Villain Vanguard
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Villain Vanguard

| INDIE

| INDIE
Band Rock Funk

Calendar

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Oct
03
Villain Vanguard @ Atlantis Music Festival

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Sep
21
Villain Vanguard @ Flying Saucer

Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Aug
20
Villain Vanguard @ 8Os Bar & Grill

Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Fort Worth, Texas, USA

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


January 25-31, 2006


At the end of a recent show, the six guys in the funk-rock outfit Villain Vanguard opted to funnel all of their remaining energy into a group drum jam. With each member adding his musical voice to the larger conversation, the band displayed a unique collective vision. Even though Villain Vanguard is only a couple of years old, its members play as if they’ve been together for years. By staying disciplined and paying close attention to the nuances of one another’s playing, all the while focusing on the big picture of trying to succeed as professional musicians, Villain Vanguard has become something definitely beyond your average “new” band.

Even if you’ve never heard them, you’ve probably heard of them — in preparation for the recent release of their debut full-length, Enter the Age of the Platypus, the guys of Villain Vanguard have been gigging just about every week over the past year. With a heavy dose of originals laced with surprising covers and a sound that seamlessly transitions from bluegrass to funk to reggae to rock to all points in between, a Villain Vanguard show is basically a party and popular music history lesson rolled into one.

Formed two years ago as an extension of their music classes at TCU, the Villains have spent countless hours in a soundproof cube, detailing, carefully crafting, and embellishing the talent and experience that each brings to his respective instrument. Bandmembers chose the group’s name in honor of the famed New York City jazz club, the Village Vanguard. But musically, the band is nearly impossible to categorize.

Villain Vanguard, however, reflects the Village Vanguard vibe in one significant way: Justin Barbee, keyboardist, trumpeter, and the band’s emotional glue, wants fans to approach each VV show as an organic experience that differs from night to night.

While each band member gets an opportunity to shine in the spotlight, the focus invariably shifts back to guitarist Bryce Harp and his textured, bluesy tone and fleet fingerwork — he flies all over the fretboard with hot-tempered ease, never coming across as flashy or arrogant.

Each bandmember plays a part in the creation of the music. Here’s how Barbee describes the process: “Someone brings an idea to the band. We work with it, then get six different interpretations.”

At a recent Sunday night show at J&J Texas Roadhouse and Blues Bar, Villain Vanguard’s careful system of checks and balances played itself out onstage during warm-ups: As the musos discussed ways to enhance certain songs, there was a lot of bonhomie and good-natured ribbing. The members reached agreements swiftly, with no one person taking over as bandleader.

Sacrificing the self in deference to the whole is nowhere more ... well, non-apparent ... than in Dino Villanueva’s unobtrusive yet dynamic and driving electric basswork. He describes his desired sound as “one where if you were to listen to a track recorded without the bass, you would wonder what was missing.” His playing is nicely complemented by drummer Bobby Friesen’s peaceful, easy grooves, which are full of open hi-hat accents, flams, and salty double-stroke rolls.

Metal and air infiltrate the band’s sound via the metronomic precision of Jeff Dazey’s saxophone work and the bright pulses of Barbee’s attention-grabbing trumpet and bounciness on the keys — no matter what he’s doing, he always finds a way to encourage listeners and concertgoers to get up and dance.

Singer Justin Williams (a.k.a. Beefcake) has a sugar-sweet and — dare we say — friendly voice that gives you the feeling that he’s singing to you rather than at you. He eschews any preconceived notions you may have about frontmen. Curly-haired, baby-faced, and unpretentiously likable, he relies on an affable smile while singing and hip gyrations while pounding the congas. Williams is one of those singers who considers his voice just another, equally necessary instrument — he may be centerstage, but he never seeks to be the center of attention.

Harp says the band “wants to make music for people who love music.” Villain Vanguard’s goals are to keep working, keep being friends, have fun, and eventually become a constantly touring band. They’d like to spend time on the European summer jazz and blues circuits as well as play music festivals close to home, like Austin City Limits. The Villains view being musicians as “a calling,” not a hobby.


- Fort Worth Weekly by Caroline Collier


Discography

Enter The Platypus: full album Four Count Records LP.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The Villain Vanguard was conceived from a group of friends that loved to get together and make music. The group originated when Dino, Jeff, Bryce, and Justin B. began jamming together outside of their musical activities at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. As the friendships and music progressed, the band members and the friends around them realized that something special was happening. At that point the guys found a drummer and began rehearsing formally as a band.

While teaching jazz in Dallas, Bryce befriended a legendary jazz musician named Bernard Wright. Bernard first gained fame by playing synthesizers for Miles Davis and went on to work with countless heavy hitters like Marcus Miller and Roberta Flack. Bernard took interest in the Villain Vanguard, because he believed it was the most interesting music he had heard since leaving the New York jazz scene, and that the future in musical innovation is in the hands of the Villain Vanguard. Bernard has mentored the band not only through private music instruction and countless words of wisdom, but he has provided experiences for us to meet and sometimes work with some of world's best musicians. For example, when Bela Fleck and the Flecktones came to Fort Worth in 2004, Bernard introduced the band to the Flecktones and we even all went to IHOP for pancakes and talked for hours. It is experiences like this that have elevated the band to a heightened sense of awareness, maturity, and purpose.

The name of the band comes from the legendary jazz club in New York City, The Village Vanguard. The virtuosic musicians in the Villain Vanguard are not afraid to tackle all styles and forms of music, but the name reflects the deep jazz roots of the band's message.

After the original drummer left the band in May 2005, the Villains went on a relentless search for a drummer that could handle the complexity of our music, but most importantly, we needed a drummer that was funky as hell. In the midst of our search for a drummer, we found a lead singer that was not only a singer, but a guitarist, percussionist, poet, and funk master. With the perfect groove formula almost completed, Austin Allen stepped in at drums. Within a month we began playing gigs every weekend and rehearsing twice a week. Now the all-star team was complete and burned with fiery discipline that has led to their current successes as an up and coming band. The word of the new, hot band in town spread, and the villains landed a coveted weekly gig at J&J's Blues Bar in Fort Worth and have been playing for crowds that are ever increasing and diversifying every Sunday night in 2006 and are continuing to play monthly well into 2007.

The Villain Vanguard delivers not just a show but an experience for EVERYONE in the audience. Each show will venture into any number of genres of music that facilitates a diverse but united audience. We strive to play to the people and promote a good time while providing a musical journey of original music as well as a wide range of covers selected from the past 75 years of music history.

The Villain Vanguard recently released their first album, covering months of recording. Enter The Platypus represents original compositions covering the transition in band members, featuring mostly instrumental works along with four vocal tunes. The villains are currently enjoying the best of the venues in the Dallas/Fort Worth area while beginning to tour the surrounding states. New material is constantly in the works amongst the six musicians, which will lend to the next album soon to be in the works. However, the Villain Vanguard believes that a live show is the best way to experience their music to the fullest and hope to be playing near you soon.