Chicago-based rockers Verona Red will headline Beat Kitchen this Friday, November 6 (more info and tickets here), and to help get readers revved up for the show, lead singer and guitarist Chris Balzer answered a few questions for WCR about the band's sound and time on the scene so far. Check out the Q&A below, as well as two downloads courtesy of Verona Red from their debut full-length, Side Effects. Also, be sure to listen to the band on Fearless Radio this Wednesday, November 4 (details here).
Download mp3: Verona Red - "All We Ever Had"
Download mp3: Verona Red - "Marjorie"
You guys have been on the scene for quite a while now. How did the band first come together and how has it evolved since then?
Well, Mike Panagakis (drummer) and I started playing music together back in high school in Lake Zurich. Verona Red actually started though when we both moved back to Chicago after our first year of college. We hadn’t stopped playing music, we just weren’t able to play together during that time, so we were excited to start something new. When we first started we were calling ourselves Ursa and the music was more folk-based and we were much more cautious with our writing. We called our sound an ”acousti-funkleration of independence.” Now, we call our sound rock and roll, and our music is based on the good times we want you to have while listening to it.
Tell us about the recording of your debut full-length, Side Effects. What did you set out to get across in the music and how did the process go?
Side Effects was influenced by a few things: a break up, a new guitar amp, and a lot of hermaphrodite porn. We walked into the studio with the overall goal of bringing the energy of our live show to the album. We believe rock and roll is about more than making a good rock album; it’s about bringing a good show and a good time to all your fans. We can tell the folks at our shows enjoy the music from all the dancing and groping, which is great because we put a lot of work into making our live show the balls. We think this album reflects that.
The record definitely has a diverse, eclectic sound. It's tough to pin down a specific style. How would you describe your music to someone unfamiliar with it?
Rock and roll. That’s it really. Maybe a type of in-your-face dance-rock. We blend several genres on this record, but that’s the beauty of rock and roll. You can do that and if everyone’s having fun it works, we don’t need to apply a million different sub-genres to it. You can hear some blues, some dance, and some swing sound in our music, but really it’s just rock and roll.
If you could get people who haven't yet heard your music to check out just one of your songs, which would it be and why?
While our album pulls from a lot of different sounds and styles, I think "All We Ever Had" does a good job of combining bits and pieces of all these sounds into one song. If you like "All We Ever Had," you’ll like a few of our other songs too, and probably one of those other songs even more. It’s a good starter song because it captures a lot of what you hear across the album – a sing-a-long chorus, climaxing rock and roll, a beat you can dance to, and some general badassness.
What sets Verona Red apart from other bands from Chicago?
Our insatiable addiction to gay animal clown porn and the size of our balls. Both of these things obviously impact our live show, which is another differentiating factor. Even virgin Verona Red crowds will be singing and dancing at our shows – our music’s upbeat and the lyrics are catchy, so it mixes well with drunks looking for fun. And 87% of people who attend will get laid the night of our show. That’s a number we’re proud of. Rock and roll.
By now you've played shows at a long list of venues. Which gig stands out as the most memorable so far?
Well, our record release party last November certainly made us feel the most like rock stars. There were a shit ton of people there and everyone was really drunk and happy to see us. We played every song on the album that night, and it was warmly received by over 400 people. It was so fun; we’ll never forget that show. We’ll also never forget the show we played for a deaf persons support group. I’m still confused at why live music was the entertainment choice for the evening, but we made sure to all be a little extra animated that night.
As a Chicago-based band who has played many out-of-state shows, what do you think makes the Chicago music scene unique?
Chicago is like a blessing in disguise for musicians who travel – it’s the ultimate testing ground for the Midwest, which puts us at an advantage when we go out of town. Our Chicago crowds are more demanding than other crowds. If you’re an original act, they start the night with arms crossed or hands in pockets. It’s our job to get them dancing, and we usually do, but there is always a “prove yourself” kind of vibe that’s present before we get on stage. In other parts of the Midwest, people are ready to dance the minute they walk in the door. I suspect the advantage we get as a touring band from Chicago is similar to the Kenyan marathon runners who train in the hills.
What can people expect from a Verona Red show?
A fucking great time! Dancing, drinking, third grade humor, gay animal clown porn, diapers, grinding, humping, insults to your mother, a song dedicated to your mother, and ROCK AND ROLL...to name a few things.
What's on tap for the band next? Any plans to record new material?
We’re doing the first show with our new bassist, John Bottrell, at Beat Kitchen in Chicago on Friday Nov. 6. After that we’re heading to the Vollrath Tavern in Indianapolis to play a show with The Receiver from Columbus, which we’re really excited about. There will be a few more shows after that before playing back in Chicago again. As far as new recordings go, we definitely have some ideas we’re excited about. We’re working on remixing some of the material on Side Effects and we’ve been tossing around some ideas for new songs, too. Right now I’m intrigued by the idea of doing a concept album, so maybe some of our next songs will be written from the perspective of the gay animal clowns in the porn. I’m not sure, but I’ll keep you updated.
How can people find out more?
Buy us a drink or check us out online.http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/