other four in like a span of… We were actually supposed to do a full-length but once we found out about us moving to Tennessee and Brooks moving to Texas, we decided to cut it short and make an EP.
Well I think that it would have been awesome if you had worked with Brian McTernan because he’s one of my favorite producers, personally. But the EP came out amazingly anyway.
Selkow: Thank you, that means a lot man. We were pretty excited to work with Brian. He’s great, we love all the stuff he does and it would have been cool, but Brooks is such a genius. He really did us well.
Yeah, definitely. Now as far as the music and lyrics go, was there anything in particular you wanted to achieve?
Talbot: I don’t know, I guess we just wanted to write the best, most reflective, transparent music that we could. I mean, the lyrics are very much based around relationships. We actually all were pretty much were broken up with right before recording it.
Selkow: Yeah, we all became single.
Talbot: So that’s really reflected in the lyrics and then the music is just kind of an honest take on what we wanted to hear out of a record, you know?
Well I think that came across really well. Now going further along with music, there are some bands that I can kind of hear in it but what artists have influenced you guys specifically?
Selkow: All of us are pretty different. I personally am influenced by a lot of softer bands like Phantogram, Portugal The Man and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And I like a lot of really synthy music. And I don’t know about Kyle.
Talbot: Yeah, I don’t know.
Selkow: Well we both kind of listen to the same stuff.
Talbot: Yeah, and bands like, obviously, Closure In Moscow and Mute Math.
Selkow: HRVRD was a big one for this one definitely.
Talbot: Circa Survive, most definitely. I mean we all as a band are very different when it comes to what we listen to and enjoy but we come together under a couple different bands and I think that kind of shapes the direction of some of the songs.
Selkow: I think the first time we ever experimented with synthesizers was with “In Droves.” And that was based around an idea we kind of got from Radiohead. And I mean personally, whenever I was writing my parts, it was more along the lines of Portugal The Man but whenever Kyle was writing his parts, it was more Radiohead and whatever else came into play.
How would you say writing the process is now, after the EP, or how things are now for the band?
Talbot: Man, writing is great!
Selkow: As soon as we got out of the studio, Kyle would sit there and send me short demos, whenever back when we were back in Florida, and we’d check them out and see if we could put something to it and he’d write a whole song and show it to me on GarageBand. But it was never as constructive as when me and him together came up to Tennessee and started. We have nearly 20 songs that are in the process of being written right now.
Talbot: And a good seven or eight that are actually written. And we are kind of going with two separate ideas: a group of songs that are very soulful, and strong, heavy funk music and then another group of songs that are very much influenced by bands like Two Door Cinema Club and Foster the People. Super synthy and dancey.
Selkow: We’re writing way ahead of ourselves. We have the next EP planned out. We’re either going to decide to put the next EP together with the first EP and make it a full length so we just can say, “Hey check out our full length.” Or it’s just going to be an EP and then a year later, or however long we pull off that, we’re going to release the dance album and it’s going to be a full length.
Talbot: At least that’s our plan, right now (Laughs). But yeah, writing is really great. We’re very pleased with it right now.
Sounds awesome man. I really can’t wait to hear it. The dancey stuff too, because Two Door Cinema Club is amazing.
Talbot: It’s not straight-up dance music, that’s for sure. In my opinion, it’s like prog dance? I don’t know. (Laughs)
Selkow: It’s dance music, man.
Talbot: It doesn’t make sense. (Laughs)
Well whatever it is, I’m excited!
Selkow: Yeah man, we’re pretty excited too!
Okay, so you guys keep talking about how you made a move from Florida to Tennessee. What changes does a new location bring and how would you compare the local music scenes?
Selkow: Comparing it to Florida? Well the way I look at it, is whenever I was on my way up here, I was thinking, “Oh yeah Nashville! This is going to be great! The music scene is killer! We’re going to be in the scene of an actual musical town like where there’s plenty of different genres of bands!” And I actually came up here before Kyle did, I was here about a month and a half before Kyle came up, and I went to few shows. I actually went and saw Maps and Atlases. And this is when I realized – not many kids showed up. I remember going to The Social in Orlando and it was sold out. It would be packed. What I realized is that there’s a great show in Nashville every other day. And I don’t think it compares to the music scene down in Florida because once a band comes through Florida, kids just go crazy and go off and the show’s insane. Although, the music scene up here is great. You get the chance to see so many more people than you would in Florida, and I think that’s really awesome. And there’s a lot of free concerts and stuff so we do everything that we possibly can to get cultured and see good bands and see what we’re up against. And I forgot the rest of your question, so you can ask again! (Laughs)
That’s pretty much it! Just that comparison. What I would add to that, is since you guys said that you’ve been getting out more, as far as shows go and different kind of environments with music. Do you think that culture is influencing your writing now?
Talbot: Most definitely, at least for me.
Selkow: I don’t really know what to say about that. I know that it’s different for sure. We’re seeing a lot of different things out there and it’s nice. So we want to write to our fullest abilities and do the best we can because of it.
Talbot: It’s kept us really focused.
Selkow: We’ve actually been shut-ins. We’ve actually been shutting ourselves in with writing and being… those things…
Selkow: Yeah! We’ve been hermits, for sure! By the way, you asked about a concept for the EP, there’s a prism that we have been tying together with everything. It’s a reoccurring object in and on this record. Kyle mentioned it in the song “In Droves,” and it has become a focal point to draw you into a trance. Well, actually it’s not a prism, what is it called? It’s an icosas-hedron something.. Whatever that shape is, it’s that dungeons and dragons one. (Laughs)
(MIND EQUALS BLOWN DISCLAIMER: Andrew had the shape on the tip of his tongue. The shape in question is called an Icosahedron. The more you know!)
Selkow: On “In Droves,” this girl goes into the woods and finds this prism and is drawn in by it. That kind of stuck with us and… I don’t know how to explain this without sounding like a fucking lunatic. (Laughs) But the EP is supposed to take you in, and drag you in.
Talbot: It represents a lot of things, especially in that song. There’s kind of a theme of addiction and sort of how that can kill off a part of you. And the other I guess is being together with people.
Selkow: He’s lying, we’re actually head of the illuminati.
Talbot: Yeah, I’m trying to take your soul.
Selkow: That’s what we’re trying to do, actually. Everything we’ve told you is bullshit, we’re head of the illuminati.
Well, that makes sense. Alright, well you guys have a good day. I’ll let you deal with your illuminati business. (Laughs) Just kidding, I still have a few more questions!
Selkow: (Laughs) Cool!
You guys kind of hinted about live experiences. Are there any interesting stories or things that you want people to get out of seeing you guys live?
Selkow: Like seeing us in concert? I want people to leave inspired. I definitely want to take something with it. You know, we put all of our effort into the live shows. When we practice, we make sure that we have certain things in our live show that we want everyone to see and for them to really be involved. So, that’s a really important part of our shows. I definitely want them to leave inspired and have something to talk about and want to do something similar.
Talbot: For sure.
Going along with that, what would you like to see in the future as far as shows go? Like what would be your dream show?
Selkow: Oh my god.
Talbot: Oh man, my dream show?
Selkow: A lot of balloons, a bunch of lights…
Talbot: A bunch of people!
Selkow: Bunches, just hundreds. Personally, I want to have props on stage, cool props. The prism on our EP, I want a bunch of those on stage, like lighting up and stuff. And we’ve been trying to accomplish that but it’s expensive. But I prefer small shows.
Talbot: My dream show is a bunch of… I really don’t know man, there’s so many things that I’d like at a show! (Laughs) I guess the easiest one would be a bunch of people in a small room, just rocking the heck out!
Selkow: That’s the word! For sure.
Well hopefully that happens soon! Now back to the band itself, what are some challenges that Vela Ceras faces as an unsigned band?
Selkow: I think not being on a label benefits us a little bit but we have to raise every dime ourselves and put it into the band. And we always want the best product, so we don’t ever settle for less. Going on tour is the biggest one though, you know? We’ve never been on tour before. Not having a label and not having a real manager for booking our tours and stuff is weird. We have to do this by ourselves because we’re so fresh to this, to taking this seriously. It’s really stressful and hard but we’re pulling through. But that’s mainly it!
What do you hope the future holds for Vela Ceras?
Selkow: I want to support myself on this band. I don’t want to have to go to school for a while. I want this to be my job. For me and Kyle, and I’m sure the other guys in the band will say the same thing, this is all we want to do with our lives. Like really, we don’t have any other aspirations. I don’t have another passion. Me and Kyle both don’t see us going to school, getting a degree and loving what we do, except for this. I think this is all I can do. And I want to give a message to other kids who listen to our music and other people, that they can do the same thing if they really apply themselves. If they really want to do this, they can, because our road has been pretty fucking difficult. And if we can do it, I sure as hell think they can. That’s all I want really.
Good answer, man. That sounds like a dream come true. Well, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Selkow: We just shot a video for “New Orleans.” That should be coming out in a couple months, we aren’t really sure yet. The editing is going to take a while but we just shot that and hopefully that’s out pretty soon. Also, the EP comes out December 4th. We have pre-orders up on our Big Cartel, along with shirts and a couple other cool things. They’re cheap! And then we have a tour in the spring!