First Impressions: Virgin Lung
It’s hard to imagine a more functionally structured debut than EP 1, the first offering from Wilmington’s Virgin Lung. The exuberant and engaging effort (streaming below) blasts off with aggressive, mathy indie rock that rides taut, tenacious riffs and rumbling rhythms to gratifying catharses that most often hinge on raucous gang vocals. Structures shift throughout, but the band’s ability to cultivate and diffuse tension is a constant that keeps the album running smoothly. As impressive as this young outfit’s execution is, sequencing is the real boon of their EP. Intensity builds throughout, growing steadily with each song. Guitars become sharper and more angular, drums become more physical, and bass lines tighten their strangle-hold on your ear drums. By “Red Tide,” the album’s furious and fascinating closer, their energetic precision reaches its peak, pushing and pulling with unhinged momentum. Shuffle‘s Jordan Lawrence caught up with drummer Zach Large via email to figure out how the band found its intriguing sound.
Shuffle: So how did Virgin Lung get together?
Zach Large: Mike (guitar) and Zach Large are brothers who have both known Jake Rogers (guitar) for close to ten years. When Mike moved to Wilmington in July of 2011, it seemed like a natural progression to start a project with his brother and Jake, considering that Mike and Jake had played in a band named Ole about six years earlier. Zach had known Andrew Miller (bass) for a while and knew he played bass so, he asked him to play. And the rest is history, as they say.
Shuffle: Where did the name come from? Drug reference? Why appropriate?
ZL: Definitely isn’t a drug reference. It actually came from a time when everyone playing in the band was a cigarette smoker except Zach. He’d always say he had the “virgin lungs.” Someone said they thought it sounded like a sweet band name, so we all kind of went with it.
Shuffle: I’m not aware of many bands that sound like this in your area. How did that impact your decision to pursue the styles you’re after?
ZL: We are all kind of music nerds. We all kind of have some sort of punk rock roots but we all have very different musical tastes. Our common ground was that we all listened to bands that were very movement-based in terms of song structure. There are a few bands doing similar things in Wilmington and the Southeast in general. It is possible that because of how far Wilmington is from the Piedmont area some bands tend to go unnoticed.
Shuffle: The songs on the EP seem to get denser and more mathy as it goes along. Is there a reason for that?
ZL: We did kind of try to make it into a record that could be listened to in one sitting. We thought starting slower and getting more aggressive would make the EP as a whole feel like a big build up.
Shuffle: The music is complex, but the choruses are straightforward and cathartic. Talk to me about that structure. Why do your tangled structures end with universality relatable climaxes?
ZL: We really love the idea of writing songs as movements that are to be listened through all the way through. At the same time we can appreciate a part that is repeated to add some sort of consistency. We try to do whatever feels the most natural at whatever point in the song writing process we are in. We always change songs dramatically over the course of their life before and sometimes after they are performed or recorded even. We look at songwriting as trying to convey emotion through melodic evolution.
Shuffle: The emotions on this record are huge. Where does that come from for you guys?
ZL: The band is definitely an outlet for all of us. We like to think we pour a lot of ourselves into it. Stress always makes for the best inspiration wether it’s job related, relationship related or financial.
Shuffle: Your online bio says of your style: “Together they’ve made music that heartily eschews the verse-chorus-verse construction.” Why do you avoid that format? What does it bring to your sound?
ZL: We never really set out to avoid verse chorus song structure, but we feel that approching a song in the same way that a composer would in terms of building and movement makes the songs more cerebral.
Shuffle: What’s next? What do you have in the works?
ZL: Right now we are just trying to be more mobile. Play shows and make friends. We’d like to branch out and do a little more touring, but it’s pretty expensive for an unsigned band.