Interview with Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band

Kyle Johnson

Kyle Johnson

Since their viral videos and first show at Neumo’s last summer, art-pop collective Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band has hit the beat hard, gaining tons of recognition and getting a reputation as one of Seattle’s quirkiest groups faster than you can say their name. Recently, MSHVB brought their sharp guitar melodies with pop sensibilities to Neumo’s to celebrate their CD release party accordingly with Say Hi, Visqueen, and free ice cream from Molly Moon’s. I met with Benjamin Verdoes (vocals, guitar) and Traci Eggleston-Verdoes (glockenspiel, keyboards, percussion) before their set to talk about their lengthy name, their new album, and their very own custom flavor of Molly Moon’s ice cream.

You guys have a pretty wordy, lengthy name and since I’m not from the Pacific Northwest, it really stands out to me. How’d you guys pick it out?

Benjamin: Marshall (drums) blurted it out in the car when he was twelve, eleven? I gave him the privilege of naming the band that he worked hard to get good enough to be in and he came up with really bad band names. One day, it just kind of stuck when he said that and I was like, “That is so ridiculous.” And it has the word “band” in it, which I think is just...

[laughter]

Well, it’s not too late to change it! You guys seem really connected with the Northwest movement, even with your name. Do you guys try to represent the Northwest with what you do?

Benjamin: Traci is actually from Syracuse, New York!

Traci: I don’t think that the name was intended to represent the Northwest.

Benjamin: Or the far East, for that matter!

Traci: And I don’t think we necessarily do anything specific to represent the Northwest, although we are very proud to be from here. And of course, we’re very proud of playing our first show at Neumo’s; that was an exciting step for us because of the reputation Neumo’s has in the city of Seattle. 

That’s interesting because where I’m from, lots of people know your stuff from the internet, and they sometimes think you’re a super Northwest band. Do you ever think you’d embrace that or do you think you already do?

Benjamin: I think we already do. I’ve played in bands in the Seattle music scene and the Bellingham music scene.

Traci: Representin’ over here!

Benjamin: Yeah, and I’ve been playing here for at least seven years now, so it’s nothing new, and I think for sure we’ve built our whatever it is, career, I guess, around the Seattle area and it means a lot to me that our shows are really special when we play here. 

You’re about to leave this area? This CD release show is kind of like a farewell party. Y’all got a busy couple months coming up?

Traci: We have a six-week tour where we cross the country, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times!

You have SXSW in the middle of that too, nice. Is this the first time that you’ve been across the country?

Traci: In this band, yes, but for Benjamin, Matthew (guitar), and Jared (bass) it’ll be their second time going on a national tour.

Any special places?

Benjamin: New York City.

Traci: Philadelphia, for me. I have a lot of friends there. It’s like a homecoming show for me.

This is your first album; how long did it take to write it? 

Traci: Well, Benjamin has been writing these songs for three, four, five years as bits and pieces. 

Benjamin: Yeah, it started as riffs that I had written that I thought were fun and a lot of them were things Marshall could play when he was starting to play drums. Then we added parts that were more challenging and more diverse and we kind of built songs out of those series of different riffs and parts. It was a really fun process because I wrote a lot of them with Marshall and Matt wrote some of the songs on the record towards the end. 

That fun attitude seems like something you really carry with you in everything.

Benjamin: Yeah, we try to really enjoy it and not have just one person who’s doing everything. I feel like we’ve done a really good job with distributing responsibilities of everything, from the music, to the promotion and everything else. 

Your album is out on Dead Oceans and they’re out in Austin, Texas. How’d you get set up with them? 

Benjamin: Um, friends who knew them: our manager, Lynn, and our publicist, Frank, have been friends with people at the label. They were interested when they heard it and we were really flattered and they’re really cool people. They have some really exciting things going on, like Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar, and I feel they’re going to be one of the stronger forces coming up. 

So what’s the deal with the ice cream? You have your own flavor with an ice cream shop?

Traci: It’s Molly Moon’s in Wallingford and we live in Fremont, so over the summer, I became obsessed with going there and our manager happened to be friends with Molly. She was like, “Oh, would you like to do this?” and I said, “I would LOVE to do this!” It’s coconut, chocolate chunks, and huckleberry sauce and it’s really great. 

Is it your favorite ice cream ever?

[laughter]

Benjamin: I actually like it a lot! 

Traci: Yeah, it’s really good! I really like Molly Moon’s Salted Caramel the most, but ours is a close second. 

Benjamin: Ours is my favorite.

Traci: Molly is making an appearance tonight! 

Sounds great! Thanks and I can’t wait for your set.

Traci: Yeah, thank you!

Benjamin: Thank you so much. 

MSHVB is on tour through April, with an April 16th show in Spokane at Empyrean Coffee House; you can also catch them at this year’s Sasquatch Festival in George, WA. Their self-titled debut album is out now on Dead Oceans. For more information, visit the band’s MySpace page.

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