Alternative rock band Vertical Horizon performed at the Tally Ho Theatre in Leesburg, VA, located in the suburban Washington D.C. metro region, on Nov. 22, 2014. Prior to the show, lead singer/lead guitarist/songwriter Matt Scannell kindly agreed to talk about Vertical Horizon and about Washington D.C, then and now. Formed at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. in 1991, Vertical Horizon performed at area venues in the 1990’s. “Echoes from the Underground,” their most recent album, was released in 2013. Scannell is currently touring with the band while writing new songs.
You started Vertical Horizon in 1991 while you were an undergraduate at Georgetown University. Do you come back to perform in Washington D.C. often?
“Not as often as I would like to. I mean, it is an important place to us, and as much as we can come back, we do, but it is not enough. I love this town. I’d like to be here a little bit more often. I lived here for about 7 years. It’s just great… really important.”
Where did Vertical Horizon play back then?
“We played The Bayou (a DC club that closed in 1999), the Grog and Tankard….places like that. We played The Birchmere. I went to school at Georgetown and lived in Arlington for a number of years.”
Did Vertical Horizon play at the 9:30 Club back in the ‘90’s?
“We played the 9:30 back then. That was a big deal. The 9:30 Club was really cool. Fugazi would play there. So when we got first gig there was huge deal for us….9:30 was awesome….
The Bayou was really good to us. It was kind of our home base, in a way. We played there fairly regularly.
This town, this unlikely town musically, for us was the perfect town because a lot of our fans worked on the Hill, and they would do internships in the summer and come see us play and then they’d go back to college, or go back to towns all over the country, and bring our music back with them. So we kind of went viral because of the political structure of this town and the nature of internships. It was super cool and was before the internet started so we had this kind of passionate group of people spreading the word, which now can be done through the click of a mouse. Back then it was tape trading, you really had to put an effort into it. So yeah DC really was the genesis of all that came afterwards for us and a lot of it had to do with the interns that were working here. It was cool.
It is fun to be back. The Tally Ho is a cool place. Everyone has been super nice. I would definitely like to come back here. The Tally Ho is a legit place that has kind of more of the Bayou feel. It’s a venue. It’s a place to go see shows. It is not in a mini mall like some of the other places that get a little bit generic. This is cool.”
Is the tour to promote “Echoes from the Underground,” your album that was released in 2013?
“Yeah, I mean, sort of. We just kind of play as much as we can. We are working on something new now but we are still trying to raise awareness about the record, the last one. We are just grateful to be able to do it.
I can’t believe that we are still able to play because so many great bands just can’t make it work. And somehow we’re able to continue… it’s because of our fans, the people who support us and carry us along.”
What was that like to have your song “Everything You Want” become a number one hit in 2000?
“That was awesome… It was the most incredible experience for a song that I started writing when I was living in New York City at the time. It was a time of a lot of pressure. I needed to really try to make something happen, to feel like I really connected as a writer and we connected as a band. I mean it’s an honor.
I’ve become really good friends with Neil Peart from Rush, the drummer, and we were joking the other day. I said something to him like: ‘ya know my number one…’ I was joking about it and he said: ‘I’ve never have a number one.’ And if you think about that and that they’ve had the most incredible career in the world and they haven’t had a number one hit and somehow we have is unbelievable. We are just very grateful.”
With your newer album is there any change in style from the past albums?
“Yeah I think so. There is a song called ‘Love Struck’ which we will play tonight. I was listening to a lot of my old Depeche Mode records and New Order and Joy Division, which is really far away from the style that we performed or recorded for a long time, but it is the music that I love and so I took a song I had written on an acoustic guitar and nudged it to a synth thing and I love playing it. It’s fun to stay vibrant and alive…creative.”
Are you writing more songs now?
“I am writing now for what comes next. I don’t exactly know. I am not thinking too much about what or how. Just doing it.”
Do you have another album planned?
“No, it’s too early. More than anything I don’t want to start and break deadlines all the time. I don’t want to start expectations for the people who really are in the trenches waiting for stuff like that.”
Tell us about how you crowdfunded your last album and had people invest in its production.
“It was great. It was humbling because so many people raised their hands and were like: ‘We will buy the music without hearing a note.’ In this day and age that is really special.”
Anything else you want to say to your fans?
“I think the most important thing always for me is that you can’t say thank you enough. You can’t. It is not possible. So I always want everyone to know how grateful we are. We don’t take anything for granted. Could things be better? Absolutely things could be better, but things could be so much worse. And we’re in this band and people love us and love our music and they have taken our music around the world and through their lives. People play our songs while their babies are being delivered in the hospital, they sing our songs at funerals, and at weddings, and at birthdays. Are you kidding me? That’s unbelievable. So thank you to our fans.”