On March 10th, a promise from big brother to little brother will be realized.
Benjamin Verdoes (vocals, guitar, percussion) hoped to motivate his younger brother Marshall to push forward in his drum lessons. Once Marshall got good at drums, Benjamin vowed, they’d start a band together, and now-13-year-old Marshall would have naming rights. That promise is officially made good with the release of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band’s self-titled debut full-length.
Co-produced by Scott Colburn (the Arcade Fire, Animal Collective), the album at first blush recalls Wolf Parade; the band’s frayed melodic sensibilities and Benjamin’s urgent, driven vocals in particular. Of course, Wolf Parade borrowed a few ideas from Modest Mouse, whose beginnings were indebted to the Pixies. This is the sort of musical lineage that creates the foundation for Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band’s debut LP. But Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band are not solely inspired by their contemporaries; dig a little deeper and strains of Queen’s over-the-top epic rock peers through, while exhilarating guitar work that nods towards Thin Lizzy appears in more than a few songs.
Drawing members from Seattle’s popular In Praise of Folly, the band comprises the Verdoes brothers, Matthew Dammer (Moog, guitar, trumpet), Jared Price (bass, vocals), and Traci Eggleston (percussion, keys, vocals), who is also married to the elder Verdoes. Without the help of any music–not even a single mp3 to share–Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band stirred up excitement and anticipation in their hometown of Seattle. The band creatively introduced a series of comical PSAs on its MySpace page (“Homeostasis,” “Boring,” “Technology,” and “GDOL- Gradual Death Over Lifetime”), starring various band members with a focus on scene-stealer Marshall.
The media were quick to take notice of the buzz, with Current TV running a segment on the band and Seattle newsweekly the Stranger printing a lengthy feature story. Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band performed an in-studio at legendary KEXP, and subsequently had its self-released and homemade Weepy EP added into rotation. Stereogum took notice and christened Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band a “Band to Watch!” All this before Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band had played their first show–a headlining performance in July 2008 with over 500 fans in attendance.
Since that first show, the excitement around Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band has continued to build. In November 2008, Spin included Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band in its “Buzzcatcher” column, saying, “check how ‘Dull Reason’ and ‘Anchors Dropped’ ingeniously whipsaw between tense indie raving and harmony-rich pastoralia.” More love was garnered by Alternative Press in their “AP&R” section, where they proclaimed, “The Pacific Northwest buzz is palpable thanks to complex and unique arrangements and a feel good atmosphere.”