Saturday, November 27, 2021

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Sound Circuit

The Vahnevants


They don’t care what you think

“We don’t give a fuck what really anybody has to say,” Vahnevants bass player James Brittenson says.

“Personally, I’m just trying to impress this little hunting party,” singer Micah Surdevant says.

Since their first release in 2014, the four-piece 1960s garage rock band (the band name is a mashup of its founders’ and primary songwriters — Micah Sturdevant and Jared Vaughan — last names) has released a handful of cassettes, with the most recent being their June 2017 release “Vahnevants are Criminals.” The inspiration for the album title came from an unlikely place: bathroom graffiti. The words were scrawled in black marker, written in all caps and large letters across a red wall in the men’s bathroom at The Octopus in Cedar Falls.

“It was fantastic,” Brittenson says of the graffiti.

The band liked it so much it inspired them to turn it into a sticker and an album title. Brittenson created all the artwork for the latest album. He is also co-president of Rule_OG_Y, which released the tape.

Prep Iowa

“Anything artistically that I do is very collage oriented. Early 1980s New York street art and whatnot, a lot of my influence comes from that stuff,” Brittenson says.

Brittenson and Sturdevant lament the bygone era when album artwork was a highlight when purchasing music, and feel it has been forgotten in the digital age.

“It just bugs me the way people release stuff. I find it important to make sure you’re really getting a full-fledged product,” Brittenson says.

The “Vahnevants are Criminals” cassette has art on both sides of the tape and also comes with an insert, explanation of the album and digital download card. The 10-song release includes four songs that clock in under one minute, each of which is named after is respective track number.

“That part is all you need. It serves its own purpose,” Brittenson adds.

“It’s hard to do live sometimes. People are like, ‘Is it over? Is it done?’ ” Sturdevant laughs.

As much as they care about album art, they care very little about how their live shows are received.

“At the end of the day, my main concern isn’t necessarily making the people in the audience satisfied with my product. It’s about making myself happy with what I’m doing,” says Brittenson.

“We’ve played shows where we play half-speed, and everybody hates it,” Sturdevant adds.

Of even less concern to the band is the number of attendees at their shows. Brittenson and Sturdevant recalled a recent show where only a handful of people were in the audience.

“Jared’s parents were there, and two kids I don’t think I’d ever seen before were there, and that was probably one of my favorite shows I’ve ever played. I felt like everything was just perfect,” Brittenson says. “As far as numbers go, it’s such a superficial thing. Either people will come out, or they won’t come out. I’m not going to pout about it.

“Sometimes you just play to five people; sometimes you play to a couple hundred people,” Brittenson continues.

“A lot of times we play to about 20,” Sturdevant smiles.

Catch the Vahnevants, or don’t, at the Vaudeville Mews twice this month. First on Jan. 8 then on Jan. 21. ♦

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