Vagora Conjures Musical Dark Arts
By Timothy Anderl
When guitarist TB Monstrosity (aka Tracy Byrd) realized that he was no longer fully invested in writing and performing with horror punk powerhouse Blitzkid after a 15 year run, the band agreed to draw the curtains on their monster movie-inspired act and hang up their devilocks. Though the death of Blitzkid would have disheartened lesser musicians, Byrd realized he’d become increasingly comfortable personally and musically. He ditched the monstrous moniker and refocused his energy on Vagora, a band he joined in 2009, and relocated to the band’s hometown of East Providence, Rhode Island to begin making music with likeminded musicians.
With a handful of full-lengths – Agoraphobic and Nurture – and an EP and split with Darrow Chemical Company under their belts, and a dark genre-blending approach that ranges in sound from power-pop balladry to punk, post-punk, metal and goth rock, Vagora is gearing up for a mini-tour that brings them to Dayton’s South Park Tavern on April 12. Dayton City Paper recently caught up with Byrd to discuss his split from Blitzkid, Vagora’s influences, the scene in East Providence and their impending trek to the Gem City.
I’ve heard some say that Vagora has been influenced by bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo and AFI, and others describe it as horror punk. Are both the indie and horror punk genres an influence on what you are doing?
Both are points of reference for us, definitely. We take inspiration from bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo, Ignite, My Chemical Romance, AFI and the old Green Day stuff. Even some post hardcore, industrial and metal stuff. Quicksand, HUM, The Dreaming. Shoegaze, alt-rock, it’s all in there. Horror rock does play a part also, albeit a small one. I guess it’s easy for people to say Vagora [is] a horror band. We are a dark band with dark lyrics and dark imagery, but as far as being typical horror punk, we definitely aren’t. That genre is an influence because we all like it, but it’s not our primary vibe by any means. I guess another reason people say that too, is because of my involvement with Blitzkid over the years, and that’s fine too. [Tracy Byrd]
You saw a tremendous amount of success during your tenure with Blitzkid. Why did you guys hang it up after 15 years? What were the pitfalls and pressures happening in Blitzkid that you hope to avoid with Vagora?
I can’t speak for the other half of Blitzkid, our bassist Goolsby. For me personally though, I just wasn’t having fun anymore. I don’t want to be 45 years old up there faking it for the fans. That’s not fair to them, or to me. I have different priorities now with marriage and a family. I don’t want to be gone all the time on tour. I don’t want to be in a band to “make it big” anymore. I don’t want to be in such a pigeonholed genre. The irony is that I’ll be 80 and people will still be telling me what their favorite Blitzkid songs are. And that’s great. We made an impact and we affected people, but I got too caught up in wanting us to be huge. I think because I wanted that … [that’s] a big reason why I stopped enjoying it too. That errantly became my focus, when the focus should’ve been on putting out great records with great songs on them. [TB]
That sounds like a lot of change …
It just stopped being enjoyable. I stopped wanting to be “TB Monstrosity” and just kind of realized that I like being TB, or myself, Tracy. I hope with Vagora we just continue to do things on our own and continue to make great music. That’s all I want. [TB]
Your upcoming stop in Dayton is part of a mini-tour, right? Are you touring in support of Nurture? If so, when did that drop and what is that record like?
We are touring in support of Nurture, as well as the EP we released alongside it called Our Summer Is Everyone’s Fall. We all have jobs, families or other obligations that limit our touring around this time of year, so a mini tour made more sense right now. Both releases, the full length and the EP, were released simultaneously on Nov 15, 2011. Nurture is more raw, in your face three-chord melodic punk because those are old songs that we hadn’t gotten to record properly and had added parts to over a period of years. The EP Our Summer … is more indicative of what we sound like presently, and has more genre melding and is a bit more all over the place. [TB]
Who is the primary songwriter for Vagora? If the writing is collaborative, how are those ideas hashed out before you start the recording process?
Mainly our singer and myself are the principle songwriters. However, the other members have added their colors to songs here and there over the last few years. The writing is more of a collaborative effort nowadays, especially with the new material we’re working on. If I have a song done from start to finish I present it to the guys and we go from there and build upon it. Lots of times though, it will start with a riff at rehearsal and we’ll just layer it from there and everyone will have input and before you know it, we have a song that we’ve all had a hand in creating. There isn’t a set way to how we approach it. Whatever happens just happens most of the time. [TB]
Is the music scene in East Providence really receptive to what you guys are doing?
We do have a local following that are very supportive and respectful and receptive to what we do, but playing locally is always kind of hit or miss for us due to the eclectic crowds. We play locally about once every three months so people don’t get tired of us too quickly. Rhode Island is such a small area. [TB]
(Vagora performs with Red Hot Rebellion and Nixon Now at Dayton’s South Park Tavern on April 12 at 9p.m. Admission is $5.)
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com