VIAL ready for 7th St Entry debut: A conversation about method acting, political internships, and how to mark an important Nirvana anniversary
Flip Rushmore and VIAL are playing Minneapolis’ legendary 7th St Entry with Denim Matriarch and Pure Shifter on Friday, January 17. Find tickets here. Alex got on the phone with VIAL bassist Kate Kanfield to discuss the gig and—apparently—everything else.
Alex: You guys have way too many Kates in your band. Did you purposely seek each other out?
Kate: Absolutely no planning or anything. It just happened that way. Taylor knew myself and KT, and we thought, “Oh my god, that’s funny.” Then we were on Tinder and we were looking for a drummer, and we matched with Katie. We thought, “Oh, that’s perfect. Three Katies or Kates or KTs. That’s just hilarious.”
So there was a little bit of fate. You saw the name, and it made sense.
Yeah. “We need to message them just because their name is Katie.” It worked out perfectly.
How did you guys all start playing music with each other?
I’ve known Taylor since we were both in high school. Five or six years now. We played together in a program back then and did some stuff together. Taylor messaged me earlier this year and said, “I want to get a band together.” Taylor also knew KT through a program called She Rock She Rock. Taylor connected us, and then we found Katie on Tinder!
Is that how bands are being formed now? On Tinder?
We haven’t found another band yet who’s used Tinder, but we highly recommend it.
So it was Taylor. Then you. Then KT. Then Katie.
OK. As far as the band name … it can be really tough to come up with something. Everybody finds one differently. Where did VIAL come from?
The very first day that KT, Taylor and I were all together, we picked it. We had 10 to 15 ideas we were thinking about. We ended up just writing them all down and voting for our favorites. And then whichever one had the most votes, won. Based on that, we chose VIAL. KT came up with it, and it’s just been the perfect name.
Is it an acronym? You usually have it in all caps.
We like the all caps. It’s not an acronym for anything. We were just like, oh, like Vile, it’s a great name for a punk band. Then let’s add a spin on it. Like the poison vial.
I really liked the Scream video you guys did for “Rough.” You guys are all late ‘90s babies, right around the millennium, right?
Yeah, late ‘90s to early 2000s.
So everybody was born after Scream came out. Who was drawn to that movie, and why was that the choice for the video?
Taylor was actually the driving force behind the idea. Taylor originally had a dream about the ghostface killer trying to kill a woman, and then they end up falling in love. And then she ends up becoming the female ghostface killer. That was originally what it was supposed to be. This weird serial-killer love story thing. As we kept working on it and kept planning for it, we thought, “Oh, we should take parts out of the Scream movie.” And then eventually we were like, “Oh yeah, this is a music video. We need to keep it short.” We all love the intro scene to Scream, so we said, “Let’s just copy that. That’s perfect.”
Did you ever shoot the original idea? Is there any bonus footage of the dream plot?
We have different bits from behind the scenes. But we really only have what’s in the video. We shot it in one night. I think it only took four hours or something. Then we recorded our “Grow Up” video, and, yeah. We don’t have anything else (from the shoot), but we might revisit the idea later.
In the “Rough” video, are you the one screaming on the porch, or are you the one behind the mask?
I’m behind the mask.
And you did not use a stunt double? You were behind the mask the whole time?
No stunt double at all. It was all me. Even during the scenes where Taylor is talking on the phone, I’m actually across the camera from her, telling her creepy things in my serial-killer voice. It was full method acting.
You had to really get into the character to make it work.
Exactly. I had to find myself in the ghostface killer.
Sticking with the ‘90s: You guys had a tweet about “Territorial Pissings.” Do you play that at a lot of your shows?
Yeah, we play “Territorial Pissings” at every show. It’s our one cover song we really just go hard with every time. Usually at house shows we have a “piss” chant that we like to do before we start it.
How does the chant go?
Just, “Piss! Piss! Piss! Piss!” for a couple minutes, and then KT starts shredding.
I love it. Was Taylor the one who originally picked the song? Who brought that in?
When we first started playing together, we all had a bunch of songs we thought would be really fun to cover. We’ve played through a few of them at different points in time, but “Territorial Pissings” was one of the songs that KT really wanted to cover. They played a couple shows without me—I was in D.C. all summer—and at our very first show, they didn’t have enough songs to fill the time, so they learned “Territorial Pissings” the night before. We’ve been playing it ever since.
You’re playing the Entry in 2020. Nirvana played the Entry in 1990.
Yeah, they did!
They were probably writing that song when they came through. I think it would be a shame if we didn’t get a “Piss!” chant at the Entry. That would be too bad.
I can’t say for sure about our setlist, but it definitely would be a shame if we didn’t mark that occasion.
You said you were in D.C. this past summer?
Yeah, I spent two months in D.C. interning for a congresswoman, Angie Craig. She represents the southern suburbs: Lakeville, Burnsville, Northfield. That area.
How did you get connected with her?
I’m from Elko, which is in her district. I volunteered for her campaign back in 2016. Her very first campaign. And then in 2018, I ended up working full-time on her campaign. She won, and I applied for an internship. I knew a lot of people in the office, and I knew Angie herself. So I was able to go out to D.C. and follow it full circle.
I should back up. Are all of you guys in school right now?
Yes. All of us are in high school or college.
Are you a poli sci major?
I’m a global studies and history double major at the U of M. Kind of poli sci but a little broader. I still have about a year and a half left. Katie’s also at the U of M with me. She’s a computer science and neuroscience major. Taylor is studying music business at Augsburg.
I was wondering about Brace Cove. How did that relationship start? I don’t know much about it. I know the bands they work with … I assume it’s like a DIY collective? How would you describe it?
Brace Cove is amazing. They’re really about DIT: Do It Together. They have been such a positive, powerful force for our band and the community in general. We heard about them and knew about them when we first started getting together and playing. Just from other friends we know in the scene. When we started to record Grow Up, they reached out to us and opened the opportunity to work together. We were nervous at first. Just deciding between and label and self-releasing. But we decided to work with them, and it’s been nothing but fantastic.
How does it work, financially? Are they just taking a cut, and you didn’t need to put anything in? Or does everybody put something in and everybody shares it? How does it go?
From what I know, they don’t have any rights to the music or anything. But they were a fantastic help in connecting us with people. Like with Abe (Anderson), who we’d previously known, but they’d built a better connection. He mixed and mastered our entire album. They bought our first round of CDs and designed the jewel case. We just paid them back as we were able. It was a really nice way to work together.
There seems to be a cool house-show scene happening (as always). And VIAL seems to have fit into a community that’s grown pretty strong. It’s almost like these house shows are bigger than going to play at a bar. You’re building something. Does that make sense?
The house shows are really accessible. Anybody can go there. They’re usually really affordable. And it’s an easy way to get people out to smaller shows that they might not have been able to afford. Or they might not have heard about it if it were at a bar or another venue around the Cities. I think the house shows themselves are part of … sorry, I’m stumbling over my words. I just got off of work.
Are you doing a graveyard shift somewhere?
I work mornings at a Starbucks. So I was at work at 4 a.m. and I got off at 9:45.
Gotcha. Well, thanks for giving me a few minutes. I know you probably want to sleep.
It’s all good! I’ve got plenty of time.
One of the local bands you guys seem to really love is “National Park Service” (NATL PARK SRVC). I assume you pronounce it like that?
Yeah! They’re a fantastic band. A lot of the bands that we played our very first shows with have been the core of the community we’ve been trying to help build. They’ve all been really great people and friends. NATL PARK SRVC is great. Bugsy is also a great “band friend” of ours. Natalie Fideler. Floodwater Angel. Keep For Cheap.
How does VIAL fit into that group? What makes your show different?
I think our energy onstage is really what makes our shows different and special. We just have a ton of fun. Taylor goes out and plays the keytar. If the song doesn't have a keytar part, like if we’re playing “Territorial Pissings,” she’ll go out and mosh. We just like to have some lighthearted-but-still-heavy fun.
This is your first time playing the Entry, right?
It is! Yes.
Is this everybody’s first time? Haven’t played with other bands there?
This is everybody’s first time, yeah.
It’s obviously an institution. It’s a legendary place to go play. But I think each generation has its own feelings about it. What does it mean to you?
When I think of the Entry, I think of so many different things. I think of the iconic acts that have played there over the years. And I think back to high school when I was growing up and finding my own personality and finding the music that really meant a lot to me. I saw a lot of bands that I never thought I’d be able to see at First Ave or 7th St. The way they showcase so many different artists and styles is fantastic to me. I got to see a Babes In Toyland show that just absolutely–not “changed my life”—but revitalized me my freshman year of college.
Just based on your First Ave bio, VIAL is very—uhh, ”politically motivated” is probably not right—I’d say socially motivated. You are “proudly femme in a scene inundated by masculine acts.”
I think there are a ton of really diverse and amazing bands in the scene. What we tried to do when we started booking shows was to put as many of them on the bill as possible and create the best shows as possible, no matter who’s in the bands. It’s been really successful! There are a lot of fantastic upcoming femme and queer bands. A couple of the people I mentioned earlier. Dadbod. A bunch of other DIY acts.
As a band, you can only be so much. You’re four individuals who have a somewhat hectic life. Just life outside of music and inside of it. We just try to support femme, queer and people of color’s music that we see on social media. And also just talking about it. Getting cis-white male bands to really start thinking about who they are putting on shows. That’s what we’re doing, too, especially when we’re paying these all-white-male shows and we’re the only non-men on the bill. We really try hard to show them that non-men bands can put on a hell of a show. And even put on the better show.
I went back and found VIAL's first tweet--retweet, really—which was a .gif of, like, a stone-faced AOC sitting there while everyone stands up around her and claps at the State of the Union address. The caption is “Me at the basement show after the 3rd mediocre white boy band played.” Hilarious. But. There’s obviously some irony (tragedy?) involved in you making your Entry debut on a bill with three "white boy" bands.
I don’t think it’s antithetical to who we are as artists or what we’re trying to do as a band at all. There are so many all-white male bills. Even though sometimes we’re put on a bill like this 7th St show ... building a truly diverse DIY and DIT punk community in Minneapolis, it doesn’t mean excluding all men. It means opening up the scene for more femme and more people of color and more LGBTQ bands. It’s not a give or take. There’s so much room in this community. And so many people playing shows and going to shows. There’s space for everyone.
And I don’t think we get disappointed when we get put on bills like this. I think we get extra motivated to destroy our set.
It’s gonna be fun!
Yeah, we’re fucking stoked to play with you guys. We’re stoked to play our first Entry show with y’all. It’s really exciting.
Support VIAL on Bandcamp here. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Stay tuned for the next Flip Rushmore Q&A with Denim Matriarch.
Alex used to be a journalist. He still wants to be one, apparently.