Louie Bo Charles IV (bass) and Elmo Strauss (guitars & vocals) grew up together listening to Led Zeppelin, started jamming and paving their way to becoming Auckland’s alt/blues rock treasure called Vessel. Now a three piece band, Vessel keep blowing minds across the New Zealand’s music scene with their visceral rock’n’roll and slowly reaching to a wider audience outside of their home land. They come with a fresh, unpretentious, killer-riff sound that ought to impress you and creep under your skin within seconds.
The following questions, willingly answered by Louie Bo Charles IV, will give you some interesting info on the band and their music.
Could you tell us a bit about your musical background and how did Vessel form?
Elmo Strauss and I have grown up together digging the same sounds and sharing new musical experiences – this has been going on for eighteen years, although, we only started playing music together about five of those years. We moved to Waiheke Island, which is in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf (about 40 min ferry trip from the city) and started to jam around. I was a green but enthusiastic bass player and Elmo had been playing guitar for a while but didn’t really think of himself as a vocalist. After chatting to a local, we ended in a wood-shed with a drummer called Steve Hastings and from there started the B-Squared Blues Band. Consequently, we played and formed a few cover bands (Whiskey Mac, Mister Lastboat) and played with some of Waiheke Islands finest before forming Feral Vessel, where we started to pen our own material. Just over twelve months ago, we moved to town to further our ambitions and drummer-less entered the National Battle of the Bands. We shortened our name to Vessel and put the call out for a stickman – enter Mr Fons Peeters. Within two weeks we learnt enough material to get us through the heats but we started to gel fairly quickly and eventually made the final! It was a baptism of fire that brought us together and after that were playing regular gigs, where we started to forge our sound into what you can hear on the Friday Drive EP.
Which three special characteristics would describe Vessel the best; ones that make you stand out on the music scene?
To limit us to just three special characteristics is fairly mean because we sweat special characteristics, but if we narrow it down into a neat list:
- We pride ourselves on our live performance and we are not precious i.e. myself and Elmo use vintage, beat up gear and the drum-kit we use is bust but we rip into it all the same.
- As a band we not bow to clichés but we do wear our influences on our sleeves whilst trying to remain as original and fresh as possible.
- We are not arseholes but lovable chaps who happen to have a penchant for killer rock n’ roll.
Your EP ‘Friday Drive’ was released last month. How did the record come together?
The goal of this project was to have some recordings, so that we could boost our reputation throughout Auckland. We also wanted to capture the raw energy of our live shows and sound like a kick-ass garage band of course. We recorded the tracks at a friend’s (Mike Clarkin) new studio digs in Morningside (Auckland, NZ) after a failed DIY attempt at our own practise space. Once we realised that it would be a good idea to put the recording and mixing process in someone else’s qualified hands, we were able to finish the tracking in a couple of hours. Easy peezy. Our main man Mike Clarkin looked after the recording and mixing and the lovely Michelle Klassens-Rawstron handled the mastering.
Are there any songs on the EP with a special story behind them, you’d like to tell us about?
June Marine is written about my sister who is a very formidable character and I am in debt to her for shaping my own character, but the song with the most specific band story is White Trash. Anyone who listens to that track may mistake the lyrics for typical booze and sex rock lyrics, but, in truth it is a recollection of our very first live gig that happened to be a Rednecks and White Trash party on Waiheke Island (not that there was a lack of hedonism at that particular party).
What’s the usual music making process in the band and the best atmosphere for you to create songs?
Elmo and I share the song writing duties, usually it will all start with a riff and then we shape the crux of the song from that. We usually get together in a practise situation and jam ideas out searching for kernels of cool and if we hit one, then we become quite persistent and coax and stroke until it begins to take shape. The song will usually have a theme or story that hints at how we want it to sound, and we then bounce ideas back and forth until we are content we have a song.
What other bands/musicians have influenced your music?
Zeppelin was our first love, Nirvana our second and as a result have been influenced by sounds that range from The Beatles to Mudhoney – all the gooduns really.
Do you have any favourite quote/lyric by another artist?
Well I have always been fond of these delightful lines:
I am my own pet parasite
I don’t need a host to live,
we can feed off each other
we can share our endorphins
Nirvana, ‘Milk It’, In Utero, 1993
If you could pick any three bands to tour with as a part of one tour, who would it be?
Queens of the Stone Age – The Black Keys – The Datsuns – oh fark yeah!!!
What’s your most and least favourite part of today’s music industry?
All that contrived bullshit that is in our faces, on billboards, television and radio. It’s morphine for the masses and I mean no disrespect toward morphine, but people just eat that shit up and seen to become atheistically sedated in some bad-ass trip, that results in a new pair of sneakers and a power boost in ignorance. Sigh.
What’s the main ambition for Vessel?
To put smiles on faces with a bucket load of distortion sprinkled with melody, and then bottle it and traverse the world spreading this infection.