Long Island four-piece indie group The Vigilance Committee is already on its second full album in as many years, with an EP in between. Exit a Hero, the band’s sophomore effort, has brought even more of the band’s diverse and interesting brand of experimental rock to the indie scene and it is only a matter of time before they receive the same kind of recognition as The Flaming Lips in the 90s or Vampire Weekend in the mid-2000s. Combining organized chaos, a little surf style and pretty, minor-keyed melodies, there really is not anything in indie music like The Vigilance Committee at the moment, and that is precisely the point.
The Vigilance Committee formed in 2009, but they were a much different band at that time. It was not until 2014 that the group solidified their lineup, consisting of vocalist and guitarist Peter J. Scoma, Phil Corso on drums and vocals, Christian Cepeda on guitar, keyboard and vocals and Jesse Asch on bass and vocals. Based on that roster, one of The Vigilance Committee’s unique points should jump out before even listening to the band: all members are needed on vocals. Most of the band’s songs consist of some form of complex vocal harmony. Four-part harmony over alternative rock is not a common sight in today’s indie climate and it definitely sets the band apart.
The Vigilance Committee’s first album, Lost Again, does not pop quite as much as Exit a Hero style-wise. It is a well-done alternative/indie album which contains that stand-out element of vocal harmony but when one compares Lost Again to Exit a Hero, Lost Again may feel as though the band were playing it safe or had not found their full sound yet. On Exit a Hero, many more unique elements are folded into The Vigilance Committee’s sound. The biggest examples of this transition are in the guitars and the general song composition. On this new album, some of the surf rock in both guitars and drums has been slightly scaled back in favor of more experimental and noise-driven guitar sounds and syncopated drums. This style requires quite a bit more technical skill, but it seems the band, especially Scoma and Cepeda, are up to the challenge.
Many of the tracks on Exit a Hero open with a seemingly chaotic cacophony of guitar sounds but then launch into a range of other different styles and parts. Lead track and first single Set the Pacific on Fire, for example, opens with almost Zappa-esque, unbridled funk guitars but then quickly changes into a series of scales played by both guitars and bass, then quickly changes again into a more melodic verse. These three parts switch back and forth in a way that is not necessarily seamless but nonetheless creates an interesting and intricate layering effect before the song devolves into an unexpected acoustic finale. The composition and structuring of this song cannot have been easy and thus shows The Vigilance Committee’s other super power: intelligent and unique song composition.
Other songs on Exit a Hero follow suit. Taking What’s Mine has similar dissonant guitar scales to Set the Pacific on Fire and an almost jazzy, jam-band atmosphere which creates an interesting pairing with the very indie vocals. 186 and Physics of Form start out with the surf rock which was prevalent in Lost Again, but then each of these songs takes on other characteristics such as a fast punk beat or 90s college radio-like melody. The diversity The Vigilance Committee has managed to conjure up on this album is truly staggering but they have still been able to class everything under a cohesive style. Exit a Hero closes with the title track, another study in style paradigm shifts. Very melodic and uplifting, Exit a Hero ends the album on a pretty note with many key and tempo changes. It expresses what The Vigilance Committee are trying to do succinctly by combining musical styles and harmonizing music and vocals while gently testing the limits of what can be done within the confines of rock.
The current indie rock climate is rife with throwback bands. Indie folk, indie blues and nostalgic 90s alternative seem to be the order of the day, but The Vigilance Committee are blazing their own trail with Exit a Hero. There are plenty of different styles to be heard in the band’s music, but what sets them apart is how they put those styles together and what comes out the other end. Like The Flaming Lips in the 90s, The Vigilance Committee will most likely continue to evolve with or without the indie music scene. If fans who are interested in something new take notice of this unique and novel group, however, they will likely grow their niche within indie music as well. Exit a Hero is available to stream or purchase along with Lost Again and The Vigilance Committee’s July 2014 EP, Love the Sea, on the band’s Bandcamp page and the video for the single Set the Pacific on Fire is on Youtube.
Review by Layla Klamt
Bandcamp: The Vigilance Committee
Youtube: The Vigilance Committee ‘Set the Pacific on Fire’
Photos courtesy of artist’s press package