I shouldn't have asked Vexx about what playing music in Olympia is like. I'm sure they get the question all the time - actually I'm certain because I read other interviews they did and, sure enough, that question popped up. As a city boasting bands that have seriously influenced my trajectory in music, such as Beat Happening, Christmas, Transfix, and Gag, Olympia is hard to avoid - it's a fixture in more than a few subgenres of underground music. Side note: Christmas was a band that played the Duke Coffeehouse and I have a vivid memory of all of us hanging outside Craig Layabout's house as they did a haunting, a capella rendition of Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." As absurd and myopic of an experience that that was, it was one of the first times I realized independent music was more than an auditory intake. Strangely enough, Pat from Christmas is now 1/2 of The Pen Test - Robert Manis, who started Moniker Records, put out their LP Interstate a few months before I joined as label partner. Small world.
But it's also just a setting. It doesn't define Vexx as people are as a band. And, really, when you get down to it, what one descriptor can define anything in the scope of four individuals? Objectively it's impossible. Subjectively there's room to play. A standout quality of Vexx is their energy - a set is inspiring in its commitment to performance and its tightness. Mary Jane Daphne, backed by Corey Rose Evans, Ian Corrigan, and Mike Liebman, is an electric revelation who basically gets a full day's exercise done in twenty minutes. The band as a whole revel in pop songwriting, two or three minute bangers that roll around the cranial cavity for days.
I've only seen them in a bigger crowd at Berserktown in LA, which was a phenomenal set, albeit a far cry from the D.I.Y. shows that litter the results when you search "Vexx band live." So far they've put out a couple of cassettes, a 12" originally on Grazer Records, and a 7" on Katorga Works.
I reached out to the band via e-mail and got to ask them a few questions.
Jordan Reyes: Tell me a little bit about Olympia. There's a lot of independent music history from there with K Records and Kill Rock Stars - does that continue to have a big influence and impact on the city?
Ian Corrigan: I don't really know, it always will be to people who live outside of Olympia, but I don't think it is that relevant for people making music right now. We just tracked our next record at Dub Narcotic, which is associated with K.
JR: Obviously punk is an important part of ya'll's lives. Was there a specific thing - an event, a band, a book, or a person - that made it so?
IC: I think we're all into high energy music that clocks in under 2-3 minutes, expressing a concise performance and not letting people think about it too much during the performance, being overwhelmed by energy. I think, for me, it was watching a show and not getting tired while the band is playing. I think there are few long format bands that I'd ever like to see live.
JR: Do you think punk ideas like commitment to independence and artistry have become more or less important as music has become more easily available through the internet?
IC: More important. I think it will always be important to me, having a strong opinion about curating your look and sound so it speaks to who you are and what you're accomplishing is always going to be important.
JR: I always ask this question, which I'm sure you get a lot, but are there any particular bands from Olympia you'd recommend to readers (read: people like myself) who don't know that much about what's going on in Olympia?
IC: Defaceman is a trip, Alice Wynne's art and poetry is inspiring. I don't know if they have any releases other than a tape right now. Underpass, CC Dust, and Broken Water are great.
JR: What do you think makes a song or an artist compelling?
IC: I don't really know until I see it or feel it live. Music being a performing, visual, and recorded art makes it difficult to be timeless and timely. I believe honesty, vulnerability, aggression, confusion, and beauty are things that I look for when listening to or looking at art/music.
JR: Also, who did the art for the 7"? I can't stop looking at it!
IC: Aaron Kaneshiro
JR: Do you all have any plans to record or put out an LP any time soon?
IC: We’ll have Another EP in the next year.
JR: When you guys go on tour, what do you generally listen to or read? Are there any "staple Vexx listens" for the van?
IC: Coil, The Troggs, New York Dolls, Obituary's live album dead, UFO, the Kinks, Strawberry Switchblade, Neon Judgement, acid house, new beat etc...
JR: How easy is it to do the "necessary" amount of touring for you guys? Does it ever become difficult?
IC: We did it this year, 2015. We did a northeast tour, a full European tour, and a west coast tour. It is really difficult; it puts your life on hold, but it is worth it for the wealth of experience that you get from it, personal and performance.
JR: Hypothetically, would you tour if you could live off record sales?
IC: Yeah, live performance is unparalleled in my day-to-day experience.
JR: What all is in the future for Vexx?
IC: I really couldn't say
JR: Anything else you'd like to say?
IC: Always remember to do the dishes