Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Nick Braren Of Vandemonian

Artwork for ‘Xenophilia.’ Courtesy of Vandemonian.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

With members from the United States, Australia and Germany, progressive post-rock trio Vandemonian aren’t afraid to embrace their diversity and that’s shown in their music, the latest example being their new full-length album ‘XENOPHILIA,’ which they produced, recorded and mixed themselves.

With a sound in similar vein to bands like PG.Lost, Sleepmakeswaves and Her Name Is Calla, Vandemonian has shared stages with the likes of God Is An Astronaut, Low and Staghorn.

The Music Bugle had the chance to speak with band member Nick Braren about ‘XENOPHILIA’ and more.

Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name? 

Nick Braren – Vandemonian is derived from the colonial name first given to Tasmania by Europeans. Until 1856, it was called “Van Diemen’s Land,” named after the Dutch Governor at the time. As a descendent of European settlers and being an ex-Tasmanian living in Europe, I felt the name tied me back to my roots. The history of Tasmania, like all colonial stories, weren’t very positive for the aborigines with European illnesses, war over land and resources and essentially outright genocide, yet it is our history, and recognizing the mistakes of past generations and owning up to them is an important part of reconciliation. Although we have no songs about this specifically, ‘XENOPHILIA’ is about recognizing the right of every human to live where and how they wish without anyone encroaching on their freedom or basic human rights. 

Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your debut album ‘XENOPHILIA’? 

Nick Braren – A long and arduous process. We started recording in 2018, with live tracking in a studio space in Hamburg. We carted in all our gear and recording equipment and had all tracks done over the weekend. As an audio engineer, I was solely responsible for the album production – tracking, editing, overdubs, mixing – all the while playing guitar, vocals and piano. It was a conscious choice to take the reigns, but there were times when I doubted whether or not it was ultimately a good idea! Writing, playing, singing, recording, editing and mixing an album by yourself is a lonely process and you are constantly battling the “not good enough” feeling while nursing your baby into existence. I’m glad it’s all done now though!

Music Bugle – What made you guys want to put out “Razumikhin” as a single? 

Nick Braren – “Razumikhin” is a track that just gets going right from the start. We felt it would be good to kick off the promotion of the album by releasing something that instantly got a listener’s attention. No slow buildup intro, just “here I am, look ‘ere!” During casting for our new bass player, we let the guys choose which song they wanted to play with us first up. It was almost always “Razumikhin.” For an instrumental, it’s a bit of a crowd-pleaser.

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Nick Braren – No doubt. Who hasn’t been? It’s been a difficult year, we haven’t played live, haven’t jammed much, but on the upside, I’ve completely renovated my cellar space into a studio and we finally got the album finished, so we can’t complain. We all still have our jobs, but there are many who have had their entire existence decimated. Artists and musicians and small businesses have been the worst hit. We’re kind of “lucky” not being reliant on an income as musicians “yet,” but things have got to go back to normal soon.

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape? 

Nick Braren – I live on the edge of Hamburg, 500 metres down the road the city ends and the fields and forests begin. There are many good walking tracks which I use often. If you need to clear your head, you just head out the door, down the road and into the trees. It’s a great privilege and I love it. 

Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from? 

Nick Braren – I’m only really proud of things I have achieved, not about places. I don’t see how you can be proud of something as diverse and abstract as a country or something like that. I know there are certain people who feel differently, but it’s not really my thing…

Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?

Nick Braren – I’ve become involved with classical music in my work over the last year. There is so much more opportunity for grants and financial support for classical music than for rock and pop. New artists need a leg up and it’s so hard with limited income. I also wish people would focus more on the music than the marketing. I find it’s the worst part of being in a band these days, constantly feeling you’re not doing enough to get yourself heard. Everyone I know, even the people who are on Instagram every day, say they don’t do enough. It’s madness. Let’s just go back to making music and enjoying ourselves without worrying about what everyone thinks of us, okay? Thanks.

Music Bugle – How would you define the year 2020? 

Nick Braren – Sweet and sour. Dystopian. Paranoid.

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?

Nick Braren – “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.” Kind of a mouthful, but it can be summed up with – “Live as though you fucked up the first time and were given a second chance.”

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Nick Braren – I’m a slow burner when it comes to music. I tend to get into an album and listen until I know every nuance and then dump it because I’m over it. Caspian’s ‘On Circles’ was great, but that’s a bit old now, I think. With all the mixing I’ve been doing, I haven’t had much space left for listening. The Barrens’ album was good. One album I have to grab is the new Emma Ruth Rundle/Chelsea Wolfe. I especially love Chelsea Wolfe. Just haven’t had the chance to have a listen yet!

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