Venus Mission
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Venus Mission

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"Satellite of Love"

Andrea Rosenthal is on a mission with a newly reconstituted band and a new side project

Interview By Dale Johnson

Photo By Dale M. Johnson
Andrea Rosenthal of Venus Mission

"Aren't you going to describe me like they do in Vanity Fair?" Andrea Rosenthal asks. Rosenthal, of the local band Venus Mission, showed up for our interview at the chic and trendy Sitwell's in Clifton, resplendent and immaculate in a white Versace suit topped with a plucky, ermine-trimmed baseball cap. She ordered toasted brie with strong Kenyan coffee roasted from beans that had been pre-digested by marmosets. She situated herself saucily, yet politely, every inch the Iowa girl-turned-Rock star.
OK, she actually showed up in clothes she was wearing to go to the gym with her hair tied back and ordered bacon and eggs and toast and regular hadn't-been-passed-through-a-small-primate's-digestive-tract coffee. Still, she was every inch the Iowa girl-turned-musician. Rosenthal isn't a Rock star -- the term just doesn't fit her. She's more a chanteuse. Her performance and personal style remind me of Carol King, Kate Bush and Sally Brown, Charlie Brown's little sister, all grown up.

Venus Mission's previous CD was 2001's seemingly bright yet darkly undertoned Midwestern Soul. VM has gone through lineup changes since that CD, and Rosenthal has gone through a few changes herself.

CityBeat: What's your performance style?

Andrea Rosenthal: I used to do musical theater, so there's still a part of me that enjoys that "over-the-top" thing. I like to throw something kind of "cabaret" in the middle of the set to kind of throw people off. Normally, I'm kind of a subdued front person, so something like a "cabaret interlude" gives me a chance to take on a character and be a little more "out there." I kind of rely on the guys in my band to provide the visual interest. Y'know, "I'm just quietly playing my piano over here."

CB: Your band is almost entirely different now than the one that you had at the time of Midwestern Soul. Why did the band lineup change?

AR: There's just naturally some attrition. I really notice as I move along my path that the people who stay with me are people who are equally intense about what they want to accomplish with music. You tend to part ways with people who aren't as invested or who just have a different path for themselves musically. Any number of things can influence that -- whether it's school or having a baby. "Life" kind of comes in sometimes.

CB: Tell me about the project you're doing right now with Lou Larson (Three-Legged Stella, Kailip).

AR: There are a few things I already have finished that he's keen on reworking. We already have a good number of songs in the chute that I think are really exciting. And what's interesting is I have this "hyper-melodic" sense, kind of like Rufus Wainwright, I think that things I write seem like "anthems" almost.

CB: "Perfect Love Will Save the World" (a song from Midwestern Soul) isn't an anthem at all.

AR: (laughs) Right. Lou brings to bear this kind of unconventional guitar playing. I think the point that we found that we can meet in the middle is a kind of Mazzy Star-type of sound, where the guitar is really spacey and open and the woman's voice is airy and very melodic and accessible. You feel as if you're listening to a Pop song, but when you get into it it's actually pretty complex. I think that's kind of where we're headed -- let's make it seem like you can sing along to this on the first pass, but, in fact, as you get into it, there's all these other things.

Which could serve as a neat summation of Rosenthal herself: You can sing along with her at first, but there's so much more underneath.


VENUS MISSION performs a special Valentine's Day show Feb. 14 at the York St. Café. Find more info at

- Citybeat

"Venus Envy"

Venus Envy
Folksy Pop/Rock group Venus Mission will host a CD release party for their debut album, Midwestern Soul, on Sunday at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The 7 p.m. show is free with a CD purchase and a pre-show dinner is available for those making pre-paid reservations (call 513-368-9832 for information). Openers for the night are Dave Purcell, Messerly & Ewing, Stephanie Shull and Bert Herrlinger. Ric Hordinski (who produced the album), Steve Schmidt, Greg Mahan and Josh Seurkamp will join the band on-stage.

Venus Mission is fronted by Andrea Rosenthal (formerly of the acoustic band, The Dowlands) whose rich, majestic voice is a focal point of Midwestern Soul. The rest of the group -- guitarist Jeff Johnson, bassist Dave Ramos and drummer Chris Zerges, plus guest pianist Schmidt -- does an exemplary job of creating the luxurious, textural sounds, with which Hordinski once again works his spacious production magic. Fans of Sarah McLachlan or Over The Rhine will find a kindred soul in Venus Mission, with their soaring hooks and lush yet intimate soundscapes. Other standout features of the record include Rosenthal's visceral, poetic lyrics and the extraordinary, artistic CD packaging.

- Citybeat

"Local Quintet Venus Mission bare their Midwestern Soul"

Local quintet Venus Mission bare their Midwestern Soul

Venus Mission


Singer/songwriter Andrea Rosenthal says she was somewhat shocked when Scott Bruce, her musical partner in the folksy duo The Dowlands, told her he wanted to stop performing with her. It was September of 2000, and Rosenthal was in the process of doing all she could to make The Dowlands a success. Upon reflection, she sees it was her drive and increased solo writing ventures that led to the split.

"Looking back, there was a lot of conflict brewing," she says of The Dowlands' demise. "My intensity level and focus on music had been increasing, and I found myself writing more songs on my own. My desire to take hold of the project and really lead it was causing growing pains."

"Yeah, things are better now that it's an unqualified dictatorship," jokes guitarist Jeff Johnson. Rosenthal found Johnson (also leader of the Rock outfit Lost Johnson) through a classified ad in CityBeat when she decided to begin a new project. That project became Venus Mission, an organic Pop band that is rounded out by bassist Dave Ramos (who plays in Brian Lovely's Flying Underground), drummer Chris Zerges and new guitarist Andy Neuman. The band's debut, Midwestern Soul, is an entrancing album loaded with atmospheric textures, gorgeous songs and soulful vocals.

Rosenthal had produced The Dowlands' CD, but for Venus Mission's first foray into the public's eyes and ears, she felt that a solid, outside producer was essential. While most local musicians and bands don't give that much thought to recordings, Rosenthal is clearly a big-picture thinker with the foresight to learn from past experiences.

"I had co-produced The Dowlands' CD and frankly was unimpressed with myself," says Rosenthal. "I just couldn't stand apart from my music enough to see all the possibilities. I had ideas for how some of the songs on Midwestern Soul could blossom through production, but with others, it was a joy to put them into the hands of someone I trusted and just say, 'Here are my guidelines, now run with it.' "

The group ended up with one of the best producers in the region: Ric Hordinski, studio wiz and guitarist, who was a founding member of Over the Rhine and currently fronts Monk. Like Daniel Lanois, a Ric Hordinski production can be identified as such on first listen. Hordinski's ear for ethereal layering was a perfect fit for Venus Mission's heavenly sound.

"Ric definitely brought that buttery, layered guitar texture thing," says Johnson. "It's not a template or anything, but there are these certain hallmark sounds of his. So, yeah, our disc certainly sounds like a Ric Hordinski recording. But in many ways I don't think the CD sounds much like anything else I've heard him produce. It certainly doesn't sound like Over the Rhine -- unless the CD-buying public wants it to, in which case, it sounds just like OTR, folks!"

The band's current concentration is to continue building a fan base locally before branching out with some touring this fall. A second CD is already in the works, and the band is currently working out label and distribution issues.

Venus Mission is indeed a band with a mission: Their professional attitude and creative thinking has allowed them to pull off things like the "Summer Sounds in Burnet Woods" concerts, a series of local band performances which is funded by the Cincinnati Park Board. Ultimately, the band like to see their role locally as being more than just a group of musicians who play shows occasionally: They constantly look for new ways to present their music and to give back to the community that spawned them.

"I see the local music scene as having three parts: bands, venues and fans," says Neuman, when asked where Venus Mission fits in on the local music front. "We're a band, but also of importance is the fact that we're fans too, and we are always looking for ways to give the fans something new, like a September show we're planning in a kind of exotic riverside garden. And we are working at creating new venues and running support for the good venues we already have. So really, we fit in by being involved in all of these aspects. I don't think you fit in a 'scene' by just doing your Friday night gigs and dumping an endless supply of money into an anonymous local studio. You can do that in almost any town, with or without a 'scene.' "


VENUS MISSION will take part in the Songwriter's Summit at the York Street Café on Sunday and, on May 17, they appear at the Southgate House Parlour with Benj Clarke and Jennifer Daniels. For more information, check out
- Citybeat

"Rhythm in the City"

Rhythm in the City
Venus Mission confident of future

By Sarah Knott
The Cincinnati Enquirer
for Cincinnati.Com

"Midwestern Soul" by Venus Mission. (Venus Mission photo)


Listen to Venus Mission:
• 8 Reasons

See Venus Mission:

Feb. 28: Sitwell's
Mar. 3: Habit's Cafe
Mar. 28: York St. Cafe
Apr. 7: Leo Coffeehouse

Venus Mission lead singer Andrea Rosenthal projects a clear path for her 1-year-old, rock-folk band.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't be one of the top bands in the city," she says. Rosenthal adds that such ambition is difficult to organize with a 2- and 4-year-old at home and the strain of day-to-day life. But she's confident the layered sounds, keyboard work and textured guitar of Venus Mission will prove the top is where they belong.

"We have the experience," she says. "We're trying to balance it all. We've set the bar high and we intend to do a CD that could make it on the national market."

Rosenthal, guitarist Jeff Johnson, bassist Dave Ramos and drummer Chris Zerges comprise Venus Mission, a four-piece ensemble labeled "orchestral pop" by a follower. Some comparisons to local favorite "Over-the-Rhine" have been made, says Rosenthal, but she trails off when describing them, talking more about Venus Mission's debut release, "Midwestern Soul." The 11-song CD came out early February 2002 with a party at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley and lots of play on WNKU. The band also garnered a WOXY Top 20 band ranking in 2001.

"The songs on the CD are all about relationships, but all kinds of different relationships," says Rosenthal. "They could be about love, friendship, or community...the way they end up ringing is like grown-up fables."

Rosenthal, who wrote six of the songs and co-wrote four others, says her creative process starts when she hears a piece of melody, which leads to some casual words, and then to chords. She carries a small dictophone around because her ideas can be "very unexpected."

"These aren't autobiographical songs," she says. "They are intensely domestic, but I use my own stories, others' stories and I make stuff up. They sound true-to-life, but they're not necessarily experiences of mine."

Becoming a popular Cincinnati entity, however, will be a team effort, she says. The contacts and the experience of Venus Mission will contribute to their goal of making it on their own, not being discovered by an accidental, roving talent agent.

"You can't just show up and play a great show. You have to bring a ton of people," says Rosenthal. "You have to build relationships with club managers, and the media and other local musicians. I'm seeing the reality of the business and realizing you can't be shy and wait for someone to find your music."

Venus Mission's first goal was to produce a "spectacular CD," says Rosenthal, and she says they've done it. Next, they wanted to make a splash with promotion and events. They've done that, too, she says. Now, they want to build a local audience base and get a buzz started that Venus Mission's music is for thinkers.

"I think our music has a healing aspect to it," says Rosenthal. "I want people to have a thought about life or learn something about themselves when they listen to us."

- Cincinnati Enquirer

"Moms Rock Kids' Worlds"

Moms rock kids’ worlds
Women here and across the country are making quality time for music

By C.E. Hanifin
Enquirer staff writer

Emma Wilson, 10, loves telling schoolmates that her mom, Beth Cheek of Lovely Crash, is a local rock star.
The Enquirer / Brandi Stafford
Looking for more music from moms who rock? Check out these albums by contemporary musical mothers:

"The Beekeeper," Tori Amos (2005)

"Baduizm," Erykah Badu (1997)

"Room to Breathe," Reba McEntire (2003)

"Sutures," Jayne Sachs (2005)

If you're a mother balancing your music career with raising a family, it never hurts to have a little help. Here's what veteran rock moms have in their survival kits:

"A cell phone is totally key. It takes all the guilt out of it when you know that the baby sitter can reach you at any moment," says Andrea Rosenthal.

"Candy. I took my son with me to a meeting at Tower Records to talk about having them carry my new album, and the only thing that would keep him quiet was candy," says Tiffany Petrossi.

"The best scheduler you can find. I'd be nowhere without my Palm Pilot," says Beth Cheek.

"Room to practice at home. Then you don't have to drag your kids out on a school night so you can go to band practice," says Brenda Hauser.

"A sense of humor. You can't have a thin skin when your kid is critiquing your music," says Kelly Thomas.

C.E. Hanifin

Artist Abiyah and her son Zeque Walker had a talk about how to make both motherhood and music work.
• Find out more about moms who rock
• Red proud to have 2 moms (5/8/2005)
• Here's to you, Mom (5/8/2005)
• In This Family, Minnie's the Tie that Binds (5/8/2005)
• Mini masterpieces for Mom (5/8/2005)
• Last-minute gift for mom? It's an art (5/8/2005)
• A Mother's Day desire for peace (5/8/2005)
• There's no such thing as an ordinary mom (5/8/2005)
• Stay-at-home moms succeed on the side (5/8/2005)

The typical mother might hire a clown or a magician to entertain at her child's party. Beth Cheek, however, is not your average parent. She's a rock 'n' roll mom.

For her daughter Emma Wilson's ninth birthday, Cheek kept the young guests rocking with her band Lovely Crash.

"That was a tough audience, but a very good one," she says. "By the end of the set, all the kids were dancing."

Cheek, a Western Hills multi-instrumentalist and singer who also performs with the Fairmount Girls, says she loves being a musical mother.

"I really do have it all," she says.

And Emma, now 10, boasts to her friends about her mom's frequent performances around town. "The other kids say, 'Your mom's not a rock star,' and I tell them, 'Yeah, she is.' "

From the national arena to local clubs and carpools, rock moms are taking center stage. This month, Mamapalooza festivals across the country are bringing together creative women who also are raising children. The music and arts festival didn't play Cincinnati this year, its fourth, but Midwest cities included Detroit, Nashville and Chicago (www.mamapalooza

.com). The Rockin' Moms Web site (www.rockin also offers support and networking opportunities for women rockers.

On the local scene, musical mothers can be spotted at the area's playgrounds by day, clutching their drumsticks in one hand and a juice box in the other. At night, you can spy them at clubs all over the area, where they alternate between wailing into a microphone and ducking backstage with their cell phones to check in with the sitter.

While balancing nightlife and family life can be tough, local rock moms say the rewards for them and their children far outweigh the challenges.

In recent years, stars such as Madonna, Reba McEntire and Liz Phair have talked candidly about their roles as parents, influencing countless mothers to make some noise of their own.

When Tiffany Petrossi, a 31-year-old singer-songwriter and mother of two from San Jose, Calif., launched her Rockin' Moms Web site in 2004, the number of responses she received surprised her. The site hosts a growing roster of more than 80 musicians.

"There have always been moms in music, but I think there are definitely more moms who are being inspired now and thinking, 'I'm going to join a band,' " Petrossi says.

Brenda Hauser of Montgomery became a rock mom about 20 years ago, when it was tougher to be a female rock musician, period, let alone one with children.

Three weeks after Hauser gave birth to twin daughters, she resumed performing with Ooh La La & the Greasers, a cover band she joined with her husband 30 years ago.

"Music is something we've always done as a family," says Hauser, 50.

Some rock moms, such as Hauser and Cheek, were rocking the stage long before they began rocking a cradle. Others, like local cross-genre artist Abiyah, took up music after they became parents.

Abiyah, 35, decided to set her rhymes to - Cincinnati Enquirer

"Songs for Thirtysomethings"

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Songs for thirtysomethings

Andrea Rosenthal makes it her mission to reach a grown-up audience, too

By C.E. Hanifin
Enquirer contributor

After years as a stay-at-home mom, Andrea Rosenthal set out in 2001 to find an audience for the songs she'd been writing in her attic. Although she enjoyed nightclub gigs with her band, Venus Mission, she knew that those performances alone wouldn't deliver her sophisticated, folksy pop to some of the listeners with whom it would resonate the most.

With her debut album, 2002's "Midwestern Soul," the Clifton musician sought to reach people like herself - adults with responsibilities who love music, but spend more time in bookstores than in bars.

"When you're out performing, you feel that the only people who care about music are in their 20s," she says. "You feel there's no place for grown-up stories.

"I write about things that are very thirty-something-esque," she says. "Will this marriage last? Will my life change now that I have kids? Where is my self in this new life that I've created?"

Rosenthal found many core followers browsing through the music section at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Norwood and tuning in to WNKU-FM (89.7). She also acquired a broad fan base by logging time at local clubs that draw music lovers of all ages.

Rosenthal continues to aim for a diverse audience with Venus Mission's "Love Me Back Alive." The record will debut with a release show Friday at Jack Quinn's in Covington, and is available at local shops and online at

The album's intimate, introspective songs focus on the intense emotions churned up by Rosenthal's recent divorce. She sidestepped a typical singer-songwriter sound, however, by incorporating rock, jazz and hip-hop influences. The album was mastered by Richard Dodd, a multiple Grammy winner who has worked with Tom Petty and Sheryl Crow.

Rosenthal also rounded up a quartet of well-known local musicians. Mike Georgin of Newport, a member of 4Track All-Stars and Lo-fi, says he signed on to play bass because every track on "Love Me Back Alive" leaves an indelible impression.

"I was blown away by the songs," says Georgin. "They just don't fit easily into one category."

While people who have gone through divorce are likely to pick up on how that experience colors the songs on "Love Me Back Alive," Rosenthal says, the album's overarching themes of desire, loss, rebirth and growth possess universal appeal.

The mother of two says raising children influences her songwriting as well.

"It's a sense of having your eyes wide open; kids remind you of what really is true," she says. "The more awake you are, the better a songwriter you are."

- Cincinnati Enquirer

"'Alive' and Well"

Spill It
'Alive' and Well

By Mike Breen

Singer/songwriter Andrea Rosenthal celebrates the release of her latest Venus Mission CD, Love Me Back Alive (the first VM album since 2002's debut, Midwestern Soul), with a show at Jack Quinn's Emerald Ballroom Friday. Joining Venus Mission (which also features Mike Georgin, Aaron Mahoney, Scott Hacker and Chris Ellison) for the 8:30 p.m. event are Catalog Cowboys and California-based singer/songwriter Justin Sheehy.
For Love Me Back Alive, Rosenthal enlisted two of the area's more celebrated knob-twidlers, John Curley (who engineered live full-band sessions) and Ric Hordinski (who co-produced with Rosenthal). The first collaboration between the studio magicians creates a fitting dichotomy: Just as Rosenthal's songs (which feature a couple of co-writers) blur the lines between the celestial and the organic, the production has a lively, driving underbelly splattered with an atmospheric magnetism. With often biting, empowering lyrics of redemption out of sorrow, Rosenthal and her co-conspirators paint sweeping, emotionally self-reflective tracks with a variety of textures and engaging, creative nuances, from echoing guitars and spacious, almost psychedelic effects to jarring guest spots from singer/poetess Abiyah and rapper Swift.

The recordists and quality sessioneers recruited to play on the album bring Rosenthal's songs to life, but without the ornamentation the tunes would still stand up fairly well (though they'd tend toward a much more "Adult Contemporary" corner of the room). Rosenthal's airy yet pointedly expressive voice is uniquely effervescent, but it's also one of those love it/hate it kind of vocal styles. Standouts on the album (the ones where everything clicks at once) include "Girls of Virtue," a rolling, minor-key dirge that's the best written cut on the disc, and "I Want You," which features snake-charmer guitar and a defiantly abrupt, popcorn-bass-buoyed chorus. Occasionally, the songwriting doesn't stand up to encasement, but for the most part Love definitely holds up as Rosenthal's finest recording so far. (

- Citybeat


"Love Me Back Alive"
"Midwestern Soul"



"Love Me Back Alive" was mastered in Nashville by multiple Grammy winner Richard Dodd. Dodd has been the engineer and/or producer of choice for artists such as Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow, Wilco, John Hiatt, Green Day and Roy Orbison.

The album was recorded "live" at Ultrasuede Studio, Cincinnati, with John Curley engineering (f/o The Afghan Whigs) and Ric Hordinski producing and playing guitar with a crack team of studio musicians. Rosenthal also worked with notable spoken word artists Abiyah and Swift (4-Track Allstars) to provide a more varied soundscape.

Hordinski has produced for such notables as Phil Keaggy, David Wilcox and grammy award nominee Zak Morgan. Throughout the 1990's, Hordinksi was the guitarist for the critically acclaimed band Over the Rhine (IRS, Virgin).

Venus Mission was nominated for three 2003 Cincinnati Enquirer Cammy Awards, and was listed in the alternative press as having one of the top local releases of 2005 and 2002. Venus Mission has opened for international acts such as British folk-rock legends Lindisfarne and has headlined at National Public Radio's annual conference.

They headline the premier venues for original music in the Cincinnati area and surrounding region and lend their name to many high-profile fundraisers. Venus Mission has also been pleased to showcase at Cincinnati's very own Midpoint Music Festival for five years running.

Venus Mission's debut CD, "Midwestern Soul," was released in 2002 and quickly garnered critical acclaim as well as extensive AAA radio airplay in the Cincinnati region. The album's eleven tracks were also engineered and produced by Ric Hordinski.