Vansire: on Inspiration and the Creative Process

// Image courtesy of Vansire.

Hailing from Minnesota, Vansire is a dream pop band created by recent college graduates Josh Augustin and Sam Winemiller. The band was formed in 2015 and has released two full-length albums and two EPs. Vansire’s sound is characterized by idyllic synths, infectious melodies, and intricate lyrics depicting pastoral scenes of the Midwest.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Could you share Vansire’s origin story-- how did the band come together?

Sam Winemiller: We started playing music and drumline together in high school, and we clicked really well. We started Vansire as a side project, as both of us were into dream pop and chill wave music. So, we just started doing it and kept doing it, and now we're living together doing it full time.

Josh Augustin: We eat and sleep in this room right here. Not actually, but yeah, sometimes. We both graduated college around last December, January, partway through the year. And it was that peak COVID time, so we figured we might as well do this for a while, because there was not a lot else going on. So, we just kept the project running through college and now that we’re post-college, it’s been good.

How did you balance Vansire with college work and life?

SW: It worked out pretty well because Josh was going to school for music, so he would just use our project for a lot of his schoolwork. But we definitely had to make time for it and put energy towards it.

JA: It's been a weird transition, having this be our full-time pursuit. Whereas in college, it was always something we could steal time for-- we'd be working on other homework, but it'd be like, oh, I want to work on this. Once this becomes the main pursuit, that becomes a bit of a creative block in its own way. I guess in retrospect, that's the one thing that was kind of nice about college because it felt like it was more for fun, as there was other stuff we needed to be doing first. Now, this is the priority. Also, having Vansire grow while we were in college, and watching that happen from our dorm rooms, was a pretty uncanny experience. We weren't really touring, and we were just living our college lives. There was a disconnect between watching numbers grow, but not really feeling like anything's changing. That was sort of a strange experience of the college years.

One thing that stands out about your songs is your intricate and poetic lyrics. How do you go about the songwriting process, and where do you gather inspiration for your lyrics?

JA: We usually build the songs before the lyrics come. That's been our working formula for the last three years or so-- just kind of doling it out piece by piece with the riffs, progressions, and every other aspect. Then, I kind of just toss vocals on at the end, and it sort of depends on my life experience, or something that's going on with Sam, or something we're interested in, or something we're feeling, or just the geographic surroundings, or things happening in the world. Just cultural references of interest, I suppose. Sometimes when we make songs, it's a bit of a trance state-- I don't really look back and remember much about the actual creative process. By the time I've put vocals on there, it's sort of like, wow, this has just sort of turned into its own thing that's ready to just toss out there into the world. Now, it's a bit less personal, and more of a thing for public consumption-- it’s not just something living within our own walls.

Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations? “Halcyon Age” from the album Angel Youth is an ode to Daniel Johnston. Who else do you look up to?

SW: I think we have different ones. Since we started living together, our music tastes have been merging a little more because we play music in the kitchen. But I think my favorite artists are Bibio and Daft Punk. Those two have just been in my life for a long time, and I’ve always looked up to them.

JA: There was definitely a shared point of reference from the get go with artists like Beach Fossils that we loved very much from the outset. I think some of the other Halcyon Age artists, too, are ones that really came to shape my view of the world and my view of music during college, like Pauline Oliveros and Alice Coltrane. Generally, I think we try to keep our ear to the ground with everything going on in music, because there are just so many exciting things happening. You could just throw a dart like in any musical field, and you're going to find a ton of super exciting and underrated stuff. So yeah, it's an exciting time to be creating music.

One unique thing that defines Vansire’s discography is that each album or EP has an ambient track titled “Reflection,” beginning with Reflections and Reveries and most recently “Reflection No. 6” on After Fillmore County. How did that come about?

JA: With the first one, I don't think we were imagining anything monumental in terms of the conceptual execution. We just thought it'd be nice to do a little ambient track to get people in a good headspace for listening to this album and set the tone for the tracks to come. That first one just ended up being called “Reflection,” because the album was titled Reflections and Reveries, and we made that both the first and last track. Going into the next EP, we just loved the idea of an ambient opening so much that we thought we'd run with it and call it “Reflection No. 2.” Now, moving on from that, we just loved making ambient music. It's worked out that in the context of every release or single, we've been able to keep the series going and experiment with sounds in a way that we wouldn't be able to otherwise, given the way that we're normally tied to this kind of pop songwriting and release model. These tracks are a kind of a way to try something we know wouldn't do well commercially, but we still feel just as strongly about sharing with our listeners.

How has Vansire evolved over the years?

SW: I think it's grown with the way we've grown, just in our technical skill, and also from the ages of 18 to now, we're 23 and 24. You just do a lot of maturing in those years, so I think lyrically, it's grown a little bit. Sonically, we always are trying to push the boundary, and try to do new things and push ourselves to be creative.

Now that you two are living together and working on Vansire full time, what new projects can listeners look forward to in the near future?

JA: We have a new song coming out the first Friday of November-- we're really stoked to share that because it feels like it's just been forever since we've shared a new track. So yeah, and things will keep going from there. There's a lot of cool stuff in the works right now.

Listen to Vansire’s new single, “Just the Right Song” out now.

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// Lana Wagner ‘25 is a guest writer for Record Hospital