‘I’m living in America with my American dream’ | Interview with Scarlet Sails

Scarlet Sails recently were on the road U.S. tour, which supported the release of their album Future From The Past with support from Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys & Radiator King. The band has begun distributing rewards to their Kickstarter backers for their album, and just wrapped up filming for their music video for “Spell My Name.” They have some shows coming up on the west coast this summer, and will round out the summer back in New York for a few dates. Hopefully, for the sake of all of us between New York and California, more dates will be added in the months to come.

While they were on tour, we caught up with singer/keyboardist Olya Viglione and her husband and drummer of Scarlet Sails, Brian Viglione (of Dresden Dolls fame), to discuss all things pizza, touring, recording, and punk politics.

The Daily Slice: First, can I have you introduce yourselves with your name, what you do in Scarlet Sails, and the best place you’ve grabbed a slice of pizza on tour?

Brian Viglione: Joe’s, at 150 East 14th Street. It is by far my favorite slice of pizza in the universe, without a doubt. They are open way late. They have pictures of Bill Murray and people on the wall. They’re fast. They’re delicious. It’s vibey. It’s just the most delicious slice of pizza. My mouth waters just thinking about it. I will go blocks out of my way sometimes to like give it to late night.  

Olya Viglione: His name is Brian Viglione, the drummer.

BV: It’s that worth it. I would not lead you astray.

OV: I don’t know if I can top that, now. What can I say to top that? Introduce yourself.

BV: Oh, yes. My name is Brian Pizza Man Viglione. The pizza boss, pizza fiend.

TDS: Well with that last name, you have to be Italian.

BV: I am Italian, yes.

TDS: Well that explains the passion for good pizza.

BV: I know, I’m a triple threat. I’m an Italian drummer with a bottomless pit, and probably a tape worm in there somewhere for good measure. I am always hungry. Yeah, that pizza place absolutely just sets the world on fire for me. I love it. So I am the drummer in scarlet tails and the husband in Scarlet Sails, the person that was like “your music is good, we should start a band” of Scarlet Sails, and the occasional tour manager and gear humper-arounder.

OV: That’s right. My name is Olya Viglione. I’m the singer, pianist, and songwriter, ringleader, and the wife. And I really love the pizza that we ate in Chicago but I do not remember what it was [later research confirmed it was Giordano’s]. The place might have been on Milwaukee Avenue.

BV: Yeah, that place was awesome. And it’s like a library inside to the shelves and shelves and books and all kinds of really cool stuff. Yes.

TDS: I saw on Facebook that you’ve been sick, Olya. How are you feeling now?

OV: I’m doing better thanks to my Russian antibiotics that my mom very carefully put in my bag when I was leaving the last time I visited. She was like “take this, take this.” And of course, you know it helps and it works so it comes handy in situations like this because I was dying. I got sick right after the show at Bowery Electric, actually. On Sunday, I was already feeling really bad. And then Monday we had a show. We go to the hotel late at 2:00 in the morning, and we have to wake up at 6:00 go to the TV station to do Good Day Baltimore at 7:00 in the morning. And then had the show that night. So by the time that show the third show was over I couldn’t even speak. So we knew that Boston was going to be the bigger show, and we had a lot of presale here. So I had to cancel yesterday in New Jersey, which I’m going to make up to them, since we’re going to come back soon, I think. But it was good for me, and it was just the right thing to do because I got to rest, and I took my pills, and lots of water and tea with honey and lemon and ginger. And today I can speak and sing.

BV: It’s good. Thank God she’s back.

TDS: What are your best cold remedies when you’re on the road?

OV: So there’s there’s a couple of things you can do actually. We were on tour this past summer and one of our tour-mates, she had the whole kit with her. She had a Neti Pot and then apple vinegar, and apple cider vinegar is really great. It’s one of the best things you’ve got to go with. You drink a little bit of it. And then we do the Neti Pot thing. And then you can also chew ginger. Drinking hot water with ginger, lemon, or honey. For different people it’s different like some people like it for their throat, and I can drink a little bit of it but it also dries you a little bit. So it’s good. Maybe one cup of tea and then stick to hot water rather than drink tons of tea, since it has caffeine in it.

TDS: So you’re currently out on your record release tour for Future From The Past. How’s the response to the album been on the road?

BV: Overwhelmingly good. It’s very exciting. You get to experience the music as we really wanted to have it come out. There was not a situation where we felt like we released an album and it fell short of our vision.

OV: It was really exactly what we wanted to achieve. Basically we took time with pre-production because like I always wanted to use you no strings and horns and keyboards and things like that in my songs because I would hear them I would get. So this time we got to you know do only this distilled elements to bring them to bring the song to life.

BV: And the other thing is people sort of mentioned very different songs for their favorite song. You know it’s everyone’s got a different perception of the music and different perception of the way the songs come across. That’s kind of fun too. Yeah.

TDS: Can you describe your writing and recording process a bit?

OV: The songs that ended up on the album, I’ve been writing for seven years. Some of them are as old as seven years, and as new as 2016. So I came to America in 2010 from Moscow to New York. Basically one of the songs that is on the record I wrote at the very beginning of my journey. It’s interesting because it’s like this adventure that I took upon myself. And those songs they reflect different stages of that path, and it’s it’s very personal to me and I like it, and I hope it resonates with people. The strong message behind this record is so stick to your guns, and do your dream and don’t listen to anyone else who tells you otherwise.

BV: Olya would present songs to me in a more raw form, and we would work out the basic arrangements and structures. We have a little melodies and then and then our bass player of the time Jessie came in and added his parts. Mark, who’s our guitar player now, just works phenomenal guitar magic on the record, and a lot of the time on the spot. Mark as one of these people who likes to sort of study at home and learn his stuff and he came in completely prepared, and then we just threw a bunch of new ideas at him and it was just absolutely beautiful.

TDS: Between the two of you, you have a pretty lengthy and diverse musical history. How does that play into your collaboration in Scarlet Sails?

BV: A lot of that diversity is already inherent in Olya’s songwriting, which I think was a very sort of basic attraction to her music that I had early on. And from there you just you try to listen to what the song is expressing and find instrumentation in the mood and the backing to bring that to its fullest potential. And we had a great studio to do that with an engineer and a mix engineer who works the mixing board. Nick, who mixed the album in the final stage, was very sympathetic and understood a lot of the directions we had that sort of Queen, Alice Cooper, Bowie, a little bit of P-Funk in there, and Radiohead, and all of those sonic worlds colliding to make something that we felt really expressed the depth of the songs and more to get out there.

TDS: Considering Olya’s backstory and the current political climate, do you use your music or your presence in the industry as a sort of political message?

OV: I believe not so much in politics, but I believe in the power of every person to change their lives and take a life in their hands, so it’s more that kind of message. It’s more about delivering yourself no matter what, no matter what situation you’re in and sticking to who you truly are and not bending over. But your intuition tells you that your heart desires. In terms of politics, I try to talk to a person as a person first and sometimes, even if their political views are different, you can find things that you can resonate with a person and you can open their mind to things that they wouldn’t maybe talk about or wouldn’t even consider. Every time you meet someone, if you first of all look at them and as a person, that can open them up to the world and make the world better in that way, you know?

TDS: Where does music, and your music specifically, fit into the current political sphere?

BV: I think it’s sort of like wanting to transcend party politics and keep it mostly about like just living by example of freedom and living your life. Sometimes the most potent thing you can do rather than have to speak a direct message is to inform people just by the way you live your life most powerfully. Politics can be so divisive, and rather than want to espouse some specific message and have people take up sides, we just do our thing. And if people see that inspired by that then they can follow suit as well. That to me arms people not only with a good example, but the confidence to say if they do it, I can do more.

OV: For me, I’m Russian, and I’m living in America with my American dream, or whatever you may call it. I came here because I believed that that was the best place for me to do what I wanted to do. But at the same time there’s certain prejudices against Russians as a whole, and it’s because of the relationship between the United States and Russia right now. But I’m not who my political leader is, and it doesn’t define who I am. So to me, folks spreading that kind of message around is important because I hate stereotypes and I hate when people get pigeonholed into this thing that they’re not.

TDS: I wanted to end this on a less serious note, so to bring this full circle, if the Scarlet Sails Pizza was a special at a pizza shop, what would be on it?

BV: Well, all right, now we’re getting into some half and half territory right here. Go ahead Olya, what would be on yours?

OV: Well I don’t know, should I go with a sea theme? With shrimp and calamari.

BV: That’s tasty.

OV: I like cheesy pizza. Maybe shrimp, calamari, and asparagus. That sounds good.

BV: I think I would go hot peppers, you know, the red and yellow hot peppers, roasted garlic, some mushrooms and onions on there as well too because I love that.

OV: Oh yeah, I do too.

BV: If you’re feeling dangerous you might even do some roasted artichokes. I like a nice, meaty artichoke on there.

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