Vanishing Life Is No ‘Outlier’ for Walter Schreifels
If you had bands with the profile of Quicksand, Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools and more sliding in and out of activity, you could easily just coast, collect your checks and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But not Walter Schreifels. He'd rather be involved in not one, but TWO new bands. His latest undertaking is Vanishing Life, a project featuring Zach Blair (Rise Against), Jamie Miller (…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Bad Religion) and Autry Fulbright (Midnight Masses, Trail of Dead).
Formed in 2013, Vanishing Life was born as a vehicle to explore influences like the Wipers and Mission of Burma, dipping into post-hardcore in the process. The band illuminates a new side to Schreifels, one that has him focusing on vocals only, delivering a performance that pushes his ideas into new realms. After a 7" with Geoff Rickly's Collect Records, Vanishing Life are back with a full-length for Dine Alone. Surveillance hits on November 11, and you can hear the new track "Outlier" for the first time below.
With the new LP due this week and a set of dates to support Vanishing Life on the boards, we talked to Schreifels about the project, his role as a vocalist only and his current listening habits. The results are below.
In all of your many projects, you’ve played some sort of instrument. Whether that was as guitar player or bass player or guitar and vocals, you’ve never just done vocals. Is this your first real foray into being a vocalist only?
In Moondog, which was the precursor to Quicksand, we didn’t play that many shows, but I was just the singer. And when Quicksand first started playing, we had two guitar players, so in that time I was just the singer, too. When Gorilla Biscuits toured South America, [Anthony Civarelli] broke his ankle. So, I had to sing for all of the Brazilian shows.
So, with you at the vocals position, how much of the songwriting is you?
It started with Jamie Miller sending demos around. They wanted me to sing, and I wasn’t really interested in playing guitar and getting involved in another project in the same regard — I didn’t want to write all the songs. In the end, I wrote all the lyrics and three of the songs on the album: “Realist,” “Thinking Is Weightless” and “Pretty Ruin.” Jamie wrote the lion’s share of the music, but it evolved into that. Zach wrote two songs, too. It all came together so easily. These dudes are all assassins.
Now that your only mode of performance is vocals, what are you learning about yourself?
It’s interesting ... because I didn’t necessarily write it all. And once I started to understand the band’s style, I found it even easier to write to it. This music is more aggressive than, say, Dead Heavens, where I sing about relationships and other stuff. So, I had to find a different angle. Not playing guitar at the same time freed me up to try different rhythms, hit different notes and also cover different subject matter. That in itself was a challenge, because I felt like the Vanishing Life songs called for outrage. It was like, how do I find that angle without veering into “dad yelling at you” mode? That was fun and different, and I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.
What’s the plan for Vanishing Life and Dead Heavens? Between those and your many other projects, how do you find time to do it all?
I don’t know how the fuck I’m doing it. I don’t have any plan. Dead Heavens is in NYC, so its easier for me to stay constantly in the flow of that band. Vanishing Life has limitations by design, with the guys living in different cities and having pretty serious bands. Working within those limitations is part of the charm and natural order of things. The records are staggered, so there is some space in there to breathe and focus on each project. I’m gonna play as much as I can on all of it, interspersed with the more established stuff that I have.
For most people at this age, to embark on starting on some new rock band is a major undertaking. To even get people who can do it — let alone like-minded individuals — is pretty tough. And I have TWO bands.
Do you consider anything to be your primary project?
Dead Heavens. I’ve been developing it for two years. To me, that’s how you do it: You have to spend time on the songs and with the chemistry to the point where you are solid enough that it has life. Rival Schools was like, “OK, make a band and you’ll be on a major label.” So many of the hurdles were moved out of the way. But even that took two years to get to where it could stand on its own.
Things are a little different with Vanishing Life, and that’s what I like about it. These dudes are all killers. They have x amount of time to get this thing done, and they focus and bang it out. I’m gonna rise to their level. It keeps my game high, and I like the challenge.
What are you listening to lately?
I listen to my staple vinyl at home, like the Rolling Stones and stuff from the '60s and early '70s. Proto-metal stuff like Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust, James Gang — things like that. I’ve been loving the new Radiohead record, which is weird because I couldn’t listen to them forever because they were too overhyped. Recently had a Nick Drake phase. I'm just trying to take in the good stuff.
VANISHING LIFE on TOUR
Nov. 11 — Lancaster, PA @ Chameleon Club
Nov. 12 — Providence, RI @ The Met
Nov. 13 — New York, NY @ The Studio at Webster
Nov. 14 — Philadelphia, PA @ Boot and Saddle
Nov. 17 — San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
Nov. 18 — Kingsburg, CA @ Bullfrogs
Nov. 19 — San Diego, CA @ The Hideout
Nov. 20 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Echoplex