Editors Note: We first caught VersaEmerge at the 2010 Warped Tour held at Canterbury Park back in August. They certainly captured our rock imaginations at the time, and when we found out they were returning to the Twin Cities this month in support of their latest album Fixed at Zero, we decided to track down lead singer Sierra Kusterbeck for a first-hand account of what is going on with band the behind the scenes.
Chuck Pittman: How did you guys become a band?
Sierra Kusterbeck: VersaEmerge was a band before I started. The genre was a lot harder. They lost their vocalist and they were having auditions. I found them through MySpace and for some reason I just felt like I needed to do this. My mother helped me make a demo (and) they liked it and it ended up working out. I left school and started writing music for them.
Chuck: Was singing a part of your education or was it on the side?
Sierra: I went to art elementary/middle and high school. They were all kind of connected with each other. I majored in musical theater.
Chuck: How did VersaEmerge become your bands name?
Sierra: Blake (Harnage) came up with it. They were in the middle of changing band members. “Versa” as in vice versa, “Emerge” to rise. The opposite, but to change – kind of like an exploding word in an action.
Chuck: Your about half way through your first headlining tour. What has been your favorite venue so far and why?
Sierra: The first day in Dallas, The Loft. It was just so magical, (but) every night is magical. I just love that place.
Chuck: What made it so magical?
Sierra: It was the first night of our first headline tour ever and we didn’t know how it was going to go. The kids were awesome. It was the first time we ever had people singing the words so loud we couldn’t really even hear ourselves. It was really cool.
Chuck: Your touring now with Anarbor. How is it touring with those guys?
posted November 21st, 2010 at 12:00 pm Interviews
On a break from touring with Phish, bassist Mike Gordon and his band graced the stage at The Fineline Music Café Tuesday, November 16. Starting out with “Can’t Stand Still,” the opening track on his new album, they sounded slightly disjointed, but by the end of the song the band found it’s stride. Going into “Susskind Hotel,” Gordon got the crowd involved in a way I’ve never seen. He had a wireless drum sampler that he messed around with for a minute or two and after finding the desired effect; gave it to the crowd. It was passed around for the duration of the song and each person who had it was coming through the PA with the rest of the musicians. It was this connection with the audience that almost overshadowed what proved to be a tight and bass-driven rock show.
Gordon regularly plays for anywhere between ten and one hundred thousand people. The separation on those massive stages may add to what appeared to be a bit of stage fright or hesitancy at first. But, you could tell that once he warmed up he did truly enjoy the closeness, intimacy, warmth, the ability to make eye contact, etc., things that existed more when he played smaller venues with Phish in the eighties and early nineties. He was also out front before the show, and the previous night hung out at a local bar, Downtime, chatting it up with fans and indulging patiently many requests for photos. These experiences that many famous rock stars avoid added to the total package and the crowd was very appreciative and grateful for them.
The second set featured Alanis Morisette’s “Hand In My Pocket” that left people debating whether the song’s truly great performance outweighed the fact that it was kind of a cheesy cover! And the bust out of “Funky Bitch,” a classic Phish song written by Son Seals, had everyone jamming. They encored with “Sugar Shack,” a Gordon original recorded with Phish on the album Joy.
It was a successful stop in the Twin Cities as the house was nearly full on a cold Tuesday night and everyone left satisfied. Not all knew the tracks yet off Gordon’s new album Moss, but the band performed them well and Gordon shined on the bass all night. With some road sharpening and a healthy dose of water, the new songs will grow and come to form, like moss.
posted November 21st, 2010 at 1:33 am Reviews
What is happening around Borangutan? Things have been pretty slow around here over the last few months, and chances are, you haven’t noticed (except for maybe a few of you). A little inactivity has revealed some things about this music blog. Some of these might elicit a “duh,” while others are perhaps not so obvious. They are in no particular order:
- If a site is SEO’d well and in the good graces of the search engines that be, search traffic is static regardless of whether you publish or not (at least in a short-term / 3-month period).
- Referral traffic drops when no publishing occurs.
- Referral traffic rises exponentially when publishing does occur.
- Direct traffic comprises only a small fraction of overall traffic.
- Search traffic comprises the lion’s share of traffic (except during publishing days).
- People really like to see news and blog updates via Twitter and Facebook, and if they don’t see them there, then they tend to never visit.
None of this comes as too much of a surprise to me. With special emphasis on point 6, everyone (loosely) is using social media and social networks these days, and frankly, no one has time to follow a website anymore, let alone 50! Instead people expect that if you want their attention you had better go to them with what you got, because they’re not coming to you. From my perspective, it’s nothing to kick and scream about, it just is.
For all you time stressed bloggers out there, there is one profoundly positive aspect to all of this. If you, like me, receive your highest value readers from social networks, then chances are you needn’t feel so stressed about the lack of time you sometimes invest in your blog. Search traffic is transient, but once kind folks on social networks decide to give you the time of day, they’re willing to do it often… provided you let them know, and so long as your blogging is passingly decent (I’m proof that not all audiences have super high standards!). They’ll come twenty times a month for twenty articles, or they’ll come once a month for one article, and if you feel as if you’re slacking, they’ll probably cut you some slack.
That, or in all likelihood, they just won’t notice.
In my unique position, however, there is a particular kind of person who may not cut me some slack who almost certainly notices when I’m inactive. These are the local artists who are generous enough to send me their music and materials. The generosity is not in the giving so much as it is in the inclusion. These people think well enough of me to send a package that likewise is sent to people who move and shake far more things in this local scene than I do. On occasion I feel that I fail these artists, becoming too caught up trying make ends meet, and having no time to share their work with others.
What I resort to is that old adage “better late than never.” I actually believe in this statement quite strongly and apply it to the work of others (contextually, of course) as well as to my own. In the case of Borangutan “better late than never” takes on more potency since A) most people in the Twin Cities really don’t much of anything about the local music scene, and B) there are few who actually do who can keep up with it all anyway.
The result? Music that is one month, three months, six months, or even two years old is still new to most people, and that being so, still well worth writing about. The irony is that to be effective as a music blogger writing isn’t even that necessary. Just post a picture, a video, or a song. Create a link for the artist and let people know you like the music. Then call it good. It’ll be short, sweet, and minus all the boorish and nonsensical embellishments of pop music journalism. (Hmm… well that was uncharacteristically anti-establishment sounding.)
By the way, did I mention Is/Is’ new EP This Happening is a good listen? Check this band out at Cause Spirits and Soundbar tonight!
On Saturday night The Rockford Mules will officially drop their new album on the Twin Cities in what is sure to be a crushing blow at Cause Spirits and Sound Bar in Minneapolis. The title of the new Rockford Mules album, Ma They Broke Me, sounds sort of like an ironic non-reality that would be if only someone, somewhere out there possessed the power to take a great band and elevate them to greatness. This band is that good, and judging by the sound, look, and lyrical tone of Ma They Broke Me, I’d put my bet on their mothers being the first to know if they did, in fact, break!
I’m not saying The Rockford Mules are a bunch of momma’s boys (in truth, to say so would likely be to my own peril). Far from it, these guys are the current standard bearers (and inheritors) of the hardest side of early 90’s grunge. Think Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots. Others have pointed out that a certain southern element is found in the music of The Rockford Mules, but bah; as far as I’m concerned these guys rock for everything that is Grain Belt beer, hot dish, and snow blowers. That’s right – snow blowers. Forget tater salad.
Just thought I’d share since this record has been getting me through a long and arduous day. Now, will someone please break The Rockford Mules already? C’mon ma!
The Rockford Mules play Cause Spirits and Sound Bar this Saturday night at 9:30PM. Concert is 21+, cover is $6.