Friday, March 14, 2008

It's Business Time - for Strix Vega!

Strix Vega’s members are not content to simply play music; they want to quit their day jobs. They want to make their performances count for something besides a few free beers and local celebrity status.

Andy Powell looks back at the silly things they did when the band got started, when they were still coming into themselves and didn’t know how to talk to the press. “It’s nostalgic,” Powell said, referring to reading the articles written about the band when it first started. “We were just three guys playing music with no goal except playing Arcata and Eureka. There’s nothing wrong with that, but now we have the drive to quit our day jobs.”

Now, bassist and manager Powell has taken a more professional approach to Strix Vega’s future. Its members are still silly, humble, fun-loving musicians, he said, but they are ready to take what they do seriously.

“It’s starting a business basically,” said Powell. “I think the reason we have done so well is we are on the ball businesswise. Fortunately, people like the music. That seems to help.”

When the band was contacted about doing a radio campaign to get its album “Drunken Sky” played on college-format radio stations, Powell forked over $1,500 and postage for CDs, and saw the album rise to No. 2 on some college charts. The band is now broke because of the promotional expenses, but from that radio campaign it was able to make valuable connections, Powell said.

The radio campaign led to an introduction to a booking agent, who picked up Strix Vega and booked it a show at the South by Southwest Music and Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Even though they will only be playing one show during their entire trip to Austin and back, the band members said they feel it’s going to be worth it. Strix Vega guitarist Colin Begell said, “We will be shaking some important hands, and as a résumé thing, it looks pretty good.”

The band left Tuesday, March 11, and will play one show in Austin on Saturday, March 15.

Monica Topping, a KSLG DJ and local music fanatic, said, “I saw Strix Vega for my first time a couple of years ago now, and pretty much fell in love with the entire band ... the members and their music. Their music has only gotten better, and I feel lucky to count them as some of my best friends.”

“Drunken Sky” came out in 2006, and Strix Vega has a string of excuses for not getting another album out since then. “We are very completely insanely slowly working on an EP,” Begell said. The extended play will show a softer, more experimental Strix Vega than the music it has done in the past, Begell said.

In addition to the EP, the band is also writing songs for a full-length album, mostly along the lines of its previous album.

“In my head there’s a lot of pressure to supersede our previous album,” said Begell, “to keep our sound and evolve.”

Drummer Chris Jaster said, “There’s a fine line between keeping our sound and evolving.” The others agreed, and said that is one reason it’s taking them so long to release another album.

Jaster started playing with Strix Vega in September 2007, under the impression that he would make a little money. “But I’ve been incredibly disappointed,” he said. “Other than that, I think Strix Vega is a great band. They were one of my favorite Humboldt bands.”

Jaster also plays drums for Dragged By Horses, and cited it as one of his other favorite Humboldt County bands.

Strix Vega is trying to take its music as far as it can, and South by Southwest is just one step along the way. Its partnering with a promotion company and booking agent has, as Begell puts it, opened band members’ eyes to meeting people who can help them get their music out to a larger audience, “hopefully bringing us into the poverty-level cusp of a paid musician,” said Begell.

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