Hollywood Forever 

The Vacation slum it in the name of rock

“I just woke up in a really fucking shitty motel in a ghetto of Portland with people who obviously live in the room next door, arguing and fucking beating their children,” Ben Tegel, frontman of the glammy L.A. rock band The Vacation, reports by phone.
“I just woke up in a really fucking shitty motel in a ghetto of Portland with people who obviously live in the room next door, arguing and fucking beating their children,” Ben Tegel, frontman of the glammy L.A. rock band The Vacation, reports by phone. It’s approximately 1 p.m., West Coast time. “How the hell did I end up here?” In short, Tegel formed a group with his guitarist and twin brother Steve, bassist Dutch Suoninen and drummer Denny Weston Jr., after the Tegels hauled it from the Midwest to Hollywood in 2002. “I just woke up in a really fucking shitty motel in a ghetto of Portland with people who obviously live in the room next door, arguing and fucking beating their children,” Ben Tegel, frontman of the glammy L.A. rock band The Vacation, reports by phone. It’s approximately 1 p.m., West Coast time. “How the hell did I end up here?” In short, Tegel formed a group with his guitarist and twin brother Steve, bassist Dutch Suoninen and drummer Denny Weston Jr., after the Tegels hauled it from the Midwest to Hollywood in 2002. “Steve and I moved to L.A. to get a rock ’n’ roll band together,” Ben says. Once relocated and hooked up with Suoninen and Weston, the brothers set about securing The Vacation a place in the proudly airheaded Sunset Strip legacy once presided over by Axl Rose, another Midwestern transplant. “We just figured that was the place to go,” Ben explains. In 2004, the group released Band from World War Zero in Europe, looking to capitalize on the U.K.’s healthy appetite for American rock bands—the same appetite that made overseas stars out of The Strokes and The Killers before those bands broke here at home. The gambit worked. Last month, Rick Rubin—the bearded music-biz bigwig who’s produced records by everyone from LL Cool J to the Dixie Chicks and who heads up American Recordings—issued a re-mastered, re-sequenced and repackaged version of World War Zero in the States as The Vacation. Now they’re on tour in support of the album. Forever. “You just have to get used to it,” Ben says of the itinerant lifestyle. “My brother’s in the bed next to me, and the other two guys are in the other bed. It’s not necessarily the most glamorous life, but it is what it is.” He pauses. “We drink a lot. So that’s how we deal with it.” You can hear it in The Vacation’s music: sloppy yet tuneful, and energized to the brink of chaos. “We went through a lot of different phases,” Ben says of the band’s stylistic development. “When we first started writing, I was more into music like Beck or Cake or the Beta Band or the Eels—stuff like that.” The singer says the band’s earliest material leaned toward “experimental, poppy stuff”—a long way from The Vacation’s current brand of full-tilt glam-trash boogie. “But when we started playing live, I guess I felt more comfortable doing punky rock. That stuff kind of stuck.” Capturing the band’s out-of-control onstage vibe on tape proved difficult, Ben says, admitting that the World War Zero sessions were his first time in a studio. “I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he says. “It takes some getting used to. You have to get the right sounds from the amps and the drums, and you have to mic everything. You wanna do the perfect representation of each song. But at the same time, the tendency to do that can sometimes take away from the sense of spontaneity.” Thank goodness, then, for really fucking shitty motels in the ghettos of Portland.

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