Vattica Not Afraid to Call Out Injustice With “Criminal”
Vattica is just what we need right now: hard, classic-alt rockers who don’t shy away from making big statements.
Way back in 1988, Adam Clayton, the bass player for U2, in what was pretty much his only speaking part in Rattle and Hum, stated, “People say that you shouldn’t mix music and politics, or sport and politics, or whatever, but…I think that’s kind of bullshit.” Personally, I totally agree Adam, and apparently so do the guys in Vattica.
Again, here I am quoting and spouting off about old school U2 while referencing a new band who is just beginning their ascension in the world of rock. Again though, I don’t make the comparison lightly between a legendary rock band and a band with only two officially released singles. Vattica really do have something special going on with their sound and chosen subject matter. In a hyper divided political landscape, which in reality might not be as deeply divided as for the profit media might portray, on both sides of the political spectrum, Vattica are putting their music where their minds are with “Criminal” their latest single release from their forthcoming album. Right out of the gate though, the powerful political imagery and themes in the music video for “Criminal” drew ire from a certain internet troll group, even if the song itself garnered praise.
“Yeah, it’s been positive overall but we totally got swamped by alt-right trolls and the MAGA hat crowd. Something about it really seemed to rub them the wrong way! (laughs) Which is fine with me, incidentally; anyone who supports the Trump Administration at this point is either a political opportunist, a sucker, or a full blown white supremacist. I’m totally OK with being boycotted by that kind of company.” mused Alexander Millar (Vattica’s vocalist and lead guitarist) when I asked him about the reaction to “Criminal,” both to the song and the video.
“Mixed reviews, but that’s only because some people can’t get past the video; the song itself has been well-received. We decided to push the overall view of the song with visual references that, at this current time, sparked some funny responses.” added Prentice (drums).
(If you haven’t seen the video. Please watch it before continuing. If you don’t, then you might not get the full impact of what Alexander and Prentice are referring to here.)
Before going to war artistically with the criminal in The White House, Vattica formed in 2014 in southern California, and quickly built a solid following. They even managed to score gigs at legendary venues like The Viper Room, The Troubadour, and The Echo. They completed a debut album, but when the record company folded into a larger corporation the band found themselves without a label. Deciding to launch their own label, Villis, they released the single “Remember to Breathe.” The song opened with a guitar riff that very obviously paid tribute to the type of guitar playing popularized by U2’s The Edge, but quickly moved on to the type of hard rock riffing that The Edge wouldn’t be caught dead playing. It was the perfect aural metaphor for the band’s soon to be solidified thematic direction. They’d take cues from the greatest bands to make powerful political statements, both sonically and lyrically, but would do it their own way.
“We’ve been getting responses from people that we shouldn’t come out the gate with such a political video because we’ll run the risk of alienation and being “pigeon-holed”. U2 was able to have a political voice later because they “played the game” early on in their career before becoming political. I don’t like to wait for the correct time to be political. Alex and I came from Berkeley. Politics and stirring the pot is how we were raised. Pearl Jam is more of our speed coming out early with visuals or songs that were controversial. i.e. the Jeremy video.” remarked Prentice when I asked about if the band was concerned about getting pigeon holed into being considered a one dimensional U2 or Pearl Jam emulator. His answer is eye opening and refreshingly honest and powerful. Especially in this day and age of attempted political correctness witnessed so often by pundits and members of The President’s own party when he egregiously violates norms of the office and puts our experiment in democracy on shaky ground.
“Yeah, growing up in the Bay Area instilled in me a sense of responsibility as an artist; I believe that it’s the duty of makers and creators to speak out on the issues of their time. It’s not that we don’t have straightforward love songs or that all our songs are political per se, it’s just that we aren’t afraid to speak up. That whole argument of “entertainers should just entertain” is such a dumb one to me, and it’s almost always perpetrated by people who have very little skin in the game, politically.“ added Alexander, sounding like a much more articulate Adam Clayton.
While it’s necessary, paying so much attention to the political aspect of “Criminal” really doesn’t do Vattica justice as songwriters and musicians. The song, obviously, can be referenced to and compared with other bands with similar sounds, but Vattica, again putting aside their political motivations with the video for “Criminal” really strike out into some interesting territory with the music here. The song is arena ready, but is much harder than the comparable alt-rock arena fair that is making the rounds these days. These guys flat out rock. The riffs are heavy and the drums deep. While its a crime (no pun intended) to keep comparing them to other bands that paved the way for their type of rock, “Criminal” sounds much more like a LIVE (the band) track than a U2 or Pearl Jam one, except that again, the guitars are delightfully heavier than anything LIVE ever did either. Intrigued by their sound, I asked Alexander about the writing process:
“Often it starts with just a beat and a riff. Then that will spark a vocal melody, and then a chord progression. At that point I know what the song is about from an emotional perspective and I’ll write lyrics to it. Sometimes Prentice and I both write the lyrics. The whole thing is very collaborative; it’s only when he and I write together that it sounds like VATTICA.” explained Alexander.
Starting with “just a beat and a riff,” explains where their sound comes from. A solid musical base comes first, and lyrics second. Every band has a different way of composing, Vattica’s sounds like a true collaboration, that grows out of their jams. Many legendary bands compose this way, and although “legendary” is not a proper way to describe Vattica, the potential is definitely there.
After hearing, absorbing, and falling in love with Vattica’s sound on “Criminal” and “Remember to Breathe,” I obviously want to hear more. Since the band has a album completed, I had to know if it was available anywhere yet: “No. Right now we are releasing singles, which are available on all streaming services.” replied Alexander when I asked. I got the suspicion that there was plenty more to come this year though. According to their official website, they will be touring in in early 2019 and are working on the video for their next single. Looks like things are continuing to come together for this talented duo. With their obvious songwriting ability and strength of character to speak their minds openly and freely (and weather the consequences), Vattica will be interesting to watch, as well as listen to, over the next few years.