By Kayla Chanthavong, Contributor
[Photo by Joe Medlen]
Q&A with singer and guitarist Jerome “Jerri” Westerkamp III of Vacation
I’d like to welcome Vacation back to Athens after a long time of being away, and thank you guys for an awesome set at ACRN’s Emo Prom! So you guys have been around for quite a while now, could you tell me how Vacation got started?
Jerri: I was living in a DIY warehouse space where we put on shows about 10 times a month. I was living with another guy Peyton, the original guitarist. Then, we started playing with Evan, who is the current bassist. Peyton no longer plays with us, but we were a three-piece for a long time. I was playing drums and singing at the time. I got John Hoffman, who recorded our albums, to become a guitarist. Dylon was living with me at the time, and he was the most badass drummer I’ve ever seen, so I was like, “Dylon, you want to play drums?” And yes, that’s how it started being the four-piece. I moved from drums to guitar ‘cause I was writing all the songs at that point. It was a very natural thing. These guys have been in our band longer than the original lineup. I feel like now, this is the actual band. We all write songs, we all contribute equally and it’s more of a collective for longevity purposes. We’ve been a band for about 10 years now.
Who influences your music, and how would you describe your music style?
Jerri: There are influences–100 percent. I grew up listening to the Ramones. You know, you find your own kind of thing. I was really into this band called Hickey for a long time. They’re an amazing, balls-to-the-wall, fucking nuts band from San Francisco in the ‘90s that really influenced a period of my songwriting. We are from Ohio, so I think I owe a lot to all Ohio bands. Guided By Voices is one of my favorite bands ever. I love the lo-fi rock bands that don’t give a fuck, and they just like releasing cool pop music that doesn’t sound like pop music, but it really is.
So you are going on a European tour very soon. How do you feel about that?
Jerri: I have gone [to Europe] with Tweens when I was still playing drums with them. When we went for a 3-week trip, we went to mainland UK. But Vacation, who’s been a band longer, has never done it, so I’m so psyched that I can take these guys over there. It’s cool. My friend who lives in London is providing us with his van, his back line and all of the gear, so all we have to do is show up. But yeah, this will be toward the end of May.
Now that Vacation is starting to go global, what’s after Europe?
Jerri: We always play with bands from Japan. They are good friends of mine. We’re about to play with some of them. They’re a really cool punk band called Your Pest Band. We’re gonna be playing a show with them at the end of this month. We’ve hung out, and they’re not super fluent [in English], but as soon as you strum a guitar chord or crack a beer, you know what I mean, it’s just like, “Oh, I gotchu.” We do the same thing. So, I’ve always wanted to go to Japan.
What are your goals in the near future?
Jerri: We’re actually working on a new album that’s being recorded right now. I’m a super big fan of home recording and lo-fi aesthetic of rock bands, but we’ve done that before, and my goal with this project and this band is to make every release its own unique thing. So with the new album, I’m going all out with a big studio kind of sound. Sort of like making a big rock record. That’s what we’ve been working on. And we’re going to play in the Super Bowl next year! [jokes]
I really enjoyed your song “Liberty Tax Statue Man”. Could you tell me the story behind it?
Jerri: I live on a strip where a bunch of tax places pop up every winter during tax season, and I walk my dog past them. [One day] I walk my dog past them, and she will not go out in the rain. [She would] cause a fit, but there were people who work for the tax place called Liberty Tax [that] dress up like the Statue of Liberty. One man loves my dog. He’s just like, “What’s up, little girl, how you doing.” He’ll talk to her in this voice every time. [He] notices that she hates the rain, and he’s like, “The Liberty Tax statue man says if I can stand out in the rain then surely you can too.” And that’s the first line of the song. So it’s really a message to my dog but then was turned into this righteous rock song.
Look forward to Vacation’s new album release in the near future, as well as a Super Bowl performance next year!