Jacob Vanags
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Jacob Vanags

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Band Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Jacob Vanags' Music is stuck in my head"

March 3rd, 2009.

(Jacob Vanags playing Familiar Faces - the song currently stuck in my head)

With my newly acquired overabundance of time, I set out on a mission to find new music. My current playlists were all going stale and I was hoping to utilize my last month in NYC to see some of the “underground” everyone’s always talking about.

My mission: Find singer/songwriter “musician & their guitar” types who are little known & are likely to be playing a NYC show in some dive bar this month. Which is actually a very specific description now that I write it all out like that …

Obviously Myspace and the twitterati are my first sources. I should go to Time Out NY … but that’s just too dense while I’m always online anyway. There are two people I trust to give great music suggestions 90% of the time: 1938media and Icon Music.

1938media vlogged about this young piano genius Jacob Vanags (lots of videos at his myspace). I personally think he’s the next Ben Folds … only I like his music far better than BF. A little stalkerbooking went down, I found him on ALL his sites, wrote on the walls of a few. You know the drill. Lo and behold, a day later his ROOMMATE friended me on facebook and a date for the next weekend was set.

I can’t believe I didn’t take any pictures of the show, but I promise you it was amazing! It’s just what the doctor ordered: a little dive bar in Chinatown, the show started late due to technical difficulties (as only the best shows do), and I got the chance to chat with Jacob about his plans to travel to South Africa for the World Cup (via couch surfing with strangers) after graduation. Perfection.

Then the show started. Whew! The tracks on his myspace are piano-heavy and exciting enough - but watching him deftly knock out those songs with such exuberance and talent was the real treat. I didn’t expect the drums and horn to improve the raw unbridled talent of his acoustic recordings, but boy oh boy when he goes in to record his new stuff with the accompaniment he’s planning, it will truly blow you away. (again) Adding horn to “Manhattan and Me” gave the song the perfect touch to invoke that jazzy feel of a cool NY summer night.

Also unexpected was the high quotient of supremely good looking people. With the exception of me and my wingman, Rhea, everyone there was personal friends of Jacob and Bassel. Jacob, his roommate (and manager), Ryan, and Bassel are all hotties. And those type of guys apparently only make friends with pretty people too. This was obviously a very nice place to be that night.

Check out Jacob, and let his EP get mercilessly stuck in your head. You won’t regret it. - SueMoe

"Song of the Day: “Manhattan and Me” by Jacob Vanags"

Thursday, April 23, 2009
By suzanne

Today’s song is “Manhattan and Me” by Jacob Vanags. I caught an acoustic show of this band at Angels & Kings last month and I must say their performance was incredible. Jacob Vanags is a talented piano player and seems very at home in the spotlight on stage. He is a born performer. This song is off The Come On! Collection EP which is available on Jacob Vanags now! - Eat Sleep Breathe Music


Concert Review Here:



"Jacob Vanags is a talented piano rocker...." - Eric Holland

"Student musician working on new EP"

By Jamie Atkinson in B-Section
Issue date: 10/30/08

At the basement venue of Vibe Lounge in Rockville Center, the atmosphere feels much more like a large gathering of friends than a concert with a strangely diverse bill. But there, in the middle of inside jokes and the constant loading in and out of drum kits and guitars, is Jacob Vanags and his keyboard.

"This is his first show with an actual band," explains his friend, Erin Willett. "He normally plays alone like it is on his EP."

But a viewer would have to pay close attention to find a hint of nerves because Vanags' is so confident on stage that one would have to believe he eats, sleeps and bathes in the spotlight. He jokes with the audience and his smile is even audible in his voice as he banters on between songs. The audience cheers back, shouting to him personally, exemplifying a real connection between Vanags and his loyal fan base. But it wasn't always this way.

"I think I made a conscious decision to play shows when I came to New York," explained the junior music-business major amidst the hustle and bustle of Bits'n'Bytes on a late Wednesday morning. "I like playing for new audiences because they don't know what to expect. It's all new. It's always new."

Vanags honed his onstage skills and stage persona over the summer as he played six to seven shows around New York City while living in Queens. All booked by his close friend and manager, Ryan McKeon, a junior marketing major, Vanags felt a change take place over time.

"I mean, I still get those little nervous moments before I go on stage," said Vanags. "But once I'm up there, it all comes naturally."

Vanags hails from Kent, Ohio where he spent most of his time trying to make the piano his passion. His parents pressured him into piano when he was young because he showed the most talent of his siblings. While Vanags enjoyed playing piano, he couldn't stand what he was given to play. Soon enough, he was straying from his practice pieces and playing what he felt like, whether it had sheet music or not. Years later he picked up guitar in what he jokes as succumbing to peer pressure.

"Writing music for me is all trial and error," said Vanags. "I'm just a trial-and-error type of guy."

Vanags' first EP, "The Come On Collection," was recorded by a former Hofstra student over the course of six months. Due to economic constraints, Vanags maintained a very DIY mind -set for the project. They used a stamp to label the individual CDs and stickers acted as front covers for the disks. Drawing from influences such as Ben Folds, Coldplay and Sufjan Stevens, melodies come easy to the twenty-year-old singer-songwriter. Vanags, always plagued with a surplus of melodies and a shortage of lyrics, finds that his subject matter for the EP seemed to center around the common theme of change. Specifically, the change from Kent to living in New York and the way relationships changed because of his move.

"I can't write about something that didn't happen," he explained. "Every song relates to a real experience, big or small. Every song has a little message, whether its for me or for everyone else."

However, the major difference between the soft rock piano EP and the live show that he presents is that Vanags is currently in the process of assembling a permanent band to play with.

"I've always wanted to collaborate, but it never just seemed to work out. This was the next best step."

What started as a joking sign propped up on his merchandise table proposing a need for a musician of any sort, even someone to just stand on stage and clap, ended with several musicians interested in joining him on stage. He took a few on loan from other bands for his show at Vibe, but plans on turning to do a full search for a permanent set. Vanags knows that having a band on stage will change the entire atmosphere of the show.

"It's different being a solo artist. You have to be a comedian, a musician, a host, you have to be everything," gushed Vanags. "You have to captivate them to keep them interested in a set because the focus is all on you. With a band, it aleviates that, it gives them someone else to take their attention while you can regroup."

However, despite being in search of a band, Vanags reassures that he will likely stick to his roots and not pursue a more aggressive sound. He recognizes the challenges of appealing to an audience that is in pursuit of fast drums and louder guitars.

"I know I'm not always the same style as the other musicians I play with. I don't plan on falling into that mold. I feel like some of the most creative and respected artists got to where they are because they were not only good at what they did, but they did it differently."

And as Vanags prepares for his second EP, set to hit studio time in January, he remains constant in his hopes for it.

"I always want my next song, show, album to be the best yet. I think my next album will really fulfill that. But it is definitely only the warm up to something bigger."

Vanags and McKeon agree that the focus of this EP will be to put more professional and better quality recordings out there to grow a fan base and use for promotion. McKeon is on a constant look out for possible shows, often booking on campus as much as possible, such as the upcoming show at Hofstra USA on November 13.

"I just want to get him out there for people to hear," explained McKeon. "I really have a lot of faith in him from both the standpoint of a friend and coworker. I want to help him get out there."

As for what will happen until Vanags attains the attention he deserves, he remains unsure and doesn't mind.

"I just want to get out and see the world, I don't want to be stuck in some office somewhere. I want to experience life," said Vanags. "We'll just have to see how it all goes."

How very trial and error. - Hofstra Chronicle

"Pulses are Pluses EP Review"

When its rainy and cold outside I find myself wanting to sit by a warm fire, sip a little hot chocolate and listen to some piano driven rock. Jacob Vanags is the perfect cd for that moment. It opens with the piano driven song “All that you Have”. The trumpet heard throughout the song is refreshing to my ears. I must take a second to mention that the production on this record is creative and leaves my ears finding new sounds with every listen. The first track leaves me so interested in the rest of the record that I can’t help but think this is a record I’m going to suggest to my friends.

After a long day of work “Antarctica” is the perfect track to take off your shoes, grab a beer, and relax in your favorite chair. The violin is peaceful and sedating throughout the track. I can only wonder what kind of live show awaits me if I have the chance to partake in Jacob Vanags. The track “Speak Up Now” could easily be the single off this record. It reminds of the songs Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional’s wrote on “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. With power behind the vocals I find myself wondering off into the lyrical story told throughout this record. As it builds up at the 3 minute mark, it leaves me speechless.

During “Jonah’s Dream” the piano solo in the middle is unexpected and a true masterpiece. It drives the rest of the song home and leaves me wondering if Jacob Vanags could take Ben Folds at a Dueling Piano bar. This track closes the album and is the best album closer I have heard in 2009. It feels like An orchestra performance at your local Opera House.

The instrumentation on this EP has talent written all over it. The vocals are soothing with lyrics that tell a different story on every track. This record belongs in every top 20 list for 2009. If you haven’t found the perfect Christmas gift, buy this record and put it in all your friend’s stocking.
- Enoch Magazine - Nate Smith

"Jacob Vanags - Pulses are Pluses EP Review"

The opening track on Jacob Vanags’s self-released third EP is the perfect track to listen to immediately following the closing track of Franz Nicolay’s EP. Vanags, a precocious piano popper who splits his time between Kent, Ohio (home of the infamous student massacre) and Long Island, NY (where Brooks Brothers ties are manufactured), has produced a record that is playful, diverse, and – especially considering the piano-driven nature of the arrangements, dense. Beyond the keyboard chops, Vanags has the kind of voice you can see major labels getting behind. If only this guy would’ve been discovered by Disney when he was 8; he’d be on tour with Justin Timberlake right now.

Pulses are Pluses will almost inevitably garner comparisons to Ben Folds, but take away the piano aspect and you don’t really see the connection. Where Folds alternates between tongue-in-cheek and melodramatic, whereas Vanags takes a more traditional pop approach as he crafts songs that are both more sincere and more ambitious. Sometimes that ambition results in a cluttered production, likely the result of Vanags trying to be more of a team player with his new band than a solo artist using session musicians under his direction, but as he gains more experience and confidence with arrangements, those sonic experiments will sound less messy and more layered. In the meantime, tracks like “Stuck” and “Antarctica” sound like they are a stone’s throw from charting. - Citizen Dick


2010 Singles
- "Madeline"
- "Public Transit"
- "Nothing's Changed"
Pulses are Pluses
The Come On! Collection



Whether he is hiking in the Andes, roofing a house, break dancing, or couch surfing around the world, piano-rocker Jacob Vanags is always eager to try something new. This desire to step outside the box, break it down, and recycle it into something original defines the personality of his music.

Following the 2008 solo EP, The Come On! Collection, and his 2009 full band EP, Pulses are Pluses, (which offers the fearless storyline of “Speak Up Now,” the epic orchestration of “Antarctica,” and the unifying illustration of “Jonah’s Dream”) Vanags reaches new heights with his 2010 summer singles.

“Madeline” is as funky-fresh as its lyrics suggest and has been deemed “the song of the summer” by fans. However, Jacob’s ability to create unforgettable melodies is not done without substance. He proves that he is able to cater to the detailed listener with “Public Transit” by weaving harmonies with orchestral instruments, creating a refreshing soundtrack for everyday life.

Comparable to the piano work of Ben Folds, the vocals of Jason Mraz, the orchestration of Sufjan Stevens, and the pulse of Snow Patrol, Jacob Vanags still brings a unique mix of talent, hope and confidence to an otherwise stagnant industry.

The Jacob Vanags Band has headlined the Lyrikplatz stage at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, The Bitter End in NYC, The Bottom Lounge in Chicago, and with an extensive line-up of shows this fall including Crash Mansion in November, there is no excuse to miss this talented trio that just might change your perception of piano rock.

Step outside the box, break it down, and recycle it into something new.