From the subtle and sombre ashes of Kyuss came a new band called Vista Chino which has turned some heads during the last couple of years. As former vocalist John Garcia, bass player Nick Oliveri and drummer Brant Bjork initially hoped to pay tribute to Kyuss by playing live and sharing the music with hungry fans, things took a darker twist and some animosity crept in to view. During some well publicized legal wrangles, their name of “Kyuss Lives!” went through a metamorphosis and from this humble caterpillar came a beautiful butterfly. Vista Chino was born and with the new name and their new music, which echoed the beating heart of their former band, they entered new territories.
“Kyuss was a band that we all experienced putting together in the desert when we were growing up” begins a reflective Bjork before he continues to explain why the band meant so much to him. “Music was something that we did with passion because there wasn’t much else to do. Our ambitions in starting a band which were pretty much motivated by punk rock, was to just play for our friends, and play parties and play out in the desert with other local bands. Just create something for ourselves that we could do and look forward to. It was kind of freak luck that we went into Los Angeles and recorded what we were going to put out, like a seven-inch or something, or a twelve-inch record of our material and someone heard it at the studio and called us up. To make a long story short, she ended up becoming our manager and getting us signed and the rest is history.”
Bjork is well-known by fans and those within the scene known as “Desert Rock” or the “Palm Desert Scene” for not only being the drummer of Kyuss, but for setting up numerous projects and bands in which he might have played drums, played some guitar or even sang. As bands adopted the sludgy, emotive mix of psychedelic and blues, Bjork stepped up on a fairly regular basis as a producer too. “I look at myself as more of an artist than a musician. I’ve never taken a lesson musically, I’m just a guy who is expressing my feelings in the world of music, and I look at instruments like brushes and colors and you know, things that assist me in expressing a particular feeling.”
Bjork continues where he left off, setting the scene for where Vista Chino came from. “That’s kind of how Kyuss came to be known in the public as a working band, but musically we were just kind of touching upon something that was bigger than ourselves as well. And so when you roll up that whole experience and consider the fact that we were all probably around 17 or 18 years old, that’s quite something to experience and it has an impact on you. All of us, referring to all the members of Kyuss, we have all been kind of in the music business doing our thing one way or another based upon our band Kyuss being discovered. So yeah, Vista Chino is an extension of that.”
After a deep breath, Bjork then clarifies what he was discussing previously. “We’re not trying to live up to our past, or run away from our past, we’re simply doing what we do which is play music and we’re not confused about the fact that Kyuss is where we begin.”
Did Vista Chino have the idea of recording new music once they had gathered their respective talents together? “John and I both knew that our original guitar player Josh Homme wasn’t going to want to participate. So we were left with trying this other guitar player, which was Bruno Fevery, who was at the recommendation of John.” Garcia had come across the talents of Fevery when contributing guest vocals on an album called Lotuk. Recorded by a Belgium band called Arsenal, the line-up featured Fevery on guitar who allegedly advised Garcia that as a youth, he played in a Kyuss tribute band.
Bjork after a pause continues his recollections of Fevery entering the fold of Vista Chino. “We tried it, and within I think about the first three minutes of jamming with him I knew immediately that this guy was an awesome guitar player. I’ve played music long enough to know when I’m dealing with a real musician and someone who’s got a real character behind their instrument, this guy is awesome.”
“That first day Bruno and I along with John and Nick were very excited about this chemistry we were experiencing that first day. So our ambition that first day was to not just celebrate the Kyuss catalogue but expand on it and record a new record. You know, from that day forward we weren’t quite sure how it was gonna play out, but we accomplished what our original goal was which was to make new music, and we made new music!”
The new music that Bjork is referring to has arrived in the form of Peace. It’s an album that has spawned grooves and a typical tip of the hat to their former incarnation. When you hear songs like Dargona Dragona or Planets 1 & 2, you feel the spirit and genuine warmth that was prominent when these songs were first created. This may be the contribution Bjork has achieved thanks to being in the producer’s chair, overseeing the sound and vibe of the album.
“I’ve got to assume that on some level a lot of people that are aware of who we are and what we do have come to know that this record in particular was written and created and recorded at a time of intense conflict with some of our past band members. None of us in the band had ever experienced something like that before and it was definitely an experience; I took a lot from it as a learning experience. But it was also very frustrating and very painful. It’s kind of a real confusing thing when you’re doing something that you love most, your passion, and while you’re doing it you’re being attacked for it. It’s a real strange emotional place to be, emotional rollercoaster if there ever was one.” This is Bjork’s explanation for how they settled on the album title for their new album.
“When it came time to give it a title, it was like shit, what do we call this thing?” Bjork then explained how the concept of the album outlived the artist and really needed to share a sincere sentiment that would resonate. Peace seemed so appropriate on many levels that it was an obvious choice for the band when it came to the time of choosing it.
Some albums take a long time and aren’t the easiest of friends, and with the disputes and discontent flying around, was Peace a slow album to record? “Really the time it took to do this was based really on the fact that Bruno, which was my writing partner, lives in Belgium. He’s not a computer guy and I’m even less. We weren’t throwing files back at each other and expanding on our files. I mean I still demo a four-track cassette. The record was kind of written and arranged physically together and in order to do that it took time for him to fly out and come out to the desert and flesh out songs and jam, and kind of decide which direction we wanted to go.” He then summarises. “It took some time, but I mean as far as rolling tape and cutting tracks, I mean dude we were blowing that shit out in a week or two!”
Bjork had this to say regarding the future of Vista Chino; “I think musically Vista Chino was a very, very positive experience looking back at this year. We definitely took some hits as far as all the controversy, but in the world of art that’s to be expected when you’re doing radical stuff. But as far as what all that spells out for us as a future; we’re kind of right here, right now at a crossroads. To be honest, we’re actually all just taking the holidays off to be with our families and then we’re going to come back together early next month and get fit for Australia, and then we’ll probably start seriously talking about what we want to do with the band.” Bjork then reaches further in to his thoughts on the subject. “I know that Bruno and I would love to make another record. I think Mike Dean is excited about that and is considering coming out and working with us; maybe not full-time, but enough to where we can do what we do.” At this point of the conversation, Bjork then lists the many commitments and endeavors that each member of the band has to juggle with, leaving the idea that something could be on the agenda, but not the state where it could be deemed conclusive.