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Vue – A Rockin’ Room with the Vue

Rex Shelverton – vocals/guitar
Jonah Buffa – guitar
Jeremy Bringetto – bass
Rafael Orlin – vocals/guitar
Jessica Ann Graves – keyboards


During SXSW last year, my friend and I were on a mission. After a day full of seminars and schmoozing, we equipped ourselves for the evening – money, camera, lights and a schedule of show action all highlighted and marked. One particular night, we caught seven shows in seven different venues, and one of those highlighted shows was Vue.

Our blood, sweat, and beer was worth the emotional rescue of experiencing Vue’s flailing bodies that twisted and turned in classic rock-and-roll style around the club room and tiny stage. While the whole crowd gyrated, Rex and his musical compatriots exploded with concoction of rock from the streets of their urban hometown, blues from late ’60s pop, the sexiness of the Doors and a hint of haunting keyboards that could span from the birth of rock until today.

Rex Shelverton, their lead vocalist and guitarist, was enjoying some well-deserved downtime in his SF apartment, resting up to get back on the road and being close to completion of their major label debut on RCA Records. That tour will bring them to Larimer Lounge Tuesday, May 20, where Denver can experience Vue’s own leather, paisley print and purple fur haze.

KB: I moved from the Bay Area almost two years ago and haven’t had a chance to get back since. How is San Francisco treating you guys?

Rex: The last few months we’ve been just working on our record. We did some of the tracking in L.A. so we were out of town for about a month and a half. Then we’ve been working six-day weeks, so we really haven’t been social or playing out at all. It has been nice being at home since basically the whole year before we started on the record, we toured straight…in the span of about a year we did 250 shows.

KB: 250…wow. I understand you had been spending a lot of time on the road.

Rex: And it’s about time for us to leave again. We’re all really looking forward to it. We’ve been doing the home thing for so long now, we’re starting to get restless (laughing).

KB: I’m really looking forward to seeing the show after catching you guys at last year’s SXSW. That was a hell-of-a show you guys pulled out. There was so much going on on that little stage, very animated and very electric. It wasn’t really a surprise to hear you were from San Francisco, because while I was watching you guys, it took me back to a time when I was a kid in the late 60’s hearing that bluesy rock and pop on the radio and watching it on the Ed Sullivan show. You have vibrant elements that hook to early Who type of guitars…that tinge of blues that’s bought out with the harmonica.

Rex: Oh wow, thanks. We were all kind of influenced by all the classic stuff. I think it’s one of those things were it just naturally moved that way along with the records we like, and those elements. And it’s not just old stuff. It wasn’t really a conscious decision. It was just built with a slow progression and the main theme of our music – being that it’s emotional music. Not that we want it to be too serious…you know what I mean?

KB: Definitely.

Rex: As long as it feels good to play and keep things spontaneous so it’s not too planned out. John picked up the harmonica just ’cause he was bored, and that’s how we ended up adding that. I guess it’s just a little more classic compared to what was out at the time and what a lot of our contemporaries were doing. I think it’s really looking forward though instead of looking back.

KB: Exactly, and trying to separate yourself from the crowd, which is becoming more and more difficult every day. The amount of new music coming out is overwhelming and hard to keep up with. All these bands are vying for recognition and fan support. So it’s really refreshing to get hooked into a sound that has something different to offer versus the generic, cookie-cutter pop punk band of the day. Speaking of new stuff, what can your current and future fans expect from the new album compared to what they’re already familiar with?

Rex: Well…it’s definitely better (laughing). I think it’s a natural progression. I don’t think anyone will hear the new record and think, “Oh wow, I can tell they’re on a major label now,” or anything like that. I think it’s more realized…we’ve had more time to realize songs and figure out what the strong points of those songs were. This record, in a lot of ways, will be more focused and inclusive as far as…not so much commercial, but it won’t be as alienating as some of the other stuff we’ve done. Part of rock-and-roll attitudes contain a little alienation that you really want so you can give the people who listen and like it, something special. Not that it’s overly digestible, I just think it’s just done on a grander scale so more people will be able to relate to it. It’s pretty dense and complex. There’s a lot of different emotions and “feels” along with the rhythms…

KB: Now that you are with a major label, I would think you had more freedoms in terms of recording time and resources to make the kind of album you want.

Rex: Yea, we’re working with the most amazing producer, Nick Launay who did Public Image Limited, Nick Cave, INSX, Killing Joke, a bunch of really cool music. So we were lucky to get him. Plus, we recorded our tracks live. Any edits we did were not made on a computer. They were made with a razor blade and cutting tape.

KB: Wow, doin’ it old school.

Rex: We’re a REAL band. It’s too tempting, with technology, to take a band and make everything really perfect. With every record now everything’s tuned…the drummer is probably the worst. A lot of what is out there, their drummer isn’t the real drummer or if he is, it’s just so completely edited. Any advantage a label can find to getting music on the radio that’s super perfect where everything’s in key and the drums are on time…

KB: You released an EP on RCA, Babies Are For Petting, back in March, and one-track’s name stuck out – “Don’t Be Yourself”. What was behind that theme?

Rex: Lots of people have multiple personas you know, like when they go out, especially the “Weekend Warrior”. It’s those regular people with regular jobs that only go out on the weekend, and they get all dressed up and feel like they gotta “let it all hang out” kinda thing, you know what I mean?

KB: Go cheese out at Ruby Skye.

Rex: Exactly, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s like, “don’t worry about being who you are.” It’s interesting when people really get out of their shell, or even a weird example of like the movie “Deliverance” where people are out of their element and put in weird situations.

KB: I remember that really being prevalent back in the mid to late ’90s. San Francisco has always been the city of creativity and individuality. But with the technology boom taking off, it was overrun by dotcom parties where people really thought that careers consisted of a degree, a black DK&Y suit and attending industry parties in a loft south of Market. This migration took over the city and the Cosmo attitude got really annoying.

Rex: Yea, and now a lot of that’s over. Now a lot of friends are having hard times, finding work and stuff. But I’m like, “Cool, now you can ride your bike more and play music more, or whatever.” But there will always be that clash of people who are out all the time, coming in contact with those who are like, “I just discovered loud music, beer and cigarettes. I’m gonna go crazy.” It’s not like that in Europe. People are exposed to so much at such an early age compared to here, so by the time they’re in their early ’20s they still want to have fun, but in a more interesting way than getting wasted for the first time on their 21st birthday.

KB: So how was it performing at huge European festivals, like Reading, for the first time?

Rex: There were a lot expectations, but we’ve had so many let downs in this business, it’s almost impossible to let us down. So it was fun. We got to tour with some good friends of ours from San Francisco called Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

KB: Love those guys.

Rex: Yea, they’re really close friends of ours. They’re great. The new record is SO good. I got to hear some tracks off it. Absolutely amazing. But um, it was their first time too. They’ve gotten…well, the Oasis guys love them. We were really lucky but our shows sucked, ’cause we got really bad time slots like at noon. And there were people waiting to hear us at noon, so that was pretty flattering.

KB: At least you weren’t at Woodstock with fires going on all over the place.

Rex: That sounds more exciting, actually. But they were more professional than they are over here. Even if you’re playing a small club in Europe, you know when your sound check is, you know that there’s going to be people there to see you and really listen. It’s not so much being pampered, it’s just professional. Sometimes it was a little annoying though. We would show up and say, “Oh, we’re running a little late. But don’t worry, we won’t play that long.” And the guy would come back with “You will go on stage now!” And we’d just try to get ’em to chill out a bit, ya know? But then we did a show in New Orleans, it’s 10:30pm and the bartender finally shows up with keys to open the club ’cause the owner left town.

KB: There was a club in Denver that was infamous for that. I also think that Europeans have a different appreciate of music beyond what we call mainstream, which I’m sure was refreshing for you guys.

Rex: Yea, it gave us a taste of what it’s like. It was really weird and interesting, because over there, the music that we do, it was just considered pop music. You didn’t have to make any differentiation between Britney Spears and us. People like that and they like us and some other terrible pop punk band. Here, things are more segregated because there has to be an underground, since the mainstream is so out of touch.

KB: Completely. That’s the frustration for true music lovers and what we’ll always deal with until the end of time. At least when it comes to the American music scene.

Rex: Part of the reason why all the really cool new music coming out now is American…the most emotional and extreme music, violent, sexy, and whatever, is because the emotions are more amplified here because of the oppression by the mainstream. In some ways it ends up creating cool music. Like indie music, there was no such thing as indie music in Europe. It’s a completely unique American phenomenon.

Although Vue doesn’t really fit into the indie rock scheme or anything other scheme for that matter, they are themselves, a unique American phenomenon. Check them out at the Larimer Lounge Tuesday, May 20 and their new major label debut on RCA in late August or early September.


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