If you don't know Bryant Vazquez from his solo work, you might know him from his three other projects -- as bassist in Sedona's decker. or as guitarist in Murdoch with Flagstaff indie rockers Them Savages. But his work with his brother, Chris Vazquez, under the moniker Vagabond Gods is definitely his most brutal.
Bolstered by torn-up vocals and swampwater blues riffs, Vazquez tears into his songs like he tears into his musical lifestyle -- a relentless fervor not unlike a rabid dog. In the last year, he's recorded seven albums, some still pending release: Murdoch's 100 Beers EP, decker.'s fourth LP Slider, Vagabond Gods' self-titled EP and five solo releases. Yab Yum Music ranked him as their "Most Prolific Songwriter" and the year previous, gave him their "Spirit Award." Most folks, when they talk about Vazquez, talk about the "soul" in his music and it's easy to see, or hear, why. His authenticity shines through.
I spoke to Vazquez backstage at the TMI SxSW Showcase in early January, where we talked about the progress he's been making and how far he's come. On a number of occasions, Vazquez has claimed he could record and release an album a month if given the chance. Now, he's closer to that goal than ever.
"I'm really thinking 2013 will change things," Vazquez says. "The plan is, my contract with my job will be over in May, so with decker., we plan on touring a lot, doing off-and-on sort of stuff where it will pay for rent, so I don't have to have a job. I guess it depends on circumstances. If you're on a label of some sort that can support you, it's easier that way."
Originally from Yuma, Vazquez currently lives in Flagstaff in a three-bedroom house with six people, including his brother Chris and Them Savages duo Joshua Be and Ben Velazco. Needless to say, Vazquez describes the place as having "no personal space," but says, "We don't get many complaints -- although I got a complaint recently. I was probably playing a little bit too loud anyway."
Indeed, Vazquez likes it loud. Loud as fuck. His first couple bands were metal or grindcore instrumental acts, because as he puts it, "I wasn't brave enough to start singing." Vagabond Gods got their start when Bryant grew impatient waiting around for bass players or vocalists. "We just started jamming and I just started yelling stuff out," Bryant recalls. "I was really feeling like playing some stripped-down rock 'n' roll, heavy Zeppelin shit. Vagabond Gods took a hiatus for a while. My brother and I kinda stopped talking for a bit and that's when I joined decker. in February last year."
Vazquez has his eyes set on California or New York or "somewhere where there's a large talent pool of bands with balls," because as he puts it, "aesthetically, [Flagstaff] is pleasing, but everything else is dead to me. I'm over it. I'm kinda over Arizona in general."
Perhaps Vazquez can be withdrawn at times. In middle school, he says he didn't hang out with friends outside of class, but instead found solace in his guitar. For Vazquez, music has never been part of being in a "scene" or trying to be cool.
"When I started writing songs, I did it because that was my way to cope with whatever was going on. I went through this crazy fucking nervous breakdown right before leaving to Flagstaff," Vazquez says. "When I was with my girlfriend, I didn't record for a good while. I started feeling on edge. Writing helped me get that out."
If there were only two sides to Vazquez, it would be music and alcohol. Drinking, he says, enables him to get into the proper mindset.
"There's too much going on in my head when I'm sober, and too much going on outside," Vazquez says, beer in hand. "It's a numbing agent, but it also enables for people that do it, enables you to get into that mind frame. It works, man. I like it. I enjoy it . . . We'll see. I don't want to become more of an alcoholic or get cirrhosis or something." He laughs. "I'm gonna stop before that."
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Vazquez cites one his heroes, Tom Waits, who has been clean and sober since early in his career. "I wanna say Swordfish Trombones, he was clean. It just depends on where you get your muse and how you handle it."
Vagabond Gods is scheduled to perform Saturday February 2, at Rogue Bar in Scottsdale with Snakes! Snakes! Snakes!, Them Savages, Field Tripp, and Horizon I.