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Just like PBR and Bob's Java Jive, Civita band members are the perfect mix
by Matt Driscoll
Nov 20, 2008

I've got good news, Tacoma.


PBR is back on tap at Bob's Java Jive.


I found out first hand last Saturday, as bartender Dave happily reported the news to me as I saddled up to the bar for my first drink. If you're anything like me, you were getting a little tired of Miller High Life, so having a slightly better crappy beer to drink at the Jive is a seriously positive development. I'm told the Jive also has at least one "good" beer on tap, though I'm not much for good beer. What I do know is PBR is back.


Also, if you're anything like me you were so happy to see PBR back at the Jive that you drank it mightily. Then, for some reason, you decided at 1 a.m. that Jack In the Box curly fries would be a really good idea, and eventually you fell asleep in front of the TV watching the History Channel. Then you woke up at 10 a.m. to watch football, but felt like you were going to hurl until midway through the third quarter.


That is, if you're anything like me.


If that's the case, not only is it a little disturbing, but there's a good chance we probably have more in common than just our love of cheap beer and tendency for acid reflux. We probably like the same music, too, which is why you should pay extra attention to the show this Friday, Nov. 21 at the Jive, featuring Civita, Blackbird Orchestra, Dishwasher Safe and Cutmaster Sammy Swell.


A feminine-fronted hybrid of classic rock pathos, early '90s flashes and across-the-board musicianship, Civita is a local band that hasn't been very local lately — playing more in Seattle and even on the East Coast than their original South Sound home. Friday the band returns, hoping to rekindle a spark with fans that haven't seen them in Tacoma since April — not to mention anyone else that might be interested in having their alt rock whistle tooted.


"We started here in the South Sound and we've got a lot of fans down here. The Java Jive has really been coming into its own, even since we were last there, and from what I understand there are people coming out just because it's a cool place and seeing what bands show up that night, which is getting rare," says Civita singer and lyricist Mel Vinn, who describes the band as a collaborative effort between its four members.


"I wouldn't say there's a ringleader so much as there's someone who might have an idea for the song and pulls the rest of us along until we get the idea and start to shape it," explains Vinn of the band's process. "Luckily we all mesh really well musically so there aren't a lot of snags in the songwriting process once we get on the same page."


As corny as it might sound to some (maybe even this diehard cynic), according to Vinn, Civita really did start as an experiment of sorts — as the band's MySpace page suggests — to see what would happen when you combine musicians of varied leanings, from jazz lovers to grunge holdovers.

So far, so good.


"Paul (Mayden, — guitarist) sucked me into it. I had trained classically and done operas and musical theater and he's going 'bands are fun!' He's our British metal by way of Dave Navarro piece," says Vinn of Civita's guitarist and the band's makeup. "Then we found Robbie (Taboo — bassist) who is the Glam rock/pop piece. Now we have Tim (Armstrong — drummer) who is all about old punk and funk and being experimental. And it flows like water."


Civita will play Bob's Java Jive this Friday, Nov 21 along with Dishwasher Safe, Blackbird Orchestra and Cutmaster Sammy Swell. If you needed more reason than crappy beer to reunite with the coffee pot on South Tacoma Way, now you have one.



- Weekly Volcano


"To begin with, Civita rocked the house with a female vocalist who really knew how to bolt out those notes. The powerful voice was backed by a rock band that had dark undertones. They all seemed to be competent musicians (we've got him fooled! hehehehe), which was refreshing to hear. A thumping bass line pounded the crowd's eardrums, while the rest of the band just rocked. I do feel more prog elements could really boost this band and set them apart as they already seem to be playing within that area. This may not be a replacement for Virginia's Brave, but it's the best thing I've seen in this style in quite some time."

- TIOS Tacoma


Eclectic (e - klek - tik) adj. 1. Choosing what appears to be the best from diverse sources, systems or styles. 2. Consisting of that which has been selected from diverse sources.

I met up with Civita (Pronounced Cheh - VEE - Tah) at a down town club on a rare beautiful day in Tacoma. This being the first interview I've done in about 10 years, I was nervous to say the least. But as soon as I sat down to talk with them, I knew everything would be alright. They immediately allayed all my fears. I found them to be intelligent, eloquent, and humorous. I can't remember when I had more fun talking to people I'd just met.

Take for instance their lead singer Mel. She signs all of her emails "Melvin." A rubenesque girl with the voice of an angel and an attitude that would scare the devil himself. Self proclaimed mom of the band, she keeps her boys in line with a no nonsense attitude and good cooking, (the boys like to eat.) She writes 99% of the lyrics, not trusting anyone else in the band to write anything up to her standards because it always come out like seventh grade poetry. Her laugh is contagious and you can tell by her personality that she is "The Frontman" of the band. During the interview, I could tell from Mel's body language that she wanted to answer all the questions for other members of the band, but she managed to restrain herself in a way that reminded me of my son sitting on his hands so he wouldn't be tempted to eat his sister's cookie.

Being classically trained makes it difficult for Mel to sing rock-n-roll. In the studio, her band mates constantly tell her to "ugly it up.' Her voice is really too pretty for rock.

Then there's Mel's husband Paul. (guitar/bass). Tall, dark, handsome, and a man of few words, Paul is an artist from Olympia who has a high tolerance for alcohol and pot. A trait he shares with his wife. "No matter how much we drink or smoke, we just can't get high, so we just don't do it. A six pack of beer will last over a year in our fridge." When he writes a song, he does so alone. "woodsheding" is what he calls it. He waits until it's finished before he brings it to the band. Some are keepers, others go back to the shed. But he continues to keep the "if it doesn't completely suck, we'll play it," attitude.

Robbie (bass/guitar) seems to come from a different world than the rest of the group. Whereas Mel answered each question immediately, Robbie gave my queries full consideration before crafting a carefully worded response. The only pop savvy member of the band, Robbie tends to be spontaneous in his song writing. He has a "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" attitude. His favorite game is to try to get Mel to quit the band at least once during every practice.

The newest member of the group is drummer Luis. A legal immigrant from Torreon, Mexico, he has a friendly smile and a sharp wit. Upon meeting him, Mel's mother said (in her best Peggy Hill spanish) "Hola, Luis! Buenos dias!" To which he replied, "I don't understand, I only speak Italian!" Mom still doesn't like him very much! His friends call him pollo (spanish for chicken). A nick name given to him by his mother because he was born yellow. (That's spanish for looking like a white boy.)

Each member of the group, individually, is very talented in his or her own way. Put them together in the same room and you have Civita. Intricate guitar lines, sometimes melodic, somethimes heavy, are interwoven around Mel's astounding vocals. The songs have a very personal feel to them. Their song Ransom is about wrestling with your faith. Combining a pretty, mid-eastern quitar line with a heavy metalish chorus and an Indian (dot on the forehead kind) influenced vocal line sounds like a crazy idea, but these kids make it work in spades. You can't help but question the reality of God and where you fit in the big picture after hearing it.

Normally you'd call a newer band that has potential a "diamond in the rough." Not so with Civita. They are a well polished diamond in need of a rough edge. The only criticism I can give about them is that they're too pretty. Rock is supposed to be a bit gritty. It's not the worst sin in rock music. God knows we've all heard bands that take "gritty" way to seriously and end up sounding like shite. But I have to agree with the guys of the group, they could use a touch of "ugly it up."
- TIOS Tacoma


Discography

Act VII demo- 2006
No Time For Love, Doctor Jones EP- 2009 "Necessary Bruise" from this EP has gotten radio play on local music shows.

Photos

Bio

The local magazine TIOS had this to say about us (the full article can be found in our Myspace blog at www.myspace.com/civitaband):
Eclectic (e - klek - tik) adj. 1. Choosing what appears to be the best from diverse sources, systems or styles. 2. Consisting of that which has been selected from diverse sources.
The band has a "if it doesn't completely suck, we'll play it," attitude.
Normally you'd call a newer band that has potential a "diamond in the rough." Not so with Civita. They are a well polished diamond.

Matt Driscoll with Tacoma’s “Weekly Volcano”: A feminine-fronted hybrid of classic rock pathos, early '90s flashes and across-the-board musicianship, Civita is a local band…for anyone looking to have their alt-rock whistle tooted. (full article also available at the blog)

As for what we say about ourselves, all musical styles are up for grabs. To be simple, we are a rock band. To be complicated, we are a female-fronted alternative rock band with grunge, prog, and metal leanings. Do you miss Ann Wilson or Grace Slick on the radio? Try civita. Did you love when Seattle grunge ruled the airwaves? Try civita. Are you looking for a soundtrack to your ever-changing moods? Try civita. We think you’ll be glad you did.