For Zacharias Zachrisson, Known as Vacation Forever, Punk is in His Genes
WORDS by JOSH JONES
PHOTOGRAPHY by MARCUS PALMQVIST
Zacharias Zachrisson is a punk and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s genetic. He’s also a jumble of contradictions. He loves and hates his music. He suffers from stage fright but gets nominated for best live show awards. He hates Spotify and Instagram but likes a “like” as much as the rest of us. Going under the moniker Vacation Forever, he’s been creating New Wave-ish, postpunk songs with a hint of pop. His lyrics go deep into his life. Nothing seems off limits.
Born from a pair of punks into a Swedish punk household, music runs through the family. His father was in the cult Swedish reggae/punk collective Dag Vag, while his mother was a singer in the first female Swedish punk band. His sister is more well-known as Lykke Li. “I guess I grew up in that world,” he explains from his bright and airy apartment in Stockholm on Zoom. “And then I didn’t listen to that so much when I became older, but then when I turned like 25, I just naturally got drawn to the punk world. Like you have a period in your life where you don’t want to become your parents, I guess. And then in the end, you’re like, ‘Fuck, I’m kind of getting there.’” He reaches for a bowl of ramen and slurps some noodles, politely off screen.
As well allowing his punk genes and DIY aesthetic back into his creativity, “I found all my dad’s old fanzines and I’m just like tearing them apart and doing my own fanzines now”, he’s most influenced by one English band in particular: “my life changed when I listened to Television Personalities for the first time. It’s the purest music out there and it’s still relevant. They deserve so much more recognition, they’re so influential for so many bands. If you see a person with a Television Personalities t-shirt on you’re like, boom, soulmates straight away.” He also channels garage rock, psychedelia and most recently, early Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy. “I’m like, fuck, I want to make something that I can play in a nightclub at 4am, you know?”
Originally a drummer in Swedish band Tussilago, which he formed with his school and skater friends, the constraints of keeping to the beat paired with crippling stage fright forced him to quit, face his fears and feel the freedom of being his own frontman. “As a musician in the background, you really have to stick to the schedule,” he says about being a drummer. “And when you’re nervous, there’s no room. If you are in the front singing and shit, you can shake it off or do something weird but as a drummer, you just have to be tight all the time and just sit there and I hated it. I fucking hated it.” So a trip was taken to clear his mind — literally. The story goes that he took time out and travelled to India where he was convinced to smoke some DMT—also known as the “God molecule”—and it opened up his mind and he travelled around the forests as a single molecule, one that was on vacation forever. His new project was born and the freedom to freewheel kept the stage fright at bay and kickstarted his songwriting.
Zacharias stands up and takes us for a walk through his apartment past Nordic art exhibition and film posters. He sits down and lights a cigarette. The tobacco crackles and smoke fills the screen momentarily. Vacation Forever’s debut album, Real Life Sux came out last year and gives the listener earfuls of angst and vulnerability. He kept it purposely austere by recording it all on cassette to capture that live, raw feel. “I always wanted to do that because I like to work when you’re limited. It makes you creative. Because you just have four tracks recording and that makes you creative in how to record in those four different tracks. You know what I mean? Like, the limit creates creativity. That’s fun to work with. You have to figure out how to make that work with only two guitars or whatever. I like the lo-fi sound, I’ve always been drawn to everything that’s lo-fi. You can hear the imperfections. I never do a lot of takes. I tend to do it best the first take. And then I overthink it. So it’s better to do it with your heart and live it realistically because otherwise you like overthink stuff and you start to analyze.”
One of the stand out songs on the record is “I Promised You Nothing”. It’s pure and open. The first half of the song is just his voice primal and singing over a sim- ple plucked guitar before bursting into an overwhelming cacophony, as if he’s re- leasing a lifetime of tension. “It just needed to be done because that song actually happened” he explains about the yowling opening line: I almost died on the way back home. “Me and the producer were on our way back home from a restaurant and then a window from, like the sixth floor of an apartment building just fell down and almost killed us. It was so close. The lyrics come from that and doing a lot of like… I did too much drugs once. Yeah, so like, I felt that I have to scream my lungs out and be really, really vulnerable.” Zacharias has a love/hate relationship with his music. He’s been known to leave a party when someone put one of his tracks.
“I leave or I just get really angry. I’m like, turn that off right now. Don’t ever do that to me again. I can listen to it myself but not in front of people. I hate doing that. It’s the worst feeling ever.” The thought of listening to his own through other people’s ears is a mildly abstract idea but one that he can’t deal with it seems. “When I listen to it through their ears, I’m like, ‘fuck, this is not good.’ I hear it through their perspective. Then I question why I even do this. Sounds like I’m a really negative person, I’m not. I’m super extrovert but I’m the opposite when it comes to my music, I’m an introvert.”
Just as he was ready to get momentum behind the record and move to LA with a house sorted and recording sessions and live shows booked, the pandemic curbed his enthusiasm. He had to cancel those plans and stay in Stockholm where there’s somewhat of an indie scene but one where the big artists move away. His sister of course, and Viagra Boys, Robyn, Meshuggah, Swedish House Mafia all live elsewhere. “There’s not an indie scene in Stockholm at all. We don’t have so many venues anymore.” A brief reprieve came a few months ago when Sweden lifted restrictions for a short time and Zacharias was able to play the re- cord live in the way he wanted to. “I did like one big gig [at Sweden’s Popaganda Festival in October] And then I got nominated in Sweden for ‘Best Live Act’ [at the Gaffa-Prisset Awards 2022],” he explains moving back into the room we started the interview in, sitting down in front of what looks like a picture of punk legend Richard Hell in a tutu. “I was tearing the stage apart. I invited all the people up on stage and it just became like a huge mosh pit. It was great.”
The depth of the feeling in this album makes you feel that he’s ripe for the ap- petite for youth angst. Just one sync on a show like HBO’s Euphoria or similar and he’ll be launched into the stratosphere. “I mean I would like that; that would be fun,” he laughs. “I don’t know if I would be super happy to play on something like SNL but I would love to actually make some money in music. It takes a long time for an indie act to get to a place where you can live off music. I was just thinking about The War on Drugs. They’ve been around for ages. And one day he released that album that got really a lot of attention. Even Tame Impala became like major big after two albums. This is just my first album. I’m always there. I’m on the edge always, almost knocking the doors down. Yeah, I’ve just got to keep on.”