Via Satellite
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Via Satellite

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Even before finishing their sophomore album, ¡Traffico!, local band Via Satellite was joking about remixing the "hits" that emerged. Manipulated by a handful of San Diego artists-Pilotram (Duane Pitre from Ilya), Jimmy Lavelle (Tristeza, The Album Leaf), Square Circle, Rotator, The Icons, and The Snodgrass-Re:Public is the elaborate mix tape and punch line to the joke. Each artist chose, or was given, a Via Satellite song to disfigure to their liking. Via Satellite's vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Andrew Andrews, vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Scott Mercado and drummer Tim Reece then stacked the tracks into listenable form. The results are radical transformations of the original Via Satellite material; listeners are transported from a lovelorn rave scene to a gravelly, gargle-toned electronica graveyard.

Most deeply felt, however, are the reverberating talents of the remixing artists themselves. And that, says Mercado, was the point. "We've always tried to get different art ideas into our music-to branch out," he says. "We always want to push San Diego artists to keep that hard-working musical aesthetic, and it really worked with this project." "We kept asking ourselves, How the hell are we going to make an album out of all this stuff?" Andrews chimes in: "For something that started as a joke, it worked pretty well. The whole idea of ¡Traffico! was a total joke that Tim and I were saying around the house. In a lot of ways, not much has changed even though our band has. We just have a joke, an idea-a funny, funny idea-and it slowly develops and turns into something that's super-hyper-intense."

When I first met Via Satellite a couple years ago, we talked about small things with small words-the doldrums of first-time interviews and small-time bands. When we met up again recently, we talked about big things with even bigger words. Via Satellite has changed. Dismissing bassist James Trent about a month ago is the biggest alteration. Andrews says it's easy to compare Via Satellite's loss of bassists to the spontaneous combustion of Spinal Tap's drummers. They just seem to eventually disappear from the picture-for the good of both parties. So for now, Mercado and Andrews will settle for a maze of cables, keyboards and microphones to simulate the bass thump they've grown so accustomed to. The band prepared for their first gig as a threesome, at The Casbah, with only three practices. "The way that Re:Public turned out, it has turned into something more relevant for our band now, as a threesome, and for our sound," Andrews says. He, Mercado and Reece are now left with the core of the band, and, as the primary architects of sound, they coddle it gently. Each member is sprawled out on patio chairs at Shakespeare's Pub on India Street this particular night. Mercado is chain smoking in the corner. Reece is playing the imaginary bass drum with his right foot under the table, with a shit-grin across his face. Andrews leans back as the confident ringmaster, using his verbal strutting for conversational racquetball.

The three men begin shooting the shit about religion, dispensationalists, proper use of the word "ostensibly," George Bush as an evangelical Christian and the book of Revelation. All topics either directly or indirectly related to the apocalypse, which the three pub philosophers see as a rebirth. While some see the end of one existence, Andrews ponders the beginning of another. "Limitations and freedoms have melted into the same thing for us lately. While limitations can be frustrating, they can often lead to the same creativity that freedom does," he says, sucking his cigarette down to the filter and watching the embers before putting it out in the ashtray. Reece chuckles. Mercado snickers harder. Before long, without looking up, Andrews is laughing, too-presumably at the next hardy Via Satellite joke. Visit www.viasatellite.ws.

- San Diego CityBeat magazine


San Diego drummer Tim Reece and his bandmates in Via Satellite were in the audience at last fall's Spreckels Theatre concert here by Sigur Ros, Iceland's most acclaimed alterna-rock group.

Now, quicker than you can say "melting glacier," Reece is on tour as the drummer in fellow San Diego indie-rock act the Album Leaf, which is opening every date on Sigur Ros' ongoing U.S. tour.

"It is kind of like a dream," said Reece, 25, from a Monday tour stop in Houston. "Especially with a production like this, because everything is so planned out and professional that all the little details are taken care of, and the guys in Sigur Ros are really nice. Plus, I'm using their drum kit each night. So, yeah, I'm definitely pinching myself."

Reece's dream gig is the result of the friendship between Sigur Ros' four members and former Tristeza guitarist-keyboardist Jimmy LaValle, who records one-man solo albums as the Album Leaf, but uses a backing band for most of his live performances.

LaValle hooked up with the Icelandic group after Sigur Ros singer Jonsi Birgisson bought a copy of the Album Leaf's 1999 debut album, the gently atmospheric "An Orchestrated Rise to Fall."

Birgisson was so impressed that he invited LaValle to be the opening act on Sigur Ros' U.S. tour in 2001 and again this year, both here and in Europe, where Sigur Ros backed LaValle after his three unaccompanied opening songs.

For the U.S. leg, LaValle, 24, is being accompanied by a band that includes Reece on drums, former Tristeza bassist Luis Hermosillo and keyboardist and pedal-steel-guitarist Nathan Delff. They are augmented on some songs by two members of Sigur Ros, keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson and drummer Orri Pall Dyrason, as well as by cellist Maria Sigfusdiptir.

The tour is a prelude to the Album Leaf's next release, which LaValle will record next month with Sigur Ros at the band's home studio in Reykjavik.

"We'll write the album together," LaValle said from Houston. "I'm making a lot of connections. Sigur Ros' manager has been helping me out with publishing, film soundtrack and management contacts. I don't have a manager and kind of need one."

LaValle had originally hoped to have fellow San Diego band Ilya back him for his U.S. tour with Sigur Ros, which opened March 15 in Boston and concludes Tuesday in Oakland (but bypasses San Diego). Ilya's members declined in order to focus on their own work, a decision that LaValle believes "they're basically kicking themselves over now."

His move to enlist Reece on drums at the last minute came about through LaValle's rapport with Drew Andrews, the singer, guitarist, keyboardist and leader of the four-man Via Satellite.

"Drew and I work together at the Mission (restaurant in North Park), and we're good friends," LaValle said. "I respect him and his band as musicians, and I like Tim's drumming. Basically, Drew said: 'If you need a drummer. . . . '

"I've done about 40 tours and feel like a hardened veteran. But this is Tim's first tour, so it's refreshing to see his enthusiasm. He's the best drummer I've ever had on any Album Leaf tour."

Fortunately, Via Satellite only had to cancel one gig to accommodate Reece's tour with LaValle.

"I'm really excited for Tim because Sigur Ros is one of his favorite bands, and one of mine, too," Andrews, 24, said. "About three years ago, I was hanging with Tim at his apartment, and he said 'You have to hear this new album!' And it turned out to be Sigur Ros."

Andrews planned to attend last night's Sigur Ros/Album Leaf show at the Joint in Las Vegas. So did Via Satellite bassist James Trent, 25, and singer, keyboardist and guitarist Scott Mercado, 28, as well as Via Satellite's producer, Sven Erik-Seaholm (a local-music mainstay who is also Andrews' father).

The tour has stopped at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club and at New York's 6,000-capacity Radio City Music Hall, where fans bought 11 copies of Via Satellite's latest album from Reece during intermission.

There was also a March 29 date at the House of Blues club in New Orleans, where LaValle said he was arrested for public intoxication (no mean feat in a city that boasts drive-in daiquiri joints and allows pedestrians to stroll freely with alcoholic beverages in plastic cups).

The Album Leaf performs a homecoming gig next Sunday at 'Canes in Mission Beach, where it will share the stage with Pinback.

Via Satellite launches its first tour April 25 in Merced to promote its 2002 album, "¡Traffico!" and "We Heart Music," a new joint-album with the band Goodbye, Blue Monday. In May, Via Satellite will release "re:Public," which features seven new songs and six song from, "¡Traffico!," which have been re-mixed by LaValle, Pilotram, Square Circle, Icons, Rotator and the Snodgrass.

"I hope this tour with the Album Leaf and Sigur Ros will make me better for Via Satellite," Reece said. "Being part of the support act for this big tour is pretty interesting. - San Diego Union-Tribune


It's 11:30 in the morning, and the men of Via Satellite are hunkered down in the back of a dimly lit billiards bar, with Bloody Marys already in hand. But don't be fooled-this is not a poster band for rock-star excess. "Everyone wants the fringe benefits of just being able to exist in a vacuum, to pour out your heart and have people just love it without having to hit the streets and do the fliers, " vocalist Andrew Andrews said, shaking his head. "And that's the hardest part--the dedication." "You can't just play the music and expect people to just show up, especially in San Diego," guitarist Scott Mercado chimes in.

Via Satellite--Andrews, Mercado, bassist Rod Campbell and drummer Tim Reece--is making musical waves on the local music scene, and beyond, but not without sacrifice. "In the last three months or so, we have really made the effort to around, to just go out to and see other shows and bands and get into the local scene," Andrews said. "If we're a local band, we really want to be involved in that." Via Satellite's involvement includes a new album, "!Traffico!" (the follow-up to last years "Wake Up Heavy" which won the San Diego Music Award for Best Local Recording), and a new interactive Website. "We have gone beyond the boundaries of a song or an album," Reece says. "When talk about an album, that means there is a whole package and visual experience We all thing bigger than just songs." "We're out there trying to get artists together, posting on our website or getting artists together to play when they might not even know each other," Mercado adds. "Not enough people do that." Via Satellite is also about breaking boundaries musically.

"!Traffico!" is a mix of soul and artsy indie-rock, bringing to mind a California-ized Radiohead. Via Satellite's music has found its way onto the airwaves of 91x, 92.1 and KCR radio. "We've had such a good response to our music--from our friends and from other musicians around town," Andrews says. "Some people write poems that sit in their closets that they don't want anyone to see, and that's all they want to do. It's their catharsis. Some people write poems that they put in anthologies or that they read at open mikes, and that's what they enjoy doing. It is the same for us with our music. We like to share." "The four of us bring our individual talents, and the whole that we create is greater than the sum of our individual selves, " Campbell adds. "It's beautiful when you're in the middle of it."
- San Diego Union-Tribune, Night & Day


Discography

Fall, TBA - Cities are Temples (LP)
July, 2003 - re:Public (remix LP)
March, 2003 - We Heart Music (split EP w/Goodbye, Blue Monday)
March, 2002 - !TRAFFICO! (LP)
February, 2000 - Wake Up Heavy (LP)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

With a sound both delicate and expansive, digital and analog, Via Satellite crafts experimental pop songs by means of guitar, drum, laptop, sampler, and keyboard. Forming in San Diego, California, the band's penchant for mood and melody was well-received by the city's music scene, earning them radio play, mainstream press and awards and nominations in both the 2001, 2002 and 2003 San Diego Music Awards. Via Satellite has opened for bands such as Ester Drang, American Analog Set, Blackheart Procession, The New Pornographers and No Knife. The members of Via Satellite are actively involved in the Album Leaf on international headlining tours – this year they will play Japan, Europe and South America – and tours with Sigur Ros. The group has been busy performing and touring themselves to support the release of both "We Heart Music" a split EP with labelmates Goodbye Blue Monday, as well as a new album of Via Satellite remixes from various artists called "re:Public." Their new album, “Cities Are Temples” is set for release in the fall. Drawing elements of indie-rock, ambient, and electronic music into their repertoire, Via Satellite creates an original sound full of dark melody, brooding wonder, and subtle lullaby.