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The Sound

Together but separate, Violent Fade’s unorthodox style works


Violent Fade plays Vaudeville Mews with No One, The Maw and Phavian on Friday, Aug 9. Photo by Darren Tromblay

Violent Fade plays Vaudeville Mews with No One, The Maw and Phavian on Friday, Aug 9. Photo by Darren Tromblay

Violent Fade is something of a niche within a niche. An instrumental three-piece, the band straddles a line within ambient rock that’s more structured than a jam band and more technically-minded than an avant garde noise-rock outfit. It is a sound that not everyone will take to right away.

“We have a lot of shows where people will be like ‘where’s your singer?’ ” said Violent Fade bassist Sean Oakes. “Well, we’re intentionally instrumental. If we hired a singer, it wouldn’t be fun to sing over this stuff.

“Our style we call ‘stoner prog,’ because it’s progressive music with the stoner rock guitar sound. It’s a tough sell, because we don’t have a singer, and we are a niche market. But for people who can appreciate music like Rush, we can fulfill that desire.”

Founded in Omaha back in 2011, the group that would eventually become Violent Fade got its start as an experimental prog rock, three-piece called Woof! Drummer Cameron Helkuik and guitarist Cavan Short wanted to develop the sound beyond what it was, but their original bassist was holding them back.

Prep Iowa

“The original bass player got kicked out because the music was just too hard for him,” Oakes explained. “So I stepped in at that point, and I was able to play more technical bass parts. From there it was about a year of writing (music) before our first show at Vaudeville Mews (as Violent Fade) in April of 2012.”

Now Oakes lives in Des Moines while Helkuik and Short continue to live in Omaha. The trio spends its time writing music together and sending one another sample tracks via dropbox. Once a song is perfect via online collaboration, it’s ready to be tried out in person.

“We never jam together,” Oakes said. “We practice on our own, then I’ll drive to Omaha, and we’ll rehearse together once a month. It probably takes a month-and-a-half to get most of (a song) hammered out. Then we’ll try it out about three-quarters of the way (done), and at the next practice we’ll finish it up. We keep everything to our own little production schedule.”

In between practice sessions, the band is also constantly booking shows, both here and in Omaha.

“One thing we really like about Des Moines is how much more open the music scene is,” Oakes confessed. “We could never book the shows we book at the Mews in Omaha. There’s one production company monopolizing the entire market there, and you have to get on a waiting list. We don’t have time for that.”

Oakes handles all the booking for the band and prides himself on putting together solid shows, like the one taking place at Mews this week.

“The bands that I picked for this show — No One, Violent Fade and The Maw (all opening for Los Angeles-based prog metal group Phavian) — are the perfect bands for this show. No One is an avant garde two-piece, The Maw is a Pink Floyd-esque experience and Violent Fade is more ambient instrumentals, with Phavian being the meat in the middle of it all.”

It’s a show that Oakes is proud of, and the kind of show that he credits the capital city for being receptive to.

“They appreciate music here,” Oakes said. “It’s not about fitting in; it’s about a place where we can actually be judged by what we can do with our instruments. That’s what’s great for us in Des Moines, is the scene support. Even though we’re an Omaha band, we’re treated like we are a Des Moines act.” CV

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