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Abe Vigoda is a quartet. There are many angles from which to approach/sell this band. They are from L.A. which is now, suddenly, cool (again). They have apprenticed at various all-ages clubs including The Smell. The Smell got written up in the New Yorker. The band’s new album, Skeleton, is being put out by one of the guys in No Age. Heard of them? People—and maybe the band members themselves—have a habit of describing their songs as “tropical” or “tropical punk.” More than enough. Except the band happens to actually be really, really good.
What you should really know about Abe Vigoda—aside from their joke name—is that 1) Skeleton might be one of the few genuinely gorgeous guitar records you’ll hear all year; 2) The four men who make up Abe Vigoda are having a good time. Things are still all Wow. Even a lunch detour to T.G.I. Friday’s.
Just after that the band’s pitstop at that family-feedbag joint, we caught up with AV guitarist Juan Velasquez for a quick interview:
So how was T.G.I. Friday’s?
“It was really good. I had this Strawberry Fields salad. Everything’s vaguely themed. It was pretty. It had chicken in it.”
“We got up. We played in Charlotte at the Milestone. We woke up pretty late and [went to] Friday’s. That’s the one that seemed the most appetizing. Our drummer got this burger with cheese on it and then there was this fried cheese patty on top of it and he’s sick about it now.”
The band has been on tour for just over a week. I asked how the tour was going. The usual question.
“It’s been pretty awesome. We’ve played some pretty fun shows with No Age.”
What’s some good advice on touring?
“The first [tour]….We were actually touring in a 4Runner….It was actually six of us in a five-seater. It was like that at first. Personal space. That might be it. That’s a good thing to have. And sleeping a lot. That helps. Everyone’s cranky if we don’t sleep.”
How do you think Skeleton turned out?
“I like it. It sounds good I think. It’s more polished than anything else we recorded, vocals are louder. It’s my favorite thing we’ve done I think….We had more of an idea of what we wanted to sound like. And we’ve been playing together for a while. We wanted it to sound pretty and dreamy sounding but still fast and crazy. It’s cleaned and defined. It made sense to have it be that way.”
What the hell is tropical punk?
“I don’t know. I guess it’s just like all the drumming stuff—the rhythms are like that and the guitar tones like afro-pop stuff, that type of guitar sound. That’s what people say. It’s there, I guess. We were writing stuff that’s a little different than that. I can hear it. It’s not a main point.”
What Afropop do you dig?
“There’s this band Hallelujah Chicken Run Band—that guitar tone. They’re kind of a rock band. That guitar tone is really cool. I know Michael—he likes Konono and the Congotronics stuff. Things like that.”
What do you think of all the press the L.A. scene is getting?
“It’s kind of weird. I guess it’s a good thing. I like a lot of those bands—-they’re a lot of our friends. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s cool that [No Age] are getting recognized because they’re good.”
What about No Age in The New Yorker?
“That was pretty crazy. The MTV thing was pretty crazy. They did this like new TRL type thing. I only watched the video online because I don’t have cable. I just saw the video on the MTV website. They talk about their video. And the funniest part is they put the video up online and they can post comments on it.”
What are you guys listening to on the road right now?
“We were listening to Jay-Z and Goodie Mob. And I was listening to The Walkmen earlier.”
What are you guys reading?
“I just bought this book that I started—The Love of the Last Tycoon by Fitzgerald. I’m like on page 3. I just bought it yesterday. And we were listening to this book on tape—The Devil in the White City. It’s like a non-fiction book about this World’s Fair in Chicago in 1890, this guy who did serial murders….We never got to the part where people were killing anybody. It’s too long.”
What should people expect from your show at the Rock and Roll Hotel?
“Probably a brief set. We don’t play for too long. High Places are really awesome. A pretty fun show. Hopefully everyone is into everything. Funny banter from No Age. They’ll probably say some funny things. You can expect that.”