5 Questions to Cassie Wieland (Vines)

Last month, composer Cassie Wieland released her first album under the artist name Vines. Wieland’s compositions for other musicians are often steeped in collaboration, but Vines is Wieland’s first project in which she acts as the primary performer alongside other collaborative musicians. In January 2023, around her birthday, Wieland started collaborating in the studio with producer Mike Tierney, whose engineering and production credits include albums by Mivos Quartet, Judy Collins, Gemma Peacocke, and Brendon Randall-Myers, to name a few. The resulting collection, titled Birthday Party, is an ambient, dreamy, and calming collection of music, which includes performances by ~Nois Quartet, Andrew Rodriguez, Adam Holmes, and Adrianne Munden-Dixon.

Birthday Party is a quick and expansive listen that covers a lot of ground in a short time. Tracks like, “I don’t mind,” “january,” and “home” are constructed around Wieland’s slow-moving vocal melodies, which are supplemented by a vocoder and surrounded by a near-constant wave of lush harmonies and soundscapes. Text always matters, but in this kind of texture, repeated words start to lose their meaning and become an instrument themselves. The album ends with a beautiful cover of Modest Mouse’s “The World At Large,” using the original as a jumping off point for creating dynamic soundscapes. In the same way that “The World At Large” helped to recontextualize what it looked like to be an indie rock band in 2004, the Vines version redefines what it means to interpret someone else’s work.

Composers seem to be writing works for themselves more and more in the past few years, either supplementing the traditional composer-performer relationship, or avoiding altogether. Would you attribute that to lack of opportunities, access to home recording technology, or something else entirely?

I don’t think it’s novel for musicians to perform the music that they write! Performing is an extension of artistry for me, just like writing music or producing. Writing for myself has definitely given me a sense of agency in my music that feels very honest to explore. I was pretty shy as a kid, so it’s been rewarding to learn how to use my own voice in this context.

Birthday Party ends with a beautiful rendition of Modest Mouse’s “The World At Large.” The band’s songwriter Isaac Brock has a particular sense of lyricism that has a long history of inspiring genre-diverse covers. What are you hearing in his music that inspired your version?

I’ve been a huge fan of Isaac and Modest Mouse since I can remember; Good News for People Who Love Bad News was one of the first records I bought on vinyl. Isaac’s lyrics are so special because they’re equal parts conversational and deeply emotional, which is something I’m always trying to achieve with my own music. My co-producer Andrew Rodriguez and I really wanted to put a spotlight on the lyrics with this cover.

Cassie Wieland--Photo by Anna Longworth

Cassie Wieland — Photo by Anna Longworth

The ambient space of Birthday Party has the effect of eliding the delineation between tracks. Everything more or less flows from one point to another. Was that a conscious choice, or is that an inherent byproduct of the overall aesthetic?

Yes, making the record cohesive as a single work was a conscious choice. Birthday Party actually originally consisted of four movements that were 5-8 minutes each, but turning the work into a record allowed my co-producer Mike Tierney and I to explore with form and pacing. We didn’t plan this, but the track list ended up alternating between “main” tracks with vocals and shorter instrumental interludes. This came to make sense with the theme of the album; I say how I’m feeling, I process it alone, and so on.

You’ve been performing on your own as Vines, but are there any plans to perform this music live with the musicians on the album?

Definitely! I’ve actually already performed this set many times with the album musicians; I’ve played it with ~Nois quartet, with Adrianne Munden-Dixon’s string quartet Desdemona, and a handful of times with drummer Adam Holmes (he joins me on solo sets as well.) I would love to continue to perform this music with the album musicians; working with them was the best part of making this record.

Do you have any other upcoming performances or projects you’d like readers to know about?

I have a few projects in the works I can’t discuss yet, but stay tuned! You can find me as Vines on Bandcamp and any streaming services :)

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