Skip to content

The Lavellas – Denver’s Shining Star Heads East To The Windy City

In the midst of war, chaos, and tax season, we as human beings with our survival instincts turn to things to help us escape from reality or make us feel good, if only for a few minutes or a few hours. Those escapes could be timid or tawdry, curling up with a book or having a night of drinking and “music to have sex to.” That’s just one place Cory Campbell, bassists for The Lavellas, sees where their sultry style of space rock fits.

As we sat in the intimate setting of the P/S Lounge on Colfax, Cory elaborates on the virtues of Chicago, where they’re planning to move their band in the next few months, “They’ve got mass transit.” Beyond having more efficient ways do get around, they’ve got some existing connections to get gigs and such, and a need for a change of scenery. Being born and raised in Denver, Cory’s just a bit tired of being Mile High, “Everybody looks at Denver as a cow-town. No one expects anyone to have interesting music or talent. They think that we’re all obsessed with sports.”

Jason Mathews, guitarist and one of the band’s founders, doesn’t know what to expect when he and drummer Spencer Kiss land in Chicago before Cory and Robyn Green, their lead singer and guitarist. But Jason does know that they, “want to ‘up’ the whole professional thing, as far as the band goes.”

The foursome started back in 2000 with Jason, Robyn, Matt Amundson and Mike McDaniel. After a number of differences in their goals and musical styles, Amundson and McDaniel vacated the band a year later, and Spencer and Cory were brought in to solidify their current formula. In the process, some members played a little musical chairs, including Robyn who was originally on drums, and Cory learning bass after years of playing guitar.

They’ve also learned by example, seeing some of their favorite local bands like The Czars and Space Team Electra, saturating their market with too many shows in Colorado. “You get bigger in Denver and you can reach an audience of a lot of people,” Robyn explains. “But if you over play, you start losing a following,” he states, compared to Chicago, which has other big cities that are only a few hours away, like Detroit, Milwaukee and Madison. This provides them a circuit of cities to play, and a larger cumulative audience where they can spread their sound.

Cory feels like even the industrial vibe and audience of Chicago may not only embrace their sound even more, but inspire them to dig deeper into their own creative minds, “Every time I’ve been there, there was always a lot of kick ass bands in town. The people I knew who lived there were always talking about the scene. It’s not like you have five local bands that rule the scene, like King Ratt and Judge Roughneck…bands you see everywhere.”

The first time I saw the Lavellas was at the Gothic a few months back, and poor Spencer was tucked into the left side of the stage for some reason. Apparently, Tinker’s Punishment wasn’t too hip on moving their drum kit, so The Lavellas had to work around it…and the political bullshit.

But the show was amazing all the same and the definite highlight of the evening. As the layered guitars created an immense wall of sound, and Robyn’s voice flew throughout the elaborate décor of the venue, it took me back to a time when I saw Catherine Wheel live for the first time, or when I first heard Ride’s Nowhere.

That night I also got my hands on their second, self-produced full-length from last year, My Talk With The Dead, which takes one through a journey of melodies, moods, and moonscapes of achingly beautiful music to churning flames of Brit-pop influenced rock.

The perfect blend of harmonies between Jason and Robyn lay at the forefront of the first track, “The Bum and Lucifer”, while “Nympho Therapy” parts the dark clouds and lets the warm and sunny tunes through, enough to give any NME or Melody Maker freak his or her reason for hearing. “Only” begins slow and sweet with languid lubrication, enough to make Mark Kozelek from Red House Painters weep with jealousy, then falls into a manic yet methodical clash of guitar-licked intercourse.

They delve into a twilight zone of spacey effects and aural fixtures on “Apathy”, then come back to their knack for culminating every piece of their creative fiber on “Can’t See Clearly”, where the vocal harmonies, layered guitars, and pulsating drums ebb and flow in fantastic harmony, adding a bit of spice through an echoing guitar that jitters as the chorus continues to spill out of the speakers.

The last track, “Some Say You Are” raised the agro bar at the beginning, before it fades into the words within Robyn’s mind, “I love your gardens/can I touch them?/those vines are veins spilling indigo blood over the ecstasy woven path/listen, do you hear what creates this atmosphere that makes you feel as if you’ve just fucked death/and loved it as much as I love you?”

Since this release last year, they’ve continued writing and collaborating, and currently have around twenty new songs that they’ve played live and plan to record when they all reside in the windy city. “Since this is our last show, we plan to play music people have really liked,” Jason says of the gig they had on March 11th at La Rumba.

Spencer adds, “There’s constantly new material coming out all the time. We probably have enough material to make two albums, to be really honest.”

“There’s always new ideas floating around,” Cory explains, where many of their practice begin by each member bringing a piece they’ve written or worked on individually, “Then it just starts snowballing like that.”

Some of those new pieces include “Exoticism,” which has a vibrant flow of heavy guitars that swell in and out with a tinkling intro and outro. “Emerald Voice” floats with crystallized riffs that intertwine with Robyn’s honey vocals and Spencer’s fluttering high hats that transcend into bubbling beats.

The rhythm and energy picks up on “Side Effect” with a ferociously driven pop pace, doused heavily in lyrical sarcasm, “You go to far to be who you are/and that’s not real/you hang around mixing selfishness with wine/you are a prodigy of a limited future.”

As with most songwriters, when Robyn and Jason look for the words to mesh with their music, they get inspirations a variety of sources – from life experiences to people in their life, and not just in the “love” area. One such inspiration came from a former roommate who just may have watched too many Seinfeld episodes, not realizing that the “puffy shirt” was meant to be a joke, not a good fashion statement.

On another, “Sweet, Bloody, Velvet Sheets,” Robyn says the lyrics are a bit explicit, but the topic is what’s on everybody’s mind – sex. “I don’t care who it is, boy or girl, people think about sex all the time. But everyone makes a big deal of not talking about it.” So that’s what they’re for, to sing about it instead…and make music to have sex to.

Unlike a written word that’s been published or a painted canvas, the group takes advantage of the dynamic aspect to their pieces of art, “A lot of the songs that we already have done, we keep changing…not to the point where you can’t recognize it or anything, but we make it more interesting,” Cory conveys.

Maintaining that level of interest is key to keeping their audience’s eyes and ears on stage, where people’s attention is perked up when they hear something familiar, yet new in a slightly different way, “We try to push the limits on songs that they may have heard so many times,” Cory says, as we order our third round of drinks and the level of noise starts to make our conversations a little strained in the small lounge.

Those changes were made to one song in particular, “Suburban Aristocrat.” “It’s a really rockin’ song, but it’s long, about seven minutes,” says Robyn, explaining some of the change-ups they created between Cory’s bass riffs and timing and Spencer’s dive-in of drums.

At their last show, The Lavellas definitely got a great response to their new material, and old/new songs, although their history of equipment and sound problems, which have caused them to create their own band nickname, “Technical Difficulties,” was a concern. But the show went off without a hitch as their friends and family showed up to bid Jason and Spencer farewell, who left the following Monday. That night was bittersweet, but band was very upbeat and made sure to send thanks to everyone who supported them throughout the years.

The only thing that was difficult was seeing one of Denver’s brightest stars heading east to the windy city.




This story can also be found in print in the April 2003 Issue of In Flux magazine, Independent Records FREE monthly publication.


Sign up to our newsletter and get updates to your mailbox