The Technicolor Victrola
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The Technicolor Victrola

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By Al Byrne (Staff Writer)

Some voices just stop you in your tracks, and demand you take notice. Think Corin Tucker’s barely-controlled wail, Wilson Pickett’s heartfelt howl, or Mark Lanegan’s weathered moans. Well, we’re gonna need a bigger boat (new category): a new, slightly hyperbolic description to capture the intensity of Valerie Pomella, singer for The Technicolor Victrola, whose EP I’ve been lucky enough to discover. Hers is a voice that stops you in your tracks, grabs you by the throat, punches you in the mouth, and threatens to do in your shins with a cricket bat if you don’t listen more intently than you’ve ever listened before, son.
Connecting the hither-to invisible dots between old-time soul and modern-day indie rock, I’ve described the Victrola elsewhere as sounding like a more talented Amy Winehouse, but in a lot of ways, that’s a little off-base. Where Winehouse’s music is aimed at the mainstream with touches of modern r’n'b music, the Victrola temper their nostalgic tendencies with a beautifully authentic sound: a lithe, energetic rhythm section, touches of piano, and some wonderfully understated, nimble guitar. Comparing them to the drug-addled lady who brought old-fashioned soul back into the mainstream seemed natural for me, but friends have even ended up comparing them to the mighty Sleater-Kinney. Which can only be a good thing.
The songs are tidy, energetic and powerful by turns, always guided with a sure hand by Valerie’s dominant vocals. Always commanding, she moves between playfulness and soulful smoldering with a rare grace; she takes the songs to their peaks, and into their quiet reposes, searing through the music with heart-rending, sincere power. And while the band shines admirably alongside her on the first four songs of the EP, the last track, “Battle Cry”, is Valerie’s playground, her vocals given the time and breathing room to reach their molten best. And while it might be an overstatement to say the wearied but defiant singer almost reminded me of Billie Holiday on the track, she’s not far off.
The Technicolor Victrola are currently streaming the EP on their Myspace, and selling hard copies for $5 a pop - digital distribution is being looked into, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted when it happens. It’s not often I get breathlessly excited about new bands, but these guys are the genuine article. Watch them flourish. - ZMEmusic.com (ZME Media)


by Dylan Little (Staff Writer)

For The Technicolor Victrola, playing for their fans is rarely as simple as taking a cab to Hollywood.  
Instead, they tend to end up far from their South Bay home, most recently at the South By Southwest music festival, a trip their bus almost didn't survive.
To make it to last month's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, they opted to take drummer Donovan Lenker's bus, which has been modified to run on vegetable oil.
"It was the only way we could do it. With the price of gas, it's too expensive to use a normal bus," said Bryan Cerenzio, the band's keyboardist and guitarist.
At SXSW, the five-member, 60's inspired rock band played alongside the better-known Hold Steady's, which Victrola vocalist Valerie Pomella called a surreal experience. But they were hardly fazed.
"We were confident that we could do it," said Pomella. "Playing there solidified us as a band."
Though the music festival is famous for being a way for small acts to make it big, Victrola members are less concerned about playing for record companies than they are about performing for their fans - as they will Saturday at the San Pedro Brewing Company.
The band members, all in their early 20's, hail from San Pedro and Torrance.
"Playing South By Southwest is not a guarantee you'll make it," said Lenker. "It was amazing playing music with my friends. Even if you are hungry and haven't showered, that is still fun."
While playing in Austin was stressful, the ride back home wasn't exactly a meditative experience. On the return trip, the band's bus broke down in Ozona, Texas, where the musicians were stranded for three days while it was being repaired.
"I had some visions of leaving the bus. That was the closest it has come to destruction," said Lenker.
Thought the first night in Ozona was unsettling - like being in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Cerenzio said - things turned around as they got to know the town's residents.
"By the second day, we were celebrities. People would be like, 'Hey you guys are they guys whose bus was on fire?' One lady just gave us money for no reason," said Cerenzio, who co-founded the group with his brother, Peter. "We had a barbeque with a trucker who also broke down there."
"Now he wants us to play his backyard in Alabama," said Lenker.
SXSW might be the biggest show they've played on the road, but it wasn't their first. After being together for only a few months - and with one "hell week" of constant practicing - The Technicolor Victrola left for their first tour in December.
The official starting point was Brooklyn, N.Y., but as they were driving, they made a few stops along the way.
"Before the tour even started, we just stopped in some bar to get some drinks. We askeed if they needed a band that night and ended up playing a show there," said Pomella.
That tour, on which they were joined by four other bands, was where The Technicolor Victrola members really came together.
"It was the first real thing for us," said Peter Cerenzio. "It's intense to share a bus with other bands, where no one's showered for five days. But we are all on the same page, we all take it seriously."
Although all of the bands members attended South Bay high schools, The Technicolor Victrola didn't form until after college.
"Me and my brother were living in Santa Barbara, and when we got back, we decided to get this band together," said Bryan Cerenzio.
Individually, the group's members had been involved with other projects - from a jazz band to an avant-garde group to writing movie soundtracks for a friend's films. However, all of the members have their roots in 60's psychedelic rock.
"We all have a big appreciation for classic '60's rock. We are into indie stuff too. We try to fuse those two things together," said Pomella.
Likewise, Peter Cerenzio has an affinity toward music recorded before he was born.
"We play rock and roll - we got the roll in there too," he said. "I've always liked the older stuff. I mean, growing up when we did, what else did we have to listen to, Limp Bizkit?"
While the band mostly draws on the works of groups such as the Kinks and The Zombies, some of the musicians' influences are more eclectic than just '60's rock.
"I grew up listening to the Dixie Chicks. I think singing along to them really helped me as a singer," said Pomella.
Despite the band's diverse background, the musicians aren't trying to reinvent the wheel, nor are they trying to save rock music.
The Technicolor Victrola is just here to play.
"It'd be nice to get signed and make a living, but even if we just play shows for our fans, it'd be fun," said Pomella.
"We just love to play," said Bryan Cerenzio. - The Daily Breeze


Discography

The Technicolor Victrola, E.P. 2009; the tracks of this E.P. can be heard on www.myspace.com/thetechnicolorvictrola

Photos

Bio

While the idea for a 60s inspired rock’n’roll band was tossed and teased between the members for months, The Technicolor Victrola truly began to manifest these visions in November of 2008. Looking to artists such as The Kinks, The Zombies, Cream, early David Bowie, and Billie Holiday, the TV strives to stay true to rock in a totally unique, yet fitting way. The band began as Bryan Cerenzio (rhythm guitar, piano), Peter Cerenzio (lead guitar), Valerie Pomella (vocals), Robert Balleras (bass) and Donovan Lenker (drums). They played their first show after only two full-band rehearsals in downtown Long Beach, California. Though the abrupt and unorganized circumstances might’ve doomed the band’s first public appearance, the show was a success, the band was for real, and the TV wanted more.

The TV booked gigs in the South Bay area as well as up the Cali coast in Santa Barbara and San Francisco during the winter of 2008. In December, the TV was asked to play a couple of shows in Austin during SXSW opening for headlining acts The Circle Jerks, Lucero, The Hold Steady, and The Black Lips. The Technicolor Victrola figured they might as well make a road trip out of an excursion to Austin and teamed up with a few bands from Brooklyn, New York for an East Coast/South West tour of the United States. The band piled into Donovan’s 1993 Blue Bird, veggie-powered, school bus, Greased Lightening. She was famous nationwide for having made a cross-country trip the previous year, taking the F-Yeah Fest on the road. A few break-downs and many grease filters later, the TV arrived in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where they played their first show for a near-empty, smoke filled, cowboy bar. This was followed by Kansas City, Missouri; Brooklyn, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. After playing several shows during SXSW, the band embarked on their trip back to California and thought their month long journey was over. About a days drive outside Austin, one of Greased Lightning’s ball bearings started a fire, stranding the Technicolor Victrola in Ozona, Texas for three nights before they continued their trek home.

Since the tour, the TV continued to play shows, write music and refine their sound. Currently, The Technicolor Victrola is recording a second E.P. as a four-piece in San Pedro, California.