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Local Band Spotlight: The Vera Violets

“I like to turn my lifestyle into art.” — Jonathan Beadle

Almost as soon as it began, it was over. Within a six-month period, the band Drone Dimension formed, garnered plenty of Web-based and word-of-mouth buzz and won Weekly Planet’s “Best of the Bay” in September of ’04. It’s the kind of award many good local bands wait years for, yet never get. The band split up shortly after.

It’s almost a cliché — a good outfit breaking up due to in-band romances.

For Jonathan Beadle, however, not much has changed.

“One member is gone, and we’ve switched Nikki from bass to lead guitar,” he said. “Also, there’s the name.”

As with Drone Dimension, Beadle is the primary architect of The Vera Violets. On the band’s latest release, The Last Kiss, Beadle composed and produced all of the music, as well as the album’s lyrics. As of now, other members are only helping him play at live shows, although Beadle said he’s looking forward to working on future demos with lead guitarist and USF student Nikki Navarro, who is comfortable describing herself as “the quiet one.”

Rounding out the band’s lineup is bassist Mark Bustin, a Tampa scenester who has also played in local bands The Sunday Quitters, The Pagan Saints and The Dumb Waiters. Beadle describes Bustin as “the type who’s friends with everyone.” The position of the live drummer varies from show to show.

The Music

Circumstances surrounding the changes from Drone Dimension to The Vera Violets “definitely” had an impact on the album, but not “mainly,” Beadle said.

Where Drone Dimension’s Faintly Acquainted was a fantastic display of local talent in the arena of shoe-gaze, The Vera Violets, intended to be a more multi-tasking name, is currently looking to expand its genre into more psychedelic aspects of fuzzed-out rock.

“The sound is an intense, layered, ethereal whirlpool … We want the sound to hit people,” Beadle said.

The Last Kiss begins to reveal broadened horizons. The title track, “The Last Kiss,” features Beadle’s improved resources and technique in producing an album. This first song is a languorous lament in the vein of Billy Corgan’s melancholy. In contrast to some moments in his last album, Beadle does a better job with The Last Kiss by better wielding his “whirlpool” of sound, which is professionally produced in spite of the fact that he recorded all tracks in his bedroom.

Beadle said that the recording process “starts with a click track.” The click track is a way to measure the song. From there, it’s a matter of over-dubbing recordings of the instruments and vocals, which is often a painstaking and detailed process.

“My Goodbye” and “Empty” continue the album in a more poppy fashion, possibly reminding the listener of The Ravenettes mixed with one of the founding fathers of shoe-gaze, Skywave.

“Lights Out” is the most synth-driven piece and perhaps best describes the mood of the album, which is how one might imagine flying alone in the dark and, intermittently, touching something familiar.

“I wouldn’t label it (The Last Kiss) a ‘break-up’ album, but during the course of the recording I was definitely breaking up,” Beadle said. “That means more than one area of my life.”

“Touch,” a remix from Faintly Acquainted, brings Beadle’s vocals up front. It’s The Last Kiss’ departure from depression and into ecstatic nightlife scenery, “Lipstick vixens look at me / Black framed glasses help them see…”

The improvement from FA to TLK is evident simply in the listening. It’s also selling better; 80 CDs in three weeks, Beadle notes, “It’s hard to do without a label, although some indie labels have recently requested samples of my work.”

Can We Still Be Friends?

“Audiences, when we’ve played in Tampa, were less receptive than when we’ve played in other cities. I think it’s because we’re a local band. I think that goes for any band in any city,” Beadle said.

In response to this verbal reflection, however, he followed with, “I want to be a part of a warm and approachable band.” Beadle also said he is searching for Tampa’s friendship rather than the city’s antagonism.

Beadle is currently including a complimentary CD titled Overdose for online purchases. The CD includes a cover song, titled “Evergreen,” that has been successful on the Brian Jonestown Massacre tribute site. Like his hero, BJM song master Anton Newcomb, Beadle’s priority is to simply “create good music, and make it available.”

“I don’t go to a job everyday; I record everyday,” he said.

In a time in one’s life when people his age are securing stable futures in college, Beadle said, “I’m definitely sacrificing (stability), but it is what I love, so it’s not really a sacrifice.”

The Vera Violets will play its first show this Saturday at New World Brewery with national act Timonium and local bands Isobella, Sleepy Eyes and Kingsbury. The music starts at 9 p.m. with a $6 entrance fee. The show is 21+.