One of the best acts I discovered in the early months of 2013 was The Venetia Fair. The Boston based quintet made me a believer after a chance encounter on a boring Upstate NY Sunday afternoon, and infected my brain like a virus. I have zero doubts that many more will eventually succumb to their hook-laden songwriting, over the top media dealings, and out of control live shows in the future, given the opportunity to witness the group perform live… It’s really something special to watch them go!
Ambitious and fan-friendly as ever, The Venetia Fair blew the doors wide open after a successful Kickstarter campaign by offering their contributors a shot at selecting 6 cover songs for the group to re-invent. Needless to say, their fans answered with vigor (and a strong hint of passive-aggressiveness.) The end result? Queen, Coheed and Cambria, Green Day, The B52’s, Blood Brothers, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Fucking brilliant!
The Venetia Fair has become a regular here at Live High Five, and I make no apologies. I feel the group deserves a shot in the grander music business spectrum, and will continue to support them however I can. I caught up with vocalist Benny and guitar-slinger Mike during a recent, incredibly icey and snowed out show in Watertown, NY (dafaq?!) to talk about the EP, their upcoming tour, and plans for 2014.
G- What’s up guys and thanks again for speaking with Live High Five. It’s fucking freezing up here. How’s everything going?
M- Whaaaaaaat’s up Greg?
B- I’iiiiiiiiiimmmmmmmmmmmm cold!
G- It’s very, very cold, and it’s the completion of a pretty long tour run for you guys, too. How has everything been?
B- It was sweet, until right now. It was so warm until right now, the past 2 days maybe.
G- Welcome to the North Country, guys. This is someplace you don’t come at the end of December.
B- Did you want us to come here in January? Because we’re coming.
G- You’re coming back here in January? What’s going on with that?
B- We are doing the Substance Sequence tour with A Lot Like Birds, Sianvar, and Stolas.
G- So you just completed a massive run, and you’re going right back out. Where is this run going to take you guys?
M- West Side!
G- WEST SIDE!
B- West coast, down through Texas, up to Rhode Island, and over back to California.
M- Yeah some new places, some old places. This current one was East Coast and we were headlining, and the next one we’re the openers of the openers of the openers.
G- Alright, and what new spots are you guys going to be hitting?
M- Chico, California is new.
B- I think. I don’t know.
G- I knew a guy named Chico in college. He used to sell weed I think. Cool dude.
M- Yeah he’s probably there.
G- He used to say “mang” a lot.
M- Yeah he’ll be there selling weed to us.
G- (laughing) Alright. So, obviously you guys did a Kickstarter recently…
B- Not too recently. Like a year ago.
G- Well, however long it was, your fan clearly don’t like you too much because they gave you some of the most abstract cover songs to cover, and you’re releasing this soon (that evening.) Tell us about it… What tracks did they pick for you and how were the recording sessions for it, because that must’ve been a trip.
B- Well, it was a fucking nightmare.
M- Fucking. Nightmare.
G- (laughing) Alright.
B- I’ll tell him the songs. We’re doing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Rock Lobster” by The B52’s, “Jesus of suburbia” by Green Day, “Camouflage Camouflage” by The Blood Brothers, and “The Willing Well iii Telling Truth…” fuck, by Coheed and Cambria.
G- Now, what on Earth made you guys decided to give your fans that much latitude in selecting songs for you to cover?
M- We trusted them a little bit.
B- Well, I figured they were going to be fucking schmucks about it, but I figured we can make…
M- We could handle it.
B- Yeah, and we did. We figured whatever they could throw at us, we could handle, and I think we did.
M- We definitely handled it.
B- We did.
M- Those who think we couldn’t handle it, go fuck yourselves (in strong Boston accent.) ‘We handled everything fine. Nice nice (claps hands.) All wrapped up! (laughs hysterically) Go pick up da tune and get the fuck outta here, bruddah!’
G- Alright! So, give us your favorite cover on the EP, and give us the one you absolutely hated and hope goes away, because I’m going to make sure to hype it as much as possible.
B- Well, we hate all of them for different reasons, I’d say.
M- It’s weird. Every time I listen to it, they grow on me a little more.
B- Yeah. Now that they’re done, I like them. (laughs)
M- Every time I listen, I’m like ‘Maybe this one is my favorite.’ So, I guess I don’t really have a favorite yet.
B- Yeah I don’t know. I think that the most… the song that was structured the most like a song that we would typically write, I think, is Dexy’s “Come On Eileen.” You know, it’s a nice, short tune, fucking awesome chorus… Yeah!
M- And it has a structure.
B- Yeah. Obviously, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a fucking huge, behemoth of a song with, like, very little structure, and diving into that song and the level of detail that was put into it was a very eye-opening experience for us.
M- I knew that song was amazing just listening to it, and then when we went into it to find out, you know, ‘what are the vocals doing here’ and such, we were ‘Does that chord even make sense?!’ And it didn’t when you put it by itself. But when you put it all together, it was ‘That is fucking awesome!”
B- There was a moment, because I sang everything… We had sheet music and laid all of the music out, and just took the sheet music and layered the vocals over it, because we weren’t going anywhere. We were just like ‘That’s gold… Let’s use that.’ So, the vocals are pretty true to the original, except that I sing a bit differently than Freddie Mercury (laughs.)
G- I’m just amazed that you guys can read. (laughs)
B- It took a long time.
M- That was the first 8 months. Then, we rapped up the songs in 2 days.
B- But there was a moemtn when we were looking at the notes and playing them on the piano, and it was ‘Ok, now go sing that’ and I was just ‘That melody makes no sense. I’ve never heard that before, that doesn’t sound good or pleasant at all, but I’ll go sing it,’ and I went in and sang it and would layer the next track on top, and I was like ‘THAT DOES NOT WORK WITH WHAT WE JUST DID,’ but I’ll do it. And we did that for like 4 layers, and it wasn’t until the 4th one that it all locked into place and became this gorgeous…
M- It just blew up.
B- ‘Oh I get it! We’re all fucking stupid.’
M- I want to extract and release just the vocal tracks, because they sound pretty wild just by themselves.
G- They did it with David Lee Roth for ‘Running With The Devil,’ so there’s no reason why you guys can’t. I highly recommend that!
So, how are you guys going to be releasing this? Is it digital only, or are you planning any physical release in the future for some of us collector-type dorks?
B- If there is a big push for it, we’ll do it for those that want it. Our plan right now is to release it digitally. There’s all sorts of licensing that goes into it to make sure we a legally allowed to sell them, so digital was the most cost effective way to put it out. But if things pick up quick and people want something physical, we’ll make it happen.
G- Nice, Ok, so what is your least favorite song on the EP. Which one just didn’t seem like it was worth the time for you?
M- I’ll tell you. For me, it was Coheed.
B- I don’t know. I think the Green Day.
M- As the one you hated?
B- Well, they all had unique challenges. I’m not a huge Coheed or Green Day fan, so getting those songs… It was ‘How do I make these songs that I am not super-into something that I love?’ So that was difficult.
And then, on the flip side, we had “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Come On Eileen,” which I absolutely love, and it was “how do I take something I think is good, and make it good a second time?’ It’s already good! That was another challenge.
And with Blood Brothers and “Rock Lobster,” these are songs that are so far removed from the style we do. Blood Brothers, in the beginning, is all sorta arrhythmic screaming, and “Rock Lobster” has absolutely no melodies in it at all. So, we had these 2 atonal songs, whether we like them or dislike like them, and it was how do we get them to a place where it sounds like us?
So, those were the 3 big challenges we had. And as far as to which was the most exhausting? In my opinion, I think Green Day was just fucking never-ending. Just part after part after part.
M- Every time we got done with one part, another one came that was completely different, but the same genre, and…
B- We had to come up with a hundred different ideas to make it cool. That was bad. With the Coheed one, if a part hit that we weren’t feeling, or didn’t know what to do with it, we were just ‘This doesn’t add anything’ and… Like the guitar solos. We don’t do guitar solos!
M- We didn’t do any guitar solos.
B- They’ve got some noodly guitar stuff that I’m sure Coheed fans think rules…
G- It doesn’t. Sorry, as much as I probably should like them, I don’t care for Coheed at all.
M- It isn’t our thing, so we axed it.
B- Our only rule was we tried to get every lyric. We made it a point to get that in the song. We didn’t want to cut someone’s favorite lyric from a song if someone asked us to cover it. If someone loves “Jesus of Suburbia” and has a huge chest piece with a lyric that they love, and we cut that one, it’d let them down.
But Coheed had a bunch of instrumental parts that we hacked and slashed and knocked a 7-minute song down to 3.5 minutes like fucking professionals!
G- I just want to say that I’ve heard the EP and I think it’s great. You guys put your own unique spin on it, and not only does it sound good but you did this very ambitiously, so everyone should give you credit for it!
For all you fans out there, especially the ones that voted for these tracks, all I can say is you had better listen to these songs intently and, most importantly buy them, because I don’t know of too many bands that would have their fans cull a list of cover songs for them to do. I can’t wait for the release!
I just want to say thank you again for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! Play well tonight, and please drive safe out of here because it’s ridiculous out there tonight.
M- We’ll sell more records if we die, right?
G- Good point. Ok guys, go in there and play hard!
B- Thanks Greg!