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Members include Spencer Chan, keyboard;Miles Corbin, guitar; MichaelLindner, bass; Hank Manninger,guitar; Don Spindt, drums. Addresses: Record company-Milan Records, 1540 Broadway,28th floor, New York, NY 10036 Phone: (212) 782-1261.
Noted for their atmospheric and hypnotic surf music, the AquaVelvets surfaced as part of an instrumental rock movement thatdrew sounds from the 1950s and 1960s and embraces a "less ismore" aesthetic. Guitar Player's Chuck Crisafulli described thesound of the Aqua Velvets as, "more akin to (Link) Wray thanReturn to Forever or Rising Force.... The Aqua Velvets revive thevenerable sound of Southern California surf-rock."
The band consists of guitarist Miles Corbin, bassist MichaelLindner, drummer Don Spindt, guitarist Hank Manninger, andkeyboardist Spencer Chan. Although the band's music undeniablyinspires dancing-as witnessed at all of their live shows-theirfree-flowing instrumental style effortlessly lends itself tosoundtracks and television scores. Their music has been featuredin numerous various independent films, and television shows suchas MTV's "House of Style," "Singled Out," and CBS' "NashBridges." They've also had tracks in dozens of specials on theDiscovery Channel, ESPN's "Maxout", ABC, and Fox, and werefeatured in three neo-surf anthologies-including Rhino'sCowabunga! The Surf Box. A.T. at Pipeline magazine describedtheir music as, "scene-setting, private eye, smoky nightclub,foggy backstreet mode ... soundtrack for a nineties film noir,all moody atmosphere plus melody ... file under tasty modernguitar instrumentals." A staff writer for the Los Angeles DailyNews wrote, "(The band) doesn't slavishly imitate others orattempt to duplicate the past. All songs on the aptly titledGuitar Noir are originals and many are quite good."
In spite of success with television, films, music reviewers,and concert audiences, the Aqua Velvets are a specific niche bandwhose members feel ardently about the unusual music they create.All of the band members still held part-time jobs after therelease of their fourth album, Guitar Noir; Corbin, who wasraised in Fairfax, VA, worked as part-time manager of the snackbar underneath the lifeguard tower at Stinson Beach, which wasdubbed "Surfer's Grill". Lindner, from San Francisco, worked as aPorsche mechanic and part-time middle-school music teacher. Chan,from Dublin in Ireland, worked as a piano teacher. Manninger,from Berkeley, CA, raised Jack Russell terriers, and Spindt, fromEl Cerrito, worked as an internet consultant. Corbin told the SanFrancisco Examiner-Chronicle, "We play locally (in San Francisco)to stay in form, but record companies don't give tour supportanymore. So rather than quit our day jobs and come home broke, westay here and work the music out of our own office, placing tuneson TV commercials and soundtracks and doing our own A&R and legalwork."
Array of Musical Mentors
Band members cite a wide array of musical mentors as earlyinfluences, encompassing rock, jazz, surf music, movie music, andalternative rock; the list includes the Beach Boys, the Ventures,the Shadows, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Ennio Morricone,Angelo Badalamenti, Elvis Costello, U2, Chris Isaak, Dick Dale,the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, theGrateful Dead, and the Talking Heads. The band incorporates aLatin beat into many of their songs, particularly on GuitarNoir's "Casbah Club," "Mysterious Mambo," and "Argentina". Corbinconcentrates on the details of pick-and-whammy in order to createa distinctive surf effect rather than utilizing special effects.He usually accents the end of a musical phrase with a littletremolo, just as a vocalist might use vibrato for added effect.
Neo-Surf Spaghetti Western
Corbin described his band's sound to Crisafulli as, "neo-surfspaghetti western," and said he approaches composing as if themusic is going to be the soundtrack to a movie that will neverexist. He is often inspired by a visual image rather than alyrical one. The first two songs the Aqua Velvets recorded werestudio experiments in film scoring, and Lindner and Corbinenjoyed the music so thoroughly that they decided to form a bandaround it. The Aqua Velvets debut, The Aqua Velvets was releasedin 1992 and featured neo-surf sounds with a garage band/grungesensibility. For their debut release, the AquaVelvets meshedEnnio Morricone-style movie music with the atmospheric sound ofAngelo Bandalamenti, the razor-sharp twangs of Link Wray, and thefreewheeling surf rock of the Ventures. The album took nearlyfour years to make, and was recorded in their basement studio athome until neighbors complained about the noise. They eventuallycompleted the album at the garage where bassist Lindner worked asa mechanic. The album's guitar overdubs were recorded in the backof a Volkswagon van.
Surfmania was released three years later in 1995 and featuredquirky singles like "Mexican Rooftop Afternoon," "Martini Time,"Surf Samba," and "Cabana Del Gringo". Of all the material theAqua Velvets released from 1992 -97, the 12 cuts on Surfmaniawere most reminiscent of Dick Dale, the Surfaris, and theVentures. Nomad, released in 1996, was a surf rock compilation,with an emphasis on the surf portion of "surf-rock". The AquaVelvets released Guitar Noir near the end of 1997, featuringsongs such as "Mysterious Mambo," "Mermaids After Midnight," and"Twilight of the Hep Cats". Candace Murphy of the San JoseMercury News wrote, "As for Guitar Noir, all that"s missing isthe fog." The staff music writer for Music Reviews Quarterlywrote, "This recording has a dark lightness to its tone whichresults from the inherent brightness of the guitar tonescontrasted with minor-keyed melody lines. That has all beenplanned and executed with surprising consistency and skill onGuitar Noir."
Surf Rock Pushes Envelope
The Aqua Velvets appreciate the surf rock pioneers that camebefore them; Corbin told Crisafulli, "People sometimes think ofthe Ventures as this odd, isolated phenomenon at the beginning ofrock and roll, but there's really just a short gap between whatthe Ventures and Dick Dale were doing and what John Cipollina,Jerry Garcia and Robby Krieger started doing a couple of yearslater. From "63 to "67 it was the surf instrumental guys whoreally pushed the rock guitar envelope." The Aqua Velvets infusethe traditionally happy surf sound of days of yore with a darkeredge, experimenting with the strange and bizarre sounds ofatmospheric surf music and creating their own multi-layeredstyle.The staff reviewer for Baltimore's Music Monthly wrote,"Nomad was met with widespread national acclaim, which helped toestablish the Aqua Velvets as one of today's hottest instrumentalcombos. Guitar Noir is destined to take the band onto an entirelynew level."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Aqua Velvets's Career
Music featured in numerous various independentfilms andtelevision shows such as MTV's "House of Style," "Singled Out,"and CBS' "Nash Bridges"; tracks in dozens of specials on theDiscovery Channel, ESPN's "Maxout", ABC, and Fox; featured inthree neo-surf anthologies, including Rhino's Cowabunga! The SurfBox; debut release The Aqua Velvets, 1992; released Surfmania,1995; Nomad, 1996; Guitar Noir, in 1997.
- Selected discography
- The Aqua Velvets , Riptide Records, 1992.
- Surfmania , Mesa Records, 1995.
- Nomad , Mesa Records, 1996.
- Guitar Noir , Milan Records, 1997.
- Billboard , December 6, 1997.
- Chicago Heights Star , January 8, 1998.
- Guitar Magazine , December 1997.
- Guitar Player , February 1996.
- Los Angeles Daily News , January 2, 1998.
- Marin Independent Journal , February 12, 1998.
- Music Monthly (Baltimore, MD), December 1997.
- Music Reviews Quarterly , Winter 1997-1998.
- Pipeline , December, 1997.
- San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle , November 9, 1997.
- San Jose Mercury News , October 26, 1997.
- http://184.108.40.206/cg/amg.exe; AMG (All-Music Guide)
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