INTERVIEW

Vision Fortune are fed up with all guitar music, including their own.

visionfortune

“I really can’t stand distortion,” Austin Peru politely explains. “Guitars as well – I can’t stand guitar music at the moment; in fact I’m totally sick of it. I feel like we’ve explored it as much as we can. So with our album I feel like we’ve spent three years doing it and it’s done, now I can’t stand that as well.” Austin is still being terribly polite. He’s smiling on the surface, but you can tell he’s only just started. “You know Scott Walker said that after making a record he can’t listen to it? Well, that’s how we feel.”

Sat in a Columbian cafe in the heart of Elephant and Castle shopping centre, a diverse, almost dystopian structure that was voted London’s ugliest building, Austin and his younger brother Alex are in jubilant form, despite appearances. Perhaps that’s because Vision Fortune are just days away from releasing their astonishing debut album and can now look forward instead of back. There’s something fitting about our surrounding’s crumbling facade and fractured space that suits the subject matter – Austin and Alex feel on the brink of demolishing their past just as this 1965 built super-structure teeters between abandonment and regeneration. Having spent half a decade in south London, Vision Fortune have a sense of this disparate neighbourhood more than anybody. “It’s such a melting pot,” they say, “especially this place, and we love it. We’ve always played east in London but we always feel like outsiders going there. South suits us much better because we live here, our lives are here and it’s just more interesting.”

Although they’ve only been official for three years, Vision Fortune as a friendship was born in the Belgian backwater of Menen. Austin and Alex were sent abroad to study as kids and it’s there they met their future drummer, Andres Cuatroquesos. “It’s not like we were bad kids or anything and were sent away for punishment,” insists Austin. “I think it was a recommendation to our parents. God, it was boring though, going to school in a very small town in the south of Belgium.” Austin chuckles at the memory, but it must have shaped their worldly perception. It’s probably why we’re sat on a bench sussing out Columbian snacks rather than a coffee shop or burger joint.

Years later the three of them bonded once more, this time in the backwaters of south London, and it’s here they took a step forward and became Vision Fortune the band. “I guess Alex and I have always made music together,” says Austin, “but it’s really changed from when we started out. Alex got a sampler for his birthday when he was 16 or 17 and we both began exploring electronics and drone. I think that drone thing has been ever present since.”

Alex, quiet until now (partly through his late arrival and partly due to his nature, it seems), comes alive when we begin talking music. “We’ve whittled away the notes over time,” he says. “It’s become a much more minimal set up.”

Their current incarnation – the band you will hear on the album and the band you will see play live – are a musical riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Deeply hypnotic, driving grooves combine with strains of psychedelia, piercing feedback and drone in abundance to create a swirling, spiritual experience like nothing on record, which makes it hard for the music press to deal with. “Yeah, I really don’t like being associated with the new revival of psych or kraut or anything like that, but I guess journalism has to give out these tags,” says Austin.

So what of this album: the body of work Vision Fortune have long dispensed from their system and are desperate to be rid of. ‘Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune’ is finally released this month and it pushes repetition, drone and distortion (sorry Austin) to its beguiling limit, drawing you inwards with its soporific tone and masterful soundscapes. Yes, they’ve been held up as figureheads of a new movement in psych, but they’re much more into it than that. “It’s funny,” Austin ponders, “to me even when we were recording that album all we were listening to was Chicago ghetto house or German Pan records, stuff like NHK, and we were trying to focus on replicating that in a live band scenario. I don’t think we’ve accomplished it though, rhythmically maybe we have but I don’t think otherwise…” He tails off as Alex ends, “we kind of know what not to do now.”

It’s a fascinating album, engrossing yet somehow impenetrable. As each track segues into the other you’re dragged headlong on a terrifying yet uplifting journey that’s startlingly original. Only The Knife’s ‘Shaking the Habitual’ shares a similar feel this year. Sonically they’re very different of course, but emotionally they’re brothers in arms.

Vision Fortune manage to paint a puzzling aesthetic too, using a different language for a title, Roman numerals for the track listing and displaying album artwork of three middle aged salsa players staring right back at the observer.

“Well, Andres and I went to Columbia after it was recorded and we found a Salsa album and stole the title and the artwork,” Austin laughs. “That album title is like marmite though – so many people have told us it’s either the best or the worst. I kind of like it when people say it’s the worst!”

“It’s not that we don’t give a shit about how we are perceived as a band,” says Alex, “it’s just nice to engage people a little bit more so they have to figure things out. Rather than having us three on a cover and explaining every little detail, where it was recorded and who did what, it’s nicer to have… oh I hate saying ‘mystery’, but puzzling is nice, let’s say puzzling.”

Let’s get this out in the open, the album is an unnerving experience (for this listener at least), and one that expertly trades off tension and release, something the brothers didn’t necessarily want to convey but can totally understand. “That wasn’t intended,” insists Alex. “It’s funny because in a weird way the album reflected our state of mind. It was quite an intense process for the two of us and by the end of it we weren’t really speaking. Not in a bad way like we’d fallen out, we just didn’t have to speak as we’d spent too much time together mixing the thing.”

No wonder you have trouble listening back to it then.

“Yeah, as the recording went on it got more psychological so that’s possibly where some of the darkness comes from. It’s all a bit of a blur now as it was a year ago and it was a weird couple of months.”

‘Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune’ is released through Faux Disx and Gringo Records, two fantastically diverse and experimental labels from Brighton and Nottingham respectively. Together with the band they call the album repeater punk that’s born out of economic uncertainty. Is this a foray into social commentary, then, from a band that on the surface like to disguise the messages they put across?

Austin is quick to counter. “No, not at all. We never consider ourselves a political band. Neither of us really enjoy bands that are overly political as well really, it’s more a general feeling.”

Again Alex steps in and carefully chooses his words. “It wasn’t so much a personal thing we were going through, more a universal feeling. Looking at it from an observational perspective, it was something to work with and it was in our minds. It’s nice for an album to have a thread running through it. I don’t like music that’s all about me, me, me, so other people can look at this theory of economics that we put down and work it out themselves.”

Always evolving, Vision Fortune are already looking to the future but they’re digging into their past to move onward. “It seems we’ve gone full circle, to when we were kids, when it was just Alex and I.” Austin grins at his brother and Alex grins back. “Yeah, we are messing around with machines again,” he agrees. Throughout their evolution though, one thing remains the same with this particular band: their uncompromising live show has nearly always been accompanied by the bands fourth member, a strobe light. “At the time when we started it was an incredibly easy way to add a visual element to our music,” explains Alex. “All you have to do is turn on a strobe and turn off the lights. We both get bored with pretty much most bands live as visually it’s not very interesting.”

All of a sudden Alex is pretty passionate about the band’s on-stage persona, Austin too. “We’re both really interested in that side of things, the performance,” he says, “not like being rock stars or having rock status or anything, just the process. For our album launch show we had about 20 TVs all lined up on stage that reacted to sound, that’s the kind of thing we’d love to explore.”

“I’m really interested in exploring the senses,” says Alex. “I want smell! I’m interested in the sensation!”

I put it to them that the name Vision Fortune may need to change. Alex chips in with “Smelly Fortune,” but everyone agrees that ‘Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Smelly Fortune’ just looks bizarre.

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »