Words by David Massimini
Herzog is the best band in the world. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but they’re certainly one of the best bands coming out of Ohio these days. Check out their new release, Me Vs You, and maybe you’ll see where I’m coming from. I had a chance to talk to songwriter Tony Vorell about the record, touring, and growth as a band.
Off Shelf: How’s tour going? Playing anywhere you’ve never been?
Tony Vorell: Yeah, except Memphis, these were all new cities for us, and probably our most successful and best organized tour to date. It is really encouraging for more dates this summer. This is our first tour with Alec on drums, and I overheard him say it felt like all the time had passed between shows, but also no time at all. He’s a zen dude.
OS: You do a pretty amazing cover of the Mice’s “Not Proud of the the USA.” Bill Fox is a pretty one-of-a-kind figure. Do you have any good stories about playing with him?
TV: Thanks! That’s a fun song to play, even though it wasn’t on the tour setlist. Yeah, we a played show where he opened up solo acoustic, and Nick and I were up front listening by ourselves. He’s really shy and sensitive and not into hero worship the few times I’ve met him. I want to tell people to listen to his records, including the new solo ones like One Thought Revealed but I’m also respectful of his privacy.
OS: Your previous album, Boys, was an incredible, upbeat ode to youth, while Me Vs You seems to come from a different place. How has Herzog changed as a band in the last five years? How has your approach to songwriting evolved?
TV: I think this album swings wilder on the emotions. There are some songs of pure brotherly love like “Amps II Eleven” and some songs of intense animosity and anxiety. It feels like Boys was a portrait of one time in my life, but this was culled from a larger range of experiences and sounds, and it’s stronger for it
OS: How would you describe your new album, Me Vs You? How does it relate to where you are in a life, as a band and as people?
TV: Me Vs You is a more evolved version of Herzog. We wrote a ton of songs, and played a ton of shows and this is the greatest hits from that time.
OS: The opener, “Music is the Language From When I Mattered,” starts with a huge fucking bang, which seems to be a common motif on your releases. How important is it for you to open with these loud, powerful statements about yourselves?
TV: [laughs] I just listened to this episode of “Switched On Pop” where they talk about how with streaming that it doesn’t pay if people don’t listen past the first thirty seconds, so songs are having shorter and shorter introductions. So I guess this is perfectly optimized for streaming services, because it starts off right into the verse.
In all seriousness, I’ve always liked albums that are front loaded with hits, and then stretch out in the back half. We still sequence things for two sides of vinyl. Every time we do this, we have pretty serious talks about sequencing, to make certain the bangers lead off. This one was no question that it starts with the fastest, most distinctive track “Music was the Language”.
OS: Me Vs You‘s first single, “Little Bugs”, is a heavy, nostalgic, heart-shattering pep-talk for today’s youth. Is this a song you could have thought of five years ago? What was your inspiration for it?
TV: I had kids during the production of this album, I have two now, and Dan Price just had his first this last January, and this is only song about them and that experience. I don’t want to make all dad rock, but I want to look at my sons and tell them it’s going to be alright. That’s an important feeling for me. Once we had that sentiment, the band dialed in the nostalgic Big Star riffs to match that mood. Those are my favorite moments, when we really work best as a unit.
OS: What’s the rest of 2019 looking like? The next five years?
TV: In five years, we should have a lot more albums out, to be honest. We’re a pretty consistently working band, and we’ve got lots of material we want to share. Dan has a really good studio now, and that should really help streamline recording operations. We’ll play out of town more this summer, and look for more licensing opportunities, because that’s something we’ve never done before.