10 July 2011

interview : Villa Venus

There is an EP you shouldn't miss because it's one that will grow slowly through days and slowly become more and more endearing and essential, just like autumn is never so far away, free & full of this priceless slowcore melancholy :

What’s the history behind the band, how have you joined forces?

Mike and I actually met through the musicians wanted ads on Craigslist. Mike was new in town and looking to start a band, and I was trying to start a new project that would be a little more organic and quiet. We both had ads posted at the same time, and I wrote to him and we got together a few times and worked up some songs. It was surprisingly easy, really. Beth Ann and I are a couple, and she had just recently started learning the bass. Her style worked with the simplicity of what we were doing. We recorded the EP before we had a permanent drummer, but Mike knew Ian from back in Florida, so when he moved to town we convinced him to play with us. It hasn’t been a fast process, but by letting happen naturally and not forcing anything we’ve been able to put the songs first, which is kind of a luxury.

Villa Venus looks like a large departure from Jeff’s previous band The Metric Mile? What has been the process of change?

Musically, I think there’s a lot more common ground than might be immediately apparent. The biggest difference has been in the style of working. The Metric Mile was usually a duo, with Patrick and I writing and recording at the computer and trading files back and forth. Playing live was always a challenge for us, and eventually I think it wore us down. The idea behind Villa Venus was to do something that was simple, minimal, and both fun and possible to play live. I didn’t want to write at a computer anymore, or have a laptop on stage. Luckily, Mike, Beth Ann and Ian have made that possible. But, the Metric Mile isn’t officially dead, so who knows!

I massively tagged your debut EP as slowcore in my review, how is your relation with the genre as a listener and as a musician - even if i think roots of your music can also be found in a band like Felt or even with Yo La Tengo for a part - ?

We’re all huge fans of the bands that are usually classified as slowcore--obviously Low, Bedhead, Red House Painters, Galaxie 500, etc. And the label doesn’t bother us. After all, the decision to play slowly and quietly is completely intentional. But, the bands you mentioned have been important to us as well. I think “Demons” by Yo La Tengo was one of Beth Ann’s first songs on the bass, and the Metric Mile used to have a giant poster of Lawrence and Maurice Deebank on the wall of our rehearsal space.

Your music both sounds restrained and natural, is the songwriting  also a kind of mental process, related to a specific state of mind? How do you write your songs?

I think both Mike and I tend to write the music first and then let the words come out of the moods suggested by the music. For me, the music seems almost automatic--if I feel like I want to write some music I can just sit down and do it. But the words are a struggle. I have to wait for them.

More generally how do you deal with concepts such as tension, slowness and shared intimacy inside your music?
We’re into all of them.

Do you think your music has got intrinsically a cathartic value? As a listener all i can do is relate to the melancholic dimension, as you seem to share a lot trough the songs. There is also a deep sense of lucidity and of authenticity. How do you live with that?   

The songs come out of strong feelings or sensations that we’ve had at one time or another, and that inspired us in some way. When we play the songs live, we get to experience those things again, and every time we play them we might find a slightly different way of relating to them. But the songs aren’t hard to live with. We don’t have to listen to them that often.

You seem dedicated to your music, is it something like receiving and passing the baton to others, I mean you belong to a long tradition of American indie music, and you certainly have your own exigencies too?

Most of us have been in several different bands and all of us have seen the music industry from different angles. If there was a baton to be passed, it didn’t get passed to us. But, the great thing about the time we’re living in is that we can stand almost completely outside the music industry and still make music and get it heard, even with our limited means.

I guess The Lemonheads cover bonus track is both wink of an eye and a way to identify Villa Venus inside a context. The cover is both respectful and gives a new lighting to the song, I can’t exactly explain what I feel but its presence makes sense, and I have been blessed to see Brian Przybylski (of Shores) react in a similar way to it on your Facebook page.  How it happened?   

A local venue, Bruar Falls, was doing a Lemonheads tribute show where local bands would get up and do one or two Lemonheads songs, sharing instruments and generally having a laugh. We thought it would be a great informal debut for the band, so we worked up a version of “My Drug Buddy.” Then they cancelled the show! We were really happy with how it turned out, though, so we put it on the EP. But I think it was also a way of saying that we’re an indie rock band, rather than an indie pop band or a post-punk band or a shoegaze band or chillwave band or whatever. There’s nothing ironic about our love for the Lemonheads.

Why have you chosen to offer your music on Bandcamp? What has been the reception so far ? What are your projects now?

We offered the EP for free on Bandcamp because we wanted people to hear it. We’re confident that the people who have heard the record like it, or at least that those that do not like it have excellent manners. We’ve had a few setbacks recently (hit-and-run bicycle accidents, knife play, grad school), but we’re getting ready to record some songs for a 7”, which we think might come out on an actual record label. Cross your fingers.

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