If you ever thought to yourself, “This Radiohead song is good, but it could really use more strings,” we have the group for you. The Vitamin String Quartet, a rotating roster of players with classical chops and pop sensibilities, visited the Paste Studio last week to perform some of their most recent cover projects.
The VSQ series began in 1999 when the CMH Label Group began distributing string-quartet tribute albums via Vitamin Records. The series grew into an evolving carousel of skilled classical musicians who could gather to arrange and play an ever-growing roster of songs plucked from the rock and hip-hop scenes. Their discography now comprises more than 200 tribute albums devoted to Arcade Fire, Bjork, The Cure, and on through the alphabet. (You can buy it all in sheet-music form, of course, on the VSQ site.)
Cellist and musical arranger Derek Stein, viola player Thomas Lea and new violinists Amanda Lo and Earl Mannein performed four of VSQ’s most recent arrangements this week at Paste. Up first was Zedd’s most recent hit “Stay,” followed by Kanye West’s “New Slaves,” Radiohead’s “True Love Waits” and Linkin Park’s “Heavy.”
The lines are blurring between classical and pop and hip-hop and rock,” Lea said. “We gotta bridge the gap a little bit between what people think classical music is and what people think popular music is, because it all fits, it all works.”
Added Mannein, “I also think there’s a generational change. There’s a shift going on, where all of us are like omnivores, in terms of music. Just because I come from hardcore metal doesn’t mean I’m not listening to Radiohead or Outkast.”