“The main goal is to not suck and to not ruin our legacy”— Vinnie Caruana on the Movielife’s reunion
THE MOVIELIFE have traveled a long road to come back, fully formed and motivated for a flurry of activity. After their 2003 breakup, frontman VINNIE CARUANA played the 2008 Bamboozle in New Jersey with members of Set Your Goals backing him. There was also a pair of shows the actual band reunited to play in 2011: one at that year's installment of the Bamboozle, and a purported "final" appearance at the sold-out, 2,100-capacity Best Buy Theater in New York City, proof positive of the cult following they accrued while away. While it seems as though no one should expect full-fledged headlining tours and an album by year's end, the Movielife are back for good this time, and, according to Caruana—the "healthiest" they've ever been. Just don't call it a comeback.
Photo by Ariel LeBeau
What are you up to tonight?
VINNIE CARUANA: I'm at a beer garden in Williamsburg visiting with some family and friends. So I'm in the little awning area as you walk in. I'm in one of those little boxes. It's fucking brutally cold down here today.
Yeah, it seems pretty cold to be hanging outside tonight.
How were those Irving Plaza shows? Judging from YouTube videos I've seen, I'd guess you had a pretty good time.
Yeah, we played two nights back-to-back at Irving and it was the two best shows we've ever played.
So it was better than [the 2011 show at] the Best Buy Theater?
Best Buy isn't even in the top 10 for me. The Irving shows were really special, really great. The vibe was nuts, we played well. The whole thing was just perfect. It felt really right, and really awesome the whole time.
After this latest reunion, you've probably learned your lesson on statements of finality—like saying how the Best Buy Theater show would be the band's last for a while.
Absolutely. I know that's never true. Even if you think it is. So that's advice to consider: Just don't say anything. Because you might want to hang out together again in front of people one day.
What made you say that and want to believe it at the time?
At the time, I was in a completely different mindset with my life. I was having really weird problems and stuff that I had never dealt with before. I was having anxiety attacks. I didn't know what was going on. I think I was drinking too much or some shit. And touring too much, and just going and kinda not being healthy. It just didn't feel right, and I think that's a timing thing more than anything. And when something doesn't feel right to me, it's really hard for me to do. So I pulled the plug on that, and that was probably me just being like, "This just doesn't feel right." This is the right time. Timing-wise, I finally have time to do this. There's nobody to piss off by doing it—like, three of the five members of I Am The Avalanche have [stuff] going on with their lives where it's not a point of contention to be [simultaneously] doing Movielife and Avalanche stuff. I just kinda looked at it like, "This is definitely the right time. I want to do it. All the boys want to do it. This is it." So we went, and the first thing I said to the dudes was, "Listen. This is something that I want to do perpetually. It's something I really want to do." And everyone felt it. And now we're booking shows. We're playing kinda everywhere now.
That actually leads into the next few questions I was going to ask: how this reunion feels compared to the last one so far, and why you think the last one fizzled out so quickly.
I think it was very premature, the last one. Premature, and forced. And I didn't know that at the time until I figured it out. But this is...the healthiest the Movielife has been.
I think so. We're not on tour right now playing [three consecutive weeks] and that might expose more than I'm seeing, but it's definitely a happy place. Which is nice to report.
Do you feel like the band have any unfinished business from when they first started? Places you didn't get to tour, music you didn't record?
There's definitely a lot of places we never went, and that's something that we're looking at as far as...should we go to exotic places because they want us to come? The offers have been coming in pretty steadily and we've just been picking and choosing what we want to do. Some of that might end up being places we've never been that we want to take advantage of going. Right now, the main focus is playing really good shows in cities we should be playing really good shows in. We were never a band that drew a few thousand people in every city. We would do the big city. The Movielife has no business playing Omaha, Nebraska, you know? [Laughs.]
What restrictions do the members have in their personal lives that might prevent from you hitting it super-hard with this reunion?
It's not even a might, it's a definite. Like we're not gonna hit it super-hard. Super-hard would be doing slightly more than we're doing right now, though. Everyone's got multiple kids, careers, and everything, and we're fitting in what we can fit in in the best way possible. Because everyone is making time because everyone really cares. So if the offers come in, we discuss what works with everyone's schedule. That's square one, and then after that we can move on to, "Do we want to do it?" But yeah, we're fitting stuff in that we can and I'm just grateful that everyone is putting the effort in to make time. Because it's cool. It's a nice thing to see everyone doing it with much enthusiasm.
Do you think they lacked enthusiasm for the last reunion, or in the original waning days of the band?
No, I mean I think the most emotional shows we played were those, but I don't think it was that. I think it was just over time, I wonder, "How will it be?" If they're still gonna be into this idea. And I was—I wouldn't say I was surprised, but it was nice to see that everybody was probably more enthusiastic about it than when we broke up, you know? And when we broke up, we didn't play some of our finest shows. Because we had decided two weeks before we broke up we were gonna break up, so we still had two weeks of shows left. And those shows ended up being really...special.
A bunch of shows you have coming up (Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles) are your first in those cities since originally breaking up. Were those good places for you back when you were active?
Yeah. Those were always good places. L.A. was always great, Orange County was always great, San Francisco was really good, Philly was always really, really good... Kinda like, if you had a top five it would be Long Island, New York City, Philly, Boston, Chicago, or something like that. We're doing mainly cities that we know that we can have really good shows in, because we should be playing shows like that. We're not trying to be onstage in front of a bunch of people that don't know who we are. I don't see a point in that. It's between that and offers that come in where it's like, maybe we wouldn't play Cleveland right away, but now that it's a festival, it's a bit easier than pulling off a headlining show and worrying about, "How popular are we?" or getting this place to fill.
What effect does this have on I Am The Avalanche? I'd think they're still your number one priority.
It's a thing where everything's pretty cyclical for me, so once I knew I was right at the end of a cycle—we're [IATA] not a full-time band. We kinda just tour when we put out records. So for me it just made perfect sense. One of the dudes—the third of the founding members of Avalanche had quit at the beginning of this year, and I knew we were in a place where we would need to figure out what exactly I Am The Avalanche is, or who exactly I Am The Avalanche is. So when it came down to finishing an Avalanche cycle, and kinda looking at the fact that we had lost some guys—even very mutually friendly ways with guys moving on with their lives and being grownups—it was perfect timing for me because I know I can do it right now because everything is pointing towards this right now. So the Avalanche are doing just what we've always done after we record and tour. That's on the shelf right now, and we'll take a look at Avalanche as time goes by.
Are there Movielife reissues in the works? Vinyl or otherwise?
Our first record, It's Go Time, which Fadeaway [Records] put out in, like, '99, is being [released on vinyl for the first time]. Fadeaway has turned into a non-profit label since the owner of Fadeaway lost his father to cancer. So he's turned the label into a non-profit, so it was really awesome because as soon as he [Michael Dubin] heard we were reuniting again he asked, "Hey, what would you think about making It's Go Time available again, since it's [the beginning of] the story?" And obviously we were super-into it. I think pre-orders are going on for that now, or soon.
You mentioned in the Noisey interview that there weren't any plans at all to write new material. Is that still the case?
It is still the case, but I wouldn't say that's never gonna happen, because like you said before, you don't know. You really don't know. As far as breaking up and stuff, you don't know, so you shouldn't say anything. I would see it being pretty difficult for us to get a record together, when time [allows for] that in everyone's lives, but stranger things have happened, so I'll say....maybe? Hopefully? But it's definitely a thing...time will tell. All of our lives will dictate if that's something we can achieve.
Do you have any speculative clue at all what it could come out sounding like if you were to write stuff?
I've had that conversation a few times now—I have no idea. Because the Movielife sound, to generalize it, is Brandon Reilly on guitar writing, and then me writing vocals over that. Phil [Navetta, bassist] has had really good input in a few of our parts—some of my favorite Movielife songs. And before Brandon was in the band, Alex [Amiruddin, former guitarist] had really great ideas. So it was never me. The way it works with Avalanche is me writing music and writing vocals, just kind of writing everything that's...an Avalanche sound. A Movielife sound is Brandon Reilly writing shit, and me singing, so...that's what it would have to be, but what that is [now], I have no idea. Because we both wrote quite a bit since the Movielife. It's like [hypothetically], "Let's get a record together." So we jam, and we don't like it. I don't know. I don't think I wouldn't, because I do have a very strong connection with Brandon Reilly and his way of playing guitar. What I write vocally and logically over his chord progressions we seem to work out really easily, so I think it would work well if we decide to do it. It's just a matter of, right now we're kinda like, "Let's play shows, and just get through that." You know? Make sure they're awesome, instead of trying to get distracted and taking on too many things.
I also remember reading how Brandon kinda took some time off music for a while, and even before that he'd been doing Nightmare Of You, which is obviously a totally different sound, so it would be interesting to hear what he'd come up with.
Yeah, it would definitely be something different. I think it would be exciting as well. I'd like to see that happen one day. But it's not up to me. I have four other dudes I need to talk to about that.
Do you have any big goals you want to accomplish with this reunion?
You know, I don't even see it as a reunion. I just see it as us playing shows now. We're here, and we're playing shows indefinitely. The main goal is to not suck and to not ruin our legacy. That's something we've been working really hard on—we practice a lot. We practice more than most full-time bands. To make sure that the people that have been waiting are getting something that is 100 percent awesome, energetic and sincere. So that's all we've been concentrating on--to make sure nobody leaves going, "Eh, they used to be better." We're making sure that it's really sick and really awesome and the song selections are great and we play them really well
Have you hung out with the guys much in the intervening years?
No, not really. Me and Brandon would hang here and there, but no. Everyone's lives basically just went so many different directions. And people started having kids—and you know how that is when friends start having kids, it kinda....you don't see them out as much. But no, we've led virtually separate lives since we broke up.
How does it feel being back together with old friends, then?
It feels really good. Practices feel really normal. I feel great. And I get to sing Movielife songs, so it's awesome. I have a blast, even at practice. ALT