New Band Spotlight: Vinca Minor

photo by Milo Tobin

photo by Milo Tobin

Matt Menovcik has prolifically recorded and released several albums of confessional, emotional electronic music under various aliases (and used to play bass in Lesli Wood’s punk band Ms. Led) since coming to Seattle from Detroit a few years ago. He brings a sense of international artistry to the local music scene, having scored and had songs used in various films and projects outside of America and the usual rock milieu.


One constant has been his collaborative relationship with Kramer (strongly buzzed-about independent rock producer/recorder since he was known as co-founder of psyche-pop band Bongwater, and pioneering Shimmy-Disc label, in the 80s) who often tends to help Menovcik channel his muse, whether in the ballad-structured Saeta or the ambient-with-beats Rope, Inc.

At the beginning of February, Menovcik will unveil Vinca Minor, with its debut, Isolation.

How does Vinca Minor compare with Saeta or Rope, Inc. for you?

Vinca Minor is my first completely solo project. I wrote, recorded, and mixed everything (though Kramer did master it). With Saeta and Rope, Inc., I was the songwriter, but the arrangements were either more collaborative or done by someone else. On the more recent Saeta records, Lesli Wood would handle most of the arranging. With Rope, Inc., I would record the songs here and then send them to Kramer. He would then add parts, move things around, and add his “Kramer touch.” Last year wasn’t a great year for me and I decided it best to work alone for a little bit. I’m really happy with the results and really enjoying experimenting in my own studio. That said, I am finishing up new songs to send to Kramer, which I am also very excited about.

Can you describe what each of the three are expressing in terms of different meanings and sounds?

Saeta is very personal for me with both sound and meaning. It is the first band I started, I believe (my memory is horrible). With Saeta, we try to keep everything acoustic (though we had to use an electric piano for live performances). There is definitely the idea of doing as much as we can with what we have. I’m really into minimalism.

Rope, Inc. is more a true collaboration and in a more experimental environment. The songs are structured pretty traditionally before getting to Kramer. There is also a heavy focus on the beats (this is the only band I have currently that uses beats or drums). The first album has a lot of really slowed down hip hop beats going on. What I’m working on right now is equally focused on beats, but I’m trying different things with them and playing with different styles.

Vinca Minor has a heavy focus on texture. I do some film scoring work and think that definitely influenced the sound of the album. This album is also my first concept album, though the concept is a couple of layers deep, the overriding theme is escape -- particularly with flight. The instrumental pieces are the cycle of a flight -- “Ignition,” “Holding Pattern,” “Descent,” while the pieces around tell the story (though steeped in metaphor for the most part). I was very deliberate in my use of the sounds and structures on this album. I think upon cursory listen, it is hard to tell what the structure is, but upon further listen, I think it becomes more apparent. I hope people keeo getting different things from the album the more times they hear.

How did Vinca Minor come about?

Vinca Minor came about after I did a piece for a sound project that B/ias in Burien put on. The concept there was to have eight separate tracks for your song, which would be played through eight separate speakers on their grounds. I wrote the beginnings of “From Here, Eternity” for that. After working on that track, I fell in love with that way I made that (being on my own and really pushing myself and my understanding of music). I had also just completed the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Summer Intensive Program, where I learned a great deal and was filled with all of these new ideas. As I began writing and experimenting the album just started taking shape. I wrote Kramer and asked if I could send him some of the material to see if he’d be willing to release it on Second Shimmy. He wrote me back and said he didn’t need to hear it, just send it to him, he’d master it and release it. Fortunately, he liked the album.

How did you hook up with Kramer originally? And what other projects have you done with him of note?

Originally, I wrote Kramer about Saeta to see if he would be interested in releasing our second album on Shimmy Disc (his original label that was a subsidiary of Knitting Factory). He wrote back and said he’d love to record the album and we’d talk about releasing it. We worked really well together and he was extremely honest about how things were with label and we we decided it would be best not to have it released on Shimmy Disc. He produced the next Saeta album and again we had a great working relationship. I wrote him after that as I had a bunch of material that wasn’t suited for Saeta and wanted to see if he’d be interested in collaborating. That’s how Rope, Inc. came about. My label with Lesli, Fish The Cat (which is now no more, unfortunately, as she goes on with the Redwood Plan) released our first EP and then he released the full length on Second Shimmy. We also have a song on the Daniel Johnston tribute he put out.

Who else is involved with Vinca Minor?

As far as recording and writing, Vinca Minor is just me. I currently have Marchette Dubois playing accordion and Juliana Brandon playing keyboards for my live set. I guess you could say Kramer is involved in so far as he mastered the album and is releasing it.

What was the story of your Italian hit? The song from the movie (Days and Clouds, which had been shown at the Seattle International Film Festival, right?) Has there been further response to it?

Yes, Saeta had our song, “You Fade,” used in the film Giorni e Nuvole (Days and Clouds). Unfortunately, I no longer own that song. The good folks at Warner Chappell Italia do. I don’t think there has been any further response to it, but we still get little royalty checks for it, which is nice.

What was this project you did for Boeing? How can people access it?

I didn’t actually do it for Boeing. My girlfriend’s dad works for a subsidiary of Boeing and was there when the first flight happened and worked on some it. I culled footage from YouTube and made him a video to the song “Ignition” from the Vinca Minor album. It is on YouTube (though banned in France because I use some Reuters footage. A lot of other sites that feature clips from that flight have my video up there. I know her father played it at the Boeing facility for the sales folks there, who seemed to like it. You can find it here.

What is happening with Saeta right now? Any more projects in the works with her at all?

Saeta through it’s entire life has been pretty amorphous. Originally it was just me and I had Lesli add some piano and had a cellist play some cello on it. after that we solidified for the most part with the trio of Bob Smolenski, Lesli Wood and myself. Bob ended up moving a lot and now has two great kids, so we had to get creative for a while there and had fill in cellists and even, at one point, had a trumpet, violin and maybe something else in there. Then it went back to the trio and became more a recording band, playing only occasional shows. Now, as you say, Lesli is working on her new projects (she is also doing a project with Aaron from the band Spanish For 100, which sounds like it will be really cool). I read an interview with her where she was asked the same question and she answered that we had been in bands for almost 20 years and that she wanted to branch out and work with new people, but that we will always support each other.

Any other collaborations coming up?

Right now, I just have the new Rope, Inc. album I am working on. I’ve been talking to a dancer about doing a piece together, which I’m hoping will happen this year. I am actually pretty focused on Vinca Minor right now, though. I have a bunch of new material ready. In fact, I’ve made an ep that I will be giving away with the purchase of the full-length at my album release show.

Tell us about the February CD release -- date and show date. What’s the plan for lineup, venue, and material?

The show is Thursday February 4th at 10 PM at the Rendezvous on Second Avenue in Belltown. Also on the bill are Goatgirl and Ph0n0n, who will also be providing visuals for the Vinca Minor set. My set will consist of two songs from the album. With the addition of the keyboardist and accordionist, I am able to have a fuller sound and be more creative with where the songs go and what happens around the songs. I’m very excited to perform these live and am very grateful to have such great people playing with me, both my band members and the other acts.

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