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Brooklyn Indie Band VietNam Funds National Tour Through KickStarter

By Ben Fractenberg | February 28, 2013 11:07am

GREENPOINT — Brooklyn-based indie band VietNam garnered a lot of buzz when their first LP came out back in 2007. After that, founding member and lead vocalist Michael Gerner skipped town to Los Angeles to work on ambient analog synth music.

Gerner, 37, moved back to Brooklyn a little more than a year ago after a little nudging from guitarist and friend Nathanael "Lefty" Maynard.

"I would harass him on the phone, like a long distance relationship," said Maynard, 30, who plays in the band. "Drunken harassment calls that went over a span of three-and-a-half years."

Once back in Brooklyn, Gerner and Maynard started jamming, put together a new lineup and then put all their resources into recording the new album released Tuesday, "an A.merican D.ream," which combines the band's original blues-inflected indie rock sound with the analog soundscapes of Gerner's recent work.

"We put all of our budget into recording the record," Gerner said. "It just didn't leave us with any money."

With a new album and less than a month before kicking off a 30-city, two month tour, Gerner turned to KickStarter.

"We did it in a day. Made the video, all the leg work and then launched it the next day," he said about the fundraising drive that started on Feb. 19.

Four days later they had reached their goal of $5,000, enough for them to pay for a van and gas and a modest food budget for five musicians on tour — at least for the first couple weeks. They also plan to avoid hotels as much as possible.

"We've all been on tour enough that we know people in pretty much every city," Gerner said. "For the most part people are putting us up."

The speed with which they raised the funds also made the band rethink their fundraising strategy.

"I feel like we could have asked for more money if we knew that we were going to fill our goal that quick," said Maynard.

On top of raising funds for the tour, the band has been busy practicing at its Greenpoint rehearsal space, perfecting the sound for their record release show Thursday at Mercury Lounge.

The band packed into the tiny room, decorated with a a painting of Jesus on one wall and a pink and white neon sign on the other with the words "an American Dream," for one last practice on Tuesday before the big show.

They played straight through the sprawling songs, allowing themselves to get lost in the music without constant stopping to go over chord or tempo changes.

Gerner said the music was made to feel like a "dream" that "dissipates into another soundscape that ushers you into the next dream."

While the musicians conceded they were nervous about the first show, there was also some obvious excitement.

"I think it's the best thing I've ever been a part of," said Gerner. "I'm super proud of the record."

While some bands have the luxury of taking a few performances to gel, there is a lot of pressure on VietNam that the first concerts goes well.

The hope is they make enough money gigging the first two weeks to propel them through the rest of tour.

Either way, they seem happy to have taken the big risk instead of putting their faith in the album selling well without a tour.

"We're going out fighting," said Gerner.