The unmistakable, neo-nostalgic character The Vignatis represents is an artistic unity so distinct it eludes the strict categorizations of contemporary music. They've described their sound as landing somewhere in the space between Gypsy Soul music and good-old-fashioned Rockabilly, but ultimately landing on a descriptor they've coined as "Gypsybilly."
They take their amalgamating sonic creations from studio to stage and from old regions to new, imparting some of their diverse and vibrant production flares onto fresh and captivated ears with every new record they release. This year, the eccentric Los Angeles-based group's charismatic performances continue to charter profound sentiments as they take us on a flight from the nostalgic past and into the unknown infinity.
With a swaying bounce that could only be ascertained in creations masterfully administered by the intrinsically playful band hailing from sunny California, their latest single, "New Direction," embraces a wholesome and festive spirit. The drums clatter with a distinctive punchy tone, while the robust string orchestrations swell on the upswing of the lead duo's synergistic vocal tonalities and textures. The melody is catchy with transitions that open doors to an invigorating sonic abundance of rustic flutes, a rhythmic swing reminiscent of Jazz, and even a Hip-Hop-like refrain near the later half of the track.
The track's uplifting and danceable character finds elevation in the chorus. As we grow more and more enthralled by the melodic string solos' trajectory, we suddenly find ourselves settled into a therapeutic and high spirited place amongst the walloping energy and dynamics manifested in this "Gypsybilly" hit.
What’s been the most rewarding outcome of the whole writing, recording, and release process for this new album, “Red, White & Blue: Gypsybilly Vol. 4”?
Tracy: Completion, LOL! Seriously though, it is such a great feeling when you see the fruits of your labor come to completion whether you see it online, on streaming sites, or physical product. The writing, recording, and release process is a journey. During the creative time, that’s where I get into that zone that has no time or space. I love that unrestricted freedom of writing purely to create and nothing else. The recording phase is kind of a blend of creativity and technology where I really feel I need to use both halves of my brain, so to speak. It does require creative freedom when creating parts or solos on the spot yet when actually rolling, there are a lot of things to consider technically, especially vocally, like placement, breath control, when to clip consonants, rhythmic patterns of phrases, etc., which I could go on and on about and bore you with technique. As indie artists, the release process is all administration and research for me. There is so much to deal with when you don’t have a label or team to handle various tasks. It is super rewarding knowing that we did it all ourselves. That’s for sure…however, we welcome the right team to be able to do this for us.
Fabrice: Of that question, I would focus on the word "release". Yep from start to finish. More than the other albums, I felt like the whole process was a big release itself from the blank page until the end of the promo. It is a release of creativity, both musically and lyrically, a release of repaying our debt of gratitude, deep feelings, appreciation to society, and to different groups of people I admire like the U.S. Military, Gypsies, and behind the scenes workers. Logistically, it is a release that, of course, is out there in the world contributing to the happiness of people, and lastly, it is a release of knowing that we did the best job we could have done on this Gypsybilly volume. The other word would be "exploring," as we pushed the envelope with new opportunities creatively in the songwriting, for example, including a rap section on the song, “New Direction”. Then there is the technical aspect. I used a lot more amp simulators and impulse responses embracing their power, which I think will I will use more in the future.
Where do you source most of your creative inspiration from, and how do you manage to formulate your own unique character/sound from those influences?
Fabrice: My first and foremost basic inspiration in life is my life mentor, Daisaku Ikeda. He is a 92-year-old man still alive; a man of exceptional abilities that resulted in him earning over 400 Honorary Doctorates from renowned universities around the world, having never attended a university or continued education. Whatever I do, I draw from his accomplishments and attitude about life. Of course, my daily Nichiren Daishonin Buddhist practice (with the SGI), boosts my creativity while the affairs of society trigger ideas and concepts. The other source of inspiration I use is the fact that I always have a project or more in progress. Staying occupied is powerful, as motion creates motion and result in emotions of excitement and energy. Musically I have many influences that keep inspiring me such as Django Reinhardt, Birélli Lagrène, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Dylan, Brian Setzer, Cliff Gallup, Scotty Moore, Chet Atkins, Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, Metallica, Snoop, Prince, Mark Knopfler, Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, James Brown, Brad Paisley, and John Jorgenson, being the main ones. I know, the list is long when there are so many greats! You can see that this list contains so many genres, and that's why creating and playing Gypsybilly, which is a mix of Country, Rockabilly, Swing, Jazz, Gypsy, is so much fun! It's that mentality and fearlessness of cross-genre creation, while staying the course in developing and improving our sound. Please, read some of our interviews where we talk about how we created Gypsybilly or a detailed explanation on our website at in detail or the tab https://www.thevignatis.com/what-is-gypsybilly.
Tracy: Fabrice and I practice the same Buddhism and share the same mentor in life, Daisaku Ikeda, so there is no need for me to repeat his wonderful material. Inspiration is vast and comes at different times, from different people, from different places with nothing etched in stone. We inspire each other too as a couple, so there is an almost built-in volleying back and forth. I am an extremely vivid dreamer so I write things down from my dreams, so I do get inspiration from my dreams. Maybe that’s weird for some. I find that when my life condition is high, I am most productive and want to accomplish things. We are both seeking spirits so I always want to learn from others, the obvious being other music artists on my “admiration list” like Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Tupac, Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Frédéric Chopin, to name a few. The list is far too long! Observing others who are superior in their fields is vital. We both watch a lot of interviews with athletes. There is no one more disciplined than an exceptional athlete. They possess the fearless mindset of winning, tirelessly sacrificing so much to do whatever it takes (RIP, Kobe Bryant). For this alone, anyone in any field should be recognized and rewarded. This kind of mentality has influenced us in the creation of Gypsybilly.
What do you think is the best part of a musical collaboration and is yours different as husband and wife?
Fabrice: The best part is that you can bounce ideas off of each other to either complement your own ideas, or create new ones, get instant feedback, and feed yourself creatively from one another. Now here's what I find are the three keys of a successful collaboration: 1) open-mindedness; 2) trust; and 3) respect. Without those three elements, you can't move forward and be fully prolific. I enjoy very much writing and recording alone, or in collaboration. It's different and challenging however, there's something about the latter that takes me to new places I never thought I would go. Who can argue with the power of many hearts and lives creatively together?! You can witness that in the greatest musical bands in history. I'm so glad I enjoy and feel at ease both either writing or performing. With Tracy it’s just magical, what can I say! I'm so fortunate, as she's so talented and dedicated to music as much as I am, so the results are always satisfying, whatever we write and perform. We know that we trust and complement each other so well that the underlying understanding happens on its own most of the time. Gypsybilly music is the fusion of Tracy and Fabrice as friends, musical partners, and husband and wife. I don't think it would ever have happened otherwise.
Tracy: I believe that couples are stronger than singles. When two minds are put together, that’s double the ideas with each person contributing their strengths, and a built-in way of human exchange. In some ways it’s easier to operate alone in that you have no one else’s thoughts, feelings, judgment, etc. with which to contend. However, no man/woman is an island. Collaborations are more about oneself than the other person. It forces you to check your ego and focus on the end result, and part of that end result is internal growth. I have collaborated in the past with others and when they are not your spouse, you tend to be a bit more reserved in your responses treading a bit more lightly. In other words, fewer boundaries. As husband and wife, there are fewer boundaries. It took me a while to collaborate effectively with Fabrice, and at times we don’t always agree. I will have my flare-up, vent, then it’s back to business. Not all spouses are compatible in the work department so we are very fortunate and have no problem interconnecting our lives both personally and professionally, yet still maintaining individuality. It is an acquired skill I am glad I have nearly mastered. You never know until you try. Love can conquer all! He is an unparalleled BEAST, and I challenge anyone to say that they have a stronger work ethic, stronger determination, or cares more than he. It’s a challenge you will lose, LOL!
What challenges have you observed or experienced by creating a new genre in the music market?
Fabrice: My first reaction and observation for the music market based on the feedback we received from radio and/or festivals who tends to have specialized shows, is that Gypsybilly is hard to classify simply because of its mix of many genres, and more importantly, the instrumentation that makes the arrangements. It's not really a pure genre of music. If you take the four genres of music contained in Gypsybilly, it’s not really Rockabilly or Country because of clarinet and more complicated chord progressions, it's not Jazz or Gypsy because of the electric guitar and pedal steel. So, to book us, it takes people who are open-minded, radio stations who have eclectic shows, and venues or festivals that also are eclectic with their line-ups. The same for labels. However, as we continue, more new doors are opening, and our unique sound is attracting radio stations and DJs, so the music market has started to respond positively. It's a slow, snow-balling effect, yet the attraction and just the word Gypsybilly is catching on. How cool is that?!
Tracy: Because it is a business, very few want to take chances on something new, outside of the box, or left-of-center, and want the “shoo-in”, trend-following, safe choice. It takes a certain type of open-minded, person to want to take on something original that hasn’t been done or heard before; someone who is fearless or wants the task of breaking something different. Without these risk-takers there would be no Nirvana’s “Never Mind”, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Public Enemy. There are people out there who will take on something new and push it, this I know. It’s an enormous undertaking to do what needs to be done to be original, yet authentic and make a mark. It is difficult to be an indie artist, yet, we do it. It is an undertaking to wear all of the hats that are required from the artist, to the producer, to the publicist, to the filmmaker, yet, we do it. We believe in it. We have submitted this album for the 63rd Grammy Awards for 2021 and hope that our fellow Grammy voting members will recognize our submissions and what we are working toward accomplishing. Nothing worth fighting for is easy. If it were, we would all become complacent. I love a challenge, we both do. I welcome challenges with open arms. We recently took on the challenge of shooting a video for virtual Burning Man this year which will be on the Earth Jam Stage in the Multiverse on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. Go to https://dustymultiverse.com/ to RSVP and to https://kindling.burningman.org/multiverse/ for information on all of the other multiverses.
What problems would you like to see solved in this world?
Fabrice: One of my Buddhist mentors, Josei Toda, declared this in 1958 regarding nuclear weapons: "Although a movement calling for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons has arisen around the world, it is my wish to go further, to attack the problem at its root. I want to expose and rip out the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of such weapons". Even though I have no scientific background at all, I take that statement very seriously! There is no immunity to the aftermath of nuclear weapons. No one is exempt. The closer you are to that type of explosion, the worse the outcome. In our current COVID-19 pandemic circumstances, you can put on a mask, stay home, isolate yourself while science continues the quest for an effective vaccine. The effects of a nuclear blast are devastating. Yes, it is an efficient source of energy with little waste however, the risk from one explosion can have such devastating effects. The use of energy is one thing but for weapons use…forget it! It has but one purpose. The bottom line is that it is the greatest danger for the earth and for all living beings. There is always that chance that a reactor can malfunction and the weapons issues, well that is a no brainer. We do not need another Chernobyl and certainly not the use of arms. On the other hand, thorium (Th) is the greatest substitute for uranium as nuclear fuel. Without getting into too much detail, it works with existing nuclear plants that currently accommodate uranium, with some modifications. Thorium is not fissile which means, no matter how many thorium nuclei you pack together, they will not on their own start splitting apart and exploding like U235. It produces less nuclear waste, it is more abundant on earth than uranium, and most important, it can't penetrate the human skin so it is safer and less dangerous. That's what I would love to solve in this world, the danger of nuclear threat FOREVER. Listen to Th 232 on our “Let’s Hit the Road: Gypsybilly Vol. 3” album where we express this in a poetic yet Electrobilly way.
Tracy: First and foremost, to end this pandemic. It has killed our industry thousands of global citizens. It is heartbreaking to see venues closing by the dozen along with the amount of people that are out of work and unable to feed their families and animals. It would also be fantastic for everyone to be accepting of each other and truly embrace differences with respect. No, you are not going to like everyone you meet or break bread with them. I get it. There are people I absolutely have nothing in common with except that we both breathe air. What we can do is come from a place of compassion and respect. And now my soapbox….ZERO tolerance regarding the abuse, neglect, or harm to any animal. Animals deserve to live free and happy lives. They are essential to this web of a Universe. As Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Every living being deserves to be happy and live their best life.