Vlad in Tears – Hope Through DespairTuesday, 30th August 2022
Aligning as a quartet with residency in Germany and Italy, Vlad in Tears is a musical group that takes numerous 90’s gothic, industrial, and dark rock/metal influences into the modern world for Porpora, the latest studio record. Drop C/D guitars, harsh sounds, balanced out with the voice of Kris Vlad that can be smooth and silky one moment, then maniacal the next – the sound has a dynamic swing that encompasses elements of late 90’s Paradise Lost, Beseech, latter day Tiamat, along with aspects of Nine Inch Nails taken into a modern slant. We reached out to Kris for this talk about the darker lyrical content that made for a positive output with this record, the aggressive approach live for the band, how moving to Germany opened more opportunities for Kris and his brother to build the following of the group, his love of video games, photography, and reading, plus plans over the next year.
Dead Rhetoric: Porpora is the eighth studio album for Vlad in Tears. Beyond working and recording the album during a global pandemic, where do you see the major differences from start to finish with this effort compared to the previous discography?
Kris Vlad: I thought it was all over. I was about to give up. When I started writing this record, I had no idea I could see safety at the end of the path. This record has everything I could ever imagine I would be capable of writing about. It is a completely different chapter of our life. Thanks to this record, as you can imagine, I have been through a lot, as everybody has. From the music perspective, I thought it was over. When I started writing the first song, I knew I needed to do something, write down my thoughts and how I am feeling. Maybe this will be a healthy release. I started writing, and all the (other songs) came after. It’s been a therapeutic process, it’s a rebirth for us. What we were writing before, we followed our path and our personal tastes, our roots. We didn’t think music could mean so much to so many people. We just woke up, and that’s why I think this record is the most important record we have ever written.
Dead Rhetoric: You mention in the background information regarding the lyrical content for Porpora the outpouring of loneliness, sorrow, and dark thoughts relating to suicide, death, and self-harm – much of which you’ve been struggling with personally. How difficult of a process has it been to put these thoughts out there to the world – do you feel a sense of personal release and cathartic freedom that hopefully will relate well to the listeners?
Vlad: Yeah, I can say to be honest it hasn’t been easy as all. Those dark thoughts stay with you. I consider myself lucky thanks to music, because I was capable of writing everything. Hopefully people find comfort in my words, in my lyrics. Personally, I believe everyone can gain this personal strength through these dark thoughts. It’s not easy at all, it has been really hard. Writing this record helped me a lot, but it’s not over. Every day you have to be there for yourself, you have to love yourself. No matter what other people say, no matter what’s going on in the world, you have a life, and you need to have a purpose, you need to fight for this, whatever it is.
People find comfort in my words for Porpora – it’s a color by the way, a dark red. If I could give anyone a tip, I would say you have to find the strength to admit it to yourself, that you need something. Whatever you are feeling, is real, and you should never be ashamed of this. You should always find somebody to talk about it. Believe that these things, one of these days will be over, or find a way to live with this.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the idea come about to cover the Kate Bush classic “Running Up That Hill” – were you always a fan of that song in the past, and are you surprised by its resurgence through the Stranger Things series?
Vlad: I do love Stranger Things, and that’s pretty cool. The first season is the best season, honestly. I always like Kate Bush; I find her to be a great artist. I thought it might be a good time to pay tribute to this great artist. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way to rearrange it. Make it sound more like our sound. I know that people love the original, but I did my best to make it sound like our song. I can definitely say I’ve always appreciated her, and thanks to Stranger Things her work is brought up again. We all believed it was a good song to pay tribute to.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it an obvious choice to make a video for “Right Now” – and how do you feel the video shoot went?
Vlad: The video shoot, I’m quite happy with it. It was different, thank to Jonah who was the director. We all created something completely different. It resembles perfectly our mood. It doesn’t really tell a story, it’s all about the darkness and light, atmosphere. We wanted to focus on the lyrics and the sound of the band. In that perspective, I believe we captured that.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel working together in this band with your brothers – and did the move from Italy to Germany in 2013 improve the drive and musical ambition for the group?
Vlad: As you know, just myself and Dario my bigger brother, live here in Berlin. The other brother Lex still lives in Italy, he never actually moved. Our drummer Alex, who is also like a brother, also still lives in Italy. It hasn’t been easy at all, when Dario and I moved to Germany it was crazy. We didn’t even speak the language at all. We had our manager back in the day, we couldn’t play as many shows as our brother and drummer couldn’t travel as much back then. After so many years with someone, it’s about relationships. It’s been traumatic really; we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. After six years Dario and I have been here, traveling around, playing with other bands, I don’t remember how it happened, but we got together with the original lineup. Things started to get back to normal, but it’s still not easy as everyone still has day jobs.
Germany has given us a lot of opportunities, thanks to our first manager. We had a lot of great experiences; it’s been amazing, and the musicians here are much more respected than in Italy. You can only imagine how it is there. There’s nothing if you want to start something, you can’t. It seems like if you are a foreign musician coming to Italy, you are viewed as a superstar, you know? We had a lot of chances in Germany, we always just keep moving, playing more, traveling more. You never know what is going to happen next.
Dead Rhetoric: Your style of alternative rock-oriented gothic metal has the spirit of the late 90’s scene in mind. What qualities do you believe shape Vlad in Tears – and how have you evolved as musicians and songwriters over the years?
Vlad: We are all professional musicians, and personally I am a classically trained piano player. After that I became a vocal coach – I always aim to gain knowledge and put that into when I was writing material. I wasn’t sure at first about what I was doing, but I was trying a lot. Being experimental can help you a lot, making a lot of mistakes but willing to learn. I always believe that Vlad in Tears had a lot of quality, the intensity and reality in the music, the writing, the topics. People from outside will see our bond as important, and it’s very evident. One way or another you need to find a way to write and believe what you can come out from your mind. Knowledge is most important.
There is another side, that bond, that love, that passion people need to see. They may not notice the quality of the music, but they may notice the passion, the bond that unites everyone and gets people closer. I believe that we have never lost that from this perspective. It has gotten stronger and stronger, we have suffered a lot, we failed, we try. We have experimented a lot, but we have done a lot of good things. We see people that are happy to see us again. I get so many letters from the fans, thanking me for my words and how we helped them through hard times. It’s the most beautiful thing that could ever happen. Writing something that is killing me, saying it out loud, somebody else feels the same way and maybe is finding help because of those words. That is the best side of being a musician and being an artist, that communication. I try through my songwriting to make things better and better, give a clearer message in comparison to the past.
I used to write more complicated lyrics. They were less real, and more poems you know. I am now writing whatever is in my mind, speaking to fears, depression, suicidal thoughts. I could never imagine these things ever happening to me, something so bad that could happen. In these lyrics I try to accept things, and whoever is out there will feel like that they are not weird, or abnormal, just because I am having a really hard time. That is the best thing I have been working on over the last two or three years. We are communicating, the need to be aware of the message that we are spreading to the people. I am evolving into a better communicator every day, speak my mind and try to help people. I am a survivor of dark times, and maybe I can help somebody else out there.
We want to go into more of a modern metal sound, new goth. We have the 90’s sounds that we have locked into along the way. We have evolved into something, something a little more particular. I would describe things as a new goth-metal, some call it dark rock. It is not old-fashioned like it used to be.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences between Vlad in Tears when it comes to your live performances versus what people take in and hear on record?
Vlad: As you might know, when it comes to the live quality, so many things are dependent on it. You need a good sound engineer. You need a good PA system. Sometimes, as you can imagine, you don’t have that – unless you are playing at a big festival. Those are my favorite, because for the most part everything runs so smoothly. You have a big sound, you have a lot of people taking care of you, you don’t have to go crazy thinking, ‘hey, where is my cable?’. Here’s the guitar – and go.
So many small things can make a big impact on how people take in live shows and watching you live. We have had these hardened experiences and live through that. The major difference is we are a little more aggressive live. People don’t see that on the record compared to live, we do smile a lot. It has a huge impact with people – they see us with the makeup, and then we smile. People have asked me in the past, why do we smile? The music is dark – but I’m smiling because I’m alive. You can wear black, you can do your makeup, you can be a horror movie fan, but it’s not a crime to smile. We do it with our hearts, and that’s the biggest difference.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of the music industry in the current landscape? Do you believe its easier or more difficult for Vlad in Tears to gain traction and make more of an impact than in your early days with the group?
Vlad: The music business went down pretty badly during the last few years. I’m not going to lie; it’s going to be really hard. Not only for us, but for everyone. I was reading about a lot of bands breaking up just because they couldn’t find a way to keep going, the record labels couldn’t invest as much money into the bands. It’s a big mess. I’m not a visionary. I am honest to myself; it’s not going to be easy. We will do our best to keep going. We really hope day by day a way to keep going. We will be using our social media, and we know we have to spend money on there, invest in the band to get a little more traction. You need to be spending money, that’s why we all have jobs. We have to invest a little bit of our money into our passion. You need to help yourselves, first of all. The labels are not there to give you a lot of money to spend on the band – it helps show that you are wanting this, that you are not waiting for things to happen.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some hobbies, interests, or activities you like to do away from music when you have the free time and energy to do so?
Vlad: I am a big video gamer. I am a bit of nerd actually. I collect a lot of video games; I love horror video games. I play a lot whenever I can, late at night when I am home from work. I love to watch horror movies, all the 80’s old ones. Whenever I have a chance I take walks through the forests, and I love shooting pictures, work on that. It’s a bit of a passion. And I read a lot of comic books, and books in general.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Vlad in Tears over the next twelve months once the album hits the streets?
Vlad: We are planning a big tour. We are hoping that we are timing it right, COVID-19 may happen again. Let’s see if everything goes right. We don’t know where, but for sure it will be across Europe. We are planning to play at some of the major festivals next summer. We will see what happens. We want to start writing another record as soon as possible.