In the thick of their headline tour, lead singer and guitarist Prentice Robertson sat down to talk all things musical and methodical for the band
“The idea of karaoke is terrifying to me,” Robertson admits, but with the glow of the heat lamp hanging heavy above his head like a spotlight, the words seem almost unorthodox for a frontman. “I’d rather play in front of a thousand people than three.”
It’s their lucky night; the Rescue Rooms floor bruising under the weight of a sold-out show, it will be the audience screaming the words back to three people instead. The Scottish lads are promoting their third album, ‘Is This All We Are?’, a cleverly crafted and curated LP in which the title downplays the surety of the indie rockers. A demurely distinct record in its arm-around-the-shoulder, pint-in-the-air singalong-friendly tunes, Vistas have captured that summery breeze that we’re all craving now the winter months are upon us.
Ironic given we’re sat chatting in a beer garden in puffer jackets. Not only are we reminiscing upon the longer days and shorter nights – and the tease of a few more shows and festival spots in the new year – but I regard the fact that the last time the band played in Nottingham was pre-pandemic. Robertson muses on the changed landscape of the live music industry: “It’s a different world in terms of what gigs are like. I think there’s been a slight shift in how people are at gigs, how willing folk are to buy tickets, how far in advance they’ll buy them, which is fair enough.”
“It’s nice that we’re still coming back to these cities that we’ve played before. It’s cool to know we’ve made that next step up from a small, up and coming venue to a bigger room, and that folk are willing to come. Dead pleased with that!”
“You never can totally predict what will happen, but we’ve always enjoyed playing Nottingham and we’re glad to know the feelings are mutual,” humouring the question of which city has been their favourite to play so far (despite the echoes of soundcheck surrounding us, I manage to wrangle out of Prentice that tonight is already the best show of the tour, naturally) he’s humbled with the notion of having achieved a sold-out status show tonight. “We’ve played Rock City a bunch of times as a support act, we’ve been at Dot To Dot, and it’s always a good crowd.”
Speaking of their journey as a band, I’m eager to know at what point the trio felt the beginning buzz and promise of performing. “We did a tour with Circa Waves in 2018, and I think that was the first time where we were going out and on some of the well-known songs in our sets, people were forming mosh pits, and we were like, ‘cool, this is kind of building’. We were on a tour like that which covers every sort of stretch of the UK. That was a really good one.”
“We’ll still get folk now telling us that show is where they found us. It was one of the first tours where we thought; ‘We kinda sound alright here! We sound alright as a band live!’ Yeah, we look back on that fondly.”
Sound’s alright, indeed. The trio, which includes Dylan Rush and Jamie Law, became good friends during school with their bond for guitar-laden music; think Kings Of Leon, The Strokes, The View (“Obviously,” Robertson stresses with a chuckle. “If you were from Scotland, everyone from a similar age group just loved The View, it was hard not to get swept up in the Indie invasion.”). They formed the band in 2016 and released their first two albums, ‘Everything Changes In The End’ and ‘What Were You Hoping To Find?’, in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Vistas headlined Rescue Rooms on 14 November, 2023.
(Image Credit: Talia Robinson)
“They came out very shortly after one another and so we see them as companion pieces. One flows into the other quite well, which we think is really great as it’s tempting to stray too far away from your formula. You’ve got to cement that sound and then move onto something else.
“We were conscious not to do what we did on the first two albums,” Robertson begins to explain their songwriting process. “With this album, it was definitely a thing of listening to some of our favourite records and thinking it would be cool if we went in that direction. Listening and going, ‘Oh, we love the guitar sounds on that, our guitars on previous records don’t sound like that,’ as a kicking off point.”
“I always try to write with something in mind. Usually it starts with ‘I need this x number of tracks, and this x number of themes’. You want your summery song, you want an anthemic one – that’s just how my brain works in other aspects of life. That’s what works best for us.”
“Saying that, I don’t know where the tunes come from a lot of the time. I’ll just play about and a song will only progress from an idea. You can sit and stew on an idea for a long time, and subconsciously for some reason you’re not into, and if you try to force that, it’s not going to work. It won’t be a true Vistas track.”
And thematic-wise, how confident are the lads with their conceptual abilities? “I think with this third record there’s a lot more personal songs. A lot more of a darker subject matter covered and that’s just because of where we are as folk and the things we’ve experienced.”
“On the first two records, we were twenty-one-year-old guys in an air-thrashy indie guitar band and that’s what it sounds like at that time, and this is what we are now.”
What is the ‘Vistas’ sound? “I’d probably say in terms of the most well-known ones? Retrospect sums up the band pretty well. It’s the one that you’d think, ‘Okay, I kinda get what these guys are about’. We’ve played that song countless times and we’re still not bored of it! We still really enjoy playing it and potentially some stuff off the new album to show how we’ve slightly changed.”
Vistas have embarked on their biggest UK and European tour to date, having kicked things off in their home country of Scotland, and Prentice couldn’t be any more chuffed with how well it’s going. They’ve hit an impressive run of O2 venues and the infamous Electric Ballroom on their stint around the UK, all “pretty big bucket list things” as far as the band are concerned, with the album’s reception being the icing on the cake.
“It’s been really well received; it’s been really nice! We’ve got a decent bunch of songs from the record, the EP, and it’s not like the energy in the room takes a significant dip.”
“It’s nice that folk are really into them, we’ve been pretty blown away by how many people do know the newer songs,” Again, Robertson’s sheer surprise and sincerity in the band is a testament to all three members’ charm, sound and soul alike. “Nice that now, if you’ve come to watch us and you’d seen us a year before it’s a different setlist, not just the crowd pleasers. The ones we thought people wouldn’t know; they’ve been our rowdiest tunes.”
“It gives the setlist a lot of different moods, an ebb and flow. We’re fortunate in the sense that we haven’t been going for that long, but we have a big catalogue to pick a setlist from.”
“If you see a Vistas show, ninety percent of the songs you want to hear we’ll probably play. We hate going to see bands and they don’t play the songs you want to hear.”
Vista’s debut studio album ‘Everything Changes’ is available to stream now.
(Image Credit: Talia Robinson)
I make the offhanded remark of performing a Russian Roulette-esque gig – Fall Out Boy’s schtick for their latest tour has been performing surprise songs each night at the delight of fans, and whether Vistas would consider letting the audience pick the songs for the night. Robertson respectfully puts that idea to bed: “They’ve got some catalogue to pick from, but I think we’d freak out if we had to pick on the spot. We’re very methodical, we like to plan things out if we know what we’re doing, in turn it makes a better show for us.”
Ah, but the joy of live music is that anything could happen! Does that give the lads a bit of stage fright? “Stage fright not so much, but you do get nervous. It’s nice being quite deep into a tour because it feels natural at that point. Usually at the beginning you can rehearse as much as you want but the only real rehearsal is being out in front of the punters.”
“Like the first gig we ever did was in this tiny pub at home, really it was only our friends from school that came and the locals already having a pint in there,” Robertson chuckles with the memory. “But it was so special to us because people were there for us. We hardly advertised for it, we were just starting out, and yet it felt like a proper show.”
It’s about time for the proper show to begin, too – Dylan passes by and lets us know that he’s off to grab a meal deal, and that’s my cue to let the poor lads eat before the doors open. With a shake of a hand, Prentice leaves me with their humble hope for the night ahead.”
“I remember we did St. Lukes in Glasgow, just down from Barrowlands, and that was our first really bouncing, insane gig. I suppose you could call it our ‘made it moment’.”
“Folk knew the words from start to finish, visibly jumping around in the sense that they love these songs – not that they’ve discovered us for the first time – that was just, wow.”
“If we could just keep recreating that, I’d be happy forever.”
Featured Image Credit: Talia Robinson