Life as an independent musician is unpredictable by default. God has a nasty tendency of throwing his toughest challenges to his most consistent road warriors. Thanks to her work in just about every side of the DIY music industry, Victoria Park is uniquely privy to the many pratfalls of being a young touring musician. She realized for starters that nobody can do it alone, and has garnered a reputation of being among the most willing DIY artists to lend an ear or a helping hand to a new band trying to plot out a tour or get a sense of their worth. Thanks to her work as the bassists in Squirrel Flower, her aforementioned willingness to help others in the industry, and the excitement stemming from her phenomenal 2018 self titled EP under her band moniker Pictoria Vark, Park’s debut record The Parts I Dread is among the most hotly anticipated releases in the twitter heavy DIY music scene in sometime. The number of Varkheads, as her fans like to be called, seems to be growing exponentially with every single, and luckily for them The Parts I Dread more than lives up to the hype.
Her extensive work throughout the music industry taught Victoria a thing or two about how to make a track sound good. Park said that songs like “Wyoming” have as many as a hundred layered tracks within them, and that attention to detail really shines through. The album sounds as polished and meticulously put together Soccer Mommy or Haim or your well-funded indie rock torch bearer of choice. “Wyoming” is also a testament to the resiliency that being a touring musician has instilled in Park, and how music can help us in our more difficult moments. While she was in college Park’s parents up and moved from New Jersey to Wyoming, so Victoria did the only thing she knew would really help; She wrote a song about it. “Can’t I blame you for everything, market crashes mood swings,” Vark sings on the massive chorus, a tongue in cheek nod to how something like an unexpected move can make every other aspect of your life feel like it is out of balance. “Wyoming” and fellow single “I Can’t Bike” are great scene setters and are among the record’s catchiest tracks, but in the context of the whole record “Out” is not only a showstopper but feels like a revelation. The track opens with a slow drawl that feels fit to soundtrack a duel outside a saloon as Park quietly but firmly asserts that “I wanted out,” eventually building to a gargantuan close. It’s ambitious and cinematic and I can imagine a future albums’ worth of songs stemming from ideas she explored in just this track.
The most exciting thing about The Parts I Dread is it really just feels like the beginning for Park. As layered and detailed as these songs are, I can imagine threads from each leading her in completely new directions on future records. This is a stellar debut from a musician who will be commanding your attention for sometime to come, you might as well join the ride now. I had the opportunity to ask Victoria some questions about putting this album together, her professional work around the music industry, and her interests outside of music.
GSC: What is your name? How do you identify? What do you do in the band Pictoria Vark?
PV: Hey I’m Victoria (she/her) and I play bass and write music as Pictoria Vark.
GSC: What are your earliest musical memories? Who was playing music for you growing up & what were they playing?
PV: Hmm I guess taking piano lessons starting at age 3 or 4! I remember not really being interested in playing the music in the books or whatever and ended up writing a lot of songs about my stuffed animals instead with my piano teacher. My parents listened to a lot of classic rock around the house and my first concert ever was Don McLean because my favorite song when I was 4 was “American Pie” haha.
GSC: What made you know you wanted to make music yourself?
PV: Just having the impulse to write!
GSC: You’ve been playing in touring bands for a number of years. When did you start playing music in that capacity? What has been your musical journey up to this point?
PV: I started touring with Squirrel Flower when I was 19 and things were on a much smaller scale. We were playing a lot of DIY shows on the East Coast and it’s been truly a privilege and honor to watch Ella grow musically and professionally and be a small part of that journey.
GSC: This is your debut LP but it builds on your fantastic Self Titled EP. What did you learn making the Self Titled EP that changed your approach on The Parts I Dread?
PV: Learned a lot about what I want in a mix, how to think through pre-production, and how to articulate a theme across a series of songs.
GSC: You mentioned in your interview with Molly O’Brien that “Wyoming” has as many as a hundred tracks layered on top of one another. What is it like putting together that layered a song? When do you know it’s finished?
PV: Making all the layers is kind of like building the slab of marble from which you carve the statue. It doesn’t all have to be going at once but having that many layers gives the song space to weave in and out of. We had even more at one point, but the song was sounding overcrowded and the production wasn’t serving the song, which is always the point.
GSC: The song “Wyoming” was written in the midst of your family’s move from New Jersey to Wyoming, a place you’d never been before. Did the song help you come to terms with the move? How does writing music help you process times in your life in general?
PV: Oh definitely! It really helped me process all of that anxiety and encapsulate it because it feels so much smaller looking back on it. I filmed the music video for that song in Wyoming with my parents, which felt like a really sweet full circle moment to show some resolution to it. Sometimes when talking fails, music can really help.
GSC: Were there any bands or musicians who were major influences on this record?
PV: Nick Drake, Snail Mail, Boris, and Cat Power’s Moon Pix.
GSC: You also play bass in the band Squirrel Flower. How do you approach your work in a band differently than your solo work? Is there anything that you learned from playing with Squirrel Flower that you brought to Pictoria Vark?
PV: I mean when I’m playing bass for people, I’m hired to help execute their vision; I do a lot of listening to try and figure out how to best execute that, play the parts well, get the tone right, etc. But in my own project, it’s about thinking through that vision and creating something from scratch. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to tour well and sustainably.
GSC: You also do work in the DIY music scene/industry that includes work with Refresh Records and consulting work with different DIY bands. What led you to want to work in the music industry in that capacity? What is the most satisfying aspect of the work you do there?
PV: It really came from a place of wanting to make the best decisions for myself and my career as a musician and having the knowledge to act with agency. And wanting to share and offer that as I can! I’ve honestly been doing really horribly keeping up with consulting and my label job on tour (sorry Josh!) being on the road and in the midst of this album release haha. But I guess the most satisfying part about it is just getting to be fully involved in all aspects of music.
GSC: What insights have you gleaned from that side of the business? How has it affected how you approach your own music?
PV: I’m not sure – the music business has left me feeling pretty jaded in a lot of ways that I can’t talk about on the record. It hasn’t really impacted my creative practice and I hope it stays that way.
GSC: You have a lot of friends and supporters in the DIY scene, I am always cracking up at your tweets back and forth with August from Riverby and the Oolong gang and couldn’t be more excited for your upcoming tour with Pinkshift. Who are some of your favorite contemporaries?
PV: Aw thank you! All of these people are so kind. In addition to those mentioned, Harmony Woods, Jhariah, Swim Camp, Hey, ily, Carol, and Jane Lai are some other really wonderful pals who are making great music. I also met Niiice. for the first time at Treefort which was so fun and hope we become pals!
GSC: Who are some of the more underrated acts in the scene right now?
GSC: What is an interest outside of music that people might be surprised you are into?
PV: I am kind of a beast at living room Scrabble and want to start training to play at the tournament level!