Today’s Feature – April 17-18: Virginia Coalition

April 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm (Today's Feature)

To a guy like me, Virginia Coalition has been around forever. Growing up close to the DC metro area, I’ve been listening to Coalition tunes since high school – my favorite? Green and Gray. Who can’t help singing along to “And then the rains came?” The group has always stood out as one of those “good time” bands, the kind you and your friends go to see when you just wanna have a blast. Truth be told however, Andy, Paul and Jarrett have been playing together for well over a decade. And while their early years were “absolutely blazing hot with energy,” the new Coalition has matured; “These days we take our passion and use it in the studio and in the songwriting sessions, making sure that we are saying exactly what we mean and in a way that is musically and emotionally dynamic.” Don’t get confused though – the energy is definitely still there.

The best way to check out this re-vamped Virginia Coalition is to give their latest album, “Home This Year” a listen. They describe it as “three lifelong friends who are looking to each other and looking inside of themselves to make their most sincere and mature record that will speak about life in the most musical and universal way possible.” Truly, these tunes all intertwine in a pattern that makes total and absolute sense. Andy, Paul and Jarrett traveled across the country to write the new pieces with some amazing talent such as Ari Hest, Anders Osborne, Maia Sharp, David Ryan Harris as well as Marshall Altman.

If you’re from the DC area like me, you understand what a Virginia Coalition performance is all about. If you don’t know what it’s all about, YOU MUST get to a show. These guys have the ability to play just about any style of music. And keep an eye out to see if Jarrett has pants on. He’s only taking one pair out on tour this time around… and occasionally his pants catch on fire (you’ll get some clarification below). They’ll be touring with The Beautiful Girls from Australia all over the place. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Virginia Coalition

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Virginia Coalition has a long history of being a widely successful and well known band. Looking back at those very first shows the band did, how has your music styling changed since then?

Andy: In our very early years we were absolutely blazing hot with energy which was extremely exciting but not always the best thing for the listener. If you’re sacrificing tuning your instrument for a super sweet jump off of the kickdrum its time to ease up a little. These days we take our passion and use it in the studio and in the songwriting sessions, making sure that we are saying exactly what we mean and in a way that is musically and emotionally dynamic.

PEV: What were your first years in the music business like for the band? When you were first starting out?

Andy: Our perception of the music business or even of music as a business was somewhere between foolishly naive and utterly idiotic. We didn’t know an LLC from LLCool J and were desperately spinning our wheels trying to chase down every potential lead. It was hard being in a band for me in my early twenties, I was either disappointed or manically and absurdly excited about somebody’s second cousin who knew a guy who was going to make us famous. We were starting out long before Napster and Myspace were even in the picture. We had a mailing list that was…….drumroll……a mailing list!! We’ve all learned html and all that since then but we needed to play catch up on a lot on the marketing side of things.

PEV: Having all grown up together, what kind of music were the members of the band listening to? Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?

Andy: The first show I went to was Jane’s Addiction in the 8th grade. It was their Ritual tour and I thought it was so cool, Primus opened up for them and I almost got thrown out when I was crowd surfed onstage while Primus was up there. Sweet! We all listened to different kinds of music, Paul and me both had a fair amount of metal in our musical upbringing and Jarrett was a more of a Beatles, Smiths guy. I also was really into the Grateful Dead until college.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a profession rather than just a hobby?

Andy: About the time that I started and lost my second job waiting tables I realized that I’d rather make crappy money playing guitar than make less crappy money doing a job that I wasn’t any good at. Being a full time musician is a lot of work especially in the beginning but it really is a “if you build it they will come” type of a thing.

PEV: What is a live Virginia Coalition performance like?

Andy: You’ll have to see that for yourself.

PEV: Having a huge fan base in the college circuit as well, is there one college that sticks out as the best Virginia Coalition fans?

Andy: I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole!

PEV: You said, “We wanted to get back to that original creative impulse and focus on our songwriting.” With that, what can fans expect from your latest release, “Home This Year”?

Andy: They can expect to hear music from three lifelong friends who are looking to each other and looking inside of themselves to make their most sincere and mature record that will speak about life in the most musical and universal way possible. Something that is artistically speaking, the peak of the mountain that we’ve been climbing for ten years.

PEV: How is “Home This Year” different than others out today? As well as different from your previous works?

Jarrett: It is the first record we’ve made that i think is actually an album and not just a collection of songs. We’ve always had that goal in the back of our mind. And especially in today’s world of ADD attention spans it’s becoming increasingly important to have a great record, not just a few great songs and some less savory stuff! Kinda like kosher meats! What’s in your corned beef?

PEV: What happens when you hit that “creative brick wall” and feel like a song is just not coming out right? What is your method to cure that?

Jarrett: Stop Drop and Roll. It really is like having your pants catch on fire. You gotta get out of them as fast as possible and into some other pants that aren’t on fire. Then come back to those pants when they are completely extinguished.

PEV: Is there a certain environment you surround yourselves in when you sit down to write music?

Jarrett: Windows are good. Walking your dog is really good. I find that when locomotion takes over it frees up a part of the brain that makes words and melodies start happening.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

Jarrett: My father is always asking to borrow money so he can go to the race track. But seriously, we haven’t really noticed a difference in people at all. We’re well kept in check.

PEV: Having traveled everywhere, what city do you think offers the best appreciation for music? Why?

Jarrett: It’s nice going through smaller towns. You definitely get the feeling that you’re welcome. That said, pizza on any street corner at 3AM is nice too.

PEV: What is life on the road like for the band? Best and worst parts?

Jarrett: It’s as good as it’s ever been. With our new record we have stripped things down quite a bit. These are songs that were intended to hold their own alone on an acoustic guitar so it doesnt take many instruments to make them sound really strong. Less is definitely more. Less to load in and out. Less to get in the way. Less baggage, too. I’m only taking one pair of pants on the CD release tour. It’s always about pants.

PEV: Is there an “up and coming” artist or band right now that you think we should all be listening to?

Jarrett: Of course, but I’ll never say. Because then they’ll get all successful and “sold out”. Then they’ll make a concept album about time travel that no one will buy and then go to therapy together after one sleeps with another’s girlfriend… and all because we said the were up and coming. But I will say that it’d be cool if Neutral Milk Hotel made another record.

PEV: With a long list of names you’ve worked with, is there someone you have not had the chance to work with or collaborate with, that you would like to?

Paul: The list could go on and on. I could think of so many people for so many different reasons. If i had to pick one dream situation it would be to go into a studio with someone like Timbaland or Rick Rubin. Nothing else sounds like Timbabland. As an excellent engineer once remarked to me, “when Timbaland nails something, he REALLY nails it!” Throw in the fact that he’s from Virginia and you’ve got a really exciting situation with a lot of common ground to start from. Rick Rubin got down with The Beastie Boys, RUN-DMC, Slayer, Tom Petty, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers?! What’s next, The Vienna Philharmonic? If you helped make “Wildflowers” and “Licensed to Ill” AND “Hell Awaits” you’re alright by me. He really gets it.

PEV: When the band is not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

Paul: Right now I’m reading “Team of Rivals” about Lincoln’s rise to the 1860 Republican nomination, taking my cats for a walk (all my neighbors think I’m really weird, but my little dudes demand it of me!), recording and mixing various things on my Pro Tools rig, drinking double bagged ginger tea, working out, watching the Food Network and my TiVo of this weeks “The Soup” , getting prepped to wet up some newbs in HALO 3 not to mention my new joint Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and checking out, on jarrett’s recommendation, The Helio Sequence! Ohh what will i do tomorrow?!

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Virginia Coalition?

Paul: That we’re not from Virginia. No, I’m kidding. Actually I was born in DC. I think Jarrett and Andy we’re born on Uranus?

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio what would we find?

Paul: Empty mugs with old tea bags, empty soy lattes, hilariously crappy practice amps, portrait of Marshall Altman done in a Fresco-secco with a Licked finish, and a grill for our tuna steaks, yum!

PEV: In one word, describe Virginia Coalition.

Paul: Toothsome Bastards. Oh crap, that’s 2 words. Sorry! You can just edit out the 2nd word and say “Toothsome”.

PEV: So, what is next for the band?

Paul: I smell a plug! Well, now that our new CD, “Home This Year”, is out (like major YAY!) we’ll be touring for the first time with a band called The Beautiful Girls from Australia. They have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. Must be to enjoy the rock n roll!

For more information on Virginia Coalition, check out www.VirginiaCoalition.com

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