“In Spanish there is a word for which I can't find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.” – John Steinbeck, from Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962
When Vacilando began as a vehicle for the solo work of John Shepski, the idea was simple… create an environment where the song could live and breathe in a space of it’s own, expanding and contracting as it’s surroundings (the room, the audience, the mood) dictated. The songs would incorporate ambient sounds and voices from the world around us, but they would also clearly be “songwriter” songs at heart. They would be loosely structured, but structured just the same. Ideally the songs would be performed by a rotating cast of friends and musicians, with the core of the band changing to suit the venue/mood/environment. That concept proved to be short lived. When Juniana Lanning (ambient soundscapes, percussion, vocals) and Chad Lanning (bass, bass synth) joined Shepski for a rehearsal at Fluff and Gravy Studios it was clear that the core of this band needed to be these three musicians. Born of 90’s College Radio and Indie Rock, John’s songs immediately took on new life when they met Juniana’s ambient/experimental leanings and Chad’s classic sensibilities. Joined by Jason Montgomery (pedal steel) and featuring Sharon Cannon (violin), the band is set to release their debut album, While They Were Dancing (Fluff and Gravy Records), on July 17, 2015.
At it’s heart, While They Were Dancing is slow and atmospheric, breathing deeply with vast empty spaces underneath heart-in-hand lyrics and a humble delivery. The band is fond of describing their record alternately as Bummercore or Bleak Midwestern Soundscapes, but just when the listener is drawn in and seemingly transported to another time and place, the band brings them crashing back to earth in a sonic explosion of screaming guitars and feedback. The music feels at once nostalgic and timeless, all while remaining grounded in the present.
In the end, Steinbeck’s description may sum the band up perfectly. In Vacilando’s world, the songs are indeed going somewhere, but they seem to be in no hurry to get there. Sometimes it’s enough to simply enjoy the ride.