The four members of Vitamins represent the energy and collaborative spirit that is shaping the music community in Denver. The band delivers straight ahead rock and roll with visceral groove and experimental elements that will make it hard to stay slouched on the bar stool with your tall boy for too long. Patrick Kelly (Old Radio) sat down with the quartet to talk about their early days together, their high-end day jobs, balancing life with the devotion to their band, and how - and when - to keep the music going.
Crawford Philleo - How about for the interview we just do a jam session?
Patrick Kelly -Okay, sure. But first, some questions. Since I'm completely self-involved and Denver-centric, I have no concept of the Greeley life ya'll lead before you moved here. Can you briefly sum up the band's pre-Denver existence?
CP - We all met at school. Me and Ryan were in jazz band together. Ryan and Lizzy lived in a house together, and Matt was a friend of ours.
Matt Daniels -Not really a good friend.
CP -Me and Matt were enemies for a minute.
MD - I think the best part about Greeley was the warehouse you guys had.
CP - Yeah, we had this practice space across the train tracks. It was just amazing. There was all kinds of old metalworks art and weird stuff hanging off the walls, and we had a space there for a long time.
Lizzy Allen - I think the basic thing about Greeley was, it’s a really hard place to live without people’s support, you know? And without an outlet, especially.
"Songs for Stem Cells" - The Vitamins
CP -We played this homecoming luncheon, and we scared off everyone that was in there for the show. But we would do campus events and stuff like that. No matter where you go, I think there’s always some kind of art-centric personality.
MD - Right, and there’s a university there, a lot of young people who are frustrated, and I feel like rock music is a good outlet for that.
PK -Absolutely. Do you all have day jobs? What are they?
CP -I work at a high-end graphics and imaging shop. I do that nine to six.
Ryan Ellison - I work at a high-end music repair shop.
LA -I’m a music teacher. I teach K through 6.
MD - At a high-end Montessori school.
CP -We’re all in the high ends.
MD - And I’m a student, and a cook at City O’ City.
PK -Interesting. How do you guys reconcile being in a band with several full-time jobs? When do you practice? Do you have clones of yourselves hidden away somewhere?
CP -It’s really hard. I don’t have a car, Matt’s selling his car right now, so getting to and from band practice is always kind of a day-to-day, “How’s this exactly gonna work?” And we’ve tried to commit ourselves to two practices a week, and that’s a pretty tight schedule. We get there at seven and everyone’s exhausted from working all day, and all of us are super hungry—
RE - It’s important to make dinner.
LA -I think as far as the energy level, once you’ve been through a full day and you’re wanting to practice and you’re trying to be creative, it’s really hard.
CP - I always wonder, if music was my full-time job, I feel like I’d just be capable of so much more. But we make do with what we can, just living and trying to survive and all that.
PK -Where'd the name Vitamins come from?
CP -I think we were in the vitamins aisle at the grocery store.
RE - I think we were in the meat aisle. We were just saying anything we thought of. It was the only name that stuck.
PK -Now, you guys are a core band of the Hot Congress collective, which is something different to everyone who's involved. What do you each see as the goal of Hot Congress?
CP -What I liked about it is the ideas that help other Denver bands get tours together, or we could send the comp out to other places, so bands from Denver don’t have to feel like they’re foreign in other places.
MD - Power in numbers.
LA - It’s kind of like, if you want to be a solo artist, and you’re thinking, “If I put my brain together with other people’s brains, the outcome turns into something greater than what I can do alone.” Same mentality with bands.
PK -Do you think the overlapping nature of the Denver music scene is helpful or harmful as a musician? The way so many bands share so many members in this town.
CP -One thing I used to love: when I was in high school, I got really into jazz, and you start looking at the personnel on those records, and everyone was showing up on each other’s albums, and I always thought that was a really cool thing. If you’re a musician and you’re providing something very specific, I think it’s kind of a cool thing. I would hope to see more of it. That’s an interesting point you make, though, about there being more bands than there are musicians.
LA - It’s kind of incestuous. I think sometimes it sacrifices a truly original sound, but on the other hand, that’s kind of a wonderful thing, too.
PK -Onward: what are your plans as a band for the next, say, five years? What if you blew up? Do you want to blow up? Would you move out of Denver if it meant increasing your audience or signing to a bigger label?
CP -We rarely discuss long-term goals in the Vitamins.
RE - We did discuss the year plan. We wanted to get someone to help us with distribution.
LA -And we possibly want to go on tour this summer again. And I personally think, if the opportunity arose, I would move.
CP - Yeah, if something brought us to another city, I think we would all—you know, you have to take opportunities when you get them.
MD -I’m really excited about what’s going on in Denver right now. I feel like there’s kind of a flourishing—like we’ve got Hot Congress going on. I think it would be really cool to stick around and try to break Denver’s indie rock music scene into a national level.
LA - Often lately I’ve felt like we need to get out of the city just to tour. That’s really important to get your music out there. Be on the go as much as you can.
RE -Everyone should go on tour.
But if it was five years from now and we’re still, like, going in that back gate at the Meadowlark, or something, I’m sure it would get kind of depressing at some point, you know?
LA - That back gate, man.
PK -Let’s talk about your record a little bit. One of my favorite songs on the new album—and it’s on the Hot Congress comp too—is "Sequined Dress," but I can't figure out what the hell it's about besides fancy evening wear. Could you tell me what the hell it's about?
CP - (whispered) Drugs.
LA -It’s more about… addiction.
RE - (leaning forward) Is it about that?
PK -Are you learning at the same time I am?
RE - Yeah. I don’t really know.
LA - Being reliant on, you know, outside sources to survive. Always having to seek something through the senses in order to live. Trying to break that. The lyrics are very vague. It’s really in the eyes of the listener. Or the ears.
CP - To me it’s about a kickass drum part.
PK -It’s about getting to do some prog drumming at the end.
CP - Exactly. That’s what it’s about.
MD -The lyrics, I think, fit perfectly for that song. It’s fun to be on drugs!
LA - But it’s very scary.
CP - I think a lot of the record kind of has stuff about addiction.
LA - Well, and we were dealing with some issues with our past guitarist. He had some addiction problems and he had to leave.
MD - It's a high-end song
PK -One last question, and it’s a crucial one: if you're in a hot-and-heavy makeout sesh, and you're listening to a record, and the side ends, do you get up and turn it over?
LA - Yes. You have to.
MD - It depends, really. I’d say what phase of the game are you at?
CP - What base?
RE - I'm flippin' records.
RE - Always.
LA - Yeah, seriously. I am too.
CP - If it’s the right person, they’ll appreciate that you flipped the album.
Gigbot Downlow’ds bring you better-than-backstage access to touring musicians that you can get behind. Knowledgeable interviews are conducted by fellow musicians and passionate and learned music writers, who ask the questions you should have, if you happened to have the band on speed dial.
Exclusive photos, free tickets, and musical tracks are brought to your browser by Gigbot’s team of music-loving mechanics to help you catch some the great talent that comes to your neighborhood.
Know the shows - and who is gonna go, with Gigbot. It’s about the best thing that has happened to live music since the whammy bar. See More Downlowd’s →