Vonvettas: Go Big or Go Home
by Rodney Lotter
Double albums are typically for prog bands looking to take their music to its most extravagant (or pretentious, limits, depending on who you ask,) or for a concept album, or some geezer band looking to make a quick buck with a greatest hits compilation. Very rarely is a band’s first release a double album, but hey, the Vonvettas are doing it anyway.
When the band was asked why they chose to have their first release be a double album, he said “why not?” Can’t argue with that logic.
“We had more than enough song,” they said via e-mail. “We also had access to the space out at North Shore Studio and we felt inspired to make something we would all be proud of.”
The album, “Lucy and Jet Black” will be released on Feb. 22 during their show at Bell Tower Studio, located at 1430 N. Garden St. The shear amount of material the band was produced is no surprise, as the Vonvettas have been playing together for years now. In fact, the band is already working on putting out two more albums.
The band consists of guitarist/vocalist Sam Chue, lead guitarist Thayne Yazzie, drummer Eli Savage and bassist Lyman Lipke. Earlier this fall, the band decided to get the album funded through Kickstarter. They successfully managed to raised $2,880 through the generosity of 41 backers. The fundraising goal was $2,500 to record and master the 30-track project.
The album was recorded at North Shore Studios and mastered by Chris Vita in Portland. Vita is no stranger to Bellingham bands, as he has worked with local groups like Polecat, Austin Jenckes, Learning Team, The Palisades, Todos Somos Lee and dozens of others.
On their website, the band describes themselves as a “post-grunge” outfit, with a varied set of inspirations from the doom and gloom dirge of Sunn O))) to the psychedelic blues freakouts of Hendrix and the general weirdness of Ween. In a sense, the band can be described as a “jam band,” but not in the extended instrumental excess sense.
“It would be hard to hear it in one song; we guess the distinctive aspect of our sound is that we are all over the place with genres,” they said. “We like to keep the audience engaged by switching it up.. We know it might be hard to hear SunnO))) in our tunes, but as an inspiration, that band gives us confidence to “go there” if we want to.”
On the Kickstarter page for the album, the band described their album as “a catalog of 30 original compositions that reflect the emotional and progressive story of our lives as artists and musicians.” The band stresses that their songs are “compositions,” because the songs come about through a collaboration and reflect the entire instrumentation of their tunes, which gives one the sense that the band takes their music seriously, even if they may not have higher aspirations right now.
“Right now, we just want to keep writing music and keep playing as much as we can. Eventually we will start touring, but for now, we are going to embrace as many opportunities as possible,” they said. “It may be difficult today’s market but we’d love for music to be our job. But until then, and for always, it will be our art.”
As of now, The Vonvettas “art” is expressed in their lone release, “Lucy and Jet Black,” an album which is dedicated to their family, friends and “animal companions,” as the band put it. The name of the album is derived from Yazzie’s sister’s dog “Lucy,” and “Jet” which was Chue’s family dog. Both of the dogs passed away within the last year. While the album is not a concept album in the traditional sense, the band did say that, as a whole, the album is about “a journey through life and beyond.”
As the band’s first experience in a professional studio, it was a learning experience, they said. Despite learning the technical aspects of the process (recording, mixing, overdubbing, engineering, etc,) the band said the most important thing is that it brought them closer together.
“We have realized that we are all complete polar opposites,” the band said. “We come from different musical styles and have grown up in completely different cultural backgrounds. What we share, however, is the most reverend form of brotherhood. We’ve embraced our imperfections, our differences, and have channeled our spiritual vision through a common love; music and art.”
For a band that’s name loosely translates into “of mountain peaks” (“Von” is a German word used to define a person’s origin, while “Vetta” is an Italian word that refers to a mountain’s peak or summit,) it seems that there is nowhere else The Vonvettas should rather be, than right here in Bellingham*
*The band’s name is a total coincidence, as their name was just derived from a song Yazzie made prior to the band’s formation, and had no meaning at the time.
Some of the band’s music is available via their soundcloud page: souncloud.com/thevonvettas, and the new album can be purchased at their release show, Feb. 22 at Bell Tower Studios.