I am continually surprised that none of the people that I’ve met whose art has affected my life in significant ways are unpleasant. I always seem to expect some kind of aloof quality in the people I meet whose work has impacted me. It’s always wonderful to realise that they are just human like you or I. We put such people on a pedestal; they become more than human because they possess a skill which is unique. So far, everyone I've met has been lovely.
Don’t tell me that you’re not the same.
Art which we find monumentally influential affects us for personal reasons. Our heroes become legend to us because their creative output has an ineffable quality which transcends speech, it speaks to us deeply, intimately, profoundly. Sometimes it only resonates with you at a specific point in your life, and as you grow older the influence fades. Some of these influences change into nostalgia. Some are timeless. Vinnie Caruana, like Jim Adkins, Dan Andriano, Ian MacKaye and others before him, sit in that timeless category for me.
This is discussed in the podcast, but ‘Forty Hour Train Back to Penn’ was a seminal record for me. As someone who had grown up thinking that pop punk was just The Offspring, Green Day and the like, and had subsequently developed an aversion to pop punk after listening to Rise Against, The Movielife seemed like the perfect bridge between those two punk worlds - more aggressive pop punk, which had more emphasis on the punk than the pop.
And that’s what I think nails the singular genius of Vinnie Caruana and Brandon Reilly. Their talent lies on taking a lot of that punk rock edge and adding some layers of melody and hookiness to it. That in itself is not a new thing, or even a unique thing, but their songwriting style is vastly different to anyone else's. It doesn’t feel like it’s aping mid 90s pop punk, it feels like a more melodic version of bands like Lifetime or Kid Dynamite, but it still has lashings of influence from great pop songwriters . It’s easy to see why Drive-Thru records found them appealing, but to me it always felt like they didn’t quite belong there.
Then there’s the evolution. Vinnie’s style changes and matures a lot as his career continues. I am the Avalanche leans much more toward melodic hardcore territory than The Movielife ever did. Peace’d Out is more straight up hardcore and their EP is still a favourite of mine.
His solo stuff hews closer to pop more than anything, with many songs on Survivor’s Guilt skewing more power pop than anything else, but it still has that unmistakable, undeniable Vinnie Caurana songcraft.
I loved talking to this guy. So humble and thankful for what he’s been allowed to do, and he seemed like a genuinely happy dude.