Dutch alternative/progressive rock outfit, Vital Element, have been around since 2010 and for something less than four years of existence, they managed to produce an album titled Our Modern Age in 2012. Passion, as a main keyword that has been driving them ever since the inception, is certainly something that you can hear on the aforementioned effort.
Following the band’s appearance on Prog Sphere‘s Progstravaganza compilation no. 17, Vital Element‘s guitarist Jetse van der Moolen answered our questionnaire and provided some insight behind the band’s work, writing methods and future.
How did you come to do what you do?
The short answer is because of my dad. Music always played a big part in my family, and my dad played guitar and had huge collection of music. Because of that I became exposed to people like Bonnie Raitt, BB King and Pat Metheny at a very early age. Eventually I would start taking private lessons when I was eight, first classical and eventually moving to electric guitar. I also attended a private jazz school in Amsterdam for two years. From early on I explored a pretty big variety of different styles of music, both out of curiosity, excitement and the idea of ‘if I don’t like it there’s probably still something I can learn from it’. Later on I also started teaching guitar and taking some jobs as a composer for films and theater, which is a lot of fun.
At the end of 2010 I came across Daan (bassist) and Jesse (guitarist) who started Vital Element around 2008, although under a different name back then. At the start of 2012 Patrick (vocals) and Wouter (drums) joined. We started recording our first album ‘Our Modern Age’ shortly afterwards. All of us come from pretty different musical backgrounds, but we share a lot of common ground and ideas for where we want to take the band.
What is your first musical memory?
Probably hearing John Lee Hooker and trying to play that song with one of my dad’s guitars on my lap. I was too young (probably around three or four years old) to really hold it properly, and I just put my hands on the strings and hit them, but I think I actually got the rhythm of it.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
For the band, we take it from what’s going on either with ourselves or the things around us. It can come from certain phenomena at a societal level or from personal experiences and introspection.
Sound itself also plays a huge role with most of us. For me, which type of sound I’m playing with at a certain moment can determine where I go with an idea. It can get me immensely excited to play around with and write new material. It can also work the other way around. Whatever feeling I may have at a certain moment, that can drive me to seek out a certain sound which I think fits best with expressing that feeling.
There are also many other bands and artists out there who make incredible and inspiring music which we love to listen to and get excited by.
What message does the song on our Progstravaganza compilation carry?
The Well is about someone who made a lot of mistakes and basically hit rock bottom. Unsure whether he wants to continue with his life and if he even deserves to. The song has a pretty hopeful ending, though for some people the question will remain whether they can live with the mistakes they’ve made.
Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?
We joke around how we always write a verse, chorus and then 20 different bridge sections for a song, which is pretty true. How we come up with it differs though. We either write at home, record short demo’s or jam during rehearsal. For our second album we’re also experimenting a lot with different song structures, which can be a pain sometimes, but we’re really pleased with the results we’ve been getting so far.
What is your method of songwriting?
I got into recording myself from when I was around 17, and that has come to play a huge role in my writing process. As I said with the band, we either write at individually or with each other.
During writing, the keywords for us are always dynamics and balance. We usually have a couple of different melodies and rhythms going on at the same time, so balancing it out between the different instruments and making sure it’s not overly complex is important for us.
As far as lyrical concepts go, that usually comes afterwards with me, though I know it works differently for the other guys in the band. Jesse (the other guitarist) is a big fan of coming up with concepts what a song or album should be about and write based on that. Patrick (vocals) is the main guy in charge of writing the final lyrics, though we bounce around ideas with that as well.
How do you see your music evolving?
The main difference with the new material is that all of us are really involved in the writing process this time. For Our Modern Age, all the songs were pretty much already finished by the time Wouter (drums) and Patrick (vocals) joined. Apart from working on our second album, we’re also working on more acoustic material which we plan to release separately.
What advice would you give to other musicians, trying to make inspired music and get it out in the world?
Love doing it, work hard at it, share it, keep learning, and don’t forget to support that other guy who’s in the same boat as you as well.
What are you looking forward to?
The new Tool album of course.
Aside from that, we’d love to play more gigs and add new elements to the live show. And every time we start talking about our plans for the second album we get really excited, so can´t wait to start recording that. We´re really proud of all the material we’ve written so far, and we’ve got plenty of new ideas we want to work on, so we’re pretty energized towards working on Vital Element’s future!
Bands, send your music submissions for the Progstravaganza compilation series to firstname.lastname@example.org