POSTED ON MAY 15, 2013:
Make You a Believer
The Virginmarys breathe fresh life into rock
Every once in a while, you're lucky enough to stumble onto that band that explodes in your face and renews your faith in rock & roll. Usually, it comes along when you least expect it and need it the most. When you do, it ends up being a band that you instantaneously latch onto and refuse to let go of.
Who really knows the reason? Maybe it's the intensity, perhaps it's the sincerity, perhaps it's an attitude or something even more intangible. Whatever the case, it's that visceral connection with the music that draws you in and makes you a believer.
I've already admitted, when I rolled into Austin for SXSW this past March, I was looking for something to believe in. It's not that there isn't good music out there or that I hadn't found it. Actually, there were a handful of great albums that I caught over the past year, but at some point, it all become more of the same.
I found what I was looking for when I landed at The Hangar for a rooftop gig by The Virginmarys on my first night in town. I'd actually had them on my radar for about a year and had already downloaded the new album.
How impressed was I? Impressed enough to look them up again at a day party the next afternoon and see the flip side of the band. On Wednesday night at a classy rooftop bar, the Virginmarys delivered a tight, glossy set with the energy of Foo Fighters. In an otherwise empty building converted into a club for the week of the festival, the band delivered the same songs in a different way that next afternoon, stripping away any gloss and turned up even further with a punk rock intensity akin to Iggy Pop and the Stooges or Sex Pistols, or maybe even an early Nirvana or Soundgarden.
I wanted real, honest to God rock and roll. What I found was The Virginmarys. It may be true that there's nothing new in rock & roll, but these guys took all of the best elements of classic T. Rex, Stones, Iggy Pop, Nirvana, Jet and Foo Fighters, threw it in a blender and blasted it through the P.A. to deliver something that proved there's still plenty of life in the genre.
When I heard that the band was coming to Tulsa for a show at Vanguard this coming Monday night, then, I wasn't about to let it slide by. With a few emails and phone calls, I was able to connect with lead singer Ally Dickaty to catch up on the band.
As it turns out, he and drummer Danny Dolan have been playing together since 2006, but as Dickaty explained it, "It was mainly a hobby for us, and we weren't hitting it very hard. The Virginmarys was more of an idea at that point."
The turning point came when they met bassist Matt Rose, headed into the studio, and became a real, full-time band. Once the group had found its chemistry, it turned out a series of three EP's that it released on the band's own label. By selling the discs at shows while touring and with limited distribution in parts of Europe, The Virgingmarys spent three years knocking out new tunes and touring as an independent band.
In fact, that didn't change until fairly recently. Although placement as an iTunes single of the week gave the band a boost in exposure in Europe, it went into the studio to record its full-length album, King of Conflict, on its own terms.
As Dickaty explained it, "We went ahead and did the album, and it wasn't until the album was done that the labels came calling, so we licensed it out for distribution in Europe and the U.S."
The band got another big break in the U.S. when iTunes featured lead single "Dead Man's Shoes" as the single of the week, just as King of Conflict was nearing release, giving the band a boost of exposure in the American market.
"We picked 'Dead Man's Shoes' to start the album and be the first single as an introduction to what we think the band is all about," Dickaty explained. "I think it's the most well-rounded picture of us, kind of like how 'Welcome to the Jungle' opens Appetite for Destruction and introduces you to Guns 'n' Roses."
By acting as an independent band with international distribution, it seems that the group is in an ideal position as the state of the music industry has shifted. When asked about how the band is navigating those waters, Dickaty said, "The good thing about the situation in the industry is that the live performance has become really important. People download the songs, but don't necessarily have to have the CDs anymore, so bands are making more from the live performances and merchandise. That suits us fine."
When The Virginmarys roll into Tulsa for a show at The Vanguard this Monday night, May 20, you can be sure the band will put on an explosive show that takes its debut album, King of Conflict, and turns up the intensity.
After seeing the band in two different environments and seeing two equally charged sides of the band, I asked Dickaty how the group approached the live shows.
"The crowd always helps," he admitted. "We can always turn it up at any show -- or we try, but it does make a big difference when the audience is in our faces, jumping up and down, versus playing for twenty people with blank faces."
If you're looking for a great live show by a band that has found a way to mine everything that rock was built on and breathe fresh air into it, you need to check out The Virginmarys at The Vanguard. Tickets are still available for $10 in advance or $13 at the door, and the show starts at 6:30pm.
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