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The Sound

Meet Viva Montesa


Viva Montesa’s Ted and Gary Schwick play The Hull Ave. Tavern on Friday, Dec 7. See SoundNotes for details.

Viva Montesa hardly seems like a real band. There aren’t enough members, for one thing. And don’t come talking to me about the Black Keys or White Stripes. The Keys and Stripes are the exceptions that prove the rule: Get a bassist, hippies.

Then there’s the whole persona. They aren’t brothers, and their names aren’t really Ted and Gary Schwick (you know or you don’t; I’m not telling). Even this: Sitting across the table from the duo at House of Bricks and — just as we start talking about what it’s like to be them — Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us” comes on the radio. The scene’s a lot like Viva Montesa themselves: stretching the bounds of credulity and just a little homoerotic.               

But Ted and Gary have never been the kind to let things like convention or believability stand in their way. The Des Moines duo is as good a rock outfit as you’ll hear in the confines of our city, and for a group that’s been together for less time than “Jersey Shore” has been a TV show, they’ve experienced a lot of emotional ups and downs. They almost didn’t even make it this far.                 

Last September, on a Thursday night at Gas Lamp, Viva Montesa played its final show. It was more Gary’s decision than Ted’s. The Viva Montesa drummer needed to take some time off. His head just wasn’t in it anymore.               

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“I still wanted to play music,” said Ted. “Gary not so much. I think we had a couple bad knocks. A couple bad shows, and it’s easy to break up.”                 

How bad?                

“One of them was a day-long, 110-degree show,” Gary explained. “For four people. In a street. While the band that was coming on after us was setting up their gear around us. Like walking around, reaching past me while I’m drumming. I think I was already slightly burned out, but just needed a break. Looking back on it, I think we realize now, there’s no last show. It just exists.”                

“It was a pivotal point, because obviously, we’re sitting here as a band again,” Ted agreed.                 

Now Viva Montesa approaches its music with a new perspective.                

“We’d love nothing more than to do this all day,” Ted said. “But we’re realistic about it. We know we can’t stretch ourselves too thin. Especially being a two-piece. The more productive it is, the better we feel about it.”                 

Gary agrees.                

“There’s more navigating for me to do right now to be in the band. But if that commitment comes with more productivity, I think I’ll have no problem.”                

But what happens when the next batch of bad shows strike? While the Schiwck boys may once again be on the same page, they both understand how fleeting that can be if one of them loses focus again.                

“Maybe two years ago I’d have questioned where Gary’s head is at,” Ted said. “Now more than ever, we’ve got our feet on the ground. I’m at a point in my life that I think that wherever it goes from here, it’s still going to be a notch in my belt. I guess I just have a wait-and-see attitude. Am I worried about it? No, I’m not.”                

“For me, it’s a matter of not over-committing. Even the whole reason I’m in the band: I’ve never wanted to be a drummer in a band. Since knowing Ted, I’ve always wanted to be in a band with him. It’s corny, but what happens when we get together and write has created the desire in me to do that.” CV

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