New Vistas on the Horizon

Scotland boasts having one of the best music scenes in the world, and has been home to countless great rock bands like Franz Ferdinand and Biffy Clyro. Enter Vistas.

Bursting onto the indie rock scene in recent years, Vistas are certainly not letting that legacy down. Originally posting songs online for their friends to listen to has had a tumbleweed effect, with the group now racking up millions of streams and touring all around the UK. The energy that radiates from their music is nothing short of infectious, with bright, anthemic choruses that are reminiscent of sunny days spent with friends. The only challenge whilst listening to Vistas is resisting the urge to get up and jump.

FRONTRUNNER spoke with vocalist Prentice about following your gut reaction, finding escapism through music, and the unexpected success of their debut album, 2020’s Everything Changes in the End. 

Photo credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

Firstly, I’m curious about your name, as the definition for vista is ‘a distant view or prospect.’ Can you tell me about how you came to name yourselves Vistas?

We used to have a different name, but we absolutely hated the name, so when we started writing better songs, we were like, ‘let’s come up with a better name to go along with these songs.’ We heard in an interview that good band names have two syllables, so we just Googled ‘cool two syllable words’ and it was between vistas and echoes. And then echoes was already taken, so we went, ‘well, we’ll just go with vistas.’ And I think it just weirdly worked out to be the best name that the band could have had, really. And I think it looks nice written down.

How did you guys start the band?

Well, I was in a band with Jamie who plays bass, and I was in a different band with Dylan, who plays guitar. So, we were all in bands in school together, and then when we left, those bands kind of dissolved. And then I was writing some slightly better songs, so we just got together a band of the people that we knew and then we just went from there, really!

Was there ever a moment when you realised things had started to take off and that people outside of Scotland were paying attention to you?

I think there was a bunch of moments; when we got added to some big Spotify playlists, like early days, that was a big moment because we didn’t really even know that it had such a capacity for promoting new artists and smaller bands. And then we saw we were getting loads of streams and we were like, ‘how is that happening?’ Because all of our songs before had been streamed by our pals and then their pals. So that was a moment where we were just a bit like, ‘wow, this is a bit a bit weird, how this is getting out to so many people?’ But even after that, then when we got a manager and stuff like that and we went on tour for the first time on a support tour with another band, people still didn’t really know us at all. It wasn’t for another couple of years after we’d done the hard graft, just slogging up and the UK touring and supporting bands, putting on little shows, and then people started to know the words to the tunes. Then I was like, ‘this is great because people are actually somehow connecting with the songs.’ So, from then on really, that’s when I was like, ‘oh, we could maybe actually make something with this.’

Spotify is a great platform – I discovered you guys when Sucker came on another artist’s radio!

Yeah, it’s great! It’s such a good platform for new acts. And even if you’re not on a playlist or on the artist radio or whatever, you are more likely to come across new music that you’re into that’s not necessarily big already and you like. So, it’s really, really helpful for all bands starting out nowadays. And also bands who have some level of success – it’s a great platform!

So many musicians say that Scottish dates are their favourite dates to play on tour. What’s the Scottish music scene like?

Yeah, the Scottish music scene is fantastic! It’s mainly based in Glasgow because it’s got the best venues probably. But that is very true what you say – a Scottish crowd is probably the best crowd in the world. T in the park, which is no longer a festival anymore, you know bands from all across America, all across the rest of the world, have said that playing T in the Park main stage is the best gig that they’ve ever played, and I think that kind of speaks volumes about how good a Scottish crowd is. Particularly in Glasgow the audiences are really hungry for new music, they’re very supportive.

On your Spotify bio, it says that you guys developed a tight bond listening to bands like The Strokes and Two Door Cinema Club; what was it about these bands that you loved or that inspired you?

I think with all music that you get into when you’re in high school, it’s quite a gut reaction. The View, for example, were a big one for the three of us. The first time hearing that, I was like, ‘I just instantly really like that.’ We all were in music class together, so we’d all sit around with guitars and play tunes that we like, like an Arctic Monkeys song or whatever, and it’s just the music that you’d put on when you were hanging out with each other so it relates to a lot of your favourite memories. In the early days before we wrote songs, we would cover some of the songs by those bands. So yeah, it’s a bit of a gut reaction, you just hear it and you go, ‘yeah, that’s something I’d like to be part of,’ whether that’s you want to be a fan of it, whether that’s what you want to write as a journalist or whether you want to manage acts like that. I think a lot of people can just get into that from the very first listen, they go, ‘yup, cool, that’s what I want to do.’

Do you all have a similar taste in music?

Slightly less so, now. Jamie and Dylan are mad, mad into the Eagles now! When we were away doing some recording, every single night they’d come back and watch the same Eagles gig on the TV; they’d put it on YouTube and just watch the same Eagles gig every single night. So, they’re really into that now but when we’re in the van and we put on tunes, either Jamie or Dylan will usually take turns and just queue up songs and play them. And there’s never a stinker that goes on, we all usually like all of the tunes that everyone plays. Nobody really hates or dislikes any of the music that anyone else is into.

It also says this sense of community and togetherness defines your music. Can you tell me a bit about that? Why is that important to you?

Going back to what we were saying about getting into bands in high school, I think that some of the friendships that we have and have maintained – not just with each other, but with other pals – some of the best memories that we’ve got of being in that friendship group are going to gigs. There was a venue in Edinburgh called The Picture House which was an old cinema, which is sadly now a Wetherspoon’s! So, we saw The View play there and that was the last ever gig at The Picture House, and that’s one of my fondest memories, seeing that show and Dylan and Jamie being there.

That’s a big part of it and because the music that we make is similar to the music that we’re into, I would want people who like Vistas to have that, for that to come across to them as well. We just want people to come to the shows, have a good time, not worry about anything else, so when you walk into the venue and you hear the music playing, the other stuff that might be worrying stuff doesn’t really matter anymore because you’re there with your mates seeing your favourite band. That’s what we’ve always really wanted to put across with our tunes.

Are there any songs that have surprised you with how a crowd has responded to it?

When we played that tour in 2019, we were playing off the debut album, which wasn’t out yet obviously, we played Teenage Blues, Everything Changes in the End, and 15 years and quite a lot of the gigs that were in the north of England, a lot of people would come to all of them. So, we had a few people come to five or six of the shows. And then by show five, they would know the words to 15 years, for example. So that was really, really cool. And I just always look forward to playing Retrospect, because it always goes off, and Calm and Tigerblood. And to be honest Vistas gigs are quite lively, so I guess there’s not one that particularly surprised me, but there’s definite moments in the set you’re looking forward to like, ‘can’t wait to play that one, that’ll be class!’

Fingers crossed you’ll be able to finally go on your UK tour that’s been pushed back to September this year, as well as supporting Circa Waves on their UK tour this year. Are there any songs in particular that you’re excited to finally get to play live?

Honestly, all of them! The last proper gig we played was in November 2019, so we’d recorded the debut album by that point. I think we played three songs off the album, and that’s it. Obviously, we didn’t have any music out from that album, so it was completely new, it was just mid-set we’d be like, ‘here’s a new song for you guys.’ Honestly, just really excited to play any song of any description, I don’t even mind if it’s not our song – I’d just love to play a gig!

And your debut album Everything Changes in the End came out last year and went to number one in the UK’s Official Independent Albums Chart, number two in the Scottish Albums Chart, and number twenty-one overall in the UK Albums Chart – what was that experience like for you guys?

Mad! We put out the album obviously mid-pandemic time, I think it was the point where you could meet people outside and stuff like that, which was really good actually because a lot of people probably did meet up in the park and listen to the album because I think it was one of the hottest weekends of the year when our album came out, which was really class. We were just very happy with the fact that the people who liked Vistas would have this album and hopefully really like it. But then to see it chart, it was a really, really weird thing. And we hadn’t prepared for that in any way at all, we genuinely never even discussed it because we just didn’t even think it was going to be a possibility.

The one that we were so proud of was getting the number one in the indie charts because we do the majority of the stuff ourselves, just the three of us and our manager and then whoever else we bring in to help out with stuff. So, it was very rewarding to see that rewarded in that way. Very, very grateful that it happened, I felt very humbled by it and very thankful to everyone who picked up a copy or streamed it. It was hopefully like a little bit of light during the clouds, for people who are into Vistas anyway.

I wanted to talk to you about November, which is the last song on the album, and you released the music video for this song last November. The last couple of minutes is a montage of you guys on tour and recording music with the lyrics, ‘I’ve got high hopes, I’ve got higher hopes than I ever did before.’ Can you tell me about this song? Why did you choose to put it as the final song on the album?

Well, that music video was made by Dylan – wee shoutout to Dylan there – he did a really class job on that! That was one of the latter songs that was written for the album and it was initially quite different. It was on piano and it wasn’t as big sounding, it was more of a stripped-back song, and it actually had a different chorus, it didn’t have the ‘high hopes’ bit in as the chorus. We had the outro at the end which we really liked, the big, long section, and then I just spent a little bit of time reworking it, and it kind of just itself became the song that it is now. We wanted to put it last because as I say, we’d not really done anything that was a big production in terms of like, it’s an over five-minute tune with an extended outro with lots of layers and things, so that’s why we wanted to put it last.

It’s kind of a summary of everything that’s on the album, and it’s about being hopeful and remembering the good times, being nostalgic for when you were a teenager. I think sound-wise, it was sort of a look to what we might want to do in the future. So that’s why we wanted that to round off the album. I think it’s nice how it starts small, goes so big and then right at the end it’s just one guitar and then ends the whole album, just ties it up really nicely. It’s a nice full stop for the record.

You’ve said before that you write music that you want to listen to. So, I was wondering who are some of your favourite bands or artists that you’re listening to at the moment?

I’ve been listening to a band called Gang of Youths who are from Australia, I quite like them production-wise and stuff, they have quite long songs so they’re nice to get into. I’ve been listening to a lot of pop when I’ve been with my girlfriend because that’s mainly what she listens to – similar to when I’m with Jamie and Dylan, I’m not usually a person to put the tunes on. I just am happy for anyone else to put tunes on and then I’ll just listen to them! So, to be honest, probably the music I’ve listened to most is the Eagles, because I’ve been with Jamie and Dylan. And I’ve just been involved in Vistas stuff a lot, I’ve been listening to mixes and things like that, so I tend to get sort of listener fatigue. I’ve had enough of listening to tunes just now, so I’ve been listening more to podcasts and stuff recently than music.

And finally, if you could create your dream festival, who would you pick as your headliners?

Oh man, if you had multiple stages, probably do The Doors for my dad, so he can go and watch that. And then I’d have to obviously do The Strokes, but I’d do The Strokes and the Kings of Leon on their early two thousands tour when they supported each other. I’d do them as the indie stage, and then Fleetwood Mac in their heyday would be pretty class. One of our favourite bands is a Scottish band called We Were Promised Jetpacks, so I’d probably have them on headlining one of the smaller tents. And then maybe Adele, just because she doesn’t play that many gigs!

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