Words by Emily Katherine Lozeau
“Everything we do has art in it,” Vacant Lots front man Jared Artaud says.
The band formed in the summer of 2008 after Artaud moved to Burlington from California. With just a bag filled with songs, a suitcase and a guitar, he started looking for other musicians to join him, and found Brian MacFadyen.
The style of the Vacant Lots, at first listen, is reminiscent of the Velvet Underground, with deep, fuzzy guitar licks, or perhaps the White Stripes, with a bluesy sensibility. But Artaud says for inspiration, “I’m influenced by the sitar, the guitar, the Native American drum and Bo Diddley, The Stooges, The Doors…”
Artaud also lists surrealist writers like André Breton, artist Salvador Dalí, Mark Rothko, and avant-garde musician and amateur mycologist John Cage as key influences on their style and his writing. “We’re minimalist psychedelic art.” And with long-winded guitar progressions and booming drum beats from MacFadyen, occasionally interrupted by shoegazey vocals, this is certainly an accurate statement. The Vacant Lots logo and the projections that are displayed behind their live performances speak to that aesthetic. “It’s a deliberate choice to use black and white…through the darkness we come to the light.” Artuad says peering through black sunglasses. “You don’t need many chords to make a good song.”
Seeing through the darkness is a constant theme in the Vacant Lots music. “Music stirs me…if executed correctly music can be healing, it can be medicine.” Artaud hopes that his music can have that affect on listeners. The Vacant Lots music is powerful because it is not deliberately trying to force ideologies on listeners, you can interpret it to fit your own life. Lyrics are purposefully ambiguous and the melodies trance-like. “I don’t come up with it,” Artuad says, “it’s my subconscious, and it’s open, filling that gap with light.”
Another important aspect of the Vacant Lots music is giving people the power to feel good. On the ironic title of their second album, According to the Gospel, Artuad says, “I reject religion, I’m going at religion. I’m giving you something else to believe in. I have faith in art.”
The duo is currently working new material. For the two, the process is always changing. “I never feel content, satisfaction is temporary, “ a new album means a new form of expression, “It’s a constant state of evolution, once you feel like you got it, you know, you start all over again, it’s alchemy to me…I document what I’m going through, I read my records like a book and learn a lot about myself.”
And with that continual state of evolution and learning propelling them, the Vacant Lots will be making music for some time to come.