Dream-pop Minnesotan Vansire gave the grooviest performance to the crowd at Songbyrd on Aug. 18. Vansire has been releasing music on Bandcamp since 2015 but have been making music together since high school, and their style has evolved into something truly special. It really is the contrast of Josh Augustin’s voice against the instrumentals that creates a dreamy atmospheric sound. Augustin’s rich and easy-going melodies shift ever so slightly as he lilts over the bouncing bassline and synth.
Their most recent release “Metamodernity” utilizes Josh’s hooky synth sounds against Sam Winemiller’s guitar. At their performance, and on some of the tracks, Sam’s younger brother Isaac Winemiller plays bass. On stage he dances back and forth, making exaggerated faces at the members of the opening bands, Kainalu and Jeff Draco, who are standing in the wings of the venue, as well as the incredible drummer Joanna Quinn who is a friend of the band from Oberlin College.
In addition to the band’s rich instrumentals, their lyrics examine everything from abandoning youth, to losing love, and to gorgeous descriptions of the landscapes that paint their Midwest hometown, Rochester, Minnesota. In “Angel Youth,” Josh sings “You could quit your day job / We’d call ourselves the Angel Youth / You’ll find us traveling and making tunes.” While in “Metamodernity,” Josh opts for a more descriptive narrative, singing, “It’s humid in the Midwest / From June to July / All beneath a pinkish sky / From the wildfires / Which mantle the horizon line.”
The band has a kind of friendly feeling as they perform. Whether that can be attributed to the Midwestern stereotype or if it is more based off Vansire’s close-knit group, it is infectious and wonderful. Augustin leans into the microphone between each song, thanking everyone for coming out. After finishing “Set Piece,” he laughs, recalling their Philadelphia show, “When we played in Philly, like three songs later, this guy yelled out ‘Play Set Piece!’ and I was like, we just played that. Where have you been?” “Oh god, that’s going to become some kind of new weird meme now, isn’t it?”
Though Vansire played almost exclusively rhythmic and danceable songs that showcased Augustin’s voice, their discography also includes many songs that are mainly instrumental or have less vocal presence. These, I suggest, are best listened to in the fall, preferably with some crunchy leaves underfoot.
Another highlight of the show was their choice of the encore. Vansire does sound like a bit like Beach Fossils’ distant cousin, with a similar dusky guitar hook line in songs like “Suits and Coats.” Both have an incredible grasp of repetition, so it only makes sense that Vansire chose to cover “What a Pleasure” by Beach Fossils. Hopping up and down on stage and nailing the recognizable hooks, Vansire had the whole venue shaking and screaming the lyrics.
Winemiller and Augustin are both currently students at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the University of Minnesota, respectively. Balancing music with school is not easy, but they are sure to keep making strides in the dream-pop genre with new releases. Hopefully soon.
Photo credit: Josh Augustin’s tonality makes Vansire’s music truly special. Photo by Anjali DasSarma.