Band of the Week: Abe Vigoda

Music Features Abe Vigoda
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Hometown: Chino and Los Angeles, Calif.
Album: Reviver EP
Band Members: Juan Velazquez (guitar/vocals), Michael Vidal (guitar/vocals), Dane Chadwick (drums), David Reichardt (bass)

The members of Abe Vigoda once sarcastically described their music as “tropical punk,”a mix of Captain Beefheart and weird African tribal rock, but things have changed: On the new Reviver EP, the band is tapping into its inner indie-goths. “I don’t want to say shoegazey, but kind of,” says Juan Velazquez, one of the band’s two guitarists and vocalists. “I was obsessed with the guitar being super clean, and then I got into being really full and dense. I like Sonic Youth, and now that’s coming out more and more.”

Velasquez and friends formed Abe Vigoda just after their high school graduation in 2004, playing their first show at a friend's suburban Chino apartment on Halloween night—they only got through one song before a neighbor complained about the noise. After moving to Los Angeles, the band’s sound continued to ferment at The Smell, downtown L.A.’s much-hyped noise and experimental music venue. “We just played the shit out of it,” Velazquez says. “It’s where we met our friends, how we learned to book a tour, and how to be in a band.” Rolling snare hits, busy high-hat work and frequent cymbal crashes keep Abe Vigoda’s music at an aggressive shuffle, the tempo and rhythm changing often; reverb, a short delay and a lot of treble make their guitars sound clangy and metallic, like steel drums or deranged church bells.

The band's bouncier early songs were compared to Vampire Weekend, thanks to the band's shared mix of indie rock, pop and punk elements with melodic Afro Pop progressions. But Abe Vigoda is weirder, louder, and dirtier—and they don’t wear top-siders. “We put Vampire Weekend as an influence on our MySpace page as a joke, and all these kids commented saying ‘That band fucking sucks,’ and ‘You’re way better than them,’” Velazquez says. “It was like a running joke, and then [Vampire Weekend] asked us to tour with them, and they were super awesome, cool guys.”

Reviver was recorded in a few weeks this summer with a friend who had some free studio time, and features both more noise and more quiet moments than the Abe Vigoda's previous work. More lower-register vocals from singer/guitarist Michael Vidal give new songs like “Don’t Lie” a definite Joy Division flavor. “We just thought it would be fun to do,” Velazquez says. “I don’t understand how bands like U2 are recording, like, forever. We’re not that meticulous, but we record fast.”

This month, the band will take its new tunes to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, up the West Coast on an April tour with Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls, and to Europe in May with L.A. friends The Mae Shi. It'll be Abe Vigoda's second European tour, though they're still reeling from their first one late last year. “We were totally excited just to be there, doing anything, and people there know us even more than here,” Velazquez says. “It was absurd. They’d put us up in really nice places, and we felt like a real band.”

Listen to Abe Vigoda's "Don't Lie" on MySpace.

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