‘Bugs’ should grow buzz
YOUNGSTOWN — The Vindys have generated a buzz for years. It only should increase with “Bugs.”
The band officially releases its new album Saturday, the same day it will headline the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.
A few of the songs already will be familiar to fans. “I Want Your Heart” and “Are You Ready” were two of the five most-played local songs on The Summit public radio station in 2019.
Blame the pandemic for delaying the release of “Bugs” by at least a year. The band finished the album at Canfield’s Court Street Recording right before COVID-19 forced statewide shutdowns in March 2020.
“Thankfully we got everyone in the studio in January (2020),” lead singer Jackie Popovec said. “We made it happen in the studio for a week or two. I remember feeling like vocally I was not that great around that time, and we planned to do vocals at a later date.”
“March 5, 2020, I begged the guys, I have one more song I want to put on this album, ‘All and Everything.’ Rick (Deak, rhythm guitar player) and I literally had written it the day before. We finished it up that day, brought it to the studio and one by one as they came in grabbing their guitars, grabbing their drums, we were teaching them the song right before we would play it in the studio. I just remember being so grateful. It was March 5, and everything shut down by March 17. If we hadn’t gotten that one in, I’m not sure it would have made the album or not.”
The band played a show outside of Chicago shortly after that without lead guitar player John Anthony, who finished up a slide guitar solo for the album.
“Two days later, schools got shut down and then so on and so forth,” Anthony said.
Under normal circumstances, “Bugs” would have been released in June or July of 2020. Instead the band members — Popovec, Anthony, Deak, Ed Davis, drums; and Matt Jackson, bass — had to sit on an album they were proud of and figure out the best time to release it. .
“We asked probably everyone under the sun, ‘What should we do?,'” Popovec said. “It was a heavy decision to push the album, but it was probably the better thing to do for us. Most of how we’ve been growing and supporting the music is by touring and going to radio, doing interviews. That was very important for us with the last album, ‘Keep Going.'”
“Some artists can just release an album, like Fiona Apple, and fans are going to go out and get that album. As a growing band, it was important for us to give the album the time that it needed to grow and mature and have the full support we’re seeing right now. I’m glad we could do that,” she said.
The Vindys definitely take their music in some different ways on “Bugs,” nowhere more than on the title track. While there still are plenty of the blues, rock and jazz influences on the new songs, “Bugs” has an indie dance pop feel.
For the last album, Popovec wrote most of the music and lyrics and then “brought them to the boys” for arrangement, she said. This time she and Deak collaborated more on the songwriting, and “Bugs” is an example of that.
“Rick wrote the beat, and I put my melody and lyrics on top of it,” Popovec said. “I like to write in different ways, whether that’s starting with a melody, starting with a cool lyric or a cool riff. I really want to use whatever to make sure it feels right. This one definitely was more organic in that sense.”
The song evolved further in the studio.
“Mike Estok at Court Street is very talented at arranging this sort of beat-driven song,” Popovec said. “He’s done a lot of these before with a lot of the pop singers he’s worked with.”
After it was recorded, Deak contacted Ryan West, a Canfield native now based in New York who has worked with such artists as Rhianna, Eminem and Jay-Z.
“We reached out to him when ‘Bugs’ was tracked,” Deak said. “I know Ryan, and this might be a good song for Ryan to mix. It’s right up his alley — 808, kick-drum bass, dance-driven beat. I sent it out and asked, ‘What do you think?’ ‘Oh, yeah, I’d love to mix it,’ and he did a phenomenal job with it.”
The song’s lyrics have a dual inspiration. On a literal level, Popovec had a bee infestation in the walls of her home.
On a more metaphorical level, “Bugs” is about how songwriters deal with the things that are bugging them by writing about them.
“I was really inspired by the whole symbolism of the way things eat at me,” she said. “I want to put them on paper … Every time I write a song, I free it from myself and don’t let it bother me anymore.”
“Bugs” will be released as a single on Friday, and the song has the potential to expand the band’s reach to a new audience.
Those who’ve seen the Vindys live have watched Anthony and Deak trade guitar licks, either on the band’s originals or on covers of songs like the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.” The guitar parts pop on the new tracks in a way they didn’t on “Keep Going.”
“When we went in and did ‘Keep Going,’ at least for me, I was very new to recording guitars,” Anthony said. “There was not a clear direction on the guitars (on that album) as to how they sounded. It was just plug in and go. Mike Estok really kind of nurtured different microphones and positions to get the sound we wanted to have versus compromising it.
“All of the rhythm tracks were recorded together. Me, Rick, Matt and Ed were all in the same room recording together. There were a few times we went and re-recorded the guitar parts because Mike found the sound of The Vindys with a certain microphone.”
Deak said “Don’t Tell Me Just Love Me” was built around a guitar riff, and ‘Misery’ was born as a single-note riff song on an eclectic guitar rather than an acoustic instrument. And Popovec credited the added guitar punch in the studio as an outgrowth of the live show.
The band has been playing the new songs live for a while now. “Bugs” and “Are You Ready,” which the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Penguins have used on their television pregame shows and that Youngstown State University’s football team used at Stambaugh Stadium, have become crowd favorites.
Now that the album will be available on streaming services and on CD — a vinyl release is planned before the end of the year– the band is looking to expand its touring reach while staying here in the Mahoning Valley. With 70 million people living within a seven-hour drive from Youngstown, that’s easy to do.
“For the same reason the Mafia liked Youngstown, we can get to Chicago and New York in six, seven hours,” Popovec said. “We can go up to Toronto in seven hours, Nashville in eight, nine hours. Everything is a day away other than doing a West Coast tour.”
If you go …
WHO: The Vindys
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, 201 S. Phelps St., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: $20 and $10. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.