Unexpected return: Venona gets the itch - INTERVIEWS
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • August 22, 2013 @ 11:51am
The odd part about Venona’s album release show, however, was that it also marked the band’s breakup. Even though the split was amicable, the band members shuffled off in various directions—most to college, with bassist Bill Sager heading into the Air Force.
Just like you see with NFL players, however, many retirements aren’t permanent. The itch to rekindle memories and relive the adrenaline—especially when it comes to creating and performing music with childhood friends—often remains.
Rising from the depths of retirement, Venona will release a new EP—“Ghosts”—at its 6 p.m. show on Saturday at Waiting Room, 334 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. Openers include Rescue Dawn, The Odd Times, Monday Night Mistake and Figurehead.
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketfly.com for $10 pre-sale, by stopping at the After Dark Entertainment office at 630 Elmwood Ave., buy contacting Venona through the band’s Facebook page or by spending $12 at the door.
In an interview last week with two of the band’s original members—Justin Gammella (vocals, guitar, keys) and Mike Donovan (vocals, drums)—we learned why the band reunited, the themes underlying the soon-to-be released EP and what’s in the future for the band.
Gammella, joining forces with Venona bandmate and roommate Lance Camann, continued to write music following Venona’s 2011 breakup, co-writing songs for female-fronted Buffalo rock band Aria, among others. Donovan, on the other hand, was focused on life at Rutgers University.
“I was too busy to think or fathom Venona [getting back together],” Donovan admitted. “I certainly missed it quite a bit, though—I’d still see Justin and Lance occasionally, and we’d mess around with a few songs.”
Immersed in the craft, Gammella found that the songs he wrote for others reminded him of Venona, and in October 2012, the lead vocalist emailed the rest of the former members of Venona an outline of a few tracks.
Though he admitted the email was a little out-of-the-blue, Donovan listened to the tracks and stumbled upon a few differences.
“[Justin] really developed a voice of his own,” Donovan explained, “but it still sounded like Venona, and the new songs wouldn’t shock people [with change].”
“With our previous album and our older songs, we didn’t really understand song structure and dynamics,” Gammella reflected. “Now, the [new tracks] are an easier listen, but there’s still a lot going on—like subtle key and time signature changes—that will stick out to musicians.”
With Donovan returning to Buffalo for the summer, a reunion began to make more sense, and Gammella, Camann, Donovan and Al Portera—four of the five original members with Sager still in the military—joined forces with Nick Bacon and Jesse Randolph to form a six-piece band.
“Without having to deal with a label, we were really able to take our time with [working on the EP],” Donovan said.
The new project, Gammella added, will be released in two parts: part one will be unveiled on Saturday at Waiting Room, while part two will be the focus of another release show—probably in late 2013 or early 2014.
Thematically, “Ghosts” signals a departure from the thematic concept album of “Pangea and the Earth Machine” and touches more on internal demons—whether they’re personal experiences within the band or more general human hurdles.
“We wanted to write about what haunts people at night—what haunts us at night—and what we lay in bed and think about and what lays heavy on our conscience,” Donovan noted, before adding that lost love, regret and family relationships are also intertwined.
“Rooms” relates to the loss of Gammella’s mother to cancer, while “Kings” is more of an idea-based rendering of the “loss of promise.”
As for plans beyond part two of the EP—there’s little clarity whether Venona will continue to push out music.
“It’s typical Venona style in not knowing what we’re going to do next,” Donovan said with a chuckle. It’s probably not the last we’ll hear from Venona, as the ever-present itch will linger.
(Photos courtesy of Erica Morano from Venona’s 2011 album release show at Club Infinity. See the full gallery here).