L.A. singer and rapper Bryce Vine released his debut full length album, Carnival, last year after a few years of putting out EPs and singles. This was supposed to be a huge year for the artist, and then the world effectively ground to a halt.
But he’s not complaining. Rather, he’s following up the release of his club-friendly “Baby Girl” single with “Problems,” a song about living in lockdown. We spoke to him about all that and more…
L.A. WEEKLY: What’s the inspiration for the “Problems” single?
BRYCE VINE: Obviously it’s about what we’ve been going through with the virus. But I didn’t want to just come out and write a song, right when it all happened. I feel like people needed a moment to just step back. The virus really closed everything down — for the first time ever we were all locked in our own homes, only socializing through the internet, and it was scary. It still is, but it’s less unknown now than it was a month ago. I just sat in my room for two weeks and started trying to get better at things. I’m used to being on the road for 90 percent of the year, my own brain can’t catch up with my body. So personally, it was a pause that I didn’t realize I needed. Even if that’s not the case for everybody. That’s how the song came. I was just sitting in my room. After two weeks I was reading this book called Guns, Germs, and Steel [by Jared Diamond] which tells you how those three things have affected human development more than anything, so it seemed fitting. Then the first person I saw in quarantine was my buddy Grady — he’s a songwriter that I’ve been wanting to work with. We got together, literally sat six feet apart in his garage and talked about how the virus had affected us and what we’d been doing. Out of nowhere, it just seemed perfect to say “All I see outside is problems.” That was how the song got started.
It was an accident too. I’m pushing this radio single “Baby Girl” and that’s my jam. I was in Miami in December visiting family, I was out and I heard “La La Land” out in a club. I thought, “Yeah, go off,” but it doesn’t really. It’s just not a club song, and I didn’t realize. I thought that I need a song for people to go out to and let their hair down. I put out “Baby Girl” and then everybody stopped going to clubs. OK, let’s move ahead. That’s why “Problems” is the right song for now. I’m glad “Baby Girl” can make people happy, and dance in their living rooms but obviously it doesn’t match the times that we’re in and you need music that does that. So this is my contribution.
We can all relate to the video — particularly the scene where you’re going to the fridge again and again…
Bro, preach. It’s like the whackest porn ever. You’re like, “Oh yeah, that looks good.” Then, “No, never mind I’m not going to do it — maybe I will.” The food is calling to us all day long. I’ll try to run on the street, but 90 percent of the cars driving by will look at me like I’m just a disease literally running down the street. So it’s hard to exercise and we’re eating a lot. Bad combination.
How are you keeping busy in lockdown?
The first two weeks I didn’t even try to write music. I tried to gain new skills. I was reading my book, and I washed my car in my driveway — I haven’t done that in probably like 10 years. And I started cooking. I’m on the road so much, I haven’t been grocery shopping in years. There was no point — everything goes bad. My grandma was the cook in my family, a little old Italian woman. She was the person who brought us all together through food, and I didn’t realize I had it. So I made her recipes. The first thing I did a week in was make her meatball and spaghetti recipe that I hadn’t had since she passed. It’s moments like that where there’s some silver lining.
2019 was such a big year for you — is it frustrating to see it grind to a halt, or does the fact that the industry has pretty much gone digital helped?
I’d say so. Our job can still go on. Artists and writers are supposed to come through during times like this. We’re supposed to take a moment, understand how it affects the world, empathize with people’s situations, and then turn that into songs. That’s what’s therapeutic about it, and that’s what “Problems” is. I was trying to put what quarantine felt like into a song.
Everyone’s in a different situation. I’ve seen a disconnect between celebrities and normal people. Not even celebrities, just people who find it easy to tell people to stay inside because it’s like, which wing of your house are you gonna be in? I’ve seen people say like, “happy quarantine.” That’s really disconnected from the reality of the situation. People are really going through it. I live in a room in my buddy’s house, but my livelihood was taken away. I love doing shows, meeting fans afterwards and hugging them. I was in Europe just before this, literally as the virus was spreading around the world we were watching it happen. I’m glad I got to do that right before it happened. This was supposed to be one of the best couple of months of shows for me. So it sucks, but I’m OK. Then I think about all these kids in college and high school who don’t get that time in their life back. I remember that time and what it meant to me. I think about the people who lost family members. My videographer’s mom’s best friend died — that hit home. So yeah, there’s TikToks and funny videos on Instagram, and there should be. I’m just seeing a little bit of a disconnect. I’m trying to keep that in mind when I’m writing.
With your 6 Feet of Separation YouTube show, you recently highlighted &Pizza’s Hero Pie program. Talk about that…
That’s another good thing that came out of all this — trying to figure out how I could be useful. What do I do with a platform temporarily on pause when I’m not being pressured to finish albums, write songs and travel. What do I do now? The first idea I had was to interview people that are doing good things. It’s always good to highlight good people. Then, you don’t go to the grocery store and buy all the toilet paper.
So &Pizza was first — they deliver pizzas to the hospital workers for every one that gets ordered. Simple and cool. I’m all for it. He didn’t fire any employees during all this, which is brave. They’re little ten minute interviews. The second is my best friend Dan — he has a show on Animal Planet where he goes and saves farm animals that are deformed or going to be put down, or escaped from the dairy industry. I’m not a vegan — it really all depends on what you can afford anyway. But he educates you in the most non-annoying way about what the dairy industry is really like. It’s about finding new ways to be useful.
What will be the first thing you do when lockdown is lifted?
First thing I’m gonna do as soon as I can is go visit my dad in Florida. I’m used to traveling, no matter what’s going on. Then figure out what I can do to be useful for people. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, economically or whatever. I don’t know how, I’m an idiot. But I’m trying to prepare for it, whatever it is. Then trying to figure out the next step. But definitely going to see my dad first.