Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Local Artist Spotlight - Velcro Shoes - September 2011 - Pittsburgh


A little different format for our local artist spotlight this month featuring Velcro Shoes. You can find more information about the band at the end of the article. They provided some music scene comparisons with their home of Baltimore and Pittsburgh which is pretty interesting. 

A few months back I went to see another national “buzz worthy” band (who I don’t recall) and luckily caught the opening act at Brillobox. Usually I try and skip out on these because they are simply not good. Velcro Shoes was the local act this evening and simply blew me away like no other local since Wise Blood. A four piece that jumped onto the scene out of nowhere, the band played an electric set that I still recall vividly compared to the “buzz” act. The band describes their influence as The Horrors, The Strokes, Foals, Arctic Monkeys, The Beatles, Interpol, Autolux and Nirvana. Honestly, they aren’t too far off.

Velcro Shoes is made up brothers EJ and Eric Emerson, Mike Slobodian and Bill Krowinski on guitar. They formed in February 2010 after Eric relocated from Baltimore following a girl, and EJ eventually followed him. The two brothers have been playing with each other since grade school. I asked Eric how he felt about this venture differed from others. “I would have to say that for me it is the most enjoyable. Most of the bands that I have been a part of in the past, there was always a split responsibility going on. For years I had to always share the lead vocal responsibilities with other musicians, which I didn’t mind, but I always had a yearning to be heard and grow as a lead vocalist/song writer.” In past bands the brothers had toured with the likes of Guided by Voices, Jet and American Minor. I asked them how close they came from hitting a major record deal. “Pretty close. While up in NYC we had a sit down with Maroon 5’s entertainment lawyer. I think it was all about timing. We had raw youthful energy but we just weren’t on that level yet. We we’re really close, hell it was amazing even getting a sit down with such a person, however it just wasn’t our time. Then things fell apart not too long after through rocky tours, geographical separations, drunkenness, you know all the things that happen when one is young and full of sh*t. So, it just didn’t happen at that point in time.”

Currently the band members all work full time jobs, but consider this a very serious venture. I ask what they plan. “This is a serious project for us all; it’s just that we like to think we are a mature band right now, not a young one. It all comes down to the product, the actual sound recordings, the songs… if they aren’t great then you have nothing.  So we are allowing ourselves time to develop and write better and better songs without all the go, go, go pressure and play here, play there, type deal that just doesn’t make sense.” I ask when they plan to produce an album. “Well… we have a 5 song EP recorded and in the hands of Rick Bowman of The Frauds as we speak. He is mastering and I just got an email about an hour ago that he worked on it all weekend and is getting close. After he’s done we’ll have a 5 song EP however we have roughly 5 other new songs that are even better that will be getting recorded very soon one way or another. The EP is titled Hook and Loop. We’re contemplating an LP… write now we are just trying to keep writing and recording as much material as possible.”

Eric shoots from the hip and doesn’t hold much back. I ask him to compare the scene of Pittsburgh to that of Baltimore where he was raised. “Personally I like the Baltimore scene better. There’s way more respect and interest in original music down there. Here, it’s all about tributes and cover bands. The masses here just really don’t care unless you can fill the Energy Console Center or if you are a national coming through Stage AE. For an unknown it’s tough to get on a decent bill in Pittsburgh, especially when the nationals usually bring their own openers.  But… who knows… maybe one day what we’re doing will catch on here.  Don’t mean to be so pessimistic, I’m just not real impressed with the respect for original music here… that’s all.” With such an experienced act I wanted to know how their songwriting process worked. Eric provided the details. “Usually I, Mike or Bill bring an idea and the others decide to tweak or not tweak. Recently though we wrote a new song from scratch together; it’s called “Axiom” tentatively. We think it has a lot of potential. My brother, EJ likes for us to bring structures to him. He then adds the drums that he thinks will work. Sometimes we have a suggested beat which he chooses to follow or not follow. We give him complete freedom.”

With talent, maturity and the right mindset, Velcro Shoes has the making of something unique in Pittsburgh. They are a band to definitely follow and checkout.