ORCHAD – To be seated next to Justyn Vynn is an experience. Let me tell you, because I know. It must be what it felt like to sit next to James Hetfield or perhaps even Eddie Vedder before enough people knew who they were. Not because he’s larger than life, but more because he doesn’t seem to think he is, despite the fact that he is … as confusing as that sounds.
Down to earth, as the saying goes.
But if anyone had the right to be in the clouds, it would be him … good-looking, hair that teen idols of the eighties could only have dreamed of, and a talent for music that can indeed be considered prodigious. But don’t look up in the clouds to see him believing in all of this, floating around with the geese and the cherubs, because you won’t see him up there. He’ll be down here with the rest of you, going about his business, busy at trying to make his dreams come true. And if you ask me, he’s well on his way.
I met him at a podcast recording a few years back, and when an opportunity came up to do a piece on music again, I took the chance to interview him, as he was coming out with new material and in the form of ORCHAD, his new band.
What in God’s name is ORCHAD?
Keep reading and find out and check out how despite a state of pandemic and a lackluster showing of dedicated musicians out there, these guys are very much committed to getting known, one song at a time, the way it used to be done … you know, in the golden era of music.
*This interview was conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and over the internet (before the summer), and as much as I would have liked to have a beer or a cup of coffee with Justyn Vynn while talking about all of this, we weren’t able to, so some info may be dated to that time period.
Domenic Marinelli: In the writing industry, the professional publishing world was turned on its side by independent publishers. As a recording musician, how do you feel about independent music, and how do you feel about the platforms where you sell your music—as opposed to the treatment that the old “record deal” would have gotten a musician, say 20 years ago?
Justyn Vynn: “I’ve only known the industry from the outside looking in, so take this with a grain of salt! I think the influx of independent artists, and the ease at which they can create and release new music is fantastic. There’s so much going on out there, and I feel it really drives creativity to be in this kind of competitive space competing for the listener’s time. On the other hand, while there are more avenues to release and get your music heard, it’s much harder to get some of that airtime, and even if you do have those platforms, the pay just isn’t there. I love Spotify and Apple Music and the flexibility to just toss a link to anyone and they can hear for themselves what ORCHAD is about. It’s got great tools for artists as well and they provide a lot of feedback, but it really doesn’t pay if you’re not a superstar. It requires a lot of investment. You start to see what labels and record deals could do for an artist, as they provided backing, and I guess bank rolled an artist’s success. From my perspective being an independent artist, ORCHAD needs to do the legwork on our own. We have to speak to different PR firms, (the ones that will listen); we have to curate different stakeholders so that when we do release something it doesn’t just fall through the cracks. It’s hard when it’s a 5-person band, but when it’s 2, it’s quite difficult to pull together everything you need to see it succeed. So while I think the industry is great and creative, I myself am still considering the record deal as a goal to strive for.”
DM: Who first inspired you to pick up the guitar?
JV: “I don’t really have one of those moments where I saw a guitar god and went “I wanna do that!” It was more kind of instilled in me. My dad had played guitar in his youth, and kept an electric and acoustic around the house. When I was a kid I’d try playing it, but thought it hurt my fingers, but I was always into putting on shows, and being an entertainer. When I was 12, I went to my grandmother’s house one random Sunday, and bored out of my mind, I picked up a small child’s acoustic that my dad gifted to my uncle probably 20 years earlier. First time I ever held a guitar properly, and I kind of just figured out how to play “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. It was the first thing in my life that I picked up quickly, and since I’d done it on my own, I wanted to learn more, and from then on it’s just been me and guitar!”
DM: What’s the best thing about the Montreal Rock scene?
JV: “I think from my perspective, it’s the people you meet in the Montreal Rock Scene or music scene in general; they become your friends for life. Some of my best friends, the people I spend my summers with, vacation with, and talk the most with … I only know because of the scene here. I have different groups of friends that come from the scene. We just love music, and love partying, and hanging out together.”
DM: What’s the worst thing about the Montreal Rock scene?
JV: “Being straight forward, I don’t see as many new rock bands, or as many new rock fans coming along to these shows. There are definitely some great young kids coming out, but more so for metal, and same for the younger 18-25 crowd for shows.”
DM: Your first band?
JV: “First band – My High School band’s name was 2Tone. We only practiced 2 AC/DC songs, “Back in Black” and “Rock N Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.” It was right before I really took an interest in writing my own songs.
DM: Your first paid gig?
JV: “2009, at a bar in Ville-Emard called Shooters. Got paid 500$ for the whole band. First show for the band too. However, we ended up spending more on stage presentation before, so we ended up losing money, but it was great!”
DM: You guys are trying to do something very original with ORCHAD—meshing many styles of music. How does this differ from everything you’ve already done in the industry?
JV: “Julian and I have always been into a wide array of music. My previous efforts, at least writing-wise, we geared more towards an 80’s inspired Hard Rock sound with modern influences. I really just wanted to be both Nikki Sixx and Synyster Gates! The only issue I take with that now is, I love so many different styles of music, that I think it’s improper to just hold back. Julian is the same way. We want to write music that both make people head bang and dance. We wanted to bring in ideas and concepts from other artists and genres we both identified with but without trying to follow any trend. We don’t see any realistic boundaries to what we are or what we’re doing. We don’t stop ourselves from incorporating something just because we’re deemed a rock band. I think what best exemplifies this is, we’ve stopped trying to impress other musicians, and we just want to impress the kid in ourselves. That differs from my past output, because I totally wanted to write the sickest riff that other musicians would love, and write guitar solos that other great guitarists would go “Damn that’s clever.” Now, we just don’t care what other musicians have to say about the individual parts. And I’m really proud of that.”
DM: Which pop artists and hip hop artists do you respect from today and the past?
JV: “So many. I’m actually fonder of today’s pop acts than I am for a lot of new Rock! Past artists that really inspired me are: Prince, Bryan Adams, Elton John, Hall & Oates, Lionel Richie, Phil Collins, Don Henley Solo, Backstreet Boys (huge influence on ORCHAD in fact). Current Artists: Clean Bandit, The Weeknd, Ed Sheeran, Anne Marie, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Panic! At The Disco, Bruno Mars, Billie Eilish, The Jonas Brothers. Hip-Hop: Eminem, Drake, Ice Cube, N.W.A. Hopsin, Tyler The Creator, A$AP Rocky, J.Cole, Busta Rhymes, Tech N9ne.
DM: How hands on are you? Control freak? Perfectionist? How do you and Julian divvy up the work and writing process? How long did this material take to record?
JV: “In the past I was really particular about certain things in one song, and on the same song in other areas I was more open to suggestion. Now I’m more “What’s best for the song/the music.” I want to get the shivers you get when something you didn’t expect happens. You can only get that by having your songwriting partner, or the musicians playing your work do their own thing. I’m not married to much anymore; it’s the same for Julian. We may be adamant on some things, but 95% of the time, we’re open to whatever works best. We don’t have a certain way we go about writing, other than either Julian or myself start with “I have something, let’s work on it.” Julian’s a fantastic songwriter on his own, ORCHAD’s first E.P. Vices & Desires was written completely by Julian himself; I wasn’t even in the band when he was recording it. I came in to do a few solos. He was tired of looking for suitable musicians who shared his vision, and took it upon himself, and that kind of determination was what I’d always been looking for. I had kind of given up on really putting out releases other than for myself/friends, but when Julian asked me to play with him, and have the equal share in the process, I couldn’t pass that up! Our next singles started out completely different, “Immaculate” I had written all of the music, Julian gave his thoughts, but I had written the Bass and Drums and he just went with it. He wrote all the lyrics, and the melodies, and god damn if it wasn’t exactly the chills I was looking for. “Well on the Way” Julian wrote the first guitar line, that somber progression and he had lyrics and a melody all the way up until the second half of the song. I sat down with him, came up with a progression, and sang a melody with the words Well on the Way, and he ran with it, finishing the rest of it with his lyrics and melody. This next single “Critically Ashamed” was even more different, I had all the music written again, but Julian wanted to arrange it different ways, and we experimented A LOT. The final version is completely different from what form it started out as. We went over lyrics together, Julian had better ideas for drums, and Kevin Jardine – our producer, really has us dialed in, because he made us change a few things to fit this vision we were still trying to figure out. That’s what a good producer does! In the end, we’re not married to doing things any one way, because we want to bring the best out of each other and really let the songs be the heroes. ”
DM: Best bands in the city today?
JV: “Rusted. Great 80’s inspired Rock band that puts on a hell of show! Ashes of Eden, Doom N’ Blue, Pirate Meets Cowboy, Vinyl Hero.”
DM: Best bands putting forth original material in North America today?
JV: “Great question! Santa Cruz for awhile were destroying everything in their path with excellent Hard Rock, it was so tasty! They’ve had a few member changes and stylistically they’re moving in a different direction now, but the first few albums are stellar. My main squeeze of choice though is Lebrock. They’re a Synthwave group with vocals, and they’re so on point. I adore them. Although both are from Europe, for North American bands, Palaye Royale, absolutely love these guys.”
DM: What are your hopes for ORCHAD?
JV: “Ugh, the dream! I want to take it to the top! I want our music to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and maybe bring back guitars to the limelight for a bit! I want to be able to inspire that kid either lyrically, or musically to create something! I wanna see Julian on magazine covers, and I want to say “Hey that’s my singer!”
DM: Any gigs lined up?
JV: “The million dollar question! We’re planning on doing our first show this summer. We’re figuring out the logistics of it considering we’re only 2 guys, and who knows with COVID-19 wreaking havoc. Otherwise, nothing set in stone.”
DM: What do you want to get across about this band if –imagine—this was your only chance to describe it in 100 words?
JV: “We’re a rock band, that isn’t confined to the past. We’re a Pop Band with attitude. We’re a Hip Hop group that hasn’t yet dropped their mix tape. We’re a Dance duo that doesn’t rely on synthesizers. We’re the band that wants to be your next favorite artist. We’re Julian Hannus, and Justyn Vynn. We’re infectious melodies, and tasty guitar. We’re energetic bass, and groovy drums. Our music is different but in a familiar way. We appreciate the time you spend giving us a listen. We’re ORCHAD, pronounced as or-chid, because we’re illiterate. A 2-piece group looking to define the best moments of your lives. That’s 4 extra words ha ha ha!!”
DM: Where can the people find ORCHAD?