Let’s face it. The days are growing colder, the nights are settling in sooner, Christmas is over, and your bank account is crying; 2024 is already off to a chaotic start. We’re all in desperate need of some respite. And while we can’t control the sun or raise the minimum wage, we can provide some abundant sonic relief – a chance to travel, baggage-free, through some solid tracks. Following the recent release of their newest LP, No Place Like Home, Australian band Vacations offers to take us on a holiday, chatting with SPIN about the album’s Americana influence, misconceptions about their sound, fave getaway spots, and making music together while 8,000 miles apart. So sit back, relax, and toss an umbrella in your hot toddy. It’s vacation time.
SPIN: What’s the story behind the band and its name…
Jake Johnson, bass: Campbell and I met in high school through mutual friends and grew close, going to local shows. He’d been steadily working on music in his bedroom, and I had been really keen to start playing shows, so we just said “Hey let’s make this a band.”
We recruited one of my high school friends, Harrison Chapman, and got stuck into practicing every week and started working on [the album] Days almost immediately. We knew Nate from the local scene and needed another guitarist, so there was another party member.
After Harrison left – he’d always said how drums weren’t his passion – we went through a few months of having various friends fill in to support our booked shows until we linked up with Joey van Lier, who had been playing in a bunch of other great bands in Newcastle, and that’s been the line up ever since.
We went through a bunch of bad names before we settled on Vacations. We liked the “V” sound, and I guess the relaxed summery vibes of the time kind of fit with it. We were really surprised such a simple name hadn’t been taken before.
Favorite vacation spots?
Campbell Burns, vocals: I can’t remember the last time I went on a holiday. I’ve traveled around the world and seen so much, but it’s always been tied to touring. So, in a sense, I’m always “on” and working. I think I’d like to go to Japan or spend some time in the Blue Mountains [in Australia]. I have fond memories of both of those places.
Coming from a “vacation destination” such as Australia, what would you say the country has contributed to your guys’ sound throughout the years?
Campbell Burns, vocals: I think the community I’ve had the opportunity to engage with in Australia has influenced me in a lot of ways. Our music scene and culture are unique, and I owe a lot to the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made over the years.
Despite Australia being such a vast country, it’s a small and tight-knit family because everyone knows each other in some way or another. This level of support and comradery for each other makes navigating the music industry feel a lot lighter.
I know a lot of people say we have a “beachy surf rock” sound, which makes no sense to me and sounds naive, honestly, but I can understand the relaxed Australian way of life playing a part in our sound and approach to life as well.
There’s some Americana influence on the new album – especially track #5, “Midwest.” What are some of your favorite places you’ve vacationed, visited, or toured in America, and how did Americana vibes make it on that track?
Jake Johnson, bass: I think I’ve been in love with American geography and its wildlife since childhood. I grew up watching cowboy flicks. There’s a bit of similarity between the Australian and American outbacks, so it feels very comfortable to me, but with enough spin to be new – we certainly don’t get snow like the US does. Both times I’ve been to Colorado Springs, I’ve been completely in love with it. During Tourzilla, we all took up hiking whenever we had a day off, and our time spent at the Garden of the Gods there was just incredible.
Campbell Burns, vocals: The Pacific Northwest is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever visited. I’m in awe of the landscape every time I get the chance to pass through. New York City is also a very special place to me. I’ve romanticized that city for years and years, and the first time I went there, it matched my expectations. I wasn’t disappointed at all. There’s so much chaotic energy, and I thrive off of it. Passing through Arizona was also influential; the wide expanse of the desert we saw as we drove through felt isolating but calming at the same time. I wanted to capture that in a song, hence the instrumental halfway through on the album. I thought a lot about country music as well, and how there are lap-steel guitars or how “Nashville” tuning is used on acoustic guitars to achieve a brighter chime-like sound.
Vacations and getaways are cool and all, but there’s no place like home, right? Let’s discuss the new album and its name. How does this new album differ from your previous works?
I think there’s a lot more emotional depth and maturity, as well as honesty. No Place Like Home is an incredibly raw record lyrically and thematically. The production sits in a middle ground between our last two records as well.
There’s the DIY at-home style recording of Changes, but with the finesse and hi-fi quality of Forever in Bloom. I think it’s everything we wanted an album to be, and it’s an exciting prospect that it feels like we’re only just getting started.
What’s the story behind the album’s name?
No Place Like Home was the first name that came to mind, and it stuck. There wasn’t any other ideas floating around. Something about it just felt right, I guess you could say the name felt like “home.”
Campbell, you recently moved to LA. How has that affected things for you personally and for the band, and does anyone else have plans to relocate?
I did! About six months ago. I’ve never lived in another city, let alone another country. It’s been exciting and absolutely terrifying. I’ve had a lot to adjust to, but at the same time, it’s given me opportunities to grow as a person that simply wouldn’t be possible if I remained in my hometown.
Surprisingly, it hasn’t affected how the band operates that much at all. We’ll meet wherever in the world a few days before a tour to adjust to jetlag and rehearse. We can also send each other ideas back and forth, so writing is still a smooth process. I think everyone else feels grounded back home, which I understand wholeheartedly, so I don’t think anyone will move anytime soon.
Which track on the album sounds most like OG Vacations, and which feels like a brand new iteration of the band?
Campbell Burns, vocals: I guess ‘Next Exit’ feels like the most at-home Vacations song on the album. I think it’s a refined pop version of what we’ve done in the past. I think ‘Lost in Translation’ is the biggest departure because it’s barely a song, but more of a long-form verse that slowly fades out.
Photo Credit: Charlie Hardy
What music do you listen to when in need of a little mental vacation?
Campbell Burns, vocals: If I need a little mental vacation, I’m probably not listening to anything. I consume so much music daily, and not always for pleasure, so sometimes listening to more music can be exhausting. If I had to pick anything though off the top of my head, maybe Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s album “Ambient 2”. I fell asleep to that album recently, it was pleasant.
What does the future of Vacations look like? What’s the ultimate “destination” (goal, outcome) for the band?
I’d love to be playing more festivals. I think outside of that, [we’re] just writing more music and working with others to produce [individual projects].