FRESH from a wildly successful first American tour, Newcastle indie heavyweights Vacations are turning their focus to growing their domestic fan base.
Over the past six years the four-piece of Campbell Burns (guitar, vocals), Nate Delizzotti (guitar), Jake Johnson (bass) and Joey van Lier (drums) have been the Newcastle music scene's greatest, and most incredible, success story.
Despite minimal triple j support and commercial Australian attention, they've garnered an unbelievable international fan base through social media and music streaming that's built up more than 5.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
That's well above the streaming figures for ARIA darlings Gang Of Youths (1.8 million) and Angus and Julia Stone (4.1 million). Vacations even have twice as many monthly listeners than Newcastle's greatest band, Silverchair (2.5 million).
However, for years those statistics have felt intangible. Just numbers on a screen.
The 32-date tour of the US in March and April finally put Vacations in touch with fans seduced by their dreamy brand of indie-rock.
"I feel like for years we've had industry people throwing stats at us and numbers and data to show how there's a market building overseas for us and how we have to get over there and play to all these people," van Lier tells the Newcastle Herald over coffee at Hunter Street cafe Estratto.
"It never felt real. It always felt like data we were being shown. Like how many plays this song got.
"It's all fantastic and has helped get us where we are, but it wasn't physical. We hadn't actually seen those people in person. To actually get over there and see there is actually faces behind the numbers was really humbling to see.
"We've never had something like that in Australia."
It's not that we want to become a big Australian band, it's just that we feel a responsibility to play here because we haven't done it in so long.- Vacations drummer Joey van Lier
Vacations sold 14,000 tickets during their sold-out US tour, and multiple venues were upgraded.
The tour also coincided with Vacations' 2016 single Young being certified gold in the US, Canada and Poland and surpassing 500,000 streams.
Van Lier says the Texas shows in Austin and San Antonio were among their best, but for him the highlight was undoubtedly Vacations' opening night on March 2 at The Roxy in the heart of Los Angeles' famed Sunset Boulevard.
It was also one hell of a comeback concert after two years off the road due to the pandemic.
"That was a huge moment in all our lives," van Lier says. "It would have been obvious to the audience from the smiles on our faces that there was a lot of work to get to that point. That was a stand out, a bucket-list moment."
Van Lier says Vacations have considered moving to the US where the majority of their fan base resides, but the four members are happily settled in Newcastle. Burns and Delizzotti are both involved in music production and engineering at Sawtooth Studios in Tighes Hill, Johnson works at JB Hi-Fi and van Lier is a firefighter and bus driver.
"We've thought about it [moving to the US], but it's more of an approach to go over there when we need to," he says.
"We'll be going over there a lot for the time being. We have too many connections in Newcastle and our families are here, and it's such a beautiful place."
However, the more immediate focus for Vacations is growing their Australian fan base. In July they'll launch at seven-date tour of Australia, hoping to showcase their appeal which Americans have passionately latched onto.
"It's not that we want to become a big Australian band, it's just that we feel a responsibility to play here because we haven't done it in so long," van Lier says. "It is our backyard and we'd obviously love to play here on a more regular basis."
A past criticism of Vacations was that their live show sometimes lacked energy. After a three-year gap between Australian shows, van Lier says people should expect a completely different Vacations when they tour their 2020 album Forever In Bloom.
"We're definitely bringing more of a live performance to the stage now, which we're excited about," he says. "I'm stuck behind the drum kit so I can't jump around, but the guys up front have been killing in terms of their stage performance and really getting into the shows.
"We've developed a lot and are definitely a lot more confident on stage now. It especially helped being in the US and enjoying it."
Vacations are also planning a future release. Burns is songwriting and the band will meet later this month to begin fleshing out ideas.
"It'll definitely be different to that [Forever In Bloom]," van Lier says. "We don't feel a responsibility to bring a specific sound that people want, it'll be whatever we, and particularly Campbell, are feeling at the time.
"We'll definitely be returning to our roots a little in terms of producing it ourselves and recording it ourselves at Sawtooth. It'll be a bit more DIY. There will be a return to that because we all get a lot of enjoyment out of that."
Vacations complete their Australian tour at the Cambridge Hotel on July 29.
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