Led by established drummer Brian Viglione, who has performed with Violent Femmes and Nine Inch Nails among others, and pianist/vocalist wife Olya, Scarlet Sails are a band on the rise. Joined by guitarist Nick Emde and bassist Joe Noval, they’ve just wrapped up a tour with Nina Diaz, released the video for their latest track “I’ll Be There” and are planning shows for later in the fall. With such a busy schedule, Brian and Olya kindly took some time out to chat to PopWrapped about musical influences, social media and favourite songs.
PW: Please introduce yourselves.
Olya: Hi! My name is Olya Viglione, I’m the songwriter, vocalist, and keyboardist for Scarlet Sails.
Brian: I’m Brian Viglione, drummer for Scarlet Sails from New York City.
PW: How would you sum yourselves and your music up in a few words?
B: This band is about setting yourself free to be who you are no matter what people tell you. It’s piano-based rock music which draws inspiration from all kinds of music that we love- 70s British rock, soul, funk, punk. We just want to make sure the message comes across loud and clear to people to cut loose and do what they believe in for themselves.
PW: Which bands and artists did you grow up listening to and how did they influence you? Have such influences changed over the years?
O: Growing up in Moscow, Russia I studied classical piano, so I listened to a lot of classical music back then. Despite the fact that in the times of the Soviet Union when my parents were young, people weren’t much exposed to western cultures, both of them loved music and would get rare vinyls of British and American bands on the “black market” for often enough outrageous prices, which made it extra special. They both were very fond of Queen, and I remember watching those videos and live performances on VHS with my folks, being really fascinated with Freddie Mercury and the world he created around him. Then in my early teens I heard “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys on the radio and I was astounded by that sound. I felt like I never heard anything like that before, yet, I could relate on a very deep level. I think it was her mix of classical piano playing with bluesy melodies that had that raw quality to them with the groove that sounded so modern and authentic. I’d been writing musical pieces before, but that’s where it finally hit me: I could use my knowledge and my ability to play to really create something of my own, that I don’t have to follow the rule book like I was taught all my life. So after I discovered american R’n’B and soul, that led me to a further exploration into the worlds of jazz and blues. Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin were my first biggest inspirations in the world of vocalists. But the energy that drew me in the most came from rock’n’roll. Starting with Otis, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, David Bowie, Television, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, to more modern stuff like Radiohead, Oasis, The Verve, Arctic Monkeys, Skunk Anansie, and Jack White. That didn’t change.
PW: When did you first realize you wanted to be part of the music industry?
B: Ever since I was about 8 years old and fell in love with rock music, I felt a deep connection and calling to pursue it, though the term “music industry” was not a term I would have applied, as the feeling at its core is about being a part of the continuum of musicians who help create music which helps spread joy and help people through hard times. It’s easy to connect that to being in the music industry when you start seeking ways of getting your music out there, and I suppose that as I watched all the tour movies and “making of" documentaries of the big bands I loved as a kid, I was educating myself as to what the different facets were, from playing concerts to recording albums, and I just wanted to be a part of all of it.
O: I didn’t realize it till later, when I tried living a “normal" life and understood it wasn’t for me. Then I tattooed clef on my neck and followed my heart to New York.
PW: Is there a band or artist out there you might say you're similar to?
B: No, not in particular, which is a huge reason I love playing with Olya, she’s got a very individual, unique blend of styles that pop out through her songs, in my opinion. Although, people say sometimes it reminds them of Bowie or Queen in some ways thanks to what the music evokes, which is a wonderful comparison.
PW: Brian, how has your past experience as a drummer for Dresden Dolls, Violent Femmes and Nine Inch Nails influenced the music you're making now?
B: Working with a broad range of amazing musicians only can help open you up to new ideas and perspectives when it comes to the creative process. In many ways, the Dresden Dolls helped me learn about expression, Violent Femmes allowed me allowed me to be reductive and focus on simplicity, recording with Nine Inch Nails gave me a chance to employ found percussion and explore unusual sounds with total freedom. So there’s something be learned at each stage and I just try to incorporate that in being musically supportive with Scarlet Sails to expound on the ideas in Olya’s songs.
PW: Tell me about the video for "I'll Be There." How did you come up with the concept and is being creative in that way something you enjoy?
O: Actually, it all came together very naturally, we had a very little time before the day of the shoot, and the concept came about the last minute when I was brainstorming it with Brian and Michael Pope, who filmed to whole thing. We had a wonderful crew of friends who helped bringing it to life. I'll Be There’ is the manifestation of faith and belief. When you're at your lowest of lows and suddenly you feel that strength. And you can hear the voice of your stronger self and you pick yourself up and you give all of yourself to that vision you have in your heart. And before you know it, it becomes reality.
PW: How easy/hard do you find the song-writing process and who/what most inspires you?
O: Song-writing process is my favorite process. To me, it’s not about being easy or hard, it’s like an art piece, you gotta have a vision for it. Some of it takes longer to accomplish, some of it is quicker. But nothing is more satisfying and more rewarding to me than when you are able to translate into reality something that you hear only in your head. I don’t have a formula for an inspiration. I like to think of it as I’m always in a process of creating something, and inspiration is sort of an ongoing thing that happens to “click" at the moments that really move me. And you never know when and what it is going to be. A certain place, a conversation, a street musician, a page in a book you read, a brilliant performance. Anything can trigger the beginning of a song-writing process. It’s important to stay inspired.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
O: There are so many songs that are great. I don’t think they can compete with one another. To me, music is about diversity, not a chart position. But if I had to pick a few, that would be “Unchained Melody” by Righteous Brothers, “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding, “The Show Must Go On” by Queen, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin, “Hey” by The Pixies, and “True Love Waits” by Radiohead.
PW: If you could share a stage with three other bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be and why?
O: Queen, Bowie, Radiohead.
B: John Coltrane, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix. Learn from the best.
PW: What are your upcoming tour/performance plans?
B: We just finished our first US tour, and now we’re headed off to do a string of Dresden Dolls shows, so I’m buffing up on the drumming and Olya will be singing on the song, Delilah, with us. Scarlet Sails are booking shows in the northeast for October and November, then looking to head out and do more in the US in spring 2017 with a new EP.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and do you agree that it's a necessary tool for bands and artists today?
O: Social media is a great outlet for exposure, but it can also suck your life away. Balance is the key. Also, it’s important to think of it as a display, a window in a shop, but not as a product itself.
PW: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
B: Being in a band is a 24/7 job, so we’ll be writing, rehearsing, booking shows, shooting videos, checking out new bands, and recording demos for the new releases as much as possible.
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as a band and whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
O: We don’t have any desire of emulating someone else’s career. We are here to create our own path and our own legacy.
B: I have to agree with Olya, you gotta be careful what you wish for. Every famous band’s career is marked with great struggles and challenges, too, sometimes worse than you might imagine. I’m not sure if I’d idealize ANY of the bands I’ve heard of, although I give all them credit for persevering. But we are out to write our own chapter and all that it holds. The aim is to keep your head on straight, always remember what brought you to play music in the first place, and give it straight from the heart every time you hit stage to inspire and uplift the people listening. Those are the most important things at the end of the day.