Removing the dirt9/24/2014
Viva Montesa is having an identity problem. Not with their live act; in person, the duo of Ted and Gary Schwick are every bit as fun and talented as they’ve always been. But when it comes time to translate that vitality to a recorded medium, issues arise.
The band’s debut EP, 2012’s “Everyone’s Got Something Good to Say” is a great collection of the band’s work to date, but the execution left something to be desired. Vocals are muddy, levels are wrong, and the album overshoots its lo-fi goals and winds up stripping the band of some of its life.
This week, the pair is back with a new EP, “Hot Cat,” recorded at Des Moines’ Midday Studios (Parlours, The Envy Corps).
“ ‘Hot Cat’ is a lot more consistent,” frontman Ted said in and interview. “Cleaner. It’s definitely a studio effort.”
Which, coming from Viva Montesa, might be praise delivered with the back of a hand, because they’re not really a “studio” band.
“We’re (happy) with the effort that was put forth (by Midday),” said drummer Gary. “But it just affirmed to us that — maybe not that we shouldn’t be in a studio — but that there’s a rawness to our sound that we have to be very, very careful not to lose.”
“Hot Cat” does deliver a cleaner version of what Viva Montesa does. From a presentation standpoint, it’s easier to listen to, but the Schwick boys fear that it might have too much of that rawness scrubbed out; if the LP was too muddy, the EP might be too sanitized.
“We should have known better when we hired the premiere indie (producers) in town,” Ted said, referring to Midday’s established aesthetic. “Their sound is pretty established.”
The band is proud of its new effort. While the perfect capturing of their live experience remains illusive, “Hot Cat” gives fans a different look at the band, and it’s a look that’s worth having. Hearing a cleaned up Viva Montesa is an interesting ride, and worth the time. Combined with the LP, Viva Montesa fans have two very different recorded experiences. And while neither may be perfect, they both provide something to love.
“There are some pretty unlistenable parts of the album,” Ted admitted. “The EP doesn’t have that, but it comes close to removing that dirt that makes us us. But now we’re homing in.” CV