Virgin Mary Satellite on final orbit
The accidental band is finally releasing its swan song.
Formed by literally drawing names out of a hat, Virgin Mary Satellite has out lasted five of its members' previous bands, including Science Rocket, Black Gasoline (Helvis), Dead Silos, In the Wake and Elephant Gun. Brought together by a band swap that occurred in July 2006, VMS had five songs (two over the requirement) ready to go in under a month of rehearsal before the showcase.
Band swap, put on by old friend Traci Stephens, was a first try for Wichita. Taking place at John Barleycorn's (during its stint in the now-Monarch location), a bartender there, Kerry Minzie, had the name "Virgin Mary Satellite" in his back pocket for some time, and the band wanted to use it. Conceding, Kerry helped name the only band to continue beyond the band swap.
Citing a confident ease in writing, nearly 20 songs later in their accidental career, VMS loved the originals so much they continue to perform two from the first show.
Originally, they approached the song writing as though they had to produce work in a month — because that's exactly what they had to do. Taking a no-frills approach, the band succeeded in their goal and then some. Finding the same ease in writing post-band swap, VMS attributes its success to easy pacing.
"We weren't afraid to take breaks and give each other room to breathe," said guitarist Jake Crabb. Singer Bryan Seely continued, "We were laid back," then drummer Billy Carr exclaimed over Seely, "These were the most laid-back song writing sessions I've ever been a part of." Poking fun of a statement made earlier in the night about the sound the band had achieved, bassist Bryce Weinberg described the writing sessions as "very dark and extremely sexy." Everyone laughed generously.
"We knew we weren't going to book a tour; we were just going to drink some beers, write some music and play some shows. Hopefully people will have a good time," Seely said.
Crabb continued, "It was a blessing not having to choose who would be good for this or who would be good for that. Just, 'Hey, this is what we have to do. Let's make it work.'"
Carr said that the instant feedback from the band swap show was a huge motivator. "We felt like we were on to something, but just a few minutes into it we thought, 'oh wow, this is kind of universal.'"
The band does not study its own past releases. They had a hard time coming up with the number of songs on their first single, The Night the Beat Ruled the Street, but were confident that the follow up, Stiletto, was a 3 song E.P. Both released on compact disc, the band was thrilled when executive producer Bill Hawks offered them the opportunity to press vinyl for this, their self-titled release.
Only one other man not drawn from the hat, Larry Donaldson, is all over VMS. Having played with the band fairly steadily for a year around 2013, Donaldson made an impression on their approach to songwriting when they started recording.
"It was kind of an accident too," Seely said. "We started recording with Paul (DeCiglie, who also plays with Donaldson in Sun and Stone) and all these other things popped up on the recording, so we had to pull them off live."
Reminiscing about the shows played with Donaldson, Crabb said, "We knew these shows were leading up to the final one. I told the guys I would be leaving last spring, but we knew it couldn't be done without the record coming out. We had recorded all the tracks and put a lot of time in to it."
Seely said, "The release show was originally supposed to be in November."
Having started recording the exact day of our interview, April 8, four years prior, according to Weinberg, the band has certainly put a lot of time in to the project, starting with drums in 2011 and taking it to many different studios to add to it over time.
Trying to encapsulate their entire career to vinyl has given way to seeking a select five from executive producer Bill Hawks' choice cuts. Being 12" of wax, the speed is bumped up to 45 rpm to accommodate the shorter length. The main goal of archiving all their current releases in a public form is still retained with a download code included with every record purchase that will include all 14 songs that were originally recorded.
Though they're not officially committing to this being their final outing, the sentiment is that it will likely be quite some time before, if they ever, perform together again as Virgin Mary Satellite.
Interested in the delights a group can produce from randomly drawing names from a hat to making a lasting band? Check out Virgin Mary Satellite Saturday, April 25, at Lucky's on east Douglas. Be sure to get there before 10 so you can catch opener, The Calamity Cubes.