With the release of their new demo tape DEMO ’23, Vigil are popping off, so CJ Payne sat down with the band to figure out what they’re all about. You can find links to their music here, and follow them on Instagram here.
CJ PAYNE: I want to start by asking you, how did you form the band? How did that all come together?
MICHAEL: I met Mark online through a craigslist ad. I was looking for someone to play drums and it turned out we knew a lot of the same people. We started jamming and it took us a while to find other members so we were just having fun for a while and then eventually it pieced itself together.
JESS: Don’t let him discredit this Craigslist ad! Our drummer made a Craigslist ad and he was like “drummer, fan of Enforced, fan of thrash metal. Looking for people to do a thrash metal band with.” I thought that was really exciting when they told me that a couple months after I was in it that it formed from a Craigslist ad.
CP: And then when did you [Jess] come into the fold?
J: So Mike and I, we have a couple of mutual friends. We were all out at the bar one night, and he was like, “me and one of my friends are trying to start a thrash metal band, and we’re having a hard time finding a vocalist.” And I was like, “I’ll do it.”
M: Yeah, I didn’t know she had any interest. I knew her. But I didn’t know she would want to do something like that.
J: So I tried out with them for a little while, and you know, the styles didn’t really fit together, so they were trying a couple other people. Then maybe six months later, they hit me back up, and they were like, “hey, would you try this direction? A little spooky or a little heavier?” “Yeah, I can try that,” and it just worked. We got really lucky that it just worked. Second try.
CP: Was there a learning curve with you for that because like, I mean, it seems so hard to learn how to scream and yell the way you do, especially on a live stage environment.
J: So when I first tried out with them, I was kind of trying to do more hardcore/punk vocals. Then, when they told me they needed something heavier, I was like, “okay,” and they gave me three days to figure it out, which was terrifying. I just rode around in my car and listened to some bands that I thought would fit the vibe and figured it out. I don’t really know how to explain that. I don’t know. It just worked one day, and then I went with them and tried it. So yeah, a year I’ve been doing this kind of vocals at the most.
CP: You guys have dropped your first demo. Do you have more songs lined up after that?
M: Yeah, we have. We have a couple ready and a few more that we’re working on. We’re just working on that and getting it ready for like live shows and stuff like that. So, hopefully doing
another demo soon as we can.
CP: Do you guys have plans to do a tour in the future?
J: We have a tentative tour in December.
M: It isn’t solid yet
J: We’re hoping maybe a week or so in December down south, that’d be really fun. And, if that doesn’t come, I think we’re still trying to do something. Maybe a couple days in the winter, try to
go south and be warm, but still get out there and do something. Even if it’s just a weekend, or in North Carolina hitting all the cities, there are plenty of places to go.
CP: Speaking of the demo. You guys had such a professional sounding demo on the first attempt, which is amazing, it sounded great!
J: I give a big hand in that to Yave, with Yave Rust recordings. He was just such a sweetheart and really, really helpful in the recording process. He gave us like seven different options on equipment to use and to find the right tone, so he was really helpful with that. We really enjoyed working with him and can’t wait to do it again.
CP: That craigslist ad, did you say how long ago that was?
M: A couple years, maybe.
CP: So you’ve been writing songs as a side project for a few years?
J: During the pandemic or at the end of it
CP: How does the songwriting work for you guys? Is it a largely collaborative effort?
M: Usually, I’ll come up with the riffs and then I’ll take them to Mark and he’ll add drums and we’ll kind of rearrange, brainstorm; stuff like that. I come to him with a song and we come up with
something a lot cooler.
CP: Then Jess comes in to write lyrics?
J: Yep, they give me a finished song and I write the lyrics. Easy enough for me.
CP: Do you guys have any major influences on your sound?
M: Yeah a lot of like, late 80s Thrash Metal: Dark Angel and Nuclear Assault, and some more punk stuff like Sacrilege and Discharge.
J: As for me, the vocal style, definitely Morbid Angel, lots of Sacrifice, Sacrilege. Also, Zorn is a big one for me. I listened to them a lot that weekend that I was trying to get my vocals together. I listened to them a lot. They’re fantastic. The way they blend their sound is really cool to me. Obviously Enforced. We love those guys. And then the phrasing of the way things go is more of the punk style like Detente they’re a big one for me because they really have that more punk style. But, also a lot of black metal seems to really filter in, so that’s pretty interesting — the way
that all of that comes together and the way that it sounds.
CP: Are you going to go see Zorn at the warehouse for their Halloween?
J: Yeah should be really fun. A lot of good bands on that. So, they have the guy in the casket that
they bring out so we’ve joked that we’re gonna get five caskets.
CP: Zorn has the casket?
J: Yeah, they have a guy that they bring in with the singer, they bring him in in the casket he like jumps out.
CP: What do you guys think of the Richmond music scene as a whole?
J: I’ve lived in Richmond my whole life, or at least within 30 minutes of the city limits my whole life, and I think that the punk thing is pretty new for Richmond in the past couple of years, which is really interesting to see. It’s weird that there hasn’t been a lot of new meat, I guess in a while. So, it’s interesting to see this year, there’s been so many new bands coming out, doing new things and really picking it up after a little bit of a slow period. I’m glad we get to be a part of it, and I cannot wait to see where it goes, and how many more new bands we get here.
CP: Do you guys have any larger goals for the band? We talked about the tour and the demo, but do you have anything else on your Vigil bucket list you’d like to accomplish?
M: Festivals; that’d be cool. We want to do all that stuff, but just having fun now.
J: And that’s the main goal right now is to just enjoy what we’re doing. I mean, sometimes when you put pressure on things, it really starts to make it a little too stressful, and you don’t quite enjoy it. If we want to put the work in, we have no problem with that. But I think that having fun, while still being able to do these things — tour and put another demo out, maybe put a 12 inch out — we want to do those things, and we still want to be able to have fun while we do it. So, we’re just taking it as it comes right now. I mean, there’s no rush; we’ve got time. As exciting as it is to just do do do do.
M: We’re kind of up for whatever, wherever we can take this.
CP: Do you guys have any advice for other Richmond musicians starting out?
M: I feel like since we’re just starting out I’m in no position to be giving advice
J: This is actually our first band ever.
CP: Oh really? Dang, I wouldn’t have guessed.
J: So we really have no room to be giving advice.
M: We’re still learning the ropes to be honest.
J: The only real advice I would have for somebody just starting out is just do it. Just try and do what you want to do; put yourself out there. I mean, like I said, I just was like, “yeah, I’ll do it,”
and then tried it, and it happened to work out, so there’s no limit to the opportunity if you just put yourself out there. I know it’s hard. It’s hard to be vulnerable like that, but just try it.
CP: Last question: is there any other Richmond projects you guys are excited about or you’re a part of?
M: There’s a lot of good Richmond bands like Restrictor Plate.
J: Yeah our drummer also does Restrictor Plate. One of our guitar players also does Torment, the hardcore band. They’re really cool, and they just put out a new cassette. That’s pretty cool. Oh, he also does a death metal band Eradicant, which is really interesting.
M: Left Cross just put out new music.
J: Yeah, Battlemaster is putting out a new one soon too. Its cool to see how the people that are in our band are doing stuff, we’re not doing anything else, but our drummer is doing a slam band
and then our guitar player is doing a hardcore band, and a death metal band at the same time while we’re doing this. It’s neat having all of the different things stirring the pot