Max Vernon
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Max Vernon


Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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"The Toronto Star"


"I Kissed a Girl"

In one of the more nimble gender-reversals of late, this 20-year-old New York singer-songwriter takes the leering aural giggle that is Katy Perry's No. 1 hit and gives it an added dimension it probably doesn't deserve. In Vernon's hands, here's how the chorus goes: "I kissed a girl just to try it/Hope my boyfriend don't mind it." To say nothing of the classical-piano accompaniment.

- The Anti-Hit List

"New York Magazine"

2. Max Vernon, "I Kissed a Girl" (Katy Perry Cover)
Max Vernon keeps the original gender pronouns on this doo-wop cover of Katy Perry's jam of the summer. We wonder if he's going to teach your girlfriend how to dance with you while he's at it. [The Music Slut] - Right Click

"Fong Songs"

Firstly, here's a cover that should make you sit up and take notice. Last week Max Vernon sent me his cover of I Kissed a Girl (now starting to make the blog rounds) and it definitely stood out of all the random things that flood my inbox daily. I must be out of the loop because I was expecting a cover of Jill Sobule's song of the same name, though it's a cover of someone named Katy Perry, whom I'd never heard of before. She's the big thing on iTunes apparently (this summer's Umbrella/Crazy/Hey Ya?), which I learned from Brian who beat me to the punch playing this cover on Sunday's Coverville. By the way, there's a White Stripes Cover Story on tonight's episode of Coverville!

Anyway, back to Max Vernon. His cover kicks off with some classical piano and stays in this mode for the first third before some bass creeps in. Then the cover transitions into a sort of electronic Soft Cell doo-wop thing-- great stuff. I had to go listen to the original for comparison and needless to say, it takes it in a completely different direction. Naturally, I was compelled to explore Max's original songs and I liked what I heard even more. A 20-year old classically trained pianist from New York, Max Vernon is a bit hard to pin down. I was reminded of the fast-paced singing style and satirical lyrics of Tom Lehrer, piano stylings of Hoagy Carmichael, with-- and maybe this is because I just saw the film recently-- the voice of John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig & The Angry Inch. There's no CD yet, but here are a few places you can download/listen to his music:

on mySpace

Max Vernon - I Kissed a Girl [originally by Katy Perry]

And because the myspace downloading process is frustratingly stupid, here are a few tracks you should listen to:
Max Vernon - Hypochondriac Blues
Max Vernon - Politburo Technocrats and Prophesizing Maniacs
Max Vernon - Lisa Q
Max Vernon - When Your Body Breaks

I really hope to be hearing a Max Vernon CD release someday... music execs, get on it!

original link: - Max Vernon Kissed a Girl (and other news)


Despite ongoing stories of Katy Perry’s uncoolness, Hypeful is temporarily suspending its musical fatwā against her to offer you Max Vernon’s doo wop/jazz cover of her single “I Kissed A Girl.” It’s great to hear a guy tackle this song and you’ve got to admire Vernon’s chutzpah for really going after it. (Get ready, the song really hits its full synth-stride at the midpoint!) If you dig this, Vernon has more MP3s for your downloading pleasure on his MySpace page - which means he probably won’t be sending the IFPI after you like certain other girl-kissers I can think of…*cough cough* Enjoy!

original link: - Max Vernon Covers Katy Perry

"Hits in the Car"

US youngster Max Vernon has recorded a jazz inspired cover of the Katy Perry track I Kissed A Girl and spending 3 minutes in his company is certainly a lot more enjoyable experience than listening to the original. - Mixed Bag

"Gather Round, Children"

Max Vernon is a NYC musician who emailed me, press release style. He wrote a great pop song called “When Your Body Breaks.” Catchy, great production. And he’s 20. He also recently dipped into the important genre, Covers in Which the Sex of the Singer Changes the Song’s Meaning, with “I Kissed a Girl.”

His words: “Oh and by the way, since you’re accepting invented statistics i think it’s important for you to know, that my last demo sold 54,000 copies in a roughly three weeks and then Rihanna was like Bitch, what!?” That’s a pretty good one, though I’m hazy on which parts were invented. -

"Interview with an Intelligent Teenager"

Interview with an Intelligent Teenager

by Linda Sandoval

Linda says: I first met Max Vernon at a birthday party. He was fifteen at the time. During lunch he stood up and without apology or embarrassment gave an improvised and heartfelt speech in praise of his friend who was turning sixteen. This in front of a bunch of shocked teenagers he barely knew, as he was a new student at the high school. I was very impressed at that time with his bravery and expressiveness and throughout those high school years I kept an interested eye on Max. I noted the originality of his choices. Learning Japanese while living with a Japanese family in Japan, the beautiful and provocative drawings he made, his interest in theatre, his willingness to confront the status quo, (he once showed up at the rather stuffy school semi-formal dance in a 17th century costume complete with hose and doublet.) On his senior class page, rather than pasting together the expected pictures of himself at parties or winning awards, he scrawled the words “ART IS TRIVIAL.” I would occasionally hear him playing a really mean piano. I heard rumors that he was a talented songwriter/singer. Not long ago a friend of ours heard his song, Lisa Q, piped into the American Apparel store in Los Angeles. (How they found it, I can’t imagine. I also doubt that Max was paid for it.) Then I read about Max winning a songwriting/performance competition at NYU. He plays regularly at The Sidewalk Café in New York with upcoming dates at the Lucky Cat in Brooklyn, among others. He has put out his first CD called Lollipopsicles. And Max is doing all of this more or less on his own. By his own efforts his music is starting to immerge. And, like that original salute at the sweet sixteen party, he is still brave and expressive. He is not afraid to combine the poetic, the personal and the political. I asked him the following questions. As always, Max cheered me up quite a bit.

LINDA: So Max, what are some key autobiographical highlights?

MAX: I was born May 24th, 1988 making me a Gemini, which means nothing because I clearly don’t spend hours googling my horoscope and astrological charts…

I moved to LA when I was 5 or 6. After that, I was abducted by half vampire ninjas and instructed in the ways of stealth- I quickly ran around the world, married into vast wealth, saw everything there was to see, and became the jaded young man before you.

(None of this is true, except for the ninjas).

LINDA: Do you still think art is trivial?

MAX: I think that statement was made during the context of the height of my cynicism. I’m very idealistic about the nature of art and its ability to enrich, educate, and influence-so I felt increasingly dismayed by what I saw as the elitism of visual art-I felt that the industry of the art world and its various institutions and museums had totally disconnected people from the emotional experience surrounding art and that it had devolved into posters decorating people’s wall. After I wrote that though I more or less stopped drawing and focused on my music which I though was a much easier way of connecting with people on an emotional level and conveying some kind of message, whether political, social, etc.

LINDA: Where did you get the name “Lollipopsicles” for your CD?

MAX: I came up with that title in response to a record executive who told me my music wouldn’t sell without a psychosexual title. It was my way at poking fun at the ridiculousness of the record industry.

LINDA: Do you have any special process by which you filter your personal experience into song?

MAX: Usually the way I write songs is I just find myself making random noises throughout the day to keep myself occupied- then if I hear something interesting I’ll just start making lyrics up on the spot- gibberish almost. Then I’ll latch onto one particular word, which usually brings along some emotional connotation, and then it just writes itself from there. I guess it’s really just a process of tapping into my subconscious.

LINDA: I’ve heard your music described as “Antifolk.” Do you agree with that? And what is antifolk, anyway?

MAX: I actually just found out I’m going to be playing the summer antifolk festival. A lot of notable people have played at this festival so I’m thrilled. I think I would consider myself antifok in that my music is hard to categorize and antifolk is the genre of non-genre. That said, antifok is a million different things to different people—most of who are experimenting and trying different things. I think my lyric emphasis and my love of structure and melody maybe sets me apart-I mean some of these people are REALLY out there, but it’s fitting for the moment.

LINDA: Is the private school scene in LA, New York a positive environment for you as an artist or is it something you have to work against?

MAX: I think the “private school scene” in LA was a positive environment for me because it was something I had to work against. With the exception of a few of my friends, I wasn’t really inspired creatively by anyone at school so I retreated into myself, which is really useful for someone just starting to write songs. I think I had a lot of emotional issues/stereotypical teenage angst pent up that I needed to get out on paper- I don’t even have recordings of a lot of these first songs. On the other hand, being in New York has been an incredible environment for the completely opposite reason- being in the city and hearing so many interesting people perform all the time, especially in the anti-folk/roots revival scene has been humbling and inspiring. There are so many musical ideas being thrown around- so I process some, incorporate certain elements I like- I’ve been writing a lot more in New York. I wrote five new songs last month.

There was greed, there’s a past that we’d like to ignore

Like a scar on an ivory complexion

But it’s the ground we were built on

And we still can’t seem to find a new direction

Do you feel the sun burning in your face?

Don’t confuse the heat for passion

Another one abandoned by medicade

No insurance is the latest summer fashion

Lord how long have we been on this upward trend

See the dominoes fall on CNN…

Antacid rain, cook the books in your bank accounts

Your 401K took the bull/bear brunt of the fall with the click of a mouse

And now you can’t repay the loans on your brand new white picket fence of a house

Somebody take the blame, we can’t get a pill to block it out.

From Antacid Rain, music and lyrics by Max Vernon

LINDA: What do you feel are the worst sins of the previous generations and how have they hampered your generation of young artists. In the same vein, have we done anything useful?

MAX: As I write this, thanks to iTunes I think the biggest sin of the previous generation was not listening to this Swedish singer from the 70’s, Doris Svensson. I discovered her CD by accident at work and it’s absolutely brilliant- I have no idea how no one’s ever heard of it. Okay, serious Max again here we go- first off as a disclaimer I’d like to say “sins” is a bit of a weighty charge. I won’t blame anything on the previous generation that was out of their control due to mass hysteria- the Aqua Net that released the hydro fluoro carbons into the air that ate away the ozone layer, the popularity of bands like Air Supply, or the cost of the baby boom retiring which I will be paying off happily with all of my high school friends. I do however, think the overall apathy of my generation, when you get to the root of is in part traceable to the baby boomers (i.e. our parents)- quick A&E moment: hippies became yuppies and then the yuppies became content with being yuppies. Cash was king, and the overindulgence and emphasis on consumption that resulted left our world depleted and even worse, set a dangerous precedent: Many of my peers aren’t trying to figure out how to help the environment, but rather, they’ve been raised to want get the job that allows them to purchase the SUV that destroys the environment- I myself am susceptible to this rabid commercialism as well; it almost seems as if it’s written into all of our DNA. Thankfully, this interview is in a publication geared towards the politically involved and socially conscious so I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir- I just think more people should be challenging the social status quo in a progressive way, and the ones who actually have the power to challenge it are the ones who have money and influence. In other words, not my generation for the moment being. And I’m aware this is all just a bit precocious and I may one day read this at fifty and reflect on my naivety. But I digress…

Oh wait, this was supposed to be about the impact on young artists? Should I say the yuppies are the CEOs of all the record labels that probably won’t sign me? That too.

But for every thing that has “hampered” us, you have done so many amazing things. 1. You gave birth to us, 2. This is silly, because there are far too many positive things to mention. To be born in these times, although troubling, is such a blessing because all the problems we’re faced with will eventually force us into productivity.

LINDA: Do you have any advice as to what we should be doing to help heal the mess were in politically, environmentally?

MAX: Politically: TERM LIMITS in the Supreme Court, Senate, and Congress. Once politicians can stop worrying about running for reelection, the fear mongering and politicking these people do with hot button issues like gay marriage and abortion to get the vote of the fanatic religious right will hopefully start to fade. Also, it’s an easy way to diminish the power of lobbyists in congress, who regularly take advantage of Washington’s conductivity to corruption.

Environmentally: Even after taking a year’s worth of environmental science I have no idea. It scares me quite frankly, I feel very overwhelmed. I think we all have to do what we can on a small level. For me, that means writing music that addresses the issue in some way. The truth is the world doesn’t have a choice anymore. We’re either going to adapt or we’re going to cease to exist. I think taking away the power of the religious right could positively affect the environmental movement as well. A few weeks ago a seemingly innocuous girl in Union Square tried to pass me pamphlet entitled, Gore’s Inconvenient Lie, and then said “Only god can change the temperature”. Fundamentalist Christians in this country have way too much power in indirectly shaping policy within our government and that needs to change.

Lisa Q you met with your ex and helped sell

Concessions at a kickball game.

He was wearing a bow tie and a paper hat,

“Hotchhound” pants-oh you nearly came then

but you waited till after your bellies were

filled with sausage from a shady polish restaurant in

Brooklyn-a discotheque refuge, a mafia rendezvous

It was a discotheque refuge, a mafia rendezvous.

From Lisa Q, music and lyrics by Max Vernon

LINDA: Some of your songs are messages to friends. Almost like little medieval moral tales. What makes a good friend, a good person?

MAX: Oh I think I’m hardly qualified to say anymore- I guess a good person is someone who manages to meet my ungodly high standards because I clearly can’t.

To clarify, I make certain candid observations about people, but I mainly make them because I have an easier time identifying my flaws when I see them in someone else. Honestly, I think a good person is simply someone who can derive happiness from something that doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s. People who believe in moderation, reason, etc. (insert positive trait here.)

LINDA: Describe your working environment.

MAX: Initially, my environment is the streets of New York, where I’ll inadvertently start humming something to myself, which will later become a motif in a song. The process of actually developing the song is more difficult- I have a really hard time concentrating and experimenting lyrically around other people (AKA my two frat boy suitemates from Virginia). So, I have to block out four or five hours to lock myself in the basement with three bottles of water and the slightly out of tune NYU piano.

But I’ve been around enough to know

That everyone wants something

And I’ll have to give it up

So is it worth the cost, the line that I’ll cross

If I get what I want?

You’ve got a wall of faces staring at you

And when you’ve thrown me out

You’ll put me up there too

It’s so easy how we sell ourselves

When all we seem to get is more doubt

And is that enough

It’s never enough.

From Enough, music and lyrics by Max Vernon

LINDA: Do you think it is important to keep your individuality and autonomy in a system that immediately commodifies originality and makes it a lifestyle choice? (This question comes from the EAP editor, Tod Davies)

MAX: I think there’s a very fine line between commerciality and artistry that record executives try to blend when you speak with them. I see nothing wrong with commerciality personally; I think good pop is good music. However, I have heard the same speech now from several different people connected to the record industry- too much for comfort. A man at EMI who has been generous enough to meet with me several times, introduce me to my new singing teacher, and give me suggestions with my music essentially said something along the lines of, “Your music is unlike anything going on right now, or unlike what any male singer has ever done…but I think you need to figure out whether your music is Billy Joel or Broadway, it’s somewhere in between right now.” Beyond that my music sounds almost nothing like Billy Joel’s save the fact that we both play piano, I actually initially found this comment very seductive. In hearing him say this over and over in my head, I began to forget the first part of it, and started to solely think about how I could mold my sound into something more marketable and then get a record contract. Do this, this, this, this, and this, and then maybe we’ll like you. Well, is there a “you” when all of that is done? When I told my first singing coach/second mother about all of this, instead of being excited like I thought she would be she gave me some valuable advice: “As a singer songwriter starting out, you have to think of yourself like a Jackson Pollock” Well forget his alcoholism, depression, and early death- I get what she means. Selling out, licensing your music to commercials to ACTUALLY make money from music is absolutely fine with me, but you have to pay your dues first. Compromising yourself artistically when you’re just getting started out does not get you any respect within the artistic community. I think ultimately, all people trying to pursue a career in music need to maintain their sense of originality, because eventually when the record industry collapses from the lack of innovation and new creative talent, those people will still be standing, and someone will be listening.

LINDA: What do you most likely to do when you are not writing or performing your music?

MAX: Go to SoHo, admire clothing, look at price tag, jump out window.

Other than that…well I have a job now, so I suppose I’m most likely to be behind a computer screen clicking through online libraries of stock music trying to find the right Norah Jones-rip off to match up with a shampoo commercial.

LINDA: On your website you have listed some musical influences, do you want to add to those?

MAX: You’ve just opened up Pandora’s box, hence why I only list two in my bio online. Well I can’t say Joni Mitchell enough times. Joni never conformed to a particular genre -- she's always followed her own path, whether that meant her idiosyncratic guitar tunings, free form song structure, or her ambitious orchestral production. I think keeping Joni in mind has also given me the courage to stand up to all the music industry people that tell me my music can't be categorized, and therefore can't be sold. What would Joni have said to that? Screw you, I'm Joni Mitchell. Well, maybe I'm not in a position to say that just yet, but I internalize that quite often. I was actually thinking about this the other day -- I noticed that 95% of the artists I would list as influences are women. I think that's because my music background is first and foremost in singing, and men for the most part don't actually sing, they just get by on attitude and image, or if they sing their voice has to be ugly or abrasive somehow. So based on vocalization, I'd say Laura Nyro, Buffy St. Marie (god what a crazy voice), Judy Henske, Regina Spektor -- who helped break down my mental barriers of what I could and couldn't do with a piano -- and pretty much any large black woman that's ever sung gospel, jazz, or just about anything.

Okay, we’re in the home stretch now so I’ll give some exceptions to my female rule: Sonic Youth, Queen, Journey (said in a whisper), and Marilyn Manson.

Oh…screw it, fine! Mariah Carey. There you are, now go and blackmail me!

LINDA: What are some non-musical influences for your music, (writers, painters, classes you are taking etc.)?

MAX: I think to a degree, the way I sing is influenced by Antonin Artaud’s theatre of cruelty- I mean I obviously don’t believe in annoying the listener, but I am interested in often distorting certain vowels and juxtaposing “ugly” sounds with more traditionally pleasing ways of singing- Like a musical Shiatsu massage: tension and release.

Also, last semester the one redeeming experience in this dreadful class I took was reading a great deal of Sontag- Her ideas in On Photography, and Regarding the Pain of Others definitely resonated with me- in fact, a lyric in my song Politburo Technocrats and Prophesizing Maniacs references her pretty directly: “With every picture you politicize we become anesthetized to the world at large.”

LINDA: Any notes on the big picture, as in the purpose of music?

MAX: The only thing I’d add in passing is, (in the LEAST self-important, corny way possible of saying it), I do have idealistic expectations of the purpose of music. I’m majoring in Music as Social Activism at NYU and I’m looking to perhaps write music for grass roots projects. Although my music may be challenging to some people because of the lyric structure that makes it a bit theatrical, or it doesn’t really fit with a particular genre, I try to write music because it unifies people. I’m not typically interested in country music or hip hop, but good music is good music and it can transcend taste-and if it can transcend common taste and somehow infiltrate mainstream culture with some kind of message attached to it that isn’t trite or overly processed, then I think it can make a “difference”-whatever that is in this day and age I’m not exactly sure, but it fuels my drive to keep writing.

Okay that was my pretentious artist statement. It’s 1:38 am, in other words, cookie time.

LINDA: Wait! Where can we go to hear your work?

MAX: The easiest way would probably be to find me online: Did you hear that? That’s the sound of my dignity and brain cells sobbing as I plug away at oblivion. Oh well, I suppose there are more scandalous ways of networking these days. If you want to hear me live, I’d say you’re most likely to find me in the dark, derelict alleyways of New York/ The Sidewalk Café. Finally, you may find me performing on an enormous stage a few years from now should my birthday candles decide to pay back my ignored wishes with interest. Or, perhaps I’ll be sitting in the sad grey cubicle of broken dreams depending on how the coin lands. So it goes, to appropriate Vonnegut. - Exterminating Angel Press


Lisa Q- Gallatone vol 3
I Kissed a Girl (Doo Wop)- Guilt by Association vol. 2

Most of my music can be downloaded for free @



At age five, Max Vernon was politely asked to leave his hippy New York pre-school, Rudolph Steiner, for repeatedly questioning the plot of See Spot Run during story hour. This early disillusionment no doubt left its mark on the impressionable young boy: by age nine, he was already leading a turbulent double life filled with drugs, sex, and Joni Mitchell cds. After selling enough crack rocks to buy a piano, Max soon realized his affinity with the instrument and decided to craft a few songs, which followed the spirit of his original infantile question: Why are we doing this? …A question that is now more important than ever.

Despite continued FBI surveillance, Max Vernon’s songs have recently been having a love affair with the Internet, resulting in 30+ music blog shout outs and write ups in new york mag, toronto star, metroweekly, new york post.

His doo-wop inspired cover of Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl was licensed to the Guilt by Association vol. 2 compilation, also featuring My Brightest Diamond, Kaki King, Frightened Rabbit, Jukebox the Ghost, Matt Pond PA, etc. It is currently on rotation at 100+ colleges.

He has read Machiavelli and would one day like to be philosopher king, or a supreme court justice, but will settle for avant-pop star.