Vinnie Caruana (The Movielife / I Am the Avalanche)

After the better part of two decades in the punk scene and a resume that includes fronting not one but two seminal melodic hardcore acts in The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche, you wouldn't blame Vinnie Caruana for resting on his laurels. But on his debut solo EP, City By the Sea , the punk lifer exudes a determination and vitality that is a promising harbinger of his career's next act. Caruana dropped science on Punknews staff interviewer G'Ra Asim about hanging out on central Illinois farms, his heavy new side project and why it still remains go time almost fifteen years since his debut with the Movielife. You can catch Vinnie solo all this month on the Acoustic Basement tour.

With the Movielife playing their last show in August 2011, and Avalanche having come back so strong with Avalanche United a little over a year ago, it seems like you’ve made a pretty neat transition between your two most well-known creative projects. Why turn around and release a solo album now?

Honestly, I wouldn’t say that I’m not an ambitious person, but I think throughout my twenties—which was basically spent half in the Movielife and then half in Avalanche—I did my touring, I did my recording and that was it. When I wasn’t touring with the band or I wasn’t doing stuff with the band, I wasn’t doing anything musically. I was just working or hanging out, and after I turned thirty I scared myself. Avalanche didn’t release a record for like five or six years, and that scared the shit out of me. I was like 'Oh my God, this is what I want to do with my life and I feel like I’ve been complacent.' And [now] my main goal is to be a little bit more prolific, just record a lot more music, release a lot more music regardless of what it is. Nobody has ever said my name and the word "prolific" in the same sentence and that’s something I really want to change before I’m way too old to even care.

It’s important to me to be a hundred percent musical again. It comes at a really good time, because all of the things that I do and all of my projects, none of them are a hundred percent full time. I Am The Avalanche is my band but you know, we don’t tour half the year and everybody works and everybody has their own lives when we’re not touring. Mine needs to be filled with more music and more traveling and I’m just trying to get it all in right now. I just want to see how long I can go this hard, you know? I’m not like, fifty years old going, 'Oh my God, I gotta do this before I die!' I just mean that I’m really hungry and I just want to continue to be super hungry.

It seems like most of the artists I talk to say that they start to slow down when they hit their thirties. You’re really doing the opposite.

I’m doing the exact opposite. Not to say that I wasn’t going hard—I was touring a lot but my musical output was…I think from like 2000 to 2012 I released four full lengths. In twelve years. That’s not—you know, I’m not Radiohead. There needs to be more music for me to be happy and for people to care about what I do. So I’m just trying to stay strong with music and it’s a good time because I’m sure a lot of people say that I’m at the top of my game and this and that, and I do feel more comfortable and confident writing music right now than I ever have.

You alluded to the big gap between Avalanche albums, which was kind of a hot topic among your fan base. A lot of people have speculated on what went on there. I realize that part of it was label turmoil, but what really held you up before? Were you writing as many songs as you are now?

We wrote a lot. We had this gnarly writing period really early on in the game and we wrote a bunch. A few songs that made it on to Avalanche United were written like, five years ago. But we scrapped so many songs. We all wanted to be home a bit, we all wanted to chill. We were going on writing retreats where we would just leave New York because of just the busyness of everything getting in the way of the creativity. So we would leave. We went to Peoria, Ill. once because our friends in the Forecast said, 'Hey, if you want to just hang out on some farm land and write music, come.' So we drove down to Peoria and did that. We did it in Virginia Beach as well, which is where our guitar player Mikey is from. We kept some songs, but some of [the songs from the writing retreats] were super weird. Not that weird is a bad thing, but we didn’t know what direction we were going in and it became pretty apparent when we were touring on the first record that we were more of a punk band than we thought we were. We played all the songs that we recorded on the full length twice as fast [live]. When things kind of felt right was when we started thinking about making another album. But to be honest, the biggest thing about us not making the record [quicker]…the label stuff I don’t even like to talk about because it’s not even a reason; the band is the reason why we stayed home. I mean, everyone was happy being home. When you’re at a certain age, you get in to a certain lifestyle and then you get sick of that and you want to go away again. And that’s kind of what the pattern was with Avalanche. We’d go away here and there and then everybody would kind of be happy being at home, which is totally fine. That’s kind of when I started playing solo show. Our band dynamic is cool. Everybody is very supportive of each other.

Do you feel like your ability to manage a group of personalities has improved a lot as you gained experience?

I think maturity is the main component there. The Movielife, we were a band from Long Island that definitely wanted to be successful, but we weren’t trying to be on the radio and be rockstars. We were more in the punk scene and we just wanted to tour and play killer shows. That was the goal, and we did it. And it kind of happened really quick—from playing in basements to headlining big rooms. We were all kind of younger and we didn’t communicate well at all. That was the main issue with the Movielife: the communication was so bad. Avalanche is kind of different. These days the communication is there. We’re all realistic about each other and we know what we want to accomplish in life. So when we do get together and write, it makes for really interesting and really amazing stuff. We’re starting to do that late and we’re thinking about recording another album in the spring. It’s pretty rad the way things are going. Nobody’s rushing anybody and that’s a really good way to do it.

You certainly wear a lot of hats. I wondered how you would respond to someone who said, 'Who the heck is Vinnie Caruana?' How would you sum yourself up at this point in your career?

Some people would say, 'Oh, that’s the old singer of the Movielife.' The same way somebody would say, 'Oh, the RX Bandits, that’s like a ska band on Drive-Thru Records.' And it’s like, 'Yo, did you not see them play Coachella and shred everybody off the stage?' For me, it’s just like, to some people I’m Vinnie from the Movielife, to some people I’m Vinnie from I Am the Avalanche, to some people I’m Vinnie the son, brother, boyfriend, uncle. I’m a guy that definitely has been around the punk scene since I started going to shows when I was around 11 years old. At some point during that period, I learned how to write songs and now I write as many songs as humanly possible and perform music in as many ways as possible, whether it be solo, or with the Avalanche or with another project I’m in called Peace’d Out.

You mentioned RX Bandits. Peace’d Out is your project with guitarist Steve Choi, am I right?

Yeah, that’s with Steve Choi from the RX Bandits who is a really close friend of mine. I kind of have a room in his house in California where I can stay whenever I want. I do go out there a lot and spend time with him. He said he was going to write a heavy record and that he wanted me to sing for it so I said 'Alright, cool.' I was on the beach and I said to him, 'Hey, let’s call the band Peace’d Out.' And he said, 'OK.' And then he started sending me demos. I would fly back and forth and work on stuff. And then he said, 'Yo, let’s make records and be a band and eventually let’s play shows.' So it’s just like, let’s have fun together and travel together. So we did that, we recorded this EP. It came out in October. And it’s pretty wild. I’ve never been—none of us have ever been—in a band like this. I’m really excited on Peace’d Out and I’m glad that it’s in my life.

That sounds awesome. I’ll definitely have to check that EP out.

It’s pretty cool. It’s self-titled. The reason we haven’t thought of playing shows yet is because the EP is 11 minutes long and we don’t have enough music to perform live. So we’re going to record and put out more music this year and then I would love to play this music live.

You also did the new solo EP with Steve engineering. Was that recorded at the same time? Or even the same sessions?

They were separate. We recorded Peace’d Out in April or May and I recorded the solo stuff right before…I guess it was towards the middle to the end of October. I actually was stuck in California during Hurricane Sandy and had to stay there for an extra week. So it was right around that time that we did the solo stuff. I knew how talented he is and how much he could bring to the table in terms of translating my songs into a record. And that’s what happened, I mean there’s a big difference between me playing acoustic guitar and what’s on the record. Which is cool, he really helped me to bring the songs to life. It’s like a dream. I still listen to it sometimes and I love it. It’s something that I really wanted to do forever. I could’ve done it in the past but I wouldn’t have been as happy with the product.