Who is Vanilla Summit?
How did Vanilla Summit come about and why that name in particular?
Ryan Gary: In terms of the band coming together, I think there was a point when we knew we were going to come together to make a band.
Alec Gary: We didn’t know we were going to be a thing until we found somebody we knew who could play bass. You can’t have a band without a bass.
"You can’t have a band without a bass."
RG: I became friends with this one guy at the [University of] South Carolina and he so happened to be a bass player.
How long have y’all know each other? How has that helped with the continuity of the band?
Nathanael Clark: Since pre-school at least.
RG: [Nathanael] was pretty much our [Ryan and Alec’s] first friend on the East coast.
AG: It definitely makes the process of being in a band a lot easier just because we are so comfortable with each other.
How long have y’all played your respective instruments? What sparked that passion to play in the first place?
RG: Our [Ryan and Alec] father is a musician also—as a result, we [Ryan and Alec] started playing bass in the fifth grade. We [Ryan and Alec] both continued to play bass, but then I decided to go to film school and also started playing drums at the same time.
AG: I’m a bass player in school—I’m not guitar at all. Since, Ryan and I were playing bass so much [when we were younger] I decided to get a guitar.
NC: My parents started me out with piano lessons when I was in fifth grade—but that didn’t stick that well. I had originally wanted to play trumpet, but I couldn’t get a sound out of the mouth piece. But, this band is almost like a relief from the music we play here at school. I love it but—I need a break sometimes.
Take us through the process of putting together the Expedition EP.
AG: Well, Ryan normally would have a bunch of chord progression ideas. Then, we will just jam to that and then find the certain feel we are trying to get for a song. Then, we take that idea and figure out melodies and voices and all that.
RG: We basically had a bunch of separate ideas and then just made them into songs. Nothing was really written until we all got together a week during winter break last year.
NC: We all have specific things that we do for each song. But—nothing has physically been written down.
AG: It’s very much an improvised kind of thing.
"It’s very much an improvised kind of thing."
How has y’all’s sound developed over the years?
AG: A LOT. For me, I would say before we released this past EP, I would never take time out of my day to practice. When we met up to record this EP, it was intense. I was like, “Oh wow, I should probably practice.” So after we released the EP, my determination got much higher.
NC: I think for me, improvisation is one of my favorite parts about music. As I’ve grown musically, one of the things I’ve gotten better at is making sense of the very vague ideas in my mind while I’m playing.
RG: It all started for me when I got to school and I started learning what it takes to be a great musician. My respect for musicianship just skyrocketed. I just wanted to be better.
How would you say the music scene here in Richmond has allowed your music to be what it is?
RG: It’s a super open community so there’s always people listening to different types of music. Also, there are so many different musicians in Richmond to collaborate, with such as McKinley. We are even looking to incorporate more rap into our stuff too. We also want to work with a singer at some point. We just haven’t found someone yet. It just forces us to change our style and experiment with new things.
NC: At the same time, it’s good to hear new things to incorporate.
Where do y’all see yourselves as a band in about 5-10 years?
NG: I don’t even have an image of myself in that time.
AG: We are gonna be unsure about everything until we are all out of school.
Do y’all hope to be pioneers for the jazz scene in Richmond?
AG: We’re not so much about changing the game—right now we are in the stages of getting in the game. Once we get there, we’ll make decisions about altering it.
NC: I just think we will keep making music that we like—wherever that takes us.