Interview with Ben and Joe from The Venetia Fair; Playing @sxsw and new album out NOW! @thevenetiafair
Oh boy… I’ve been here before. Boston, Massachusetts 5-piece The Venetia Fair’s social media reads “Hanging out with us is probably more aggravating than anything else, but I think we’re all best friends. If we actually were 12 years old, we’d be in a secret club and have an awesome fort.” Sometimes you just know you’re in for an experience.
Anywho, The Venetia Fair are currently on the road and, though I’d never heard of the band before, a random email showed up asking me if I wanted to check them out on a cold Sunday afternoon. Of course I said yes, and got a chance to speak with vocalist Benny Santoro and keyboard/vocalist Joe Brown in a very candid interview to talk about how the tour is going, what the scene is like in Boston for them, and why they thought it was a good idea to put ‘Fuck You’ as their band description.
NOTE: Though I took this interview with zero prior knowledge of the group, these guys are incredible performers, great dudes, and totally pro. Mark my words… They’re going to do something good in this business!
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone hail from?
B- Well I’m Benny, and I sing all the songs.
J- They know that part.
B- Hey! Hey… He said to do it, Joe!
J- I’ll do mine again… I’m Joe Brown and I play keyboards…
B- And I’m going to talk over you while you do it, too. Look at that!
J- Alright cool!
(laughter by all begins; remains constant throughout interview.)
B- Mr. Chark plays the bass guitar, Michael plays the guitar guitar, and Chris plays the drums. And Asspoop does merch.
G- That’s a Christian name, I take it?
J- Well, we don’t actually know his real name, and that’s the truth. He’s actually from Syracuse.
B- Yeah he is.
B- That’s the caliber of human you’re producing out here in Syracuse.
J- He calls himself Asspoop on Twitter, and one day he just tweeted us telling us he was in our band. So we took him with us.
G- It must be interesting in the van when you’re out of toilet paper.
B- It’s ALWAYS interesting when we’re out of toilet paper.
G- Right on! So, how long has The Venetia Fair been a band and how did the project first come together?
B- I started the band in, like, ’07… A long time ago. I was in college and I started it with my college roommate, and I was dating this girl at the time, and Joe was also dating that same girl. So, we became friends, and then, ummm… well, first we weren’t friends, but we later became friends. Now we’re friends.
Mr. Chark and I have been playing in bands since 8th grade, I think. And Mike was in a band called Kiss Kiss that we toured with a few years ago. So, when our old bassist went into outer space, we got him to come in and fill in on bass, and then he switched with Mr. Chark playing guitar, and that’s the whole story.
J- You forgot about Chris.
B- Ohh! Ohh!
J- Chris tried out for our band when we didn’t have a drummer, and he told us all these things like ‘Oh yeah, I can do back up vocals. I can do all this stuff.’ Turns out, he can’t!
B- He can’t do anything except play drums.
J- But he did do that well, so…
B- Now he plays drums.
G- Just drums? Ok right on! So, obviously, you’re on tour… Tell us how long the run is, and what else do you guys have in the works? Any current releases? What’s the word?
J- We actually just released an album 2 days ago.
G- No kidding?
J- It’s a full-length, and it’s called Every Sick Disgusting Though We’ve Got In Our Brain.
G- Good title! So, did you guys release that yourself? Are you on a label?
J- Yeah it’s an independent release and we’re out for about a month promoting it. We’re going down to SXSW in about a week and a half…
G- I’ll be there!
J- Wow! Well, we can hang out! I’ve got your number now.
G- Let’s do it, man. Drinking is good… There will be beer!
J- Yes indeed.
B-Sponsored by Beer.
G- So now, again, I’ve very new to you guys. I didn’t know you existed until your publicist Chrissy reached out… Good job on her part and she’s doing her job well! For the people that haven’t heard of you and haven’t seen the Youtube clips like myself at this point, give us a couple of bands that influence your style, and who do you like to listen to when you’re on tour? Are there any acts you think we should know about aside from yourself?
B- What did we listen to today over…
J- We listen to Jethro Tull a lot, but only as a joke.
B- Yeah. We don’t like it, but we keep listening to it.
G- You don’t like Jethro Tull?
J- Well, it’s something about the medieval flute that turns me off.
B- “Sitting on a park bench. Dunt dun nuhhhh.”
J- But, as far as, like… we don’t really draw influence from bands too much. It’s just that we hear parts of song we like…
J- And, you know… There have been parts of a Queen song that we’ve liked, and maybe like…
B- Something from The Beatles.
J- Yeah… Whatever.
B- Heavy bands sometimes.
J- Yeah. There’s bands that we really like to listen to in the van. Larry and his Flask…
G- Great band!
J- Great band! Good friends of ours. Foxy Shazam are, great band, and we listen to a lot of them. But, you know, I wouldn’t say that we technically draw influence from them. We just see a lot of similarities between us and them, and we get along well.
G- Right on. Now, since you just released the new record, why don’t you tell us a bit about what your writing process is like and who in the band typically comes up with the new music. Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you guys kind of jam out during rehearsals.
B- We never jam out, but we do have… We all collaborate a lot. Usually, it’s less jamming out and more discussing what we want things to sound like. You know, like, what sort of theme we want for a song.
J- Yeah. That’s definitely how we approach it. We tend to find a specific genre or theme or just…
B- A piece of imagery.
J- Yeah, and then we’ll write off of that, and people come up with whatever they want. There are times, like, when I’ll write something on piano that will then be moved to guitar, or vice versa, and it’s a lot of just, you know, trial and error and stuff like that.
B- I write all the words. That’s my only deal.
J- Except when I write.
B- I can definitively say that…
J- I write a lot of the words, too.
B- Joe has never written one word. Not even one.
J- I actually don’t know a lot of the lyrics, and I don’t even know what most of the words that Ben uses mean.
G- Alright! Now, staying with the album for a minute, why don’t you tell us what the studio experience was like. First of all, where did you do the…
J- Right here!
G- You did it right here?
J- In Syracuse!
J- Well, outside of Syracuse a bit.
B- Yeah. Well, where was it? Marcellus?
G- Ok and who was producing it for you?
J- Steve Sopchak.
G- Steve Sopchak. Nice!
B- He’s my best friend right now because I lived with him for, like, a month while we did it. Longer I guess… 6 weeks?
J- He’s calling me right now!
B- Don’t answer it, Joe!
J- He’s probably here! I’ll tell him we’re in the car. (on phone) ‘Hey! We’re in a car for an interview.)
B- It was great working with Steve! We worked with him for “The Pits” a couple of years ago, which is an EP we put out, and I was like ‘That’s the dude I’ll make records with forever from now on.’
B- So, I came out to Syracuse to do the full-length, and it came out even better than “The Pits.” I think we totally one-upped that whole thing. We spent more time on it and paid a lot more attention to every single detail and made sure it was exactly the way we wanted it, and Steve’s input was huge, and so yeah… We’ll probably make the next one with him, too. I’ll make records with him for the rest of my life.
J- I didn’t like him.
B- Yeah Joe hated him.
G- Joe didn’t like him. You can tell him that in person when…
J- No I’m just kidding! I liked him. I liked him.
G- Now, given that you just released the record and you’re taking it out and bringing it to fans for the first time, do you have a favorite song off the record, or if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard The Venetia Fair before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
B- Well, the one we’ve been leading with lately is called “The Day I Set The Free,” which I like because it has these really wacky sort of New Orleans-y horns in the verses and a big catchy chorus, so that’s the one we’ve been leading with. Joe, do you have a different answer than that?
J- Umm, I don’t really have a favorite one because… I’ll probably have one in the future, but it just depends on which ones I like to play live the most.
B- The ones that are new to us.
J- We haven’t really gotten a chance to, like, throw ‘em out live. I do like playing “Too Late To Dream” a lot live right now, though. That’s…
B- That’s the first track of the record.
J- Yeah, and I think that one embodies our sound pretty well.
B- It’s real fast!
B- And loud!
G- Right on. Alright so, I want to know… Every band has a dream lineup they’d like to be on, so are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future or if you could pick out a feasible 3-band dream bill for The Venetia Fair to be on…
J- Including us?
G- Including yourselves. 3 in addition to you, who would you pick and why?
B- Well, first it would be The B-52’s.
G- Good choice. “Rock Lobster.”
B- Big time “Rock Lobster!”
J- And we’d only want them to play that song.
B- Yeah. “Rock Lobster” on repeat for at least an hour and a half, and then Motley Crue…
J- More for the antics.
B- Yeah cuz we just want to hang out with them.
B- And, umm… A 3rd band. Joe, that’s on you.
J- You’re gonna ask me? Everyone will be mad at me! No one likes the music I listen to! I would love to play with Matchbox 20 one day!
G- Ok so for most unique lineup thus far, The Venetia Fair, The B-52’s, Motley Crue, and Matchbox 20.
J- That is the WORST lineup I’ve ever heard!
G- That might go over well in someplace like Poland, but I have a feeling there’d be a mighty, mighty issue with that in the states. But I’d go to that! I’d like to see that one.
J- I would also really like to play with a lot of Death Metal bands, because that would just be funny.
B- I don’t want to play with any Death Metal bands!
J- I do! I would love to do a tour with Gwar!
G- Oh god yeah!
J- That would be so amazing!
B- Can we take Matchbox 20 out and put Gwar ON?
J- Maybe Matchbox 20 can back them up and be part of their band!
G- No, they’d be executed.
G- Matchbox 20 would definitely be executed, but that’d be a fun watch! Rob Thomas versus Oderus Urungus… THAT would be a $50 ticket!
So, you’re fresh into this tour, but you’ve obviously played shows before… Is there a pinnacle show moment that you guys have had, or what is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
B- Well, before 2 days ago I would’ve said Warped Tour. But 2 days ago, we kicked off this tour and released this album. We were in Wareham, Massachusetts, which is like 2 hours from any city. So, we were pretty worried that people weren’t gonna make the drive out there and there was going to be nobody there, but it was packed out and everybody was insane! It was easily in the Top 5 shows we’ve ever played. So right now, I’m think that that is the pinnacle, but hopefully I’ll have a new answer for you every time you see me!
G- Dig it. And I’ll see you in about 10 days, so we’ll see how this run is going and…
B- We’ll one-up the first show!
G- And it’s going to be a lot warmer down there than it is up here, so…
J- That’ll be nice! And it’s Sponsored by Beer!
B- And beer will be there!
G- SXSW – Brought to you by BEER!
B- We slept in the van last night because our battery died, so we need to get a new one. So, we slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and it would’ve been a lot nicer if we were warm, because it was pretty cold.
J- Kind of out of nowhere, but yeah… He’s right! It’s true. It was cold.
B- Warm weather. That’s how I got to that.
G- OK, to finish up today, and we’ll have a part 2 down in Austin and I’ll be in a much more obliterated state than I am right now, but…
J- It’ll be the drunkest interview of all time!
G- Let’s do it! I’m down with that.
B- But I don’t drink, so I’ll just watch.
J- Maybe we’ll do a shot per question!
G- We could do that. Wow… That’s a good challenge! I’m with that. I’ll probably die, but hey…
B- I’m excited about watching you two die.
G- Thanks. But anyways, you guys just released your album, you’re heading down to SXSW, and you’re trying to make a go of it in this business, so what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to try to do what you’re doing, make it in music, go on the road, and play some shows?
J- I would say don’t do it.
G- That’s not an uncommon answer from a lot of people.
J- It’s a bad idea!
B- I was gonna say don’t be a pussy, also.
J- Yeah. I mean, if you do do it, don’t be a pussy. There are way too many bands that are pussies about it.
B- Don’t fight people… ever!
J- Yeah. That’s not a good thing to do.
B- That’s all I can think of… Don’t be a pussy, and don’t fight people.
G- That’s cool. I might have to say don’t have a merch player named Asspoop could help
J- I do like how you referred to him as a “merch player.”
G- Ok, so don’t fight people, don’t do it, and…
J/B- Don’t be a pussy.
G- Don’t be a pussy.
J- ‘Don’t be a pussy’ is probably go advice for everything, in any profession or desire you have. Just don’t be a pussy.
G- What if you’re a female stripper?
J- Well, don’t be a pussy about it!
J- You should have one, but don’t be one.
G- Excellent! And I think on that note, we’re gonna take this to Part 2 in Austin! Look guys, thank you very much for speaking with Live High Five today!
B- Thank you!
G- We’ll have this up and we will see you in Austin as well.
J- Big time!
G- Play well tonight and travel safe.
B- We’ll try.