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INTERVIEW: Verst

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

We’ve been great. Thanks for asking. I mean, besides wondering if we’re going to have another war, getting impatient for Robert Mueller to lay down some more indictments, and waiting patiently for what’s left of Judas Priest to limp into the Bay Area in April.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Overthrown”?

Lyrically, it’s just a tune about the human predicament of occasionally being overwhelmed by relationships or maybe addiction, probably sung from the point of view of a friend to a friend in troubs. The tone is kinda paternal, which might be annoying. Like most of our songs, it’s based on a chord change & melody combo that felt inspiring. If this song were a shape, it would be a triangle. Think of the trippy overlapping guitar solo as a form of advice—when things become too much, motherfuckers, space out.

Did any event inspire you to write this song?

The sheer torque of empathy.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

We had plans to do a video for “Laid Off for the Summer,” but life got in the way. We know we should be doing some videos for the new album, but instead we’ve been laying down tracks for an even newer album. We’re not exactly a well-oiled promotional machine, but we’re prolific.

The single comes off your new album David Slain – what´s the story behind the title?

David is Slain by rock and the other things he loves. It’s positive. Dickey is into characters who serve as avatars for an aesthetic and help spin up the fiction. For example, Jeff Hair was big for his last band, Richard Bitch, whose key release was The Really Really Jeff Hair People. There are many other such personages lurking around in his brain.

How was the recording and writing process?

Dickey is writing all the time. Depending on the tune, he might share a fairly complete demo…or just come into rehearsal with a riff/structure/vocal line and we’ll build on it from there. Most songs start out as a chord change with a melody woven into it. The work lies in expanding the structure into a whole song and writing lyrics, based on the feels. The first verse always writes itself. The second verse is a tease and a chore. For David Slain, there were a few songs (Laid Off, Bath Salts, Overthrown) that we’d been playing live for a while and knew would be on our second album (Starship Crash was the first). Then the others came to John in a rush, so we started laying down basics for all of them. The first album took way too long (two years from start to release), so we wanted to just get this one done as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality.

How did the 70s and 90s influence this record?

We all spent parts of our childhood in the 70s, and that music had a profound influence on all of us, albeit different bands for each of us. But Dickey and Parsons get along so well musically because of a shared love of some seemingly diametrically opposed artists. For example, we both love Blue Öyster Cult andBread. We’re crazy about King Crimson and America. All of those riffy, proggy, AM-goldy things reverberate in our brains and poke their little heads out in the tunes.

As for the 90s, well fuck. The indie rock stuff like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, Built to Spill along with shoegazers My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lilys and others was just so transportive, how could you not absorb some of that into your own musical DNA? We did. Participation in the 90s DIY cassette trade was also hugely formative for Dickey, for the wildly ranging cross-pollination involved, and also because it enabled his creative conveyor belt to move very quickly and with extreme economy. Verst hasn’t been particularly economical process-wise, but we’re moving in that direction now.

We think that the combination of all of our sonic influences makes the Verst stew pretty unique.

Why these two particular decades?

The 70s was really the first decade where rock music was king. The end of the 60s set the table, but the 70s laid out the banquet. Art rock, prog rock, heavy metal, punk, new wave, even ‘soft rock’ were all genres that hit their stride in the 70s. There was a lot of shit music in the 70s, too, but we didn’t listen to it. 🙂

As for the 90s…that decade felt like a course correction in a lot of ways. There was some amazing music made in the 80s, of course…the ‘college rock’ stuff that was the precursor to indie rock was hugely important to all of us. But the 90s really brought the guitar back to the forefront, and Verst music is guitar music at the end of the day.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Just real life—sex, relationships, addiction and things. We’d never gotten political before the past year, but the currently unfolding debacle is just too infuriating and notable not to comment on. Real violence and paranoia loom large these days. The next record will have a couple overtly political songs on it. And they’re not friendly.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’d love to hit the road in small, tactical burts if someone would take a chance on us (we’re looking at you, boutique booking agencies and sympatico national touring acts). Realistically, though, we all have jobs and families and we’re not 25 anymore with the ability to just hop in a van and say “fuck it” to responsibility. We’re working on expanding beyond the immediate Bay Area right now. A west coast tour of 8-10 cities in two weeks would be the next-level dream. Or better yet, find a pocket of Europe that was keen to have us and turn an international tour into a family vacation. Gotta dream big.

What else is happening next in Verst´s world?

As we mentioned earlier, we’re pretty far along on album number three. Basic tracks are pretty much done for about 12 songs and a handful of B-sides. The sound is yet more aggressive and more sparsely arranged. The goal is to continue to shorten the production cycle and keep things moving forward at a good clip. We’re doing it by simplifying our instrumentation, arrangements and recording process. We want to play out live more. We would love to break into the festival scene, small or large.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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