Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Bleeding Hearts in Analog

music_jvJohn Vanderslice on liberalism and recording to tape

Some artists seem to cultivate character from their surroundings, while others develop as a reaction to that upbringing. John Vanderslice falls easily within the latter category. Coming to the Crepe Place on Friday, Dec. 11, Vanderslice brings his low-key songwriting quirkiness to a town well known for its own idiosyncratic nature, as well as its liberal politics.

Nowadays, Vanderslice serves much the same role in San Francisco’s indie music scene as Dave Eggers does in its literary one—both nurture their creative circles while also contributing to them. However, growing up it probably would have been difficult to guess that Vanderslice would end up as a bleeding heart singer-songwriter operating out of the Bay Area.

Spending his formative years in Florida and Georgia, Vanderslice moved to Maryland when he was 11 and was subject to some of the stereotypical East Coast propriety. “That’s part of how people are tempered, they grow up in a sane and very small environment where people know who you are,” Vanderslice says. “And some of that is very healthy and very good, and some people move out to the West Coast.” He even followed through with a more traditional lifestyle, graduating from the University of Maryland as an economics major.

“My dad intensely pressured me to study business,” the singer remembers, “and by the time I was comfortable enough to rebel against him I was already far enough along in my studies that it seemed that economics was the most interesting [bachelor of science degree] I could have gotten at the time, especially from a political point of view.”

One thing is immediately clear in talking with Vanderslice: the man is incredibly passionate and personally involved with his politics. His releases in 2005 and 2007—entitled Pixel Revolt and Emerald City (a reference to Baghdad’s Green Zone), respectively—each burst with political themes. “Those two records were like a safety release valve for this unbelievable amount of anger I was feeling,” Vanderslice explains. Songs like “The Parade” and “Kookaburra,” which he describes as “very surreal fragmented dystopian narratives,” developed out of trying to come to terms with the world post 9/11.

It’s not difficult to make the jump that Vanderslice’s liberal tendencies developed as a rebellion against the pressure of youth to fit in to a certain box. But in a time where many artists—independent ones, especially—are struggling to make a buck, perhaps it was that upbringing and business instinct that enabled him to achieve a comfortable status in Bay Area music.

In the ’90s, Vanderslice began the arduous task of developing a rehearsal space in San Francisco’s Mission District into a recording studio. Today it’s known as Tiny Telephone, an analog setup which has hosted indie rock luminaries such as Death Cab for Cutie and Spoon, and is a frequent haunt of producer Scott Solter. Vanderslice explains that Tiny Telephone is “based around tape machines. We have Pro Tools, but we really encourage bands to not record on a computer. I think it’s a real interesting challenge, and sonically it’s pretty profound to be hitting tape.”

Earlier this year Vanderslice released his seventh album as a solo artist, Romanian Names, his first record in years not overtly politically motivated, and very much a harkening back to the stripped down work in early albums such as Life and Death of an American Fourtracker.

“Romanian Names is my bedroom album,” he explains. “It’s much more about my personal life and navigating my own identity through the demands of relationships,” Vanderslice says, just moments before having to cut away from the interview for five minutes after receiving a call from his wife on the other line.

John Vanderslice plays at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 429-6994.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Simplicity Preparing for Thanksgiving

When we study and apply astrology in our daily lives, we are anchoring new Aquarian thinking. Study, application and use of astrology, understanding its language, builds the new world, the new culture and civilization. Astrologers are able to plan right timing and right action. Next week is Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 26). It’s good to understand the energies influencing us in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. When we know these things we are able to make Right Choices, have Right Action. We link heaven and Earth, our minds with the starry energies that influence us. Let us consider the following influences. The North Node (point in space where sun and moon meet, representing humanity’s present/future pathway) has just entered Virgo. Virgo is about food, purity, cleanliness, service, detail, order and organization. What can we learn from this? Because these energies are available to us we, too, can have intentions and a rhythm of order and organization, purity and cleanliness. Sunday, the sun enters Sag, joining Mercury (we have high ideals, many goals). Tuesday, Mercury/Saturn (structured disciplined thinking) squares Neptune (thoughts, ideas, goals dissolve away). Wednesday is 3 degree Sagittarius solar festival (full moon). Sag’s keynote is, “We see a goal, we achieve that goal, and then we see another.” We might have many plans and goals for Thanksgiving. However, on Thanksgiving those goals may be dashed. Saturn (structure) squares Neptune. All structures and plans dissolve and fall away. What is our response to this? We simplify all that we do. We plan on everything changing. We don’t fret. We adapt instead. Adaptation is the behavior of the Disciple. Sagittarius is the sign of the Disciple. 


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of November 20

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


If you could be someone else for one month, who would it be?

President Obama, so I could change a lot of laws that pertain to people in jail for drug possession and other minor crimes. Raouf Ben Farhat, Petaluma, Self-Employed



Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Wine is best shared with the one you love


Rainy Refuge

Kelly’s offers killer sliders and pumpkin pie, plus dining pet peeves and wine of the week


If you won the lottery, what would be the first three things you did?

Build a restaurant, buy a house for my mom and donate a quarter of the money to the Boys and Girls Club. Jevon Martin, Santa Cruz, Chef