Vervein
Gig Seeker Pro

Vervein

Band Pop Rock

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


"Chick Factor"

SF indie-pop quartet Vervein prospers despite chump-ass rock crit chauvinism.
By Michael Alan Goldberg

Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Yeah, you know, we just hang around in our lingerie and have pillow fights," chuckles Jess Congdon, frontwoman of the San Francisco quartet Vervein. "Isn't that what four girls in a band are supposed to do?"

It's a good thing the singer/songwriter/guitarist can poke fun at the stereotypes and assumptions that go along with the dreaded all-female band, because there's no getting away from them in this Maxim-ized world of ours. Not even on Vervein's own Web site.

Like most unsigned, up-and-coming bands, Vervein has posted nearly all of the press reviews for its recent self-released debut album, Vast Low Cities. And so you can discover this little nugget from one scribe: "The most surprising thing about this record, for me, is not its quality, but that it has impressed a guy like me as much as it has. Now I've got nothing against confessional female indie-pop; [it] has its place and purpose, but it's never really been a strong area of interest for me."

Sure, the dude probably means well, but implicit in his writing is that old derisive notion Vervein has dealt with time and time again, one that's plagued nearly every woman who's dared to strap on a guitar or bass, or sit behind a drum kit: "This stuff isn't bad ... for a bunch of chicks."

Congdon can only laugh at such ignorance. "I think it's more funny than anything, the people who put those kind of disclaimers on it," she says. "Whatever. It's hard to believe people still have hang-ups about whether it's girls or guys, but I know they do. Oh, well -- if they're only gonna judge our music on the fact that girls made it, it's their loss."

Okay, okay, sometimes it bothers her. "I think the only time genuine frustration comes into the whole thing is when there's this expectation for a girl group to rely so heavily on their image, which is unfortunate," Congdon continues. "It does concern me, some of the comments we've gotten about trying to get our picture in more places, things like that. I guess in some ways there's really nothing you can do about it, but we're confident since there've been other bands in the past that have been able to pretty much sidestep the issue, like the Breeders. And people here in the Bay Area are pretty gender-blind, I would say. I don't know what we'll have to deal with in the future, but hopefully the music will always speak for itself."

For the most part, Vervein's Vast Low Cities speaks rather softly but carries a big stick-in-your-head combination of plaintive melodies, eddying atmospherics, introspective (yet not eye-rolling) lyrics, and structures that dodge the usual tenets of indie-guitar rock. The spare, quiet, sometimes somber moments -- usually formed by cleanly picked chords, dusky cello, breathy vocal harmonies, and the most reticent of bass and percussion -- are like momentarily losing your bearings in a thick blanket of fog: It's aesthetically quite lovely and serene, yet there's an underlying sense of trepidation as well.

The foursome can rock out too, sorta -- when Vervein stomps on the pedals on tracks like the standout "Station," it's more of a shoegazer blur than a fuzz-bomb detonation, though the latter may occur when the band plays live. It's not hard to imagine any of these fourteen songs slotting nicely into a college radio DJ's dreamy overnight set, right next to Galaxie 500, Throwing Muses, Lush, Red Stars Theory and, yeah, some early Breeders, too.

Certainly the disc sounds as poised and chemistry-laden as a band that's been playing together for a decade, not one that's only been around since late 2000 and endured a lineup change a year into its existence. Transplanted Washington, DC, native Congdon met guitarist and cellist Esther Reyes in San Francisco and sparked Vervein's formation; the pair subsequently poached the rhythm section -- drummer Allison Duke and bassist Audra Kunkle -- from the local band Shackleton to round out the lineup. When Kunkle left in 2001, a friend of Congdon's suggested the group audition singer-bassist Rachel Fuller.

"She just walked in the door and we were like, 'Okay, she's the one,'" Congdon recalls. "Everything was just there, her personality, her musical sense, all of it. We were playing and the whole thing just clicked pretty immediately. I've been in bands where I loved hanging out with everybody but it wasn't like we got much done, and I've been in the other situation where you show up and play and you don't have any personal connection. But this is the best of both worlds. These women are my friends, I love them all, and it just so happens that they're incredibly talented as well, and we all have the same kinds of sounds going through our minds."

Such unity of artistry has borne much fruit in a relatively short period of time. Congdon says the bandmembers have already written most of the follow-up to Vast Low Cities; she thinks the new material -- some of which they'll unveil at the Hemlock Tavern on Friday -- shows off even more of their uncanny communion.

"I do have to say that the writing is actually the easiest and least competitive and tension-filled than any other band I've ever been in," Congdon continues. "We're just all incredibly polite! If we don't like something we will say it, but it's very rare we get into arguments about how things go."

Congdon pauses for a moment, then begins to laugh. "See -- we're not just a bunch of girls that are all moody all the time!"

Yep, another myth dispelled. - East Bay Express


"Vervein"

REVIEWED
Vervein
Vast Low Cities
By Liz Montalbano

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Listening to the first few tracks off of Vast Low Cities, the debut release from San Francisco quartet Vervein, it might be easy to characterize the record as a collection of dainty downtempo pop songs, enhanced by layers of ethereal female vocals that lull a listener into a pleasant, meditative state. But to focus on nothing more than this halcyon element would be a mistake. While Vervein's music -- driven by the interplay between the guitars of Jessica Congdon and Esther Reyes and backed by Rachel Fuller's melodic bass lines and Allison Duke's solid drumming -- is lush and wistful, recalling slowcore bands like Rex and Red House Painters, the band adds complex, emotional lyrics to its dreamy landscapes of sound, making for an intelligent record that dives deep below its deceptively serene surface.

The existential dilemma of time and its role in our inevitable passage into death seems an obsession of Vervein's principal songwriter, Congdon, who also doubles as lead vocalist. "Dying on the vine, die all the time," she sings on "Mush," one of the record's most compelling tracks, which finds her futilely longing to re-create a moment with a lover. A similar sentiment is represented in "Three," a haunting dirge of a song accented by a warbling organ over which Congdon sings, "Patience is the only thing that comes to those who wait," making it clear that she's a gal who would much rather make things happen than let time make her decisions for her.

Congdon's lyrics are supported by music that makes ample use of the crescendo, as many of the songs build from a sparse beginning to an electrically charged finale. The occasional infusion of Reyes' haunting cello adds an elegant drama to the mix. And just when it seems Vervein overuses minor keys, a bright song like "Disposition" or the infectiously hooky "Stray Dogs" interrupts the moody reverie. Overall, the material on Vast Low Cities inspires a response similar to what its lyrics evoke: It's easy to dream of beautiful things while we listen, but those hopes are dashed when the record, like all things, comes to an end. - SF Weekly


"Reviews for Vervein"

"[The Weather Inside] is the album to give to those friends that insist music just isn't that good anymore. Shot through with the sort of heart-tugging bass lines and sleepy-eyed vocals that made the Breeders famous, it's not so much a flashback as a flash of inspiration."
-SF Gate (Best of 2005)

"Joining the list of bands proving that girls can rock as hard (if not harder) than boys are Vervein, an indie rock quartet whose sound is simultaneously dreamy and hard-edged (think Azure Ray meets the Breeders). On their 2003 debut, Vast Low Cities (Angrymoose), the San Francisco band communicate a dark, confident sexiness.
-SF Bay Guardian

“Vast Low Cities is probably going to be the best indie-pop record of 2003”
-Delusions of Adequacy

“The best ‘vocal’ album of the year”
-Fakejazz

“Who says girls don’t write and play great rock and pop music? Certainly not me, and certainly not after listening to Vervein’s ‘Vast Low Cities’”
-South of Mainstream

“It’s not hard to imagine any of these fourteen songs slotting nicely into a college radio DJ’s dreamy overnight set, right next to Galaxie 500, Throwing Muses, Lush, Red Stars Theory and some early Breeders.”
-East Bay Express

“Vervein is an interesting band out of Frisco who happen to be all women, are totally indie and even include a cello on a few tunes. But beyond these facts is that they sound great.”
-The Chicken Fish Speaks

“The warm female vocals at times reminded me of Tanya Donnelly... Either way, the vocals are beauty in its true form with mesmerizing melodies.”
-Impact Press - Various


Discography

Full-length - "The Weather Inside" released Fall 2005
Full-length - "Vast Low Cities" released Spring 2003

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

THIS IS THE ALBUM TO GIVE TO THOSE FRIENDS THAT INSIST MUSIC JUST ISN'T THAT GOOD ANYMORE. SHOT THROUGH WITH THE SORT OF HEART-TUGGING BASS LINES AND SLEEPY-EYED VOCALS THAT MADE THE BREEDERS FAMOUS, IT'S NOT SO MUCH A FLASHBACK AS A FLASH OF INSPIRATION.
-SF GATE

THE CAREENING GUITARS, GORGEOUS CELLO AND GRIPPING DRUMMING ALL COME TOGETHER TO CREATE A WORLD OF SOUND THAT FEELS FORBIDDEN AND DELICIOUSLY SECRET.
-PREFIX MAG

THE CLEAN VOCALS OF MAZZY STAR, THE TIGHT RHYTHM OF THE BREEDERS, AND A MOOD NOT HEARD SINCE THE FIRST AMERICAN ANALOG SET FULL LENGTH. SOME A&R REPS FROM MAJOR LABELS MUST BE MISSING THIS BAND SOMEHOW.
-THE BEE’S KNEES

THE RESONATING GUITARS AND UNABASHED, SMOKY VOCALS ARE DELICATE YET BRAZEN, LIKE A BEAUTIFUL, EXOTIC FLOWER THAT ALSO HAPPENS TO BE CARNIVOROUS.
–SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN

PERFECTLY SUITED FOR SOME HIGH-SPIRITED MAKEUP SEX.
–FAKEJAZZ.COM

LIKE MOMENTARILY LOSING YOUR BEARINGS IN A THICK BLANKET OF FOG.
–EAST BAY EXPRESS

A 3-AXE ASSAULT… UTTERLY UNLIKE THAT OF JUDAS PRIEST.
–BLUEMAG.COM

WITH A SOUND THIS SOLID… THEY CAN'T STAY HIDDEN FOR LONG.
–ACTION MAN MAGAZINE

PURE RUMINATION. I’M CONVINCED IT’S MY LIFE VERVEIN SINGS.
-KITTYMAGIK

Fans and critics are buzzing with the uncommon excitement that comes from discovering something special. Not setting out to be a "girl group," the chips have fallen that way for Vervein, and audiences have fallen for their “Girl-Swirl” sound. Vervein weaves together the ethereal vocals of Mazzy Star and Azure Ray, the dreamy atmospherics of American Analog Set and Galaxie 500, the rhythmic propulsions of the Breeders, the soundscapes of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and the melodic sensibilities of Death Cab for Cutie. The foursome creates a sound that resonates with different people in different ways while it carves a unique niche. Simply stated, what Vervein offers is difficult to pigeonhole. There’s no cloying confessional pop, T&A manipulation, or snarling riot grrl militancy here. Vervein is refreshingly free of clichés in its message and its image, choosing to focus passionately on what’s important – the music.

Like many, the four women of Vervein started out in punk bands with the desire to make music that mattered. Numerous bands and years later, they have found a distinctive way to do so. With members hailing from Ee, Smitten, the Black Cat Orchestra, and Faccia Brutta, among other San Francisco and Seattle-based bands, Vervein was founded by Jess Congdon (guitar, vocals, keyboards) and Esther Reyes (guitar, cello) in 2001. Both classically trained musicians, they were drawn together in San Francisco by a shared desire to make guitar-based rock/pop on their own terms. According to Congdon, “We wanted to be free from the usual tiresome wankery.” Congdon and Reyes wear their classical upbringing on their sleeves with intricate arrangements, atypical song structures, and contrasting dynamics. They both fell fast for Rachel Stevenson (bass/baritone guitar, vocals) who joined after moving from Seattle in 2002, providing a rhythmic pulse and lilting vocals to Vervein’s sound. Emily Marsh (drums), a longtime collaborator with Stevenson, returned to the Bay Area from Seattle at the end of 2004 to add her intricately percussive chops. The band now feels the sense of completion it has been waiting for. Sorry folks, these women get along, so don’t look for any Behind the Music special to highlight catfights when they get famous - the drama is saved for their music.

Vervein released its debut, Vast Low Cities, in 2003 on the heels of winning a Jane Magazine compilation CD contest judged by the Donnas, a Noise Pop Festival invitation, and winning over the San Francisco Bay Area music scene with its memorable performances. The album made a lasting impression on audiences, critics and fellow bands with its gorgeously layered sound, thoughtful lyrics, and an intoxicating combination of moody introspection and dynamic release. Vervein has performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area with 50 Foot Wave, Citizens Here and Abroad, Film School, Thee More Shallows, For Stars, and Granfaloon Bus. A personal invitation from American Analog Set resulted in a tour of at the end of October 2005.

The band's second album, The Weather Inside, builds on the dreamy foundation of Vast Low Cities, but pulls back the curtain to showcase Vervein’s exploration of its collaborative process and palette. This album is darker and more direct than its predecessor. Reyes quips, “It’s the equivalent of our The Empire Strikes Back in the Star Wars series.” The eleven songs reflect exorcism and escape. Winds whip up. Storms develop and pass. The sun shines. The weather inside as Vervein sees it actively evolves through melody, arrangement and mood. Vervein is able to communicate how we can experience an ever-changing world in its music. This process isn’t about thinking, it’s about feeling thoughtfully. Quite simply, the worl