JON CROSBY IS MAKING A TRANSITION. THE VAST he once knew has come and gone. The first VAST album was Crosby, with help from a bass player, a drum machine and lotsof magnetic tape. To tour, however, Crosby put together a band. For the second VAST record, Crosby added drummer Steve Clark and bassist Thomas Froggatt to its tracks, so VAST fell into a category where Crosby could no longer be synonymous with the name.

“It’s weird,” Crosby told POLLSTAR. “A lot of people start out as a band and end up going solo. This is reversed. I still wrote everything on the second record and I produced it, so I almost had more to do with it. What matters is that the record and the show are the best they can be, and I don’t care if it’s written by all of us or if it’s only written by me. I’m not trying to impress anyone. It was never my intention for VAST to be a solo project. I just couldn’t find musicians that were on the same page as me.”

Growing up in Fortuna, a town of 7,000 in the upper northern reaches of California, Crosby finished high school by studying at home, then pursued recording. The eventual demo got airplay and caused, by all accounts, a major bidding war, which was won by Elektra. The 1998 debut of Visual Audio Sensory Theater (hence, VAST) brought two hits, “Touched” and “Pretty When You Cry,” and gained a fan in one of Crosby’s heroes, Lars Ulrich of Metallica.

The 24-year-old Crosby has been VAST since he was 17. At 13, he was featured in Guitar Player magazine but he said the accomplishment a short item on a tape he sent to the magazine has been exaggerated.

Now he is touring as a band member for the second time. And he was proud to point out he’s not chubby anymore, either.

“I’ve had to do a 180 because I used to think that a real artist didn’t care about how they looked, but now I realize it’s a cool way to express yourself. I wanted to change on this record musically and visually and even psychologically. I just wanted to do something new.”

There’s new management, too, Missy Worth, and a recent change in agency to CAA. Plus, Crosby said that the lineup of himself, Froggatt, Clark and guitarist Justin Cotter is VAST.

“I’d like this band to stay around as long as they want to do it. I’m always going to be doing it, so I don’t have any plans to change the members.”

That settled, there’s still the music to figure out. It wriggles between classifications. It’s electronic rock, and it’s fresh, but …

“There’s a familiarity, in a very positive way, about the music,” CAA agent Carole Kinzel told POLLSTAR. “His favorite artists are U2 and Depeche Mode. Some people will go back to The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. He’s in his early 20s and his frame of reference doesn’t go that far back, but he mines the depths of his references and presents them in a very modern, contemporary way.”

Jeff Reid
Mitch Allan
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Mark Beauchemin

Also, there is the hook, the catchy-as-the-flu chorus.

“I saw a review of the ‘Free’ single in England by the Dandy Warhols,” said Crosby, “and they said this song shouldn’t have a chorus. I think a lot of bands think that if you have a chorus, you’re bad. Well, I’m not interested in staying in some cozy credibility corner. To me, I like choruses. They express the emotions I have to say and that’s the way it is.”

The current lineup, minus a guitar player change, toured the first album, but Crosby feels this time, for Music For People, it has better stage legs.

“I’ve learned that one thing my favorite bands do onstage is care more about the audience than themselves, which is very hard to do. To let go of yourself completely and giving every night everything we have … it sounds easy, but it’s not,” Crosby said.

“I don’t think that the live thing is something that is as natural to me as recording,” he continued. “Maybe it’s from growing up in a city where no one played live. Richard Marx and Stevie Ray Vaughan were the only two artists in the nine years that I lived in Fortuna that came to play. … (But) our manager has helped us tremendously. She’s an amazing manager. She understands rock inside and out, and she’s just an incredibly sweet person.”

VAST recently finished opening for Queens Of The Stone Age and is headlining dates in the U.S. and the U.K. Kinzel will prepare a new package when the current tour is finished. She said that on the strength of this record, she plans to have the band tour all of next year. Her confidence was strengthened by VAST’s record company choice.

“Elektra’s support is incredible,” Kinzel said. “When Elektra gets behind something, they can do an excellent job. Look at Third Eye Blind, one of our other artists. It’s pretty astounding what they’ve done with them. And Third Eye Blind gave them a lot of great material to work with. VAST and Jon Crosby have given them an enormous amount of material from one record and I think they know that. Their commitment is obvious.”

In the meantime, Crosby is perfecting his philosophy for live performance. “I think the live show isn’t so much about having everything working perfect. It’s more like sex,” he said. “If something happens during sex, you don’t stop and go, ‘OK, hold on, let’s re-situate this.’ If you start to slide off the bed, you don’t stop. It’s an experience and you have to go with it.”