We talk nights out and self-doubt with VCATION’s John Martin and Michel Zitron.
Interview by Leni - 29 January, 2019
Meet VCATION, the brand new project of two of Sweden’s most influential singers and songwriters, Michel Zitron and John Martin. We caught up with the visionaries to celebrate the release of their new single “Whiskey & Cola” – we’re dubbing it the break-up anthem of the year, and they’re only just getting started.
What are you guys up to right now?
We are preparing for a little eurotrip right now. We’re going to Berlin next week to work with Bob Moses, a super cool duo group that we’re going to write with. Then we’re going to Amsterdam the week after to work with Martin Garrix.
Will you continue writing songs for artists or is VCATION your priority right now? Our main day job is that we are song writers but as the industry is looking right now, it’s such a blurred line between what’s really an artist project and what’s a songwriting project. We don’t really know what song is going to end up on our project, or become a Martin Garrix project, so we’ll see. We don’t have a master plan to be honest, we’re just going to let the songs drive the project.
Tell us the story of how you met... We met almost 8 years ago after being introduced by friends at a nightclub and we’ve been brothers ever since. I [Michel] was a songwriter back then but John had his rock band and our first meeting was based upon that we would write something for his band. But it was quite obvious that weren’t going to write for his band and we were going to start our own project instead. I thought that he should quit his band and start a project with me instead, and so he did!
How did that conversation go down?
It was pretty natural actually, super organic. When I was writing tracks for Swedish pop acts during the weeks, John would come into the studio on Fridays with a bag of beer and whiskey and we would listen to music, drink and jam. The rest is history!
What is a typical night out for you guys? We usually work in the studio and have a nice after work beer and then we’ll go out. When we’re touring, we usually have big nights out and let the host take us out on a big night. But if we’re home in Stockholm, we’ll just chill and work and hang out with the family when we have free time.
Is there a story behind the lyrics in "Whiskey & Cola"?
We were in the studio, drinking whiskey and cola, and we had just come up with the melody for the track. As a joke, we started singing “up all night drinking whiskey and cola”, and our immediate thought was “ok we’re obviously not going to use that in the song” but then Klei, who we were working with, was like “that is dope, you should use that”. So that was the spin off for the rest of the story.
When then started talking about how it feels when you have broken up with someone and how easy it is to imagine that the other person on the other side is feeling so fucking good and doing yoga and drinking smoothies while you’re out clubbing every fucking night to drown your sorrows. So I would say there might be some personal experiences in the writing but we have taken all of our experiences and wrote a song from that. It was cool to write the song with Klei who had the girl’s perspective of a breakup, too.
What's the evolution of VCATION look like?
Right now the project is very song driven, and since we invited fans into a pretty early stage of the band, for now we’re just going to keep pushing singles. We want to have to have the freedom of releasing different types of songs too.
Amuse has a mission to support independent artists through their careers, and not just in the shiny moments. What’s your advice for artists who may be struggling with self doubt or balancing their careers with their mental health? Consistency is the most important thing and trying to believe in yourself when its super dark and you have to pay your own bills. You have to work hard and it’s really hard to balance your private life and work. If you want to be successful, you have to put in the hours and believe in yourself when nobody else does. It’s hard for everyone, we still suffer from it, even though we’ve had massive songs as songwriters. You have to be consistent through doubt and the fear of failing.
Is there a way you’ve dealt with your self doubt throughout your careers? Two years ago, we had a really low self esteem when it came to songwriting. We just kept on writing and decided that we were going to start having fun in the studio again. We came to the conclusion that we had stopped having fun and no one had fun listening to the songs we wrote. We needed to have fun and we needed to come back to writing songs that we really loved.
“Whiskey & Cola” is a perfect example of that, because we had spent weeks of trying to write a melancholic sad masterpiece and we ended up having fun in the studio instead and we wrote the track. If you’re not having fun, it doesn’t matter what type of songs you’re writing, even if you’re writing a sad song, if you don’t enjoy the process you wont come up with anything that other people will enjoy. You should always have some kind of nice feeling in your body when you’re writing songs. People recognise real feelings!
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