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Walter Schreifels on Vanishing Life, punk's new supergroup

Vanishing Life are a new band featuring Quicksand/Rival Schools frontman Walter Schreifels (vocals/guitar), Rise Against’s Zach Blair (guitar) and the rhythm section from ….And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Autry Fulbright (bass) and Jamie Miller (drums).

The quartet’s excellent first single People Running / Vanishing Life will be released on Collect Records, the label founded by No Devotion frontman Geoff Rickly and Texas Is The Reason guitarist Norman Brannon, on October 13, so we caught up with Walter Schreifels for the lowdown on the group’s origins, aesthetic and future plans.

You’ve got no shortage of musical projects on the go, so what made you want to throw your hand in with another band?

Well, it started off a little lighter than that, rather than actually committing to another band: it was more like ‘Hey, let’s do a thing together and see how it might work.’ We were at Groezrock, in Belgium last year, and I was talking to Autry in the backstage area, and he was saying he’d like to do something with me and Geoff Rickly, and a couple of other guys from …Trail Of Dead and I said ‘Yeah, sure, sounds great.’ And then maybe four or five months later an MP3 got sent to me, and because I’d said ‘Yes’ then I just thought ‘Screw it, I’ll sing on this and see how it goes.’ And as it turned out I was the only guy that came in and sang, and Autry really liked that little demo, so ultimately I ended up being the guy to front the band. It didn’t start out as anything so ambitious, but the response has been amazing and the experience has been super-fun so I’m really excited about it.

Are you writing with the band, or do you see yourself as just the singer?

I’m writing, I wrote the lyrics and the vocal lines for the songs you’ve heard, and I’ve written a couple of things since, but I was also attracted to the idea of not having to come up with all the music and not necessarily having to be the driving force, as I usually end up putting myself in that position. I liked the idea of the music coming from someplace else, and I’d just have to add my touch to it. And that was fun. And I totally love the music, which makes it easy.

Did Zach Blair come into Vanishing Life at your invitation, or via Autry and Jamie?

Actually we first spoke with Zach about it at another festival, Fun Fun Fun in Austin. I’d known Zach for a long time just through seeing him at festivals and stuff like that, and he’d heard that we were doing something and he just really asserted himself and said that he’d really like to be the guitar player if we were looking for anybody. And it seemed like an easy fit. He’s a great guitar player and an awesome dude, so he’s really just added to the positive feelings and excitement about it.

You mentioned Geoff Rickly being involved in the initial discussions, so is that why ultimately Vanishing Life signed to his record label, Collect?

Well, it just kinda worked out that way. When the project was first mentioned it was going to be this wider thing, with Geoff singing some songs and Jason from …Trail Of Dead singing some, so in a way Geoff was there at the inception of it. But over the course of the year he was wrapped up in other things, one of which was starting this record label. And he asked Autry what we were up to with Vanishing Life, and when he heard what we’d done he was like ‘I want you guys to be on my new record label.’ And that seemed like a very, easy, natural thing. I’ve known Norman from Texas Is The Reason, Geoff’s partner in Collect, for over 20 years, so going with Collect was just part of that whole family vibe.

You’ve managed to keep on good terms with musicians from all your previous bands, so are the dynamics of being in a band and collaborating with others quite an easy thing for you?

Yeah, I guess at this stage of the game, whether it’s doing my solo stuff or Rival Schools or any one of the other projects I’m involved in, it’s always that we all want to be there and want to enjoy each others company. I look at it like it’s a creative endeavour and these are people I want to help give songs a voice, and even when the ideas are mine, these are the people I want to bring it to life with their playing. So yeah, I do enjoy the collaborative process. And also these people are long-term friends and brothers, so its pretty special to be able to maintain that family feeling. Those relationships are part of what keeps me going. And then Vanishing Life in some ways is a break from that, in that I haven’t played with these guys, and I think I needed that too, because although I know all these guys and we share a lot of commonalities, we’re not all from the same school, so I appreciate those unknown qualities too.

Have Vanishing Life actually had a chance to play in a room together yet?

Yeah, but only a couple of times, once jamming in Austin, and then recording the seven inch in California. Zach in particular is really busy, because Rise Against are a big band, but we’re all busy, so finding the time for all to be together can be tricky. We haven’t played a live show yet, but we have a couple of in-stores lined up in New York next week, and we’ll have four songs ready for those. I’m excited to play live with this band.

And beyond those shows, is Vanishing Life a group you can take on the road?

I know everyone wants to do it, and usually when people want something they can make it happen. At this point we don’t have enough material, or rather we have material but we need to develop it more. But I think there’s no point in putting the effort in if we’re not prepared to go out and let people hear it. I’m looking forward to just running around with mic and being unencumbered: I haven’t done that for so long and I used to love it, so that will be fun. It’s pretty intense, but liberating too.

So what’s the ambition beyond this initial seven inch?

Well, from my end, I think I’m writing differently, and singing differently, and I’m liking the way things are shaping up: I feel like we definitely have something to say and an aesthetic worth taking further, from an artistic standpoint. So I’m looking forward to developing things further.

You can pre-order the single from Collect Records here.

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.