Vacation Dad

Miss You EP

(MJ MJ Records; 2011)

By Kaylen Hann | 23 June 2011

It is street fest season, folks. And that means street fests touting every local band of every shape, size, influence, and make. I love Chicago’s capacity for digging up some real gems that make street fests actually worth the sunburn- and sangria-induced fake tattoos and getting overpriced beer spilled on you by some lady who can’t steer a stroller in platforms and handle her booze at the same time. And no matter the band’s quality (usually folky crap), they will have their casual nodders-along and their loyal fanbase to keep them going. And there will of course be those people who dance to anything. Who henna-up and do shit like sell ugly seashell jewelry and dance on the sidelines of every damn outdoors fest where there’s music; they are people who mistakenly believe this is the one place people like me are not judging them.

Andrew (or “Andy”) Todryk is Vacation Dad, and his recent Miss You two-track release begins with all the echoing didgeridoo-ish sounds, rat-a-tats, of sticks-and-rims flotsam you’d find from any local folk festival band, give or take an ocarina. But just about when the average fest-hippie would reach for a rainstick or hippie-sanctioned hula-hoop—a veritable sprinkler system of refreshing video-game like spangles, and the toasty heat of distortion and synth chords warming up underneath. “I’ll Always Find You” will not remind you of that bedtime story with the bunny who turns into a cloud and runs away from its creepy bunnymama. It’s lush and, yes, Animal Collective-y, what with those un-polished, open-mouthed screeching yells and underwater P-Bear cavernous calls.

Partner in MJ MJ Records and active member of FMLY, Todryk has made himself and company into one of those endearing Bandcamp bands that just releases a shit-ton of material to be bundled up properly later. It’s the kind of Bandcamp site I live for: a seemingly bottomless goodie-bag stuffed with intelligent and delightfully varied song clusters. Although arriving at the aesthetic more immediately, “I Hope Yr Favorite Color is Everywhere f Yohuna” is like a Saturday morning, pajamas-on version of the campfire dance rock-out, with a sliver of light, feminine vocals added into the requisite rhythmic shouting. A duo of more mellow, live tracks (Live) feature a token soul electronica piece recorded in Chicago and a howling, ‘50s shitgaze shuffle from Minneapolis. Oh, and then there’s this rainstick-rich, playful Water Curses (2008)-sounding single called “Hot Pizza.”

Included in their copious offerings is a heap of music that non-dancing, arrhythmic curmudgeons can easily dig into. Bundled with the track Hemp Scented Body Lotion are remixes by Birdfeeder, Pawlic, and Famuel. Each takes the track in a heart-stirring, bass-bah-bumpsing, dancefloor direction, especially Famuel, whose loops of marimbas and dance ephemera sound particularly like a contemporary stab at “The Hustle.” Even less lyrically founded, if there are words in these tracks they are all indistinct shouts, tossed right into the echoic reverb and remix-styled electro-hash. Still, the generous spritzes of synth and spangle adhere the mix of songs to the collection with a prevailing, entirely pleasant kind of enchantment.

I’ve been avoiding saying, “shit sounds magical”—but, that is what it sounds like. Vacation Dad is stout with that transcendent magical shit that, appropriate to their moniker, can transform your dad (or, my dad) from the thick-rimmed organist nerd with untouchable leather fancy shoes to this bare-forearmed dude in flip-flops who can make big fires on the beach. Or take neo-hippie dancing and rainsticks and turn it into something fresh and clever, without losing any particular funkiness.

And finally: while misfortune like getting laid off is conducive to making this bitchin’ collection of songs under the Nightmare Makeout album title, misfortunes—like being hit by a U-Haul (seriously) and having some A-holes steal all their instruments—are less so. If you’re not a starving music writer and want to chip in a few bucks (or many, many bucks in exchange for a NBA JAM date and private concert in your abode), MJ MJ Records have an assortment of lovingly compiled mixtapes, t-shirts, and shit with cool drawings on them to make it worth your while.