Interview - Vinnie Caruana - On Dayton United, Addressing Loss, and Aging Gracefully

For fans of indie, emo, and post hardcore in the late 90’s and throughout 2000’s, Vinnie Caruana is a known, and admired, commodity. Fronting seminal bands like The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche, and working through his own solo material, it’s easy to understand why.

On the cusp of releasing his next EP, Aging Frontman, Caruana is visiting the region to take part in an event with tragic roots. That tragedy, though, has brought out the strength and the resolve of an entire city. 

Dayton United: Benefit for the Dayton Foundation brings Vinnie Caruana to Dayton for an intensely special evening of acoustic music. Joining him are indie heavyweights Anthony Raneri of Bayside, Geoff Rickley of Thursday, Chris Conley of Saves the Day, and vocalist Joe Anderl from Dayton band The 1984 Draft. It’s going to be a truly cathartic night.

You can find out more about the event, happening Wednesday, August 28, by checking out this interview featuring some of the great people involved with putting the event together. 

Thanks so much to Vinnie for taking the time to answer my questions.

First, one of the big reasons for reaching out is your involvement with the Dayton United benefit show happening at the end of the month. Can you talk about how you got involved?

Anthony Raneri (Bayside) texted me asking if I was interested, and I was an immediate YES. I called Ricky to see if he wanted me to reach out to some more of our songwriter friends. I texted a few more buds, and we were in business!

What does performing at a show like Dayton United mean to you, especially considering the talent involved, and the message a show like this is meant to send?

It’s an honor. My plan is to do more and more good until I die. The world needs more love. The message we are sending is that we care. There’s someone in NY that cares. We share the pain. We are in it together.

A lot of fans know you from both The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche - both seminal bands from two distinct eras of the indie music scene. Bringing your music to something like Dayton United is a heavy proposition - it’s sure to be an emotional evening, with a lot of musicians performing their most impactful songs for an audience that already has significant emotional ties to it all. How do you prepare for something like that?  

I’m certainly going to be feeling the lyrics in a new way when I’m on that stage. Song selection will be key. I’m still trying to figure that out.

As a follow-up, how have you managed to bridge the gap between those two bands and your own solo material? Do you feel like there’s a throughline, or a common denominator between them all? 

It’s been a journey. My later material and a lot of my solo stuff, addresses loss. The older we get, the more loss we endure. Music has always been there for us in these times. I don’t know what we’d do without it.

The title of your new solo EP, Aging Frontman, sounds like a certain kind of acceptance for you as a musician. You’ve been through a lot and seen so many things change in the 20+ years you’ve been in bands and making music? What’s the most significant change you’ve seen? What hasn’t changed? 

I’ve watched every trend come and go. The important stuff stands the test of time. I’m glad some of my music has lived on. There are more bands and artists than ever. And some of them will live on forever.

So much has happened since the late 90’s - emo came and went and came back again. Hardcore has had it’s moments. Punk Rock is, somehow, alive and well. You’ve been weaving in and out of all of those genres from the start. What has been most surprising to you in your career, especially as part of the indie music scene? 

In my career? I’m surprised to be doing this interview. I started a band so my friends would sing along in basement shows. This was not the plan. But I have loved my life. It’s been a grind. I’ve never been a massive success. I’m not a rich man. But I’ve lived on my own terms for this long. Living my only life the way that I choose to.

Along with the release of the new EP, you’ll be heading out on a short run in October, with your performances tying together music from both bands’ discographies and your own solo material. Can you talk about the process of putting together a setlist that’s just as satisfying for you as it is for your fans?

I’ll be preparing a super long list of songs, so that I can feel out crowds and be ready to play requests and think on my feet. It’ll be different every night. My set list will be a loose guideline.

After the EP releases and tour finishes up, what’s next for you? 

I tour for the rest of the year. Headed to the UK after the US tour. I’ll continue to write and record music. There is a lot in the works.

Anything else you would like to add or mention?

Stoked to fly over to Dayton tomorrow. I look forward to our evening together. And I’m sorry that I’m coming under these circumstances. But we’ll all be together.

Thanks again to Vinnie for his time (and my sincere congratulations on your marriage and honeymoon!). Dayton United: Benefit for The Dayton Foundation takes place Wednesday, August 28. Vinnie’s new EP, Aging Frontman, will be released October 4th via Know Hope Records.