Vision Video: Blood, Bombs Bullets, inspiration can come from anywhere

By Charlie Fenton

20 May 2024

When inspiration hit, it wasn’t somewhere you’d expect. A place that wouldn’t muse the thought of a guitar, or of anything other than survival in every frightful step you take. “Of all places, I started writing music in Afghanistan,” said Dusty, lead singer and guitarist of post-punk goth rock band Vision Video. He was deployed in Afghanistan in 2013 as a platoon leader for 8 months before returning home to Atlanta, Georgia in 2014. “When I was out there the previous squadron who were in the barracks before us had a left a guitar. “I used to play it every night before I went to bed.” ‘Glory and honour are hollow words that sell the act, we’ll keep moving forward back-to-back… Will children have to die today?’ sings Dusty in the track Organized Murder. A song that he said “trundles over the reality of war.”

Dusty explained, “the same sort of thing happened during the four years I spent as a firefighter and paramedic.” This was between 2018 – 2022 after he had left the army and was waitlisted for graduate school. “I would pick up the guitar and play all day on the days off I got, and it sort of became the relief that kept me alive.” However, during this time Dusty had started Vision Video and they were growing massively. This led to the release of their first two singles, In my Side and Inked in Red, in 2019, alongside 10 other singles and then their first two studio albums, Inked in Red in 2021, and Haunted Hours in 2022, plus tours across America and the UK. The success eventually left Dusty to leave the jobs in 2022. “I had to leave firefighting as we (Vision Video) the band grew, we were playing more and more shows, and I also knew I may never be able to play music professionally ever again in my life.” Starting the band at age 31, he wasn’t wrong. Music generally blesses the young.

READ MORE: How lyric writing can be therapeutic

Organized Murder Music Video

For over 10 years he was sealed in packaged intensity. But the “hardest” experiences he had to face can be heard through his song Unwanted Faces. His recount of telling a mother her child had died at the scene he was called to as a paramedic. “Music became the way I could turn my negative energy into something positive and also make it into something I didn’t have to store within me,” he exclaimed. Strumming, picking, and singing became his outlet, his armour, his safety net. This pattern can be seen throughout the band’s music. Their post-punk sound is inspired by The Cure, Joy Division, but “most importantly” The Chameleons. It’s clear this inspiration has sifted through as Dusty’s lyrics are often anxiety stricken, searching for safety. “I think the strongest part of me as a musician is my lyrics,” he says. Starkly, he’s right. He doesn’t shy away from telling the hard stuff. Inked in Red, for instance, recalls living life with trauma, or Haunted Hours which Dusty says glosses “the universal experience of losing someone”.

Haunted hours, in particular, Dusty has promoted many times. The idea of promoting his songs and his life experiences, he says “doesn’t sit well”, but he has to do it. “I never want to take advantage of death, but for our music to be out there it has to exist in this dumb bullshit in our hands.” But to Dusty, promotion comes second, it’s connecting to his audience through the soft underbelly of grief which is his main goal. “The song is about grief and loss, I wanted to promote that, I think that’s a beautiful thing about music is that we can feel less alone, understood through an artist. Even if it doesn’t go viral, it still matters because to the few hundred people who might see it, they may connect and that’s an important thing.” He’s right, it is an important thing. Dusty’s inspiration is brave, to say the least. Braver than any other musician who has preached about war. Bob Dylan, Ozzy Osborn, John Lennon. They have all written notable songs about the latter but how many of them stood in the line of fire… none. This makes his songs ever more striking, ever more personal not only to Dusty but to the listeners as well.

READ MORE: How social media is changing the music game

Inspiration also hit Dusty in a way less violent way. The strength of Dusty’s lyrics is only one element of Vision Videos’ success. The B-side is social media. TikTok can be said to be the pedestal that gave them their big break, 2021 to be exact was the year they blew up. “I’ll put it to you like this, we (Vision Video) have spent a large sum on active PR campaigns for our first two records, but that did next to nothing compared to the level in which TikTok has.” He adds, “it’s been immensely vital… My take is the only way now unless you are signed to a major record label or very rich already, to build a band is through social media.” Well, that’s exactly what he did. When one post went viral in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, being seen over 600,000 times in 24 hours, it triggered his mind, he knew he could use TikTok to his advantage. With the release of their first singles the same year, he took to TikTok posting videos sharing their music, taking snapshots from gigs and music videos, and promoting lyrics. “Over 10,000 people a post was seeing our videos, hearing our music,” he tells. “It was crazy.”

Well, something that’s slightly less crazy is Vision Videos’ gothic sound. If you can’t tell by hearing, you can by seeing. They walk onto the stage in black, white, face paint, fishnets, ripped this, ripped that, and with mascara wrapped around their eyes. But anyone can dress like this, it’s Dusty’s charismatic personality which was the factor that drew the audience closer to the band. This led to Dusty’s most notable piece of inspiration which was drawn from an accent and the need for something he wanted to offer, a caring space. “The number one reason for our growth has to be Goth Dad, at least two-thirds of our followership on social media are from these videos.” If you were to watch a Goth Dad video, he’s a “hyper-wholesome” “Midwestern American” talking father figure for Goths alike. Dusty says “originally” it was just a “super cheesy” character he came up with for content, but it’s now also tangled into part of his stage persona. “People just see me as Goth Dad now, so I just run with it… Even if I say who I am and where I live, they will still always perceive me as Goth Dad.” It’s also transformed their shows, fans itch for Dusty to say the tagline ‘Well hey there baby bats’; baby bats being the name of their fans. “Often, I forget to say the tagline when performing… You can see it and hear it, people are waiting for me to say it and when I do, they go crazy,” he said.

Yet, in the vast world of social media, inspiration can come from anything. For Dusty, it was Goth Dad, but as he says when talking with other up-and-coming artists, “if you aren’t an inherently cheesy weirdo like I am, being ‘Indie Dad’ or ‘Rock Dad’ won’t work”. He even says following “dumb trendy videos” isn’t the best way. “You have to find how to make something that’s so extraordinarily personal not, and figure out a way to make it general, accessible, and relatable which is the hardest part, but it has to come naturally. “What do you do to bring humour or make it visually enticing to show off this tender thing inside of you? That’s really tough; it’s something I still struggle with, but it’s doable, I see brilliant content all the time I get loads of inspiration from.”

It’s not a surprise they sit on almost 100k listeners across Apple Music and Spotify, have toured across America, the UK, opened for Dusty’s favourite band, The Chameleons, and had record companies fighting for them when producing their first two albums and now third. It’s the unique inspiration in all aspects of his musical career, alongside the charming riffs and catchy melodies, which have taken him and the band so far.

This uniqueness can really be sensed through how he writes through emotion. He believes it’s the true way to “unbalance chemicals”. “You know, Emily knows the theory, but if you play on emotion and feeling it takes a hell of a lot longer, but it’s where I think you find the coolest melodies and riffs. “It alters your mood and sense of reality based on sound and you can tap into and find really interesting things when playing and experimenting in this way.”  

He then adds his friend puts it perfectly, “music is a consequence-free drug”. Well, that drug is way better than morphine.

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