Vacation Manor, the Virginia duo of Nathan Towles and Cole Young, stitch together shared and personal experiences in a patchwork of vibrant and vivid alternative anthems on its debut, full-length, self-titled album.
Since forming nearly a decade ago, Vacation Manor has teased fans with multiple EP drops and racked up millions of spins across streaming platforms. With its latest effort it is clear that the duo has taken lessons learned over that time to elevate to another level. The writing, arrangements, and final productions showcase the highs — and lows — that it took to get to this point.
“It’s a culmination of the last seven years, because we started as a garage band and ended up making a record we’re really proud of,” Towles said. “Every part of our collective personality was represented. I’m excited to relive all of the things that led us to make this. It’s Vacation Manor.”
The album comes out Friday (pre-save it here) and the band will be performing a livestream of it on its Instagram on Saturday (check that out) in the meantime, check out the song “Can’t Run Forever” and read about the inspiration for the album on this track-by-track.
IF ONLY FOR TONIGHT
This song came out spontaneously one night in the studio while I was laying down a part for a different song. We were in Joshua Tree working with Charlie Stavish, and we’d brought a few friends to round out a full band for the studio. I stumbled on the rhythm guitar hook for the song and then everyone just walked over to their instruments in the live room and started playing. In about 30 minutes the music for the track was written – it really was the dream scenario for stumbling into a song.
The vocal melody already had this desire for freedom and an angst to it, so when my friend Jason Wozniak and I sat down to write the lyrics the next day, it felt obvious that the song had to be about leaving home for the first time. It’s no coincidence that I had just finished reading Springsteen’s autobiography. Of all the songs on the album, this one probably makes us most excited for the return of live shows.
I saw a quote from Dan Wilson the other day where he said, “Tone is what carries or kills a song idea.” This felt particularly true with this song. We went through three different recordings of this song with different lyrics and various verse melodies. The song has a bright, yet melancholy feeling to it, and we kept finding that either the lyrics would feel too whiny or the music would feel too bright to accompany the wounded nature of the song. In the end, I’m really glad we stuck with it and found what I think are really complementary tones.
TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD
I had a voice memo of this one for a while with scratch lyrics that I didn’t know what to do with. We loved how in-your-face yet melodic this one was from the beginning, so we just decided to go ahead and bring it into the studio and see what would happen. Right after we’d recorded the music, I went over to my friend Cris Stayton’s place, and we did all the lyrics together and finished recording it the next day.
CAN’T RUN FOREVER
This was the last song written for the album as well as our first ever self-produced song. Our friend Nick Purvis had come to Virginia to write for a weekend, and in two days we’d written and recorded most of the song. It was a totally new approach in so many ways, but lyrically it was the first time we’d made up a fictional character to embody a part of all ourselves that would rather run than look in the mirror.
I think this was the third song written for the record. It was early on in gathering songs, so we were still trying to find the identity of the record. Cole had heard me playing the opening acoustic guitar riff and told me to start humming a melody to it just to see if there was something there, probably within an hour we had the majority of the structure and melody of the song. Initially we heard it taking more of a bedroom pop sort of feel, but by the time we’d gotten into the studio and played around with it, this bright, late 90’s acoustic sort of feel came out.
It’s hard for me to put a genre on this song, and I love that about it. There are so many things that shouldn’t be complementary to each other that worked. The song sort of has a folk/alt country feel at its core while the bass has a subtle groove and pedal steel comes in and out. Our producer Kyle Cummings had the idea to mix a drum machine in while Cole played brushes on drums. It still feels really fresh and exciting hearing all of those elements living together on the same track.
THOUGHTS IN PROGRESS
This was the first song ever written for the album, so it’s been in my head for a while now. We all tend to wait until we’ve gotten ourselves together to present the broken parts of ourselves to people around us, but if we don’t we never really get to be known and seen in the present. I’ve had plenty of times like that and in the process end up starved for true connection with those closest to me. I guess this was my way of reminding myself to let myself be known in the present.
We tracked the full band on this song and went back to do a few overdubs later, but the majority of what you hear is four guys in a room and I love the spirit of that.
We did this song in Joshua Tree, CA with Charlie Stavish, and I love the way he captured the loneliness and longing in this tune. I love going back and hearing all of the subtle details. I feel surprised by something new every time.
I remember feeling really stuck in the middle of the album. I’d called up my friend Adam Fischer from the band Night Traveler, and he just encouraged me to try writing on an instrument I didn’t know how to play well. A few days later, Cole and I picked up a free piano and a few days after that, this song had arrived.
WHAT COULD BE
My friend Cris Stayton and I wrote this one over FaceTime in the thick of quarantine. We really got captured on the concept of life being a series of choices – “one road starts and another has to end.” We wanted to embrace the sadness of what could’ve been as much as the joy of what is.
My wife actually gave me the title for this one. It’s a feeling song and there wasn’t a specific lyric that summed up the tone of the song. I wrote it with my friend Jason Wozniak in the middle of quarantine, and we wanted to find a way to express the feeling of the streets being empty and wondering if the world was ever going to return to normal without being too on the nose. I love the space that the lyrics and tone of the song give me to fill in the blanks.