VV Torso is a force of nature. In their songs, wild poetry is smashed into your earholes with such an impulsive amount of emotion that it’s easy to just label it punk, but they are so much more. At its core is an inventive trio of minimal, but innovative instrumentation and then the polarizing lyrics and vocals of Natty Morrison, whose words and phrases grab you in each song and refuse to let you go.
The original lineup met in Lafayette and included Natty, Dylan Schwab and Brent Smith from Broken Light, and Garret Ney from Faux Paw. They came together to form VV Torso in Indy, and after a couple of years they have honed in on their craft. A loyal fanbase continues to grow locally and beyond. I must have passed these guys several times at a show in Lafayette, and stood in the shadows (as I do) when they played at The Spot Tavern. Perhaps, if collided, the circling energy leaking from our heads would have created an unsafe implosion. (All speculation, of course.)
After a shift in their lineup — Dylan Schwab left as their drummer and Tom Lageveen joined — the band worked hard on playing shows and focusing on new material. During that time the trio also had an album waiting to be released, and now LPVV has found a home on Jurassic Pop (Schwab’s label) with a cassette release this October.
VV Torso will celebrate with a release show at State Street Pub on October 19. And, to get you prepared for this outstanding record and a destined-to-be-memorable show I sat down with Natty Morrison and guitarist Brent Smith to dig deeper into the psyche and process.
Greg Lindberg: What has been the process in the whole gestation between finishing recording and the release coming up? What has the process been like for you guys?
Brent Smith: Yeah, I think we sat on it for a while because we were trying to gain some more local support here in Indianapolis. We recorded the album pretty early, and we hadn’t played many shows yet. So I think the biggest thing was playing locally.
Natty Morrison: We finished recording in May, and Dylan the original drummer left to move to Texas at [around] the beginning of July. So we were kind of in a period where we didn’t really know what we were going to do with our record. We didn’t know how the band was going to continue. I was living with Tom, who is our current drummer now, and we wanted to make sure we just weren’t going to put out a record to have it heard by our friends and not follow up with touring. And also we were becoming a different band.
There was definitely a period of time where we were listening to songs we have on this first record and wondering if we wanted to try rerecording and adding new songs in. But the more we listened to it and the further it got from people around Indianapolis that were listening to it, the more we talked ourselves into putting out a record that’s getting some pretty positive feedback.
Greg: One of the things I love about VV Torso is that you guys have this unique sound while there’s also something very familiar. Are there some specific influences that inspired the band when writing LPVV?
Natty: I think it’s important to mention that we certainly have some core influences that are shared. We all like Fugazi and Dead Kennedys. We’re also … how do I put this eloquently? We’re kind of morons when it comes to the style of music. So it’s kind of weird because I don’t really listen to a ton of music that’s close to what we sound like regularly. There’s certainly more commonality and influences, but strangely enough I just never know how a song is going to sound. I have no idea where it comes from. Lyrically, from my vocal approach, I’m definitely thinking about more of a poetic sense or more Protomartyr or The Stooges. People who have like kind of a big, bellowing voice and they’re kind of playing a character.
Brent: I think in terms of music, we can never really pinpoint exactly what it is that helps us define our writing and how it kind of relates to what people want to associate it with. I think, for me, it’s trying just to find that sound on guitar that I have never heard before. For the other guys I know, like for Tom, it’s like that. It’s just trying to find a drum beat that is unique or has character. And I know Garrett tries really hard on bass, too. We all really have that same mentality of trying to create something that is, like you said, familiar but also kind of new to us.
Natty: I think when we’re writing one thing to keep in mind is other punk bands do it better than us. But we don’t sound like other punk bands.
Greg: Natty, your lyrics feel like a driving force as much as the vocals and music. Do you have a collection of poetry and try to apply some of them to the songs that Brent and the rest of the band write or do you listen to the songs first and then write?
Natty: It can go both ways. When we first started, I had a portfolio of very, very bad poetry that I collected over the years. Just dogshit. But I had it. And they would just start playing, and I’d read through it. I’d have a few papers right on my phone, and I’d look through and I would find phrases that worked. I’d just try it out live. So it was kind of on the spot. As it went on, I’d say I got this part and then flesh it out by going home to write it.
At this point now I’ve found that I’m [still] doing some pre-writing, like I’ll give this phrase that I wrote in a bar at three in the morning and want to see if it works out. But honestly a lot of the times as we’re writing it, I’m writing it along with them. And to be honest I don’t know what my songs are about until 15 to 20 times we’ve played them.
There are times where we’re still working stuff out when we’re playing shows or I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about or what I’m trying to say. One night something clicks in my head and I say something different. So it’s not improv, but I’ll go home and figure out that’s what I’m trying to talk about.
Greg: There’s a lot of relatable struggle in the lyrics as well. For example, “14 Days” has an addictive chorus, but also a fairly serious tone. What was some inspiration in writing “14 Days”?
Natty: “14 Days” was a song that we wrote on the spot after I had gone through a particularly rough patch with just some personal stuff. I certainly have self-destructive tendencies, and it was essentially where I had this long drive home and I was thinking that the last 14 years of my life had actually just been living very casually. Living very similarly to the way I describe the character in “Blood,” which is somebody who lives very cavalier and also acts as though life is inconsequential. Loving life very much, but also treating it like it doesn’t matter. And also trying to get better. So it’s a period of self-recovery and healing. Trying to feel better about certain things.
It’s certainly an indictment of myself and my own tendencies to just treat myself like shit. But it’s also about that life doesn’t end at the moment of awfulness. Life continues beyond that. It’s a bit a plea to myself, and also for people I knew as well who were close to me who were going through personal family stuff that was not going very well. A lot of times my lyrics tend to be me projecting it onto other people. And it’s a flaw that I have that I know of. So yeah, it was essentially about self-destructive and rebuilding self-worth as well.
Greg: Has the dynamic of the band evolved in how you guys write music together or play live?
Brent: I think the biggest thing that changed when Dylan left was that we lost a voice for criticism. Dylan was a strong critic. That’s [one of] the main things we lost with Dylan, and I think when Tom joined he brought a technical aspect to the drumming that challenged us to make things a little bit heavier. It was a nice change, too, because Tom is one of those people that you could just let go and he could create something where we wouldn’t have to battle with him about anything. We lost Dylan as a strong voice, but we gained Tom as an incredibly strong player.
Natty: The interesting thing, too, is that when Tom joined, he was little precarious. He was a little bit like, “This is your band that I joined.” And then we were like we want you to be able to speak up, and he just sort of naturally took over this editing role. A lot of time the role of the drummer is to be able to figure out how things are going to build and develop. He was able to do that, and I’m proud of him. He super stepped up as not only a player, but he also leads our writing and voice in a creative and interesting way.
Greg: Have you already started recording new material or planning to soon?
Brent: Right now we have a batch of songs that we’re about finished with. I think we’re maybe trying to write a couple more tracks, but leaning pretty soon to start demoing the new batch of songs to have a better idea of where everything is at. I think we’re definitely go to record the second batch. I don’t see why we wouldn’t. The songs in my opinion are a little more evolved than the songs that are on the first record, in a good way.
Natty: Yeah, they’re a lot different. We didn’t plan for the release with Jurassic Pop, so we’re going to need to tour a little bit to sort of get the stuff out there. So that’s where we’re at right now. We probably have about 80 percent of the new record ready to go, but we want to make sure we have a couple other tracks. I’d say in the next three to four months we’ll probably be back in the studio.