Friday, November 4, 2011

Abe Vigoda (the Band, Not the Actor) - Music

I've been writing for IE Weekly since the first day of the magazine. I interviewed Dr. Strange of Dr. Strange Records.

It was a terrible piece of writing, but at least the interview went well. I had known Dr. Strange since growing up in the hardcore So Cal punk scene, so it was really just a talk with someone I had known for more than a decade.

Now I have to interview ultra famous people, I mean, people so awesomely popular that stadiums scream their name out loud to their faces every night. How could any ego handle that kind of pressure? 

So I try to be as interesting and empathetic as I can, so they get to take a break from the business.  I want them to feel as if  they are just having a  great conversation.

It's easy to do when I'm just cheerfully asking questions (without being corny) and letting the person on the other side of the conversation talk as long as they want, without looking bored. Would anyone you know let you do that?


Juan Velazquez, guitarist and vocalist for Abe Vigoda, met the rest of the members of the band growing up in Chino. “We all met in school. I met our bass player David Reichardt, and Dane Chadwick, our drummer, in junior high. In high school we met Michael, the singer. We all played music together and were all big music geeks. We’d end up hanging out all the time, talking about our favorite groups.”

They chose their band’s name after watching a skit on Conan O’Brien which featured the actor Abe Vigoda, made famous by his role as Sal Tessio in The Godfather. “We saw him on Conan O’Brien. He’d just show up for no reason. We thought of all of these bands and their names, and how they are funny or vague, so we decided to just call ourselves that. We kept on trying to change it, but we always just stuck with ‘Abe Vigoda,’” says Velazquez bringing up a great point: “I don’t really think there are any cool stories about how a band got named.” 

Just a few short years later the band has released four albums, been interviewed by Fader, and composed 2010’s Crush, a work so good it ended up on Pitchfork Media’s “Top 50 Albums of 2010.” 

As the band has matured, its sound has changed. The group has been described as “tropical punk” by Wikipedia, alternative/electronica by MySpace, and labeled as “pop” by YouTube. Velazquez and the band don’t worry about labels. “We used to have a more funny, punk kind of sound,” he says. Since then, each album has been just another side of the same group. “We really like bands like The Talking Heads, bands that can’t be just given one title or another. Maybe it’s because we have four records out, and we’ve changed with each record.” And if he has to pick a label, it’s not like the band will stay that way. “I guess we’re post-punk, goth pop. I’m not a big fan of saying any band is a certain genre. I don’t know, maybe we’re all over the place.”

With each chapter Abe Vigoda’s quality has been consistent, although the band’s current sound is similar to darkwave or guitar-injected dance electronica. Velazquez says that the only formula their band follows when it comes to writing songs is democratic. “We’ll spend a lot of time on the road, and then when we get back we each have different ideas, different sounds, because we each pick up different influences.”

The band promises to release another record, but doesn’t have an exact date. “Maybe [in] a year or less. It’s going to be a while before we come up with a new album,” Velazquez says. “There’s one new song we’ve been playing a lot, it doesn’t have a name yet. It’s more bass-and-drums-centered. We’ve just added a little keyboard to it.”

Now that the band has had time to grow up, it’s only natural that its music has matured, too. “We’re tying to work with a lot more subtley, instead of going overboard with our sound,” he says. “We will offer fans something on the Internet soon.” 

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