Interview with Vanishing Life’s Walter Schreifels | By Robert Duguay
In the punk rock realm, Walter Schreifels is a bit of an enigma. From starting out in the New York City hardcore scene with Gorilla Biscuits and Youth Of Today to fronting the influential sludgy post-hardcore act, Quicksand, going the alt-rock route with Rival Schools, and tapping into blues with Dead Heavens, it seems as if there’s no end to his creativity. Hell, he even put out an acoustic-based solo record.
Recently, Schreifels started a new band with …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s Autry Fulbright and Jaime Miller and Rise Against’s Zach Blair called Vanishing Life. Their debut album, Surveillance, came out via Dine Alone Records in November of 2016, and it’s an absolute shredder.
“I guess I have a wide musical taste,” Schreifels says on being both prolific and well-rounded. “I came up playing in the hardcore scene, which got me into playing in clubs, brought me on tour, and got me on track in terms of being a professional musician. As I got through that, I was able to follow my muse in a way and get into different kinds of music that were interesting to me, and that’s still my game plan. I definitely have a lot of great collaborators that help make things happen, but that’s my goal. I’m trying to always do something different somehow.”
The formation of Vanishing Life pretty much occurred by chance. “Autry and Jamie were in …Trail Of Dead, and they wanted to do something different,” Schreifels describes. “They had some songs, and they asked me if I would sing on one of them; there was supposed to be different singers on the project they were doing. I was the only one that actually sang on something. It came out good, and from there, we got an offer to do an album. It was very easy and natural, as much as it could be. Zach heard that we were doing something, and we were in Texas at a festival, and he told us, ‘Dude, let me play guitar.’ He’s great and he’s cool, so he joined in as well. It kind of took on a life of its own.”
“We worked with a producer in Los Angeles named Davey Warsop. I had rehearsed there at his studio, I toured with him years before, and he’s just a friend,” Schreifels shares about the making of Surveillance. “He said that whenever I have something, I can come in and record it for free, and I thought that was wicked cool. When Vanishing Life came up, we recorded there; we did two songs and we made a single. It came out good there and we felt good about it, so we decided to do the album there as well. We paid him for that one. He’s a great friend and it was easy and natural. With this project, it had to be easy, because we didn’t have that much time and it was for the spirit of music. It wasn’t some big, professional idea. We just wanted to make something new.”
One hot topic of 2017 has been the election of Donald Trump, sparking a divisive debate on whether punk rock will benefit from it. “I don’t know if music is going to get better, but I think music will become more important to people,” Schreifels muses. “There are some people who are super stoked that Donald Trump is president, so you can’t discount that, but there’s definitely going to be a reaction. Punk music is the home for that, so it wouldn’t shock me. I know music is going to be that much more important as we head into these uncharted territories. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m looking forward to hearing some great music.”
“I think punk is such a broad term now that it’s really hard to put your finger on what it is,” Schreifels continues, examining the current state of punk. “In the ‘70s, it was a fashion thing, and in the ‘80s, it was an underground music thing, and in the ‘90s, it became a popular commercial form of music, and in the 2000s, it became that much more of that. Punk, to me, is going to be just fine. To me, punk means going against the grain, and the irony of that is that by becoming punk these days, you can actually be with the grain. It’s always where you’re standing and where your point of view is.”
This year doesn’t seem to have any letdown for Walter Schreifels whatsoever. “I got a lot going on,” he says. “I’m going to be continuing to tour with Vanishing Life, we’re going to try to get together as much as we can. We’re really stoked on this record, and we’ve been getting a lot of great feedback. Dead Heavens is going to have an album out this year, so that’ll be another thing that I’ll be pretty busy with. I have some shows with Youth Of Today this year, so I’m pretty busy, and I’ll be doing some solo stuff as well. I like to keep it a nice variety of things going so each one informs and fuels the next.”