INTERVIEW with THE VILLAS

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BV: Yep, and we'll be writing and recording songs like these and having a riot playing them live until we die and nobody can stop us.

HTP: Speaking of the terrific songs on "Set For Life," when did The Villas start rocking this robustly?

BV: Compared to our debut CD, "Secrets," ya mean?

HTP: Yes …

AV: Probably because of playing live a lot, it kinda glued our guitar-weave groove together better. We weren't really a stage band when we recorded "Secrets."

BV: Yeah, mostly just studio rats.

HTP: Well, I thought "Secrets" was great, and you got reams of glowing notices …

AV: We still like "Secrets," but our new CD is sooooo much better.

HTP: Indeed, I agree, heartily.

AV: It really captures how The Villas sound live.

BV: It's also a returning to our dumber and funner, more power poppier roots …

HTP: Which is all the rage again these days, what with bands like the Magic Numbers, Franz Ferdinand, the Killers ...

AV: Never heard of 'em (laughs).

BV: We're very encouraged seeing bands like these getting attention. It's the first time in a long time that bands from the same general ballpark of fun The Villas play in are showing up on the radio and selling records. We like those bands …

AV: But we refuse to do that really contrived 'bed-head' hairdo thing they all do, God, that's embarrassing …

BV: Yeah must take them hours to get their hair to look like they spent less than zero time on it.

AV: That's our 80s influence, I guess, we still appreciate a good haircut.

HTP: How would you describe the songs on "Set For Life?"

AV: I'd say fun, literate, melodious, harmonious, guitar riff-driven Power Pop.

BV: You would say that, you're our lead guitar player

HTP: That opening track, Bill, "Way To Go," is rather garage-y, wouldn't you say?

BV: Yeah but definitely four-car garage with all four bays carpeted.

AV: Like a good haircut.

BV: Yeah.

HTP: Lest our readers think “Set For Life” is all crash, bam, boom, which it certainly is not, tell me about the quieter songs on there like “You Know Better,” “To Be In Love,” “Savoy Truffles,” I'll Have You Know" …

BV: The dreamy ones ...

HTP: Yes! Lovely, these tunes …

AV: We like dynamics, ya know, bring it up, bring it down, bring it back up …

BV: “I’ll Have You Know” is a valentime love song for Angie. I have a bunch of ‘em rattlin’ around and I finally finished one, thanks to some co-write help from our co-producer Dave Follweiler who also wrote “Now It Can Be Told.”

HTP: What was the hold up?

BV: I dunno, happy love songs are hard for me to write I guess. Pissed-off love songs … gimme 5 minutes.

AV: “Savoy Truffles” Bill wrote ..

BV: Co-wrote …

AV: by sending DAT tapes back and forth through the mail with our Boston Pally Pat Wallace.

BV: Yeah our Pally Pat had the music but not the lyrics, now we got both. Hey wait a minute, this is a happy love song, what gives …

AV: “To Be In Love” is about my boyfriend before Bill and how he kept me waiting for the altar too long …

BV: (Singing) “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.”

HTP: Angie, I’ve noticed that there’s lots more guitar on this new disc, and BIG guitar at that …

AV: Thanks for noting that. On "Secrets," all my guitars were recorded live, in one take, in like 5 hours, so I wanted to take my time on this new record and get a ballsier sound.

HTP: Well you’ve certainly succeeded.

AV: Thanks .. and Bill played some big electro-grind guitar on here too, which he doesn’t do live, cuz I won’t let him.

BV: Angie's the chick with the lick, so we thought let's turn her loose on this record.

HTP: Angie, your guitar parts are always, um, how can I put this, not like what a bloke would play, but then again not what one is accustomed to hearing emanate from a woman's guitar ..

AV: Careful there Hugh, there's some great girl guitar players out there! But yeah, I know what you mean. I play riffs that propel the song, without, shall we say, planting myself in the spotlight and wanking it all night.

BV: Angie's the smartest guitar player I know. She reminds me of like Brinsley Schwarz, the lead guitar player for Graham Parker and The Rumour. Take her really clever and concise guitar riffs out and even the best Villas song becomes like 50% less interesting.

HTP: Bill, about the songs, I see that you had a hand in writing the majority of them, all but two of the fourteen …

BV: Yeah and I had some co-writer help on a few of them … my former band mate in THE FOPS, Kevin Curry, helped out, and Angie co-wrote two of them, and there’s a cover song on there by Steve Earle, "More Than I Can Do."

HTP: An interesting choice …

AV: The Villas are still a little bit alt-country, right Donnie?

BV: Yeah but more rock and roll now, Marie.

HTP: The twelve originals, Bill ..

BV: Yes …

HTP: Not as weighty, in the subject matter, as the "Secrets" songs, would you agree?

BV: Yeah that's true. Sometimes you just wanna make mud pies and dance. "Secrets" was almost entirely non-fiction. "Set For Life" is more fiction, and more about entertaining people than it is about revealing hand-wringing life experiences. “Personal Property” being a good example of this. Although "Tell Me Everything You Know" is a painfully true story, was at the time anyways, just dressed up now as slap-stick comedy in the arrangement.

HTP: There's still plenty of that charming Villas darkness on there too though …

BV: Yeah yeah, we love the inherent angst of songs like "You Know Better" and “Dreamland.”

HTP: What’s “You Know Better” about?

BV: Getting fired from a job, actually, a true story.

HTP: And “Dreamland?”

BV: The fantasy, and fallacy, of wanting to control everything.

HTP: There’s also some wise guy, and, wise girl, attitude happening on here.

AV: You’re referring to “Exclusions,” I gather …

HTP: I am, and I love the Spiders from Mars guitars on there …

AV: “Exclusions” is about being deemed not cool enough by cooler than thou types.

BV: Yeah. Anybody who puts themselves out there, in whatever art form, always invites a certain amount of ridicule and judgment of the “you? in our click? we think NOT,” variety. Exclusions is our F.U. to these people.

AV: The glitterati …

HTP: But in a deliciously humourous way, wouldn’t you say? In fact, I found myself being tickled by The Villas humour throughout this record.

AV: That comes from playing live too I think, Bill’s really funny and he usually get’s the crowd laughin’.

HTP: Okay, so speaking of funny, what’s a topper? It sounds like there’s maybe an inside joke here … care to share it with the rest of us?

BV: “Toppers,” track 5, yes, definitely a humor-related subject, let’s see, how can I put this … a topper is a one-upping kind of thing. Or zing. For instance, if you were to say to me, for example, something like, yes Bill, such and such a venue would be the perfect place for a Villas CD Release Party … but for MY CD release show, I’m gonna need a place that holds a whole HECK OF A LOT MORE PEOPLE, honey … this would be a TOPPER. A one-UPPER. TOPPERS is basically about wanna-be, or, worse, gonna-be people who can’t acknowledge or celebrate anybody’s accomplishments but their own. We have more than a few musician acquaintances who are Toppers …

AV: Not any more …

HTP: I see. So Angie, I was pleasantly surprised to hear you taking a lead vocal on, um …

AV: "Center Of The Universe."

HTP: Yes, that's the tune.

AV: A family affair, this song, about not being so self-absorbed and over-sensitive about family stuff that can drive you crazy, if you let it. Everybody has family issues … I try to stay focused on the positives.

BV: Angie's a reluctant warbler.

HTP: Oh Angie, you musn't be! Your vocal reading is splendid on this song …

AV: Thanks, yeah I guess I'll be doing more singing.

BV: Angie's background vocs are all over "Set For Life."

HTP: Yes yes, and your two voices juxtapose quite nicely …

AV: People like that girl guy thing.

HTP: Indeed they do, so Bill, or Angie, tell me about your recording process, I notice there are two studios credited here regarding the production.

BV: Well, we recorded “Set For Life” kinda ass-backwards in that the bass and drums were put on last.

HTP: That’s odd, the rhythm section typically tracks first, no?

BV: Usually, yeah.

AV: When we started “Set For Life,” last year, we didn’t have any money to pay for a new record, but we still wanted to make a new record, so we started laying everything down against click tracks at Dave Follweiler’s 24-track ADAT studio, Singularity Sound. Guitars, lead vocals, background vocals with our pal Jon McNamara helping out, keyboards, and bass guitar.

BV: This worked out great, plus we had the luxury of taking our time, like 150 hours, since we had negotiated a pay-it-back-later deal with Dave Follweiler. Without Follie’s belief in our songs, we may not have gotten to make a 2nd CD.

AV: Then we transferred all of our tracks to Dan’s House Studio, and that’s where the clock started running.

BV: Yeah. Digital. Beauty. We love the great drum sounds Dan McKinney gets, and, his whiz-bang talent for mixing and mastering, so we finished up at Dan’s House. A most economical way to do things.

AV: Dan played some really cool keyboards and percussion on our record too.

BV: Yeah and he also designed our CD artwork, renaissance man, that Dan McKinney.

HTP: So Villas, as far as being in a band, it looks like you’ve summed it up rather well via your CD’s closing track, “Quest Of Fools.”

AV: Yeah it’s only rock and roll but we like it.

BV: “Quest Of Fools” is just a bit of self-deprecating fun, with a few pokes thrown in at those who take the whole band thing, and the rock stardom quest thing, too seriously.

AV: And summed up nicely in the over-the-top-on-purpose mocking lead guitar solo Bill plays on this song …

BV: And hey thanks for allowing that sweetie, it only took me 47 takes.

HTP: So what's the plan with this new Villas CD?

BV: Well, keeping our defiance in its, um, proper perspective, we're shopping “Set For Life” around to a few labels who we're hoping may wanna grab it, press more of ‘em, distribute it, you know …

HTP: Why get signed?

AV:Being an indie do-it-your-selfer is fun, you’re your own boss and everything, but we'd like for way more people to hear and enjoy our songs than we could ever reach by distributing and promoting this new record ourselves …

BV: Although we did manage to sell just under 5,000 copies of "Secrets" on our own.

HTP: That's pretty good …

BV: Yeah. Record companies though, even small indie labels, just have more machinery in place for getting the word out, getting the record on the shelves, getting radio play …

AV: Paying for production on our next record …

BV: Yeah.

HTP: Any label interest so far?

BV: Actually, yes …

AV: Don't jinx it …

BV: ‘K, let's just say it hasn't turned into a bidding war yet.

HTP: Well I hope it does for you.

BV: Thanks ..

AV: Yeah that'd be nice …

HTP: May I ask you both a delicate question?

AV: No ..

BV: Sure, what is it …

HTP: Your ages ...

BV: Why do you ask, pray tell …

HTP: Well, because I can tell from your CD art that neither of you is in your teens or twenties, which seems to be the age of bands most record companies even consider signing these days.

BV: I just turned 70.

AV: Doesn't he look great!

BV: How old do we sound on our new record?

HTP: Well you don't sound like teens, but I'd say maybe a smidge older than the Strokes.

BV: Yep that's how old we are.

AV: Yeah that's it, we're just a smidge older than the Strokes (laughs).

HTP: So … like LATE twenties?

BV: Pardon me ...

AV: You mean are we in our late twenties NOW?

HTP: Well, yes …

AV: Oh well we're not in our late twenties right NOW …

BV: We were though, at one time

AV: We just write and play songs that pulverize audiences like we're twenty.

BV: Yeah that stuff we do right now

[Foto Credits: Mike Smitreski, Anthony Ali, Ken Ek, Nick Piperata,
Zehra Karahocha, Kenn Michael, Kevin Bubbenmoyer, Paul Bond,
Joe Billera, Nancy Elgin, Jim Kiihnl, Mike Vallone, The Villas]