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Orange crush
The fury and serenity of Verbana Darvell
BY BOB GULLA

It all started a few years back when Brad Cottman and Blaine Wilkinson were in a band called Life This Week, an indie punk act with lots of chutzpah and good intentions. The band was around for a few years, toured quite a bit regionally, and laid down a debut disc, Has the World Gone Crazy?, before deciding on going separate ways. Wilkinson and Cottman then teamed up with guitarist Kevin Gougen on a more acoustic-based project, inspired by friendlier influences like the Beatles and Tom Petty. In time, their melodic pop turned electric once again, alternating between acoustic groove and electric punch. They recorded their first two songs with Mike Viele at Groundswell in Wakefield.

"We e-mailed those two songs to Andy Jackson," says Cottman. "He was the front man for Hot Rod Circuit, who loved them and he said he wanted to work with the band." To prepare for the sessions, they recruited a motley variety of bass players with mixed results and little stability. (Insert bass player joke here.) Eventually, they settled on a friend, Matt Bouressa. "The only problem was he didnít know how to play!" muses Cottman. "But the funny thing was he picked it up and learned the songs like a natural, in a matter of days!"

Working at their trade, the South County-based quartet played a show at URI, and in the process caught the attention of Tory Danes, a violinist. They invited Tory into the studio to lay down a few leads, and were so intrigued by the eerie sound of a violin atop their mix that they invited her to become a member of the band.

"We had a really unique sound coming together," says Cottman, "and the violin was making up for not having that second guitar."

At last, a solid lineup. But a moniker proved elusive . . . "We needed a name for the band," says Cottman, "a name we were pretty sure no one had. There are thousands of bands out there that you donít even know about and lots of good names are already taken!" So they put their (goofy) heads together and decided on Verbana Darvell.

After playing out regionally and crafting a sound, they hit the studio again, this time at New Castle Sound in Barrington with Randy Hunicke. The resulting tunes were ready for public consumption. "We got a phone call from Andy Jackson," says Cottman, "and he said he wanted to make the album with us. Only problem was he only had one week available in his schedule to do it."

Verbana Darvell swallowed hard and went for it. "If you have a chance to do something you dream about in life," says Cottman, "then you do it. Life is too short, and you might never get that chance again."

They quit their jobs and planned the trip. With their VW Golf all packed up and loaded down, they set out on the 24-hour drive down to Montgomery, Alabama. But trouble arose, and quickly ó only five miles out of town, the muffler went. "Then, when we hit the gas station to fill up," says Cottman, "they told us the car was bottoming out!" Turning back, utterly deflated, they arrived home only to have their spirits lifted once again. Their relatives had rented the band a minivan.

VB finally arrived at Jacksonís place to a reception of fireworks and welcoming neighbors. They stayed for a week, recording every day. "The ideas we came up with and the ideas Andy gave us were incredible and we got to use his bandís equipment, which was cool," says Cottman. They finally had a debut, Run Automatic Orange, in hand. The five-song disc is frenzied post-hardcore a la At the Drive-In, with throat-strangling screams interspersed with near-classical violin passages. The yin and yang, the fury and the serenity, make for a credible overall sound, with the band striving for originality without coming off contrived. There are three finished tunes done with Jackson ó "High Gusts at Suttle Movements," "Bell Bella Saint Bella," and "Slice the Fancy" (the latter has some dastardly guitariní) ó and two demos, "Ruthless" and "Faint Attraction."

The band had its CD release party last month at the Living Room, and theyíre filling their calendar up fast. On January 27, theyíll take over the ICCChurch in Allston, Massachusetts with the Number 12 Looks Like You and Vanna. On February 11, theyíll hit Area 22 in Newport with It Was the Best of Times. For further info, videos, and gig listings, visit www.myspace.com/verbanadarvell or www.purevolume.com/verbanadarvell.

JASON RETURNS

It wasnít too long ago that we reported that Jason Colonies and his eponymous band was calling it quits. In the interim, Colonies had been doing some solo acoustic shows in South County, but virtually no band activity. Well, as they say, you canít take the country out of the boy ó Colonies has reformed his band and will be returning to action on January 27 at Daniel Bís in Wakefield, his home base. According to a note from Colonies, the lineup has shifted slightly, with Dan Hartington on guitar, Jeff Moffitt on bass, and new drummer Greg Maccarone. "Greg is a great drummer and finally we will be adding some background vocals into the band," writes Colonies. "We will be doing some shows at Daniel Bís to get us back in the swing of things and then moving to other venues after that. Iím pretty excited, because I really didnít like not having the band at all."

WANDERING EYE

On Saturday (the 7th), 75orless.com presents another free show with Fashion Failures, A Passing Feeling, Six Star General, and Mustache Ride, all at Houlihanís Tavern on Water Street in East Providence. Get there at 9 pm. The Audiocentrix will be playing the Rocky Point Pub on Friday (the 6th), the Senders play the same place on Saturday, and next Thursday (the 12th) itís acoustic rock with Tandem. Hemlok debuts a new lineup at the Blackstone on Saturday, with Mind of Ein and Parabola.

E-mail me with music news: big.daddy1@cox.net.

 


Issue Date: January 6 - 12, 2005
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