Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett
There’s a fine line that separates a reunion show from the full-blown effort of reforming a band for good. When influential Long Island mob The Movielife took their second attempt at getting back together in December 2014, their initial run of live shows, along with the prospect of UK tour dates, were at the forefront of fans’ minds. For band members Vinnie Caruana, Brandon Reilly, Dan Navetta, Phil Navetta and Evan Baken, there was a much longer game plan in mind.
“In 2011 we reformed to try and do this,” singer Vinnie explains. “It quickly dissolved because we just weren’t ready to do it and we were forcing it to happen.
“This time, there’s no forcing anybody to do anything.”
Four months on from their first comeback show at New York’s Irving Plaza, Vinnie and Brandon are sat side-by-side in the backstage dressing room of the Electric Ballroom in Camden, addressing the past, present and future more openly than either of them would have imagined four years ago. With a string of US shows under their belts, the quintet have made the pilgrimage to the UK for the first time together since their split. Unlike the two men before us, most of the band haven’t ventured over here in a touring capacity since they were with The Movielife. So it’s on Vinnie, who went on to form I Am The Avalanche and has toured solo regularly since, to play tour guide.
“It’s one thing to cook up the idea and play New York, but it was a different thing once we got here, ” admits Brandon, who also started Nightmare Of You after The Movielife disbanded originally in 2003. “That takes true commitment to fly everyone over here and take time off from our responsibilities. It feels like we’ve accomplished something by even being here.” It’s this idea of stepping away from their real lives to make The Movielife reunion a reality that steers much of today’s conversation. With other creative projects – Vinnie is in the process of writing a new IATA record, for instance – families, children and jobs now need to be factored in to whatever The Movielife does next.
Vinnie and Brandon haven’t wasted any time in rekindling their own working relationship either. While they haven’t penned any new material for The Movielife yet (they say, although we’re not entirely sure we believe them), they’re already working closely behind-the-scenes. “Me and Brandon have a very good dynamic [when] writing together,” says Vinnie, revealing that the pair have been composing for other people. “We always did, but now we’re more mature songwriters.”
The mere thought of The Movielife writing new material in 2015 may be enough to dub this a permanent proposition, but as they explain, their future lies in the hands of fans. “This isn’t a thing where we’re opening the door and then shutting it again,” says Vinnie.
“Well, we’ll see how tonight goes,” Brandon adds, with a little more hesitation.
As the pair laugh politely, it’s the realisation that the fate of their second chance falls solely to the people that have absolutely no financial gain from The Movielife’s return. Their fans.
“Historically, I didn’t believe in second chances,” tells Brandon. “I’m a very different person now than I was back then, but if you’re asking the question now, then I do.” Adding: “I wouldn’t have ever guessed that we would be here right now, doing this.”
“This is a dream right now,” Vinnie agrees, as talk turns to the past. Would they have done anything differently back then? “I used to think that hard work didn’t pay off,” Brandon answers with crashing impact. “Now, I think that hard work pays off 90 per cent of the time, it just doesn’t pay off when you expect it to. That’s what I’m learning, at least in my life.”
“We’ve learned a lot as men in our thirties,” Vinnie continues. “As kids, we didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know how to be in a band. We did it but we rode it into the ground.
“Now we’re mature adults making adult decisions, and working very hard. When we’re working on The Movielife, we’re very driven and we’re achieving the goals that we set out to do.” Putting things into perspective, he adds: “Even though this is fun, this is always a thing that’s strategic. It’s very clear that everyone cares about The Movielife, probably more now than we did when we were kids.”
So while they prep the perfect reunion setlist for their first UK show since their prime – which results in a night where tracks from 2003’s ‘Forty Hour Train Back To Penn’ prove most popular with the London crowd – Vinnie and Brandon aren’t afraid to consider The Movielife’s place in today’s music landscape. Returning to an industry where fans consume music on Spotify, communicate with bands on Twitter and, more recently, watch gigs live on Periscope, today’s music industry has even more considerations than the MySpace scenario they once thrived in. “I don’t feel like we ever really fitted in,” Brandon confesses.
“We were on Drive-Thru Records for a few years and some people would identify us with that,” Vinnie explains. “But obviously there were no bands like The Movielife on Drive-Thru.”
“We weren’t heavy enough for Revelation Records and we weren’t poppy enough for Drive-Thru,” adds Brandon, also referring back to the label that released 2000’s ‘This Time Next Year’. “I don’t feel like we ever really settled into a specific scene.”
Talking longterm and looking ahead, the reunited friends know that they can’t ignore the hefty task of gaining new fans. But how do you capture fresh attention in 2015? “You write new music,” Vinnie answers with speed. “And that new music needs to be incredible.”
“The only way for new music, from an old band that’s come back, to reach new people is for it to be really fucking good,” he continues. “Then it transcends everything.”
“I think that [us] writing together would be really fucking good,” the frontman says with a knowing smile. “We’re not going to write a song like ‘Walking On Glass’, it’s not going to come out of us in our thirties.”
“It would be a travesty for us to go and write music like we did when we were 20-years-old,” Vinnie concludes on the future. “So if the time comes and we write new music together, we know in our hearts that it’ll be great.”