Interview by Casey McSherry
Vinegar Mother is a band with a sound too varied for one category. Drawing from progressive, rock, and soul influences, the Connecticut-based band says that "blending genres is everything." Founding members Julia Zivic (lead vox) Jason Zivic (drums) and Itamar Gov-Ari (keys, guitar and vox), with Mike Roninson (bass) all come from different musical backgrounds. Their sound is born out of each members' mutual respect for what everyone brings to the table. Building off the momentum of an increased live presence in the City, the group is set to release their first EP this upcoming November 18th.
RC: What are you trying to create between yourselves and the audience during a live set?
Julia: Emotion, passion, love, a feeling like they can connect, a feeling like they can feel what’s coming off of us as we play. It’s really important to perform close together, to be dancing, to be feeling and hearing the lyrics, to have an audience who respects that we have something we want to put out, and is truly into going through an emotional journey with us, through our live set.
Mike: I want them to know that we’re having fun on stage, and for them to feel like they’re having fun. I feel like a lot of stuff these days is so serious—I want people to have a good time in there. It’s like a party.
Itamar: I’m happy that people get excited over all the nerdy musical moments in there, even if they’re non-musicians. That’s my favorite part. I feel like we’ll play some stuff that’s really worked out, and I’ll wonder who will notice it, and then like 3 people will notice it, who will be the 3 people I didn’t think would notice it.
RC: When did you start creating together?
Julia: About five years ago under the name Julia Zivic and the Brothers, and it was pretty funny. It was my middle-school folk music that I wrote and I brought to them. They made it better and bigger, and put it in a band setting. There was a moment when we said “I think we can move on from this” because we all wanted more of a band-feel, not just “Julia Zivic and them” you know? They were doing so much work, and we wanted to be more of a collective, so we ended up starting this project Vinegar Mother, and from there it just took off because we finally had the vibe that we wanted, and it’s just so much better this way, we love it.
Itamar: It started out with me and Jason in another band with two friends from high school, and at first it was “Oh, Jason’s little sister sings.” and then it was “Oh… Jason’s little sister has PIPES.” She would come home from school and be angry about something and I would show her something I’d written on guitar, and we’d write a song in her kitchen. And then it happened three more times, and then we just kept doing it. And eventually we said “Oh, yeah, this is a band. We should be a band.” And then Mike joined about a year ago. I was subliminally messaging him to join the band for months before he did. Like “Hey Mike how’s it going? Join my band. Do you wanna get lunch and join my band?”
Mike: It was pretty… non-discreet, actually.
RC: How do you deal with categorizing your music?
Julia: Blending genres is everything—you can’t put yourself in one box. Hell no. Gotta blend it. In a blender.
Itamar: We’ve been called “Jazz Fusion” — we said no; I called it “Heavy Soul” and Jason wants to call it “Progressive Soul”— but you know, everyone can call us whatever the hell you want. As long as you like the music… The whole “genre” thing is hard, because every person describes music differently. But some sort of blend between the words “progressive,” “heavy,” and “soul,” without the words “jazz” and “fusion” in there.
Mike: I hear it as like… Neo-Soul RnB but with a little bit of a rock influence behind it kind of like heavier.
RC: Do you feel that social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or SoundCloud adequately express you as a group?
Itamar: I think we’re too ridiculous for social media.
Julia: I usually just put something up there and make it sound exciting and tasteful, just to remind people about shows. A lot of times, stuff doesn’t get a lot of exposure online because platforms like Facebook are so saturated. Facebook is cool, you need it and we use it when we want to. It’s hard on social media lately.
Mike: There are a lot of bands on Facebook.
Julia: Its very saturated, but you gotta stand out somehow.
Mike: I think if people hear us and they realize theres something about us that connects to them personally, that’s more reliable then just them seeing our posts.
RC: Do you have a destination for your band?
Itamar: I mean, I would love to quit my job, one day, and just do this. And not do anything else.
In the next year I would like to be closer to that. It's hard to say “Next year I want to be playing at this size venue," its a hard goal to set for yourself. If we can make incrementally the same progress we’ve made in the past two years, every year, then I think that we’ll be in a really good place in a year. And I think we’ll be in a really good place in five years. The whole thing about being in a band is that you have to be realistic. Because the dream of “Hey I’m gonna be a massive rock Star and be rich as fuck” is not realistic, but if you can make a decent honest living making music you love with your family then what else can you really ask for?
Jason: I think music for me, in general, affects my spiritual progress. So for myself, I want to keep growing with music, on a personal level. And wherever that takes me is where it takes me. But I see good things.
Itamar: …So you’re gonna stay in the band?
Jason: I think so, yeah.
Julia: Can’t escape me, I live in the same house as him.
RC: Ok, fun questions time.
Itamar: Were the last questions not fun?
RC: Have you ever written a song in another language or drawn musical influence from a different culture than yours?
Jason: Yeah, I made a rap song one time in Japanese. In High School with my friend Rui. Its called Damare, Urushendaio.
Mike: In high school I put music to a Russian poem, but I haven’t thought about that in like eight years…
Itamar: I’ve written a couple songs in Hebrew which is my first language, and I’m trying to write more songs in Hebrew, but it’s just a different thing. I’m definitely not ready to play them for people. But at some point maybe they’ll see the light of day.
Julia: No comment.
RC: If you could incorporate an animal sound into your music, what animal would you choose?
Julia: Giraffes make sounds?
Itamar: Everyone knows the giraffe sound.
Jason: A dolphin.
RC: If you could incorporate non musical sounds into your music, what would you want to use?
Itamar: With the voice memos app I’ve recorded so many street sounds and wanted to turn it into things. I threw a clove of garlic at a vase and it made a kind of ‘Ding!’ and I made that into a keyboard patch, and I wanna use that live sometime
Jason: I really like a guy called East Forrest who uses nature samples. I would like it if we could mix urban sounds with nature sounds because we’re all from different backgrounds.
RC: Tell me about your shows that are coming up.
Julia: The next show we have is a SoFar show, October 21st, that’ll be fun, that's in Brooklyn. And then there’s the 27th of October, at Shapeshifter Lab which will be super fun we’re playing with Cherry Circus. The 29th at the Brooklyn Home of Music which is an awesome space, 99 Sublime is going to be playing, Poetic Thrust is going to be playing and Shornstein. And then 11/8 we are at Gold Sounds and then the 18th we’re at Radio Bean in Burlington.
Listen/Watch Vinegar Mother on Youtube