Article by Jennifer Katz and Seth Israel
On any given day wandering the streets of greater Atlanta, you might find five teenagers hanging out: they may be playing music, skateboarding around a park, making a few bucks at a local record store, or packaging merch to be shipped around the country. This is Lunar Vacation, the five-member, self-described “pool rock” band who are making a name for themselves in the indie rock world for their breezy, beautiful tracks. Pool rock is an accurate depiction of the band’s sound and overall aura—with music reminiscent of carefree summer days spent by the water, their small but strong discography could likely serve as the soundtrack to any quintessential coming-of-age film.
Lunar Vacation’s members: Grace Repasky on guitar/vocals, Maggie Geeslin on guitar, John Michael Young on bass, Matteo de Lurgio on keys, and Connor Dowd on drums were remarkably brought together by the confines of their small Catholic high school. They initially bonded over their mutual love for Mac Demarco, Twin Peaks, and Pond, but they quickly discovered their shared passion for making music and ultimately decided to join forces to create LV. The original goal was to play one—just one—local show. To their immense excitement and gratitude, that goal has been surpassed and far exceeded; during their first tour, they were recruited by APA agency and in the last month alone, the band made a quick trip to play shows across the east coast before banging out a barrage of performances at SXSW. Not electing to slow down in any way, they’re slated to start up touring again in support of SALES for a number of dates in the coming weeks.
For its five members, Lunar Vacation is a fitting title: the friends-turned-band members are living the teenage indie rock dream: grabbing their instruments, hopping in a busted-up van, and traveling around the country playing songs and making memories. Lunar Vacation is the epitome of the growing community of young-adult artists who have begun to defy the conventional. They are unburgeoned by age, background, or location, focused solely on making the best art they can rather than making record sales or notoriety. The band possesses a youthful candor that reflects their refined passion for making music and their commitment to having fun while doing it. While none of them can legally drink alcohol yet and they often get rejected by security from entering their own shows, what they lack in collective years they make up for in their unique, mellow sound that perfectly captures the exploration of the challenges of teenage-hood. Although they pride themselves on their DIY approach to running a band, Lunar Vacation is anything but juvenile. Each of their tracks is meticulously crafted: they spent nine months recording “Daytime,” one of the lead singles from their most recent EP, Artificial Flavors. As a self-managed band that’s recording and producing all their music on their own, they are a promising new voice for the burgeoning network of young bands trying to make it in the music work.
We were lucky enough to catch them at a rare, idle moment while they took a break from their tour, settling for a couple of days in an isolated cabin in the middle of Virginia. We chatted with the band about their required reading, musical inspirations, refusal to be a frat-playing cover band, and their universal life advice to be nice and watch Shrek.
How did the band form?
Maggie: Grace and I met in our guitar class in high school. The boys all knew each other from marching band. Grace and I had one little demo and we wanted to record it, so we went to John Michael’s house to record it. We all ended up deciding to play together. A year later we found our golden boy, Matteo, and he’s been with us ever since! We played in high school a lot, just a lot of local shows, and then last year we started to play out of town. We self-booked our first tour, and we’re currently on our third tour.
Grace: Our school was really small, so if you met someone who has the same interests as you, you pretty much became friends automatically.
Where does the band name come from?
Grace: I had it saved in my notes. One time at the very beginning of our friendship, Maggie and I went to a Mac Demarco concert. At the time, we already had this band we were doing with our friends called “Moose Club.” So in line, I leaned over to Maggie and said, “You wanna hear a cool band name I have?” I wish there was a deeper meaning but I just thought it sounded nice together.
On your bandcamp you describe your genre as “pool rock.” What does that mean to you?
Maggie: When we first started, we practiced at John Michael’s house a lot and he had a pool in his backyard. I guess people called us surf rock or we said we were “surfy,” but I guess now we don’t really sound that surfy. We had like one surfy, California Berger records progression, so we were like, “we live in Atlanta and there’s no beaches, we’re not surf rock, we’re pool rock!” But I guess a lot of people have seen that and they call us pool rock now.
Grace: It’s like surf rock but more chill, because pools are more chill, you know? Chill rock, pool rock.
John Michael: Swimming during the summer is big for us in Atlanta. And your pool playlist has to be good.
What music have you been listening to lately?
Grace: I’ve been listening to a lot of Her’s lately. They’re so good! They’ve been my favorite band so far this year. Also The Slaps from Chicago, they’re our BFFs.
Maggie: I’ve been listening to a lot of 70s classic rock, like Faces, and also a lot of Leonard Cohen. 70s deep cuts.
John Michael: Some of the best music I listened to last year was the Unknown Mortal Orchestra album. MGMT made a really good comeback, like a new step in their sound.
Connor: Really recently I’ve been listening to stuff that’s a little heavier that I don’t usually listen to. Grizzly Bear, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Papadosio.
Matteo: I have a special place in my heart for alt-J. On the way here we did a listen through of Sketches of Brunswick by King Gizzard, so I’m definitely gonna be getting a lot more into that.
Are you guys still in college?
Maggie: Grace and I are doing online classes, the boys took the semester off.
Grace: But we’re all kind of moving toward doing this full-time.
How has touring been?
Grace: Our favorite place is Chicago!
Maggie: We love touring, so we’ve been set on making music so we can get back on the road to tour.
Grace: We went on tour with Calpurnia for a bit. It depends though, sometimes no one will move, they just have their phones out and they’re staring out at you through their phone. But sometimes people want to jump around. It depends on the city I guess because sometimes we play in cities where no one knows us but they’re still jumping around.
I really love the video for the song “The Basement.” Can you guys talk about the process for the making of it?
Grace: It’s actually an interesting story because our friend Rachael [Rachael Rios Rehm] is a filmmaker and she was saying that she needed to do a project and she was like “I want to do a video for you guys.” She’s been there since we’ve had our SoundCloud demos out, like I remember we had “Purple Dreams” out and she would DM us and say “when you guys have anything recorded, send it to me — I want it because I’m going to use it in my movies.” So she’s been there since the beginning and she was saying she wanted to make a music video for us and we were like “that would be awesome” and so she had her own concept and she just ran it by us and she asked us what we thought and we were like “sick,” and then she literally made it out.
Maggie: Yeah she sent us the script and was like “does this look good?” And we were like “yeah that’s amazing.”
Grace: Yeah everything she was thinking of and her vision was exactly right. We don’t take any credit.
Maggie: We were so lucky about the situation. She rocks.
Who’s on the aux in the car?
Grace: Whoever is copiloting! They get to take it. We need a tour playlist!
Maggie: We have one! But we don’t play it. We don’t play it all, we made a playlist but we don’t play it.
Grace: We talk sometimes [laughs].
What about a tour? Who do you think would be a good band to tour with?
Maggie: Post Animal. They shred like crazy.
Grace: Or dream tour would be Twin Peaks. Or Tame Impala! Alvvays. Hippocampus. That would be sick. I think that would be a really good fit.
Grace: Her’s! Or Paul Cherry. Any of those.
In terms of your new music, do you have any idea when your album will be ready?
Grace: We’re looking for summer — late summer — but we’ll definitely have singles out before. I feel like we’ll always be a summer band, because of the last two releases we had. We have two solid singles roughly mixed right now though.
Maggie: Well it’s because we’re always in school. So summer’s like — free time!
Grace: Maybe July or August. It’s cool because we don’t have a label that’s like you have to do it right now. Last time we’re like we’ll have stuff out in January [laughs].
Maggie: Yeah but everyone is a perfectionist, so it takes a while.
How have people in your hometown reacted?
Grace: A lot of people if you’re like “oh I’m in a band” they’re like “oh nice”…they think you play covers. When I was at the guitar store the other day they’ll think you play like Ed Sheeran or something. And they’ll be like “play my frat!”
Maggie: Play my frat, we do get that a lot.
Grace: I was talking to this guy and he was like “do you want to play at my frat?” and I was like “sick, yeah.” And then he was like “do you guys play any covers?” He’s like, “Well the guys really love covers.” And I was like “f*** we can’t do it anymore.” No one has freaked out which is cool. We’re like we’re doing this and everyone’s like okay sick.
Have you been recognized on the street? Do you get a lot of Instagram messages?
Grace: Yeah that’s really weird. Social media thing is wack as fuck. A lot of times Maggie and I go to the Beltline and Ponce City Market and we have [gotten recognized].
Grace: Which is pretty cool, because it’s like oh sh*t they know our music. And Maggie works at a record store now and a lot of people notice her there which is pretty sick.
Maggie: Yeah one time it was my first day and I was checking this 30-year-old dude out and he was like “aren’t you supposed to be on tour right now?” and I was like what…such a weird way to recognize someone. But nothing’s been too — it’s all pretty chill.
Grace: Minus the social media.
Maggie: No Beatlemania.
Who are some up and coming artists that you want to put people on to?
Grace: The Slaps from Chicago. Why Not from Minnesota. Camp Howard from Virginia. Hall Johnson from Texas. Dinnertime from Atlanta. Kibi James is a new band from Atlanta, they’re 4 girls and they all just started, they’re pretty new. We saw them play like last month and they were awesome. Family Reunion from Chicago, it’s just one girl Jackie but she’s amazing she’s like Paul Cherry. Spendtime Palace from California.
You guys were talking about different artists that inspire your music, but what else inspires you?
Grace: High school. Literally living. Getting into weird situations whether that’s going to a weird party or having a weird interaction with someone.
John Michael: We just write what we know.
Grace: And yeah if you’re ever in a rut, just write about movie and books. Read a book and then write about it.
Maggie: Before we get together or when we hang out we’re always like “the weirdest thing just happened to me.” We’ll tell a story and then we’ll rehearse and it will come back up later.
Are there any particular movies that inspire you?
Grace: The Great Gatsby was how I wrote “Blue Honey.” We had the song but I didn’t know what to write about and then junior year we read that book. I had a really good English teacher, so that was my favorite book, and so I just wrote it from the perspective of Jay Gatsby. So there’s a bunch of references on that one.
Maggie: Half of the lyrics on the song we’re working on right now is just stuff that Matteo just said and we wrote it down and we were like that’s so funny.
Do you guys have any advice for young kids trying to make music?
Connor: I would say it sounds really cliché but you have to have fun with it. If you’re just grinding and you don’t know why you’re not going to make good music.
Maggie: Yeah you need band bool time; Chill and hang, make dinner, watch Shrek together, go to parties together, go to local shows together. Make sure you actually like the people! And also try to talk to as many people as you can at shows because you never know if you meet someone from another city and then you’re passing through that city and they need a show. Connections. Be nice to everyone. Life advice: be nice, have fun, watch Shrek. All that stuff. [all laugh]
Where do you guys see yourselves in 5 years?
Grace: Headlining Shaky Knees, our hometown festival.
Connor: Living in like a nice cottage in the mountains with a sweet studio and cranking out music. [all laugh]
Maggie: Touring a lot!
Grace: Clay Frankel [of Twin Peaks] once said, just leave around a stack of records that you’re happy with and I was like, damn, that hit me. That’s what we’re going to do.
Listen to Artificial Flavors here.