Local Artist Spotlight: Versing

photo by Bebe Labree Besch

Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we are featuring artists performing during FolkLife, this Memorial Day weekend at the Seattle Center.

Today’s post highlights indie rock outfit Versing, performing in the KEXP Gathering Space at FolkLife on May 29 at 3PM.

As we heard during their broadcast performance at Upstream, Seattle’s Versing are a formidable at the art of blending hooks with twisted distortion. It’s a reputation they’ve built throughout their catalog as well, particularly in last year’s tenacious Nude Descending. One of Versing’s strongest qualities is their constant pursuit of new sounds and idea, with songwriter Daniel Salas getting sharper and sharper with each release. We chatted with the band to dig into their early days in college, writing through voice memos, and what we can expect from them next.

I was reading that you all originally met through University of Puget Sounds’ radio station KUPS. What originally convinced you guys to try starting a band together and what brought you eventually to Seattle?

Daniel Salas: Before Versing, Kirby and I had a stoner metal band called Sun Eater, where Kirby played guitar and I played drums. Our friend Ben (better known as Simic) played bass. That was fun, but drums aren’t my true instrument and I’m not even really the biggest stoner metal fan, so I started writing songs and looking for band members for a new project. I recruited Max and Graham and we started playing as a noise pop trio in the vein of Henry’s Dress. Kirby, Max, and I graduated in 2014 and moved to Seattle together, I guess in the hopes of finding jobs and being able to pursue music. Max and I recorded the first Versing demo in my bedroom, but we couldn’t recreate the songs live without a second guitarist, so I asked Kirby to join on bass and got Graham to switch over to guitar. He moved up to Seattle the next year and we’ve been rolling steady ever since.

With each new release, it’s always exciting to see what twist you’ll put on the Versing “typeface”. Going into the project, did you want to create consistent imagery or was that something that’s come about organically?

DS: I think it came about pretty organically. I made the cover art for our first demo (which you probably can’t find anywhere now) using similar italicized letters, and the look has pretty much stuck since then. I was hoping to avoid an overly “slacker” look, so I like that it’s structured and kind of classic with a bit of angularity. We’ve used the same font for all three of our official releases, just with color variations, so I’m looking to change things up for the next album.

I understand Daniel’s a pretty prolific songwriter. What’s your writing process like and how do you flesh out the arrangements?

DS: I usually just record a million things into my voice memos, listen to them a million times until I find some I actually like, then try to add a weird time signature somewhere. We work through the arrangements together, but I’ll often have specific parts or rhythms in mind for the other instruments. It’s pretty collaborative, but I’m generally the one behind the wheel in terms of songwriting.

You’re getting ready to embark on a tour with The Courtney’s this fall! It sounds like you’ve become pretty tight with them over the course of the band. A lot has been said about the Seattle community being close-knit, but do you feel like those connections carry throughout the Northwest region?

Graham Baker: Definitely. We’ve been playing more and more in Vancouver and started making lots of buds up there.

Kirby Lochner: We’ve played shows on both sides of the border with a few Vancouver bands (The Courtneys, Dumb, Jo Passed, Milk). Our first show in Seattle was at Cairo with Vancouver band Watermelon, who later turned into the band Milk. We played another Cairo show with Vancouver singer-songwriter, Lt. Frank Dickens (Dan Geddes of Peace) who helped us later book our first show in Vancouver at the now defunct Horses Records (with Milk). We’re friends with Lubec from Portland who also recorded with Dylan Wall, and we’ve played a couple shows with them in Portland and Seattle. So the connections started early for us and it’s great to see them continue to grow despite how far away we all are.

Earlier this year you released a tour tape. Do you have any more new music coming up on the horizon?

GB: Yes! We should have our full length coming out in time for our tour with The Courtneys in the fall. We recorded it over a year ago so we’re really excited to see it come out soon! We probably will also do another little tour tape before the record comes out.

For newcomers, what can people expect from your FolkLife set?

GB: We are probably going to be too loud!

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