First of all: I want you all to know before reading this that Hot Water Music will be giving away two (count'em, TWO) tickets to see Mike Abiuso and The Venetia Fair at their next Boston performance. If you're interested email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because, really guys... it's free.
After jumping on the music scene with band Kiss Kiss, musical journeyman Mike Abiuso eventually left the band during an agreed-upon hiatus to join up with Trash-Pop duo, The Gay Blades.
After practicing and touring with them for a couple short tours, Abiuso was invited to join the band as a contributor and member. Abiuso found himself playing the keyboard-- a far cry from his expertise, as he'd grown up and enjoyed playing stringed instruments.
Eventually, after a year of touring and recording The Gay Blades' most recent effort, Savages, Abiuso was offered a spot in band The Venetia Fair as a bassist. Looking to get back to an instrument he likes and knows more, Abiuso left The Gay Blades and is now a member of The Venetia Fair.
Hot Water Music had a talk with Abiuso about the process of switching bands, the different vibes each band has or had, and the creative process. The interview is after the bump-- enjoy!
HWM: First of all, looking into your musical past, it seems you've been involved with a lot of "self-made" projects. You were able to join up with Kiss Kiss, start a record label, and have begun a side project of your own in The Mayor. What's the importance, with the music market in slight disrepair, that young musicians strive to "make their own way", like you have? Are things different in the music industry now than they were when you started out with Kiss Kiss?
MA: Things seem to be drastically changing in the music industry. There is slim-to-no money in it anymore due to technology, music theft, and an over-saturation of music. I have come to the conclusion that every aspect of music and every crutch used to advance further can be done on my own as far as labels, managers, agents, producers, engineers, etc. Of course, not to the same extent as major labels with huge budgets, but it can be done and is way more rewarding and satisfying, being that no one cares more about your band than you.
HWM: Can you speak to the process of joining a new band a little bit? How to integrate yourself into what they're doing musically-- i.e. how to apply your style of playing and your "spice" while also not infringing on what the band had done before your joining? Is there ever any tension in joining a new band? Creative issues?
MA: Joining new bands has always been great experiences for me. It does get tedious adjusting at times and everyone's story is different, I'm sure. As far as my personal experience out of college, I joined Kiss Kiss, which was my first band that I took on as a full time job. The music was exactly what I wanted to be doing, but at times members could be difficult to deal with, and when it hinders the band and causes it to not move forward then that is a red flag to move on. The transfer from Kiss Kiss to The Gay Blades was unexpected. During a Kiss Kiss tour James Dean Wells aka Clark Westfield sent me a rough cut of the Savages album and asked if I could learn and/or write some keyboard parts and come on tour with them once the Kiss Kiss tour was over, not as a joining member, just to help them out with a fuller sound. In doing so, I got home from the Kiss Kiss tour and practiced with The Gay Blades one day. They loved the stuff I did and wrote and we hit the road the next day for a two-week tour. That was one of my favorite tours. It couldn't have gone smoother or been more fun. I then joined the band as a full time member, being that Kiss Kiss was on an agreed hiatus, and still is. The only concern of mine in The Gay Blades was that piano isn't my main instrument, but I did love and have tons of faith in their music (still do) so I altered my playing style slightly and helped them progress as much as I could. Then I received a phone call from The Venetia Fair asking if I would be interested in joining. I knew the band very well, and it was a perfect mix of the weird quarkyness of Kiss Kiss and the smart, poppy songwriting of The Gay Blades. The members are all young, motivated kids that are really easy to get along with, so I couldn't turn down the opportunity. We write the same, I'm playing a stringed instrument which is what I was brought up playing, everything seems to be perfect now. There has yet to be tension or creative differences in The Venetia Fair. I still get a long with everyone in previous bands. Kiss Kiss does reunion shows occasionally which obviously I love doing. I still assist The Gay Blades in any way possible, whether it be promoting them everywhere, playing shows with them when I'm in the area, helping to write tunes (which they obviously don't need), recording them. I love and would do anything for them.
HWM: Does the type of band you're playing provide a different experience? That is to say, was it a different experience touring with Kiss Kiss versus The Gay Blades versus The Venetia Fair?
MA: Touring with each band has been WAY different. Different personalities, different vehicles, needs, etc. Kiss Kiss was a bunch of kids in a full-sized school bus eating our gas and always coming home broke. With The Gay Blades, they are way mature, there were only three of us in a van with no trailer so we would get to come home from tour with some spending money. The Venetia Fair is a five-piece in a van and trailer just having a good time playing music and our main concern over making money is getting our music to fans any way possible and making them happy.
HWM: What's most exciting for you, personally, with your latest band change? What appealed to you most about The Venetia Fair at the time of their asking you to join them?
MA: New music, new crowds, new plans such as immediately revamping new tunes, recording our E.P. which is done and out June 24th, and starting Warped Tour.
HWM: You seem to have experience in a lot of different realms of music. Having been a producer, a writer, a musician, etc, what insight were you able to gain from participating in all those different facets of the music creation process? How different is the role of producer from the role of a musician? Is there anything you learned from one aspect of music that you were able to apply to another?
MA: Almost everything is applicable if you make it. In the recording aspect I just recently recorded The Gay Blades, which will be out on vinyl this summer, I'm recording them again this Monday. I also recently recorded portions of the new The Venetia Fair E.P. alongside the amazing producer Steve Sopchak. The benefits are that you can spend as much time as needed getting things to sound the way you want them and not have to worry about studio time/budgets. Being able to play numerous instruments in the studio is helpful so if bands need further assistance other than just my engineering I could also assist them in tracking. I have done some full compositions for some commercials and stuff, which is a completely different ballgame, yet a great learning experience.
HWM: Between The Gay Blades and The Venetia Fair, each of which I've seen and are known for their intense live performances, you've been in two bands that embrace their audiences wholly (albeit in completely different ways). What's the importance of small-market bands creating bonds and relationships with their fans both through the music they play, the way they play it, and in the face-to-face interactions with fans?
MA: Fans are the number one thing that keep us moving, with out them we'd be nothing. Throughout the years of touring, I have met so many people that are so amazing and I'll love forever. I feel so fortunate to be able to travel around and meet people while having music make them happy. There's no feeling quite like it, and that's why I can't stop doing it. In this day and age, all the marketing can technically be done via internet. I still keep up to the best of my ability, but it doesn't compare to live shows and face to face interactions.
HWM: To that effect, what's the importance of embracing small-market media (like Hot Water Music) as you grow as a band?
MA: The Venetia Fair has had this mindset that, being a small band, we need and appreciate any assistance from small market media to our label (Red Blue Records) as possible. These people have faith in us and help us now for next to nothing and our goal is to grow with these people and connections and be able to, in the future, pay them back tenfold and move everyone upward together.
HWM: What's on the agenda for The Venetia Fair? Any cool new, top-secret shit you can let the fans/readers in on?
MA: We're self-booking the tour to Warped and are going to try and keep booking during Warped to essentially just stay on the road as long as possible.