Saving Vice's first full-length album screams 'Hello There'
JAMAICA — Connecting to fans is the best part of the gig for Robbie Litchfield, guitarist for metalcore band Saving Vice.
"Honestly, the most rewarding part for me is changing kids' lives," he said. "It never gets old to me. It has nothing to do with the fame or the money or anything like that. We write music that's very meaningful, and it's really real and raw."
He said the band writes songs about issues such as mental health and suicide. He enjoys watching fans "vibing so much with our lyrics and the music."
Litchfield, 25, began teaching himself bass at age 14, while a student at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School in Townshend. He would go to the band room during his lunch break to learn songs. He graduated from high school in 2013.
In college, Litchfield decided he wanted to write original music. He had been Saving Vice's bassist up until last year but wrote most of the parts for the other instruments.
His band will release its first full-length album, "Hello There," on Feb. 21. He said it is important to him to write "bangers" or standout songs that could be released as singles, and to bring attention to this area of the country.
Three singles from the album are available now. "Endgame" came out in July. "Never Knows Best" dropped in September. And "Hollow Bastion" came out last month with a music video featuring Litchfield's grandfather, Bob Litchfield of Newfane.
Saving Vice plans to announce this year's shows soon. In 2018, the band played the final date of Vans Warped Tour in a sold-out Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass. For the last two years, it performed at iMatter Festival at Horseheads, N.Y., where Litchfield counted about 5,000 to 6,000 people in attendance.
Heavy music, Vermont roots
Litchfield started the band while a student at St. Michael's College in Colchester in 2016.
"It basically started as a small bedroom, studio project just playing shows all over Vermont," he said. "I knew I wanted to make metalcore music."
Growing up, he said he found inspiration from bands that played metal or similar styles of music. He connected with other musicians through Facebook and Craigslist to form Saving Vice. Litchfield and vocalist Chase Papariello are the only original members.
Litchfield said Tyler Small sings and screams, and Papariello exclusively screams.
"So we have a lot of range," Litchfield said.
Saving Vice self-produced a five-song extended play album, or EP, called "Lost Words" in 2017. That year, the band played shows around New England in hopes of expanding its audience.
"It wasn't until the end of 2017 that we all had a realization we could write better songs and we could put together something with better production value," Litchfield said. For this reason, he said the band decided to stop selling the EP.
He said fewer than 100 "Lost Words" CDs are "floating around in the world," and he believes they will be worth a lot of money one day, he said with a smile.
The band's first official release, the single "Exhale," came out in January 2018. The "Colder than Dark" EP followed in May of that year.
The new album features 10 songs. "Eyes Up" is one of the upbeat selections, if that word can be used to describe metalcore. With no singing, only screaming and foreboding guitar riffs, "Echoes from the Gutter" is the heaviest track of the album.
Litchfield said he composes all the songs instrumentally and the vocalists will write their own lyrics. He described taking a lot more time for himself to come up with the new stuff, which he believes showcases a lot of different styles and genres.
While the EP had taken him about two months to develop, Litchfield spent about a year on the full-length album. His hope is to offer something different with every track.
Technology bridges the gap
The digital era has altered the songwriting process. Litchfield sends files with guitar, bass and drum tracks to his bandmates, who then provide their input. He said they may want to change a riff or breakdown, which he will go back and adjust.
The vocalists will record their own tracks for the demo versions. The band will rehearse at Litchfield's home in Jamaica before going into the studio for final cuts.
"We all live very far from each other," he said. Papariello and Small, the two vocalists, are in Essex, drummer Sammy Whelton is in Pembroke, Mass., and bassist Kenjamin Smiertelny is in Manchester, N.H.
Saving Vice used Pasquarella Recordings in Wappinger Falls, New York, for the EP and the new album. Litchfield said he is impressed with the production value and everything else at the studio.
Randy Pasquarella records and produces the band. He will help with writing and adding backing tracks with instruments like piano or violin. He is especially good at writing melodies, Litchfield said.
"We found out about him through a mutual friend — one of those weird, everything happens for a reason moments," he said.
Litchfield said he talked with Pasquarella about wanting the new album to sound like the music was improving, something he believes has been accomplished.
According to Spotify, a streaming music service, Saving Vice had 406,000 streams in 2019. Litchfield considers that figure to be "pretty good" for a band with no record label.
"I think we're open to getting signed if the right offer comes along, but I think we're so resourceful now," he said. "We have a really good grasp on the music industry itself."
It would be helpful to have some financial help, Litchfield said, as the band is in need of a van for touring and recording is not cheap.
"We're all honest, working-class people," he said. "None of us were born with money. We're all doing it on our own."
The experience has Litchfield and his bandmates learning as they go along.
"We have to burn our hand on the stove sometimes," he said. "That's where a record label would be nice."
Saving Vice has seen changes in its lineup, which Litchfield said is common in the industry — with a group of four to six people, there are bound to be differences in goals and aspirations.
But now, "our chemistry is as good as it's ever been," he said, describing the bandmates like brothers. "You love them to death but you also want to murder them half the time."
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at email@example.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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