Interview: No Vacation’s Sonic Journey, Bonded by Friendship, Cross-Country Moves, and Multifaceted Talents

By the end of 2019, the dream pop, “surf punk” collective known as No Vacation had already relocated cross country from their home base in San Francisco to Brooklyn, released two cult hit mix tapes, and a genre-defining single, “Yam Yam.” The song garnered over 90 million streams on Spotify, paired with its iconic music video, boasting over one million individual views on YouTube. 

After disbanding in 2017 to go on hiatus, the five-piece ensemble of multi instrumentalists rejoined forces to release their EP, Phases, two years later. The accurately monikered project featured tracks that each took between a month and two years to complete. 

Fast-forward to the summer of 2023 and the darlings of the indie shoegaze and bedroom pop community have returned to their old stomping grounds with scattered residencies across the state of California to delight of their dedicated supporters. With a nearly sold out west coast tour and pair of successful dual coast festival appearances all within the course of a year, No Vacation have regained their footing while maintaining their core lineup with the addition of a couple of life-long friends to help them round out their energetically mesmerizing live shows filled with the emotionally sentimental lyrics they’ve become known for. 

No Vacation in front of the Outside Lands backdrop at Outside Lands Festival
Harrison, Sab, Nat, James, and Alex

Sab, Nat, Alex, Harrison, and James discussed their eight-year musical journey with the energy of a tightly knit group of friends all chatting at a house party. Beyond exploring their project, their openly expressed mutual admiration and respect permeated the conversation, leaving a lasting impression. This bond of affection was evident as they effortlessly finished each other’s sentences and engaged in dynamic dialogue. Throughout the discussion, the band shared insights into the formation of their current lineup, the evolution of their sound over the years, and the exhilarating experience of performing on the main stage at their hometown’s largest music festival.

No Vacation have recently unveiled their 2024 tour dates, which include a newly added show at Austin Psych Fest. Check out the complete list below at the end of this article.

Would you mind going around the circle and saying your names, and what you play?

My name is Harrison. I play lead guitar.

I’m Sab. I sing, and I play guitar.

James. I play drums.

I’m Alex. I play keys and some cello and other stuff too.

I’m Nat. I do bass, keys, and violin and sloppin’ round with Alex.

How has your day been today? How did it feel on the main stage?

Sab: It was pretty fun. It was so fun.

Nat: We’d never been on a stage that big so it’s…

Harrison: I felt like we were miles away from each other. Like my cables weren’t long enough.

James: You really stretched the limit of that cable to hand me the handsie (mic).

Harrison: Yeah I know. I was like, oh I’m gonna fuckin’ unplug.

James: It was really like a Michelangelo pass. It was a … It was a …

Harrison: It was a … It was a bottle of Henny.

You had a really good turnout.Was it about what was expected? Or was it better than you expected? How did you feel seeing the crowd?

Harrison: I would say better than I expected because we were the first band of the whole day. So I kind of was thinking we’d play it (to) no one but small. And grante,d at the beginning, it was a little smaller, but by the end of the set, it was … a lot of people. It was fat.

Were you surprised by the amount of people who came, or was it about what you expected?

James: Yeah definitely surprised. The night before I kind of oscillate between wanting to get hyped about how big the outside line is and then also treating it like another show so it’s kind of performing your best. So part of me was like, oh, we’re playing at noon. No one’s going to be there. Not a big deal. And then when we showed up, it was like, oh, there’s actually people who are watching us. So yeah, surprised definitely.But positive of course.

Nat: I think oddly, like, usually it’s fine when my parents aren’t there, but when I know they’re there, and they’re watching it, it becomes especially difficult not to play but just to like … I just want to do the best that I can.

Harrison: My mom was front row, and I looked down, and I was like why are you talking to this person next to you? And I talked to her after the set, and she was like, this person asked why I was here, and she was like, “Oh I’m his mom.” And it was like, they started talking, and she was like showing this fan of No Vacation my baby pictures. Sharing our set. Which I think is fucking insane but hilarious at the same time.

No Vacation playing on the main stage of Outside Lands Festival
No Vacation opened up the main stage at Outside Lands Festival 2023

You are originally a Bay Area band. Like specifically a San Francisco band. And you are now all based out of Brooklyn. So what’s the difference between No Vacation when they were a San Francisco band… 

Nat: Nothing.

…And No Vacation now?

Nat: Nothing! We’re just the same people doing the same stuff just living different places. But it’s like No Vacation doesn’t change, like, how we feel about music, how we write it. It’s just, we’re just not as close as we are to each other, but yeah, I think so. Unless anyone else disagrees.

I rarely get that answer. Usually when I say what’s the difference, you have some like existential response about, “Oh, I changed.” But I think that’s a big part of the draw with y’all is that you’ve had a whole kind of journey full-circle. And you still are, like, putting out the same energy and the same bond. What are you looking forward to as a band?

Nat: I think the thing that I’m most excited for is that we just brought on APE Management. So Dan and Ellie, and we just brought on, like, a whole team to support us because before we’ve been doing everything by ourselves, really. So coming to this festival and just having people there for us means a lot. And I think that’s exciting because I don’t know what to expect because I feel like things have been so much easier and positive and makes us feel good as people just by having them support us. So, again, it’s like, we do support each other, but when you have people working with you, becoming your friends, and then it’s like, Dan and Ellie, they love our music, and it feels really good to have people working with you.

Harrison: Thanks for that.

What are you listening to right now, and what bands are you excited about right now?

Nat: Okay, so I’m going to say (keyboard player) Alex. Alex Togasi. Alex has a solo project, and he’s been popping off in San Francisco, like, he’s really humble about it, but we all listen to it. And I feel like every single time … l personally love his mixes, and they’re honestly incredible. I know he’s a bandmate, but it’s like, I was someone that likes music. It’s, you know, it’s cool to be playing music with someone that makes such great music on their own. And he’s come a long way, and I’ve known Alex since we were in junior high. 

Everybody’s blushing.

Nat: Oh, it’s true. We all love it. I don’t know, it’s just, we can’t—You have to listen to it. And he’s just releasing stuff, like, it’s good. It’s really good.

An onstage pic at Outside Lands Festival of Alex playing the cello, Nat facing him on bass, and James int he background on drums
Alex on the cello was a highlight of No Vacation’s Outside Lands Festival set

Very exciting. I know that you’re all multi-instrumentalists. What other instruments do you all play? What did you play when you were a kid?

Sab: I always play guitar.

Harrison: So when I first joined No Vacation, I played drums. I started taking drum lessons when I was 9. I’m still a drummer now, but I play a lead guitar for No Vacation. Guitar, bass, drums, vocals. I just fucking suck at piano.

Alex: Engineers.

Pianos are a good first instrument to start…

Harrison: Yeah, engineer is also correct. I’m good at recording. I’m not good at producing.

Alex: I had a really brief fling with the saxophone from the fifth to seventh grade. 

Nat: He would play it too.

Alex: No, well I don’t do that anymore.

Nat: So I’m going to just say, like, Alex was like … not for …

James: You don’t have to now. 

Nat: His stand partner was, like, the best in California. He was second. 

Alex: (laughing) God…

Nat: But this guy is now a professor at New England Observatory, 

Nat: I was a year younger than Alex. My sister’s a year older, but everyone had a crush on Alex.

James: Can you print this response in parentheses, like, while blushing?

Nat: He was so popular, but he was so good at all the instruments. And also super nice. It was just, it was again, like, I know we’re talking about Alex a lot, but it’s one of those things where, like, it was really cool. He’s so humble.

Alex: I think everyone here definitely plays a lot of instruments. There’s a lot of hats even within the band. So it’s been fun to collaborate and work with people who are also so multi-talented.

There’s a lot of joy that was created when I witnessed you guys. I’m really glad that I came early and that I was able to catch y’all. I caught about two thirds of your set; then I had to go over to Geographer, which was my other interview, but I hadn’t seen you guys live yet. It was really great to see you take up that space. I felt really proud of you. 

And so I would just like to ask, are there any other general announcements for news outside of exciting side projects, and the fact that you guys are back, officially back, touring, making music, is there anything else you’d like to say to the world?

Nat: We’ll be coming to a city near you.

Sab: Thank you, and we love you.

No Vacation 2024 Tour Dates:

FEBRUARY 2 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
FEBRUARY 3 – Detroit, MI – El Clu
FEBRUARY 5 – Toronoto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern
FEBRUARY 6 – Montreal, QC – Bar Le Ritz
FEBRUARY 8 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
FEBRUARY 9 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
FEBRUARY 10 – Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry
FEBRUARY 12 – Washington, DC – The Atlantis
FEBRUARY 14 – Lakewood, OH – Mahall’s
APRIL 15 – Austin, TX – Austin Psych Fest  (Just announced)
APRIL 18  – Seattle, WA – Neumos
APRIL 20 – Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater
APRIL 22 – Salt Lake City, UT – Soundwell
APRIL 23 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater
APRIL 25 – Oklahoma City, OK – Resonant Head
APRIL 27 – Dallas, TX – Club Dada
APRIL 28 – San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
APRIL 30 – El Paso, TX – Lowbrow Palace
MAY 1 –  Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
MAY 2 – San Diego, CA – Music Box
MAY 4 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore

The flyer for Austin Psych Festival 2024
No Vacation just announced their appearance at the 2024 Austin Psych Fest

 

Follow No Vacation here. Stream their music here.

All photos in this article by Rose Eden, except featured photo, which is courtesy of No Vacation.

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