Aunt Vicki is an indie rock band formed by married songwriter duo Lee Dyer and Erin Campbell. Their new single Vigil (out on Oct. 8th) is about holding space for the people you love, especially when that’s all you can do. Aunt Vicki originated in Northern Michigan where both of their families live, and shortly after the band was formed Lee and Erin set off on an adventure that took them from New Orleans to Maine and eventually to Asheville, NC where they currently reside.
All the travel was great for inspiration, but when there was trouble back home or when a family member was having a hard time, there was little either of them could do except say a prayer, send good vibes, and hope for the best. That’s what Vigil is about. Keeping the ones we love in our thoughts and sending the best of our intentions to them, but worrying that it won’t be enough.
Whereas Lee is a lighthearted, energetic songwriter, Erin brings a more somber, quiet and introspective songwriting approach to the mix. This shows in Vigil, which was primarily written by Erin and supplemented with a second verse by Lee, and the two styles of songwriting bring a balance and variety to their album.
Erin had the idea for a video early on when she wrote the first verse in their tiny “birds nest” apartment in New Orleans. She knew she wanted to use a stone labyrinth and somehow capture it from above. She knew she wanted the candles and smoke and costuming appropriate for a funeral. When they talked to their friend Laura Boswell about the video concept she was immediately on the same page and was able to capture their concept on film, complete with drone footage.
Laura Boswell is herself an accomplished singer-songwriter and guitarist who also teaches music and offers videography services. In addition to her work as a solo artist, she’s in a duo project called WellSpring with Molly Hartwell and they’re currently in the middle of making an album with Daniel Shearin of the acclaimed Asheville-based band River Whyless producing. Given how tightly-knit the Asheville music scene is, it’s unsurprising that there are many social crossovers and MG O’Shea actually mastered Laura Boswell’s last EP that Shearin produced. O’Shea also remixed a River Whyless song and even filled in on drums for a couple of River Whyless shows when their drummer Alex McWalters broke his arm. Small world.
When Aunt Vicki first tapped MG O’Shea to produce their new album, the initial plan was to record everything with him. He had recently built out a recording studio in his childhood home in Asheville, NC after moving back home from Los Angeles (he’s also lived in Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville, Edinburgh and Stockholm). His work as an audio engineer has received attention from gear companies like iZotope and Aston Microphones and his electronic solo project Kinjac has received press from outlets like Bandcamp Daily. Aunt Vicki had sent their first album to O’Shea to master, but when they moved to Asheville from New Orleans in 2019 they knew they wanted to expand the acoustic duo sound into a full rock band sound and were excited to bring in O’Shea as a studio drummer, mixing/mastering engineer and producer to get an outside perspective on the project.
Lee Dyer is an accomplished audio engineer in his own right and recorded and mixed their first album at home, but they were looking forward to the luxury of having a quiet vocal booth and no neighbors to worry about and a dedicated engineer to run recording sessions so Lee could focus on performing. The only problem was that when they first approached O’Shea he was busy running for Congress, so they made plans to start recording after the March of 2020 primary, which ended up being right when the pandemic started and made recording together impossible.
With nothing but time on their hands, they decided to pivot directions to make the best of the situation and O’Shea simply dropped off some favorite recording gear (a Universal Audio 610 tube preamp and an Aston Spirit condenser mic) at Lee and Erin’s apartment so they could capture the tones he wanted for all of their parts, but recorded in a tiny apartment during quarantine instead of a vocal booth. On Vigil O’Shea played and recorded the drums himself at his studio.
While Vigil ends on a note of helplessness during times of crises, it also lends a sense of strength through companionship and the power of intention. Through our desires we create the world around us and in Vigil the desire is to send solace to those who are beyond our reach physically, hopefully bringing them back from the edge. As the lyrics say, “light a candle” for those you love in these trying times and hope for better days ahead because sometimes that’s all we can do.