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Berry goes behind locked doors with ‘Vault of Light’

courtesy photo

“Vault of Light” is the new album from indie rock veterans Berry.

Formed in the early 2000s on Martha’s Vineyard, the group has issued a string of critically acclaimed recordings since 2003. All this despite members living in different corners of the country and pursuing a variety of professional interests outside music.

Co-founder Joey Lemon, for instance, has established himself as an English teacher, working at Wichita’s Independent School.

Lemon recently spoke with KMUW about the making of “Vault of Light” as well as providing some insights on balancing his life in education with his life in a band.

Interview Highlights

You've recorded all the Berry records yourself in the past, this time you worked with engineer Paul Klimson. And you did it in a vault.

His wife was working at the time at this, like a publicist company of some sort. But one of the things that they have that they didn't really know what to do with in their office space was this empty bank vault with the big … door that shuts behind you. And prior to us getting there, Paul convinced them, “Hey, this should be like a space that you can turn into a photo and a video and a recording studio.” So he did a bunch of painting and set up lighting and rented out all the gear for a record. We were the pilot project and … what came to be known as The Vault. But yeah, it was pretty fun spot; [we] literally pulled the big door shut behind us so they wouldn't hear us out in the office area while we were recording. So was pretty fun.

You recorded in a vault. That has to be a completely different sensory experience than you know, working in a regular recording studio.

The biggest notable things were it was really dark, like time disappeared once that door was closed. Who knows where we were, when we were; it was just a perfect opportunity to disappear into our art together. We did bring in a projector screen and at times would display the art, the visual artwork of other friends. And that, I think, helped us feel a little bit more like we weren't in jail. [Laughs.] But yeah, I mean, it was just this dark, very large, cavernous space that absolutely feels like we just were locked away for a time and able to create. It was fun.

Berry has been a band for somewhere around 20 years. I'm just curious if you see a difference between the fans that have been there, basically since the start, and the people who have come later to the party.

I think the fun thing about people who are new to the Berry game is they’re, like, “What the heck? Why don’t people know about Berry? You guys have been consistently putting out good music for 20 years.” The people who hung with us for 20 years kind of have the same mindset: “How is there this really great secret that only I and literally 20 other people know?”

You’ve taught at both the high school and collegiate level and, at some point, your students figure out that you're in a band. What's that conversation like?

There's always a handful of curious students who do their research, so to speak, and will look me up. Kids love to distract their teachers, trying to get personal information out of them. They’ll be, like, “So what’s this? What’s this band you play in?” or, “What kind of music do you make?” Then, of course, they have their phones out in class. They’ll literally pull up something while you’re in the classroom still, which is fun.

The college community seemed way less interested in what I did creatively. High schoolers, I think, generally, are much more interested. So it's fun to get to engage with them a little bit about what I do outside of my work life. Teachers shouldn’t self-promote much in the classroom, but I think it’s really important to let students know that teachers do things creatively and otherwise outside of the classroom. I think they need that context, and I think that’s good for them.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.