I caught up with Vista Chino drummer Brant Bjork shortly before the band’s debut performance at the Orion Music + More Festival. And while it was technically their first performance as Vista Chino, they’d been playing as Kyuss Lives! for the past few years. A lawsuit prevented them from continuing on with that name, despite the fact that Bjork and Garcia had been in the seminal stoner rock band Kyuss. Among the topics we discussed was how much more popular Kyuss got after disbanding, how he feels about the ‘stoner rock’ tag, and the surprise bass players on the album and live.
So today at Orion Fest is going to be the first official Vista Chino performance, right?
First performance under the name Vista Chino, right.
And you have pretty much the same lineup as when you had a different name last year and before, right?
Yeah, well, the last time we performed was in Australia two months ago, and this is the same lineup.
Who do you have playing bass for you?
Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity is playing bass.
Is that a one-time deal just for this tour?
We don’t know, as far as the bass position of Vista Chino goes. John, Bruno and I kind of figured we don’t know. That might be a revolving door, but so far Mike loves playing with the band, and we, of course, love playing with Mike. It really works, so who knows.
That’s great. Who played on the album?
Nick Oliveri played on the record, and I played a couple of bass tracks as well. Mike played on one track. So it’s kind of a group effort.
Speaking of the album, finally, some new music from half or three quarters of what was once Kyuss. It’s taken a long time for the band to write and record music. How long did it take for the album to come together?
It took a while. I think we started writing in the winter of 2012, and wrote all the way until we started recording that summer. We just finished the record up a couple of months ago, mastered up, and sent it off.
How organically did it come together? Was it like the old days, with just you guys jamming, and suddenly things popped up?
The key factor in the creative process for us now is the simple fact that we’re not 19. We’re 40, and we’ve got kids and lives, so we did a lot of writing on our own and then we really managed our time as far as the creative process was concerned, and then I built a studio while I was writing out in the desert. I got a house in Joshua Tree and we built a studio, and so we were setting that up as we were writing, and we slowly started to work in the material as we were setting up the studio, and then one day it was just like “alright, let’s start recording some of this stuff.” It was actually a really exciting, organic process.
How do you feel being lumped in with the stoner rock genre?
It doesn’t bother me. I like stoner rock. I don’t necessarily like all of the bands equally, but that can be said with any genre. There are some bands that I like more than others. I like the spirit of what stoner rock is, and what it represents. I think it’s great. I’m really honored to be part of that, and I think that stoner rock is only a positive thing.
I would agree. I think it’s really cool that people just hanging out at Orion Fest today will get to see Vista Chino and Fu Manchu. That’s a win for everyone. How did the name Vista Chino come about?
Vista Chino was actually going to be the name of our new record when we were Kyuss Lives, and so when it was time to change the name of the band, we just used that as the name of the band. Vista Chino is just the name of a street out in the desert where we’re from. We just identify as a landmark where we’re from.
What made you guys sign with Napalm?
We worked out a deal with Napalm as Kyuss Lives!, so we had developed a relationship with Napalm in 2011. We slowly got to know them, and got to understand what they were offering and what they were willing to do and vice versa, and it was good. That deal disintegrated because of the lawsuit, and then we slowly picked up the pieces, put it back together, and applied it to Vista Chino.
Is the lawsuit still ongoing?
No, it’s done. We finally settled that.
When was it settled?
I think it settled two or three months ago.
Have you heard any of the new Queens of the Stone Age record?
I’ve only heard the one song.
You’ve released solo records before, it is something you’d want to do in the future?
Oh, of course. I’ll return to my solo work for sure. I did that for ten solid years, and I had a blast, but this is great. It feels really good. When John called me and wanted to get the old band back together, I was really excited because I felt like I pushed the solo work to a level that I can certainly use a break from.
So it’s something that you will probably visit down the road again?
Yeah, I think maybe in a couple of more years, I’ll get back to it. I’ve still got a lot of material and some records on the shelf as we speak. I might release some stuff, but I don’t know how soon I’ll put a band together and start playing again.
When you got back to touring as Kyuss Lives, what have you found different in between the early days when you were with Kyuss, and now in terms of the whole touring atmosphere and label?
There’s a lot of differences. 20 years ago in Kyuss, we were teenagers, we were stoned, we were drunk, and there was no fan base. I mean, we were very carefree. No one cared. No one was really super into the band. We had our small percentage of people that came out and enjoyed it. Nowadays, we’re older, we have families, and there’s this whole scene now that enjoys this kind of music. So I think now there’s a more genuine sense of gratitude, and a sense of acceptance, and it feels good to participate. It really feels like there’s a real purpose that’s really beyond just us and the band. We feel a sense of community now, and it feels good.
So did you feel like the whole time Kyuss was together, no one really knew who you were?
Yeah, I mean, I’m generalizing, but there was a reality to the fact that when we first started putting out records, not everyone loved them, and when we played a show, it wasn’t sold out. A lot of people reacted the way people do when they hear something they’ve never heard before. They were kind of like “What is this? Why are they doing it like this? I don’t know if I like this.” Ten years later, maybe a lot of those people, and I’m sure a lot of those people did, realized “Wow. I really like this. This is good.”
Do you feel like Kyuss got more popular after you broke up?
Oh, no question. I mean, that’s what Kyuss Lives! was all about. It was all about people, over the years, coming up to us and saying “hey, we love this band now. We’d love to see it and hear it.” It was like “okay. Deal.”
Are there any bands you’re looking forward to checking out today?
Fu Manchu. I’d love to see Fu Manchu. It’s always rad to see Metallica, of course. I have to see the lineup, I don’t know exactly who else is playing.