Interview with Anthony Ruocco of Vital Point
[Indie Journal] Where did the name "Vital Point" originate?
Anthony Here's what I have on that:
Vince "I took it from Aristotle ... the theory, that is there is a distinguishing vital principle life force in living organisms that is absent from non-living objects. It is vitalism and the point is the essential of life."
Jimmy "Vin's got more stories than Dr. Seuss."
[Indie Journal] How did the band come together?
Anthony In the mid-90's, Laine and I were playing in a number of cover bands together. He was in touch with his old bandmates Vince and Jimmy, and the idea came up to get back together in the studio and write some new music. The four of us were friendly from our old gigging days - they were in an earlier incarnation of Vital Point, and I was in Loosends. Laine called on Joe, who he played with for a few years in the band The Mersey Beat. So the five of us got together, the chemistry was good, and we went from there.
[Indie Journal] Is there one central song writer or do you all work together in writing songs?
Anthony Musically, for the most part, it's a collaborative effort. Sometimes a developed idea is brought to the table by one of us, sometimes just something basic. Sometimes a loose jam develops into something more ("Love You" is a good example). However it starts, we patiently work the idea out together, and the result ends up with all of our hands in it. The chemistry is excellent, and the process has developed nicely over the years; we know when to pursue an idea and when to back off for a while.
Lyrically, Vince, Jimmy and Laine are the ones that open up. A lot of the lyrical ideas are worked out in the studio. Sometimes Vince has a near complete set as well, sometimes Jimmy will take a basic idea and develop it himself ... it varies from song to song. Some songs are certainly more one of us than the other, down to the basic core of it, but I think the collaborative stamp ends up on the finished product every time.
[Indie Journal] So for publishing purposes are most of your songs credited to all members of the band?
Anthony They all are.
[Indie Journal] Did you start off as a live performing band, or was the idea to primarily record?
Anthony Our original intent was to write and record solely. Just to develop musical ideas and craft them into songs, and release an album. Our only aspirations were to please ourselves musically ... no guidelines for songwriting or marketing considerations, etc., and no live gigging to support it all.
Eventually of course, as our sound developed and the band got tighter, the desire to play live started to creep in (for some of us, anyway ;-). So we booked a few local shows to test the waters, and they went really well ... we enjoyed them, and we started to build a local fan base, so we decided to do some more.
[Indie Journal] Have you been performing a lot lately?
Anthony The amount is steadily increasing. Right now it's about once a month, sometimes more. That will likely continue to grow.
[Indie Journal] What types of venues are you playing?
Anthony We're mainly playing local bar/pub-type venues. We never intended to be a cover band, but to play these types of gigs, covers are a necessity ... so we've built up a repertoire. It's actually been a lot of fun, and the crowd loves to hear them. We mix our originals into the set and we now have fans that are familiar with our songs and enjoy them live. We're starting to get more requests for the originals, which is cool and gratifying.
We've also played some original-only gigs, depending on the location. We may expand a bit more in that area, in the Village and other local pockets, where there are more venues and crowds that are interested in hearing original music. It's a different dynamic and a nice challenge to gain a crowd's interest with full sets of music that they're not familiar with.
[Indie Journal] What have you done to develop a base of fans for your shows?
Anthony We utilize most of the conventional methods ... developing mailing lists (snail/e-mail) - we try and gather as much of that info as possible at our gigs, and we've had lots of those fans return to the later shows. Also a strong web presence with updated news and info, local postcard and poster advertising, and lots of word of mouth.
[Indie Journal] Do you get a pretty good response at the gigs when you ask people to sign up for the mailing list?
Anthony We do, but we have to stay on top of it. Several times we've had the list started but then neglected, and we ended up with two new names and a lost opportunity. Sometimes it's hard when your head is wrapped up in a show to remember other details like this ... we may get some others involved to help out in those areas.
[Indie Journal] What is your favorite thing about performing live?
Anthony The indescribable buzz when the band is tight and the vibe is good ... performing something we worked hard to create, and feeling a positive response from the crowd. There's not much else that compares to that.
[Indie Journal] What is your least favorite thing about performing live?
Anthony Getting everything to the gig and getting home can be a real drag ... all the time in between that is cool. We've also been pretty lucky so far with the club owners.
[Indie Journal] Any plans at this point to expand live performances out of your local area?
Anthony We may test the outskirts a bit, but there are no immediate plans to go further than that. As opportunities arise, however, we're always open to evaluate them.
[Indie Journal] You have also been recording a new CD. How is that coming along?
Anthony The new CD is almost complete - a state it's been in for a long while! We have so much new material in the works in addition to it as well .... anyway, there are just a couple of individual parts left to record, and then some focused mixing on the whole album. We're getting there ... we're all anxiously awaiting the end of this project. We've had some great responses to some of the tracks that we've "pre-released" on the Internet.
[Indie Journal] Where is the album being recorded? What's your recording process like? I mean how do you go about constructing and recording the various parts for a song?
Anthony The recording is happening at Moon Studios in Staten Island, an excellent digital recording facility.
Song construction happens mostly in the rehearsal studio. We work out different parts and arrangements until the song feels right. By the time we hit the recording studio, the sculpted song is in place. Occasionally we'll make some changes during the recording sessions, but normally the song is ready when we get there.
For most of our songs, we start by recording the basic tracks live together, to keep as natural a feel as possible. That would be rhythm guitars, bass, keys, and drums. Usually done to a click track. We then add the additional parts individually - other rhythm parts, solos, extras, etc. Then the lead vocal is recorded, and then any vocal harmonies. Then any overdubs that may be left. The exact order of events after the basic tracks are done is not always the same, but that's the general framework.
[Indie Journal] Any specific plans as far as promoting the new CD when it's released?
Anthony We'll be heavily promoting the CD on the Internet on our home page (www.vitalpointmusic.com), which will also be undergoing a redesign before the CD is released. That will be the starting point for the Internet push. The CD will be available at a number of online venues, most prominently CD Baby. We'll utilize our e-mail list of course with an announcement. Also other online promo articles and announcements at various sites that we're affiliated with, press releases, etc., etc.
Offline - mailings, postcards, posters ... lots of local hype. Similar to our gig-promoting efforts.
[Indie Journal] You do most of the online promo for Vital Point. What has been successful and what has not?
Anthony The most effective online promo tool has been e-mail. We send an announcement out every few weeks with updated news, as well as shortly before our gigs as a reminder. Many of our return fans at the gigs keep up with the band through these e-mails. We're working at expanding that list further and taking advantage of its success.
We've had some interest in our home page as well, but I think we can take it further with a fresh design and some new ideas. I'm working on that now.
[Indie Journal] What about the various OMD's you've used? Have you seen any major benefits from them?
Anthony Certainly. They've helped us increase - um ... make that create! - a global audience for our music. Primarily made up of other artists, but we've picked up some non-artist fans as well. Being visible on these sites has helped make us a familiar name in the ever-growing online musical world. Exposure is a good thing.
We've had lots of airplay on a variety of Internet radio shows, all a direct result of our music being discovered at an OMD. Our affiliation with the FreeAudioPlayers artist group also stemmed from my interaction with someone I met at an OMD. We've also developed relationships with other bands that extend into the 3D world, such as Black Diamond, who we recently played a live gig with, which we hope to do more of in the future. The cross-promotional opportunities are endless.
The networking environment that has grown from our OMD affiliations has been a tremendous asset to the band.
[Indie Journal] What's the direction of the CD? How would you describe the music?
Anthony No direction, and I mean that, except for our development as a band. We honestly don't write the songs or piece together the album with any pre-conceived notions in mind. Just building the songs to our satisfaction and collecting them on an album. I think the natural cohesiveness of where we are as a songwriting group shines through.
I suppose the music would be best described as pop/rock ... we waver somewhere between the two on this album. Some heavy guitar-driven stuff, some soulful quieter ideas ... even an organ solo or two. !! Then there's that medieval number, and a rock/reggae mix ... we stretched in lots of different directions over these 11 songs.
[Indie Journal] Do you think that there is intelligent life on other planets?
Anthony I sure hope so! Hey, why not. Space is so vast, it's hard to believe we're the only ones around.
[Indie Journal] You also record music as a solo artist. How is that different from Vital Point?
Anthony My solo work is more of a free-form thing. I don't really develop the songs in any specific format ... I just kinda fly by the seat of my pants. I sometimes write for modern dance, which is also an interesting challenge (my wife is a dancer/choreographer). I really enjoy collaborating with the band, but having something that's totally my own is a real kick too. To control every aspect of a piece, from conception to diversions, experimenting, performing all of the parts, mixing, finalizing ... there's a lot of satisfaction there.
Thanks to the Internet I've also developed some collaborating relationships with a number of musicians from around the world ... it's nice to stretch in that area as well and experience the varied dynamics of working with different people.
[Indie Journal] Who have you collaborated with?
Anthony My first online collaborations were with Bud Bennett of Blacksburg, Virginia. We worked on a Christmas song together last year, and we enjoyed it so much that it generated a ton of additional ideas in both of us ... we've since developed the basis for several project ideas, and we hope to get them rolling in 2003. We may release something together before the end of the year as well.
I also recently worked with Jeza of London, England. He invited me to record a piano track for one of the new songs on his upcoming album. Some fine 12-bar blues ... great fun. Additionally, I'm in the talking stages with several other artists.
[Indie Journal] Is it easy to keep the two careers separate?
Anthony Absolutely. The hardest part is finding the time to spend on all the various things I want to do musically. They intertwine naturally as well - a number of my solo works have been brought to a different life with the band, including "Waiting for You" and "Circles" from our first album.
[Indie Journal] Who's your favorite singer?
Anthony Impossible to answer, there are just too many. At the moment, Stevie Wonder and Ella Fitzgerald come to mind. Roger Daltrey too.
[Indie Journal] Who's the hottest babe in the movies today?
Anthony Damn, I haven't been to the movies in so long ... I'm a bit out of touch. From afar, I'd go with Denise Richards.
[Indie Journal] What can we expect from vital point next?
Anthony Our new album will be released early next year, and if all goes as planned we'll have an additional one out by the end of 2003. There's lots of material waiting in the wings to get out.
[Indie Journal] Any final words of wisdom to the readers?
Anthony Live well, be nice to others and listen to lots of music.