Interview: Vacation Manor Gets Vulnerable With ‘Thoughts In Progress, Pt. 1’

Vacation Manor © Nick Scheetz
Virginia indie rock/pop duo Vacation Manor are once again opening up to fans in the first installment of their upcoming full-length album, ‘Thoughts In Progress.’

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Since they began making music together back in 2016, Vacation Manor – the indie rock/pop duo composed of Nathan Towles and Cole Young – has consistently created tracks that are exceedingly authentic, catchy, and honest. For the Virginia duo, vulnerability in their music has never been an afterthought. Rather, it is intrinsic to every one of their tracks and has become a hallmark of their sound.

Thoughts In Progress, Pt. 1 – Vacation Manor

Their latest release, an EP entitled Thoughts In Progress, Pt. 1, is both a continuation and a fresh start; yet another installment of what Vacation Manor does best – creating songs laden with earworm lyrics and bright sounds. It is also a beginning. The duo’s album, Thoughts In Progress, is expected next year, and this EP offers a selection of tracks that listeners will hear on the full-length record.

The duo found success with their first EP Girl, Say which featured fan-favorite tracks including “Careless” and “A Toast and a Spirit.” Early on, Vacation Manor established what made them unique: a winning combination of emotionally earnest lyrics, and their electrifying indie sound. Their 2018 release Everything I Can’t Say Out Loud again demonstrated the group’s authenticity. Thoughts In Progress, Pt. 1 will remind long-time fans why they fell in love with the duo’s sound, and invite new listeners to get caught up in the world of Vacation Manor.

Atwood Magazine caught up with Towles and Young to talk all things creative process, sonic cohesion, and what comes next!

Listen: ‘Thoughts In Progress, Pt. 1’ – Vacation Manor


Atwood Magazine: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today! My first question is to chat about the creative process that went into making Thoughts In Progress, Pt. 1. I’m really excited to hear the inspiration behind it, the creative process for writing, recording, and all that good stuff.

Nathan: We did the EP in Nashville and we did it with the producer that did our first EP. In between, we had gone to another producer and ended up coming back for this one. We were pretty slow going with it, and pretty perfectionistic about it, I guess. Like, it was nice that we were able to take our time. Whereas the first time you’re doing an EP, like, we were back in 2016, you’re really crunched for time, all the time, because your budget’s really really low for doing everything. And you’re just trying to push through. And this time, I think, we had sort of a little bit more space to sort of be like, “This isn’t totally landing and going where we want it to go, so let’s deconstruct the song again and rebuild it if it’s not working.”

That’s so interesting, how you mention switching producers for a while and coming back. I think that’s really interesting. Obviously, the producers you work with have an impact on the sound of everything but I think that’s something that’s really cool about Vacation Manor, how cohesive it’s been while obviously evolving throughout the years. There’s that thread of everything having a cohesive sound, but at the same time, it’s growing up with you guys. I think that’s really neat and something that comes across in this EP. So more sonically cohesive things, it tells a story, this EP. There feels like a beginning, a middle, and an end, which is one of its big strengths. Do you think that was intentional? When you sat down, did you write it in order? What was the process, and how did you make everything feel so one?

Nathan: It’s funny because we, all the time, or at least I do – I’m always asking Cole, “Hey does this sound enough like our other stuff for us to put it on the record?” And he’s always like, “Your voice connects things. Don’t worry about it. It’s you.” He’s good for me in that way. [Laughs] Yeah. So I think the cohesive thing is maybe – I think we’ve been more open with just letting whatever’s going to come out, come out.

Cole: Kind of in a roundabout way, when you do that, it is funny though because it ends up being, you end up going back to your gut instincts. Which further enhances, in a weird, roundabout way, things feeling cohesive, you know?


Cole: It’s once we try and curate things too intentionally or too intensely it starts getting a little bit off the grid.

Nathan: Totally true. Sometimes instincts are more cohesive than your intentions. But, yeah. So this EP…is Thoughts In Progress, Pt. 1 because our full-length album coming out next year is going to be called Thoughts In Progress. This is just the first part of that album that’s coming out. So honestly, with the order of songs and everything on it, I wouldn’t say we thought too, too much about it. We were more thinking about what the album tracklisting is going to be, and with this, we were more, “What would kinda be a good way of giving a well-rounded idea of what’s going to be on the record, and still leave some surprises?”

Vacation Manor © Nick Scheetz

So exciting! I’m very excited to see how the rest of the storyline plays out. Like you said, giving people a sample of what they can expect but leaving some surprises comes across with the EP. So, what inspired the songs on this particular EP?

Nathan: I feel like, with the name Thoughts In Progress, which, again, is going to be the name of the album, too, it kinda felt like it could work in a lot of ways. And it kinda felt like a title that we weren’t trying to wrap our hands around everything and be like, “What can we call this when we put this all together?” It feels more like a title you can explore a little bit. And I feel like when I think about it and I’m thinking about the songs on it, I often think, “That’s another thing it can mean.” And I really like it with songs and album names when it feels like the writer can put something down, but you’re going to be able to see it from so many different angles, that everyone gets a little bit – everyone gets to be the writer a little bit. It feels interactive to me.

And I think with that title, in a way, it kind of felt like we can say anything we want with this. In the song Thoughts in Progress, one of the lines is like, “Well you can hold back the truth // We’ll never tell it a lie // And I won’t ever know // The person that you’re keeping inside // Do you trust me with your thoughts in progress.” So I think – that’s a song about vulnerability. But the way I’d look at the rest of the album is just us trying to be vulnerable with our listeners and kind of do what the song is saying.  There’s kind of everything with these EP songs. Everything from internal dialogue, to “Apt. 4” is about my wife, I just got married last year. “If Only For Tonight” has some younger angst in it. [To Be] “Misunderstood” definitely has some angst.

It’s interesting how you mention people influence it. I love what you said about vulnerability, and I think that’s something that has always been a very big strength of you guys – that the music is, one, beautiful, but two, very vulnerable and open and there’s a lot of those lyrics that kind of stick out to you and are really catchy and insightful. My next question is, what has been your favorite part of working on this group of songs? What do they mean to you?

Cole: In terms of favorite part of making them, it’s probably been just the inception, and when they’re starting as this really small idea. For these songs, they’ve been really exciting at that early stage, which is always really cool. One of the songs, ‘‘If Only for Tonight,’’ that was definitely a favorite experience. We did that once out in Joshua Tree, we were at a studio out there, and we just kinda wrote that song in pretty much one night. Nathan and our friend Jason did some of the lyrics later, but…yeah. I think the really early stages has been my favorite part, seeing this song kind of take shape and being excited about where it’s going to go.

Feeling free to let it become what it’s going to become. In terms of what they mean to me…I think a lot of it’s kind of a sentimental thing. It’s the first album, I think ultimately that’s what I’ll end up taking away from it. It’s in a way, feeling like they’re your firstborn kid or something. Not like you love them more than the others, but it’s like, ‘It was my first.’ It’s kinda cool that this is the first time we get to make the album and these are the songs on there.

Nathan: I think we’ve probably fought harder to get these songs than we have most of the time in the past. And I think some of that has been the word, ‘’perfectionism,’’ which keeps coming to mind when I think about the record. We just – probably creatively, our endurance is a little bit higher than it has been in the five years we’ve been figuring out how to do this. I think some of those creative muscles have gotten stronger. And when you’re working on a song, you can definitely get to a place with it where you’re like, ‘’Yeah, this will do. This is pretty good.’’ Or you even feel like you’ve put everything that you could into it. But then you’re kinda – a little part of you is like, ”But that’s not completely what I would want to hear from Vacation Manor if I were on the other side of it.’’ I think just sitting with an idea and being okay to leave something unfinished until it’s perfect.

Not feeling the rush to tidy up and finish it just to call it a record. I don’t think that we’ve ever done that before, or settled on music. But I do think our capability has just grown with us. And I think our taste has gotten to a place – I think our taste keeps growing as our skill does. So it always kind of feels like you’re at the end of a marathon by the time you’re done with it. So I don’t think we’ll ever outdo that first album feeling. Or at least, I hope we don’t. I hope we’re always trying that hard.

Watch: “Apt. 4” – Vacation Manor

Of course. Those are such good answers. My next question is, in one word, how would you summarize this EP? Or maybe in a few words.

Nathan: Part of me wants to say ‘’nostalgic,’’ but everything’s nostalgic, and that word’s overused. I have to pick something else. Although it is that.

Cole: To me, I think ‘’exciting.’’ It’s a little taste, but it’s a lot of high energy songs that, to me, are just exciting. This is the little taste of the album, and people get to hear these songs for the first time.

I think ‘'exciting’' is a really valid way to describe it! My next question is, what is next for you guys? I know you’re working on the album, is it still in progress, or the final stages now? Where do you see yourselves going next?

Nathan: So with the album, we’re kind of finishing the final details on it. So I guess after this – I don’t know. We’ve been talking about this. We’ve only had a couple weeks here where we feel like we’re close enough to the end of this thing to be talking about the next thing. I think the music is going to tell us that to some degree. It’s a hard question to answer in a COVID world right now. Creatively, we have some ideas. There are things where I think performing informs so much of the creative process after that. That’s so exciting, to get onstage. It’s easier to get offstage and think, ‘’Here’s what the set was missing. I want to go write that song.’’

To kind of have that gauge working in your head. I think the next thing – I really hope touring happens again soon, for one. And then, I’m just excited to see what happens when our sound starts maturing. We finally have a little studio space that we’re in right now. And room to explore a whole lot more. Whereas it felt pretty limiting that way before. In whatever house we were living in, we always set up in the basement or something. So this has been really – given us a lot more space for creativity. I guess I just used a lot of words to say, ‘’I don’t know.’’ [Laughs] But I’m really excited to see what happens next. With the next songs we write, and things that change and improve in our process. Maybe we’re finding our process. Because you always learn a lot from the last album.

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