“It’s very simple to play Kyuss songs,” says Vista Chino frontman John Garcia. “Anybody can do it, but you’ve got to have character.”
From 1991 to 1995, Garcia was the frontman for Kyuss, the band who helped pioneer stoner rock’s husky dude-rock vocals and charging post-Sabbath melodies, fogging up the alterna-landscape like a smoking steamroller. Since their breakup, the band’s guitarist, Josh Homme, has certainly stayed busy, yet Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork cycled through band after band with a fraction of the spotlight until reforming (with livewire bassist Nick Oliveri) as Kyuss Lives! in 2010
Renamed Vista Chino in 2010, Garcia and Bjork still have that Kyuss character in spades on their debut, Peace, writing bulldozing stoner anthems that live up to the legend of their former band. They released the record under the new moniker after Homme sued them for “trademark infringement and consumer fraud,” but the sound is like classic Kyuss never missed a swinging, bluesy beat in 18 years. “We don’t like getting speeding tickets, let alone fucking federal lawsuits slapped on us,” Garcia says. “There were times when we had to be doing depositions when all we really wanted to do was be in the fucking studio. But names are obviously not important to us. We’re going to be making music anyway. And nobody has a fucking right to take our joy away. We’re lifers. We’re grateful to be here.”
Hear this blistering reunion in full below, and read a track-by-track breakdown where Garcia explains what it was like singing through Jim Morrison’s microphone. Tour dates below the tunes. Pre-order the album from Amazon here and from iTunes here.
“Good Morning Wasteland”
John Garcia: Kyuss, as well as Vista Chino, will always do instrumentals. “Good Morning Wasteland” is an example of a song that didn’t call for lyrics. It just has a very organic feel to it, and that’s what Brant Bjork was going for as a producer. That’s why we didn’t go to a studio in Hollywood or Los Angeles, but instead built a studio from the ground up in Joshua Tree, California.
Some people have told me that the vocals on this song sound raw and distorted, and that’s because I was singing into Jim Morrison’s U87 [microphone]. Our engineer, Harper Hug, is in the process of building Robby Krieger’s studio in Los Angeles. So they’ve become really good friends and were talking about Vista Chino. Robby Krieger told him, “Hey, Jim sang out of this microphone before. What do you think the guys would think of using it?” And of course when you put a U87 in front of me that Jim sang out of, of course I’m going to be a little bit intimidated, but it was also inspiring as well. And I was honored, because I’m a fan.
For me as a singer, this song is a totally out of my range. It’s very, very high for me, but it was super fun to experiment with that range. Singers’ voices tend to deteriorate just a little bit as they get older. And mine has, knock on wood, held up, and I really wanted to test the boundary of my vocal ability.
“As You Wish”
I remember around the time we were working on this one, a lot of people were asking me what the record was going to sound like. I honestly didn’t know. This is a song where Brant and I learned to trust each other again. We went through a couple of different versions of it until we found one that works.
“Planets 1” is one of my favorites. Brant Bjork called me one day and said, “Hey dude, would you mind if I sing this song?” And I said, “Absolutely. 100 percent please. Go for it.” His vocals bring out another side of this band. And then “Planets 2” is just so minimal; it’s the less-is-more thing. It’s just six lines. Believe it or not, it’s hard to be simple. I love to fill up every single minute of a song, and when you do that, you wind up finger-fucking it, ruining it.
All it takes is the first line to get a story going, and then it just flows. “Adara” was a direct product of that. It’s very fun to sing, and, for lack of a better word, it’s very, very classic Garcia for me.
That was a live recording one night. Bruno and Brant were in the studio, and they called me up and said, “Come on in and cut some vocals.” Listening to them play it, there was a great vibe, but because of where the song sits in the sequence of the record, we decided not to release it with the vocal on it. I think eventually we might release the piece with the vocal as a B-side. Until then, I think like a fine wine, it needs a little bit of time.
“Dark and Lovely”
I can see this becoming a 15-minute jam, where it’s a trip. It’s a very classic-Kyuss type of tune. If you partake in smoking the herb, that one’s going to be one where you light back up. I think a lot of people think this band partakes in that a little bit, when actually, in reality, I can’t remember the last time I smoked a bowl or a joint or a bongload. It’s been that long. I’m waiting for the right time and the right moment to be able to sit down and do exactly that to this one.
This song is just a perfect example of this band beginning anew. “Barcelonian” is not a song Kyuss would have played. But that’s great. What we wanted was exploration, and “Barcelonian” is a direct product of going down a tangent. I don’t mean it to be crass to the band, but the music sometimes gets redundant and boring. So exploration is fun.
“Acidize – The Gambling Moose”
I did eight different vocal takes on “Acidize.” Because I did eight different versions, it was one of the last songs we recorded. And then “The Gambling Moose” is very classic — not to be talking about myself in the third person — but very classic Garcia. It’s a fun song to sing. I love the snare sound when it comes in. It’s a fitting ending chapter to this book.
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VISTA CHINO Tour Dates
September 6 – Calgary, AB @ Flames Central
September 7 – Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Ballroom
September 9 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
September 10 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
September 11 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
September 12 – San Francisco, CA @ Slims
September 13 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
September 14 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
September 16 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
September 18 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Café
September 19 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
September 20 – Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom
September 21 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theater
September 23 – Montreal, QC @ Corona Theater
September 24 – Quebec, QC @ Dagobert
September 25 – Ottawa, ON @ Ritual Night Club
September 26 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
september 27 @ Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
September 28 – Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa