Back to Music

They are family

The Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band comes to Olympia, and the music is what’s important

MT. ST. HELENS BAND: The music is even more intriguing than the back story. Photo on MySpace

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

The temptation is obvious, at least to someone who’s put together more than his fair share of articles such as this one — attempting to be thoughtful, insightful, fresh and — well — base enough to move papers. It’s a balancing act, and that last part makes it particularly tricky. It’s a recipe that can sometimes lead to questionable decisions, and more often paragraphs or column themes that are heavy on gimmick and light on substance. It can make even a good writer succumb to lazy temptation.

It would be easy, you see, to take the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band’s show coming up at Northern in Olympia on Wednesday, Dec. 9, and make it an excuse to write a fluff propped column about the seemingly endless array of unique relationships and circumstances that surround this band.

It would be a simple road to take. The relationships and circumstances are plenty with the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band — but we shouldn’t let that steal the show.

The music is the story here.

(Note: From here on out I’ll refer to the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band as the MSHVB — because, let’s be honest, the name is simply too long to type 17 times. Seriously. My fingers are already tired of it.)

Since I’ve already alluded to the relationships and circumstances in play with Seattle’s MSHVB, and since there’s a chance not all of the Volcano’s readership has previously studied up on the band in the (online) pages of Spin, Stereogum, Pitchfork and Paste — to name but a few uber-hip, alterna-places the band has been featured (even if Pitchfork did shit on the band’s 2009, self-titled debut) — I should at least take a minute to explain the diverse set up.

Succinctly as possible, here it goes:

MSHVB’s drummer is a 14-year-old boy, Marshall Verdoes, who is also lead singer and guitarist Benjamin Verdoes’ adopted brother — though Benjamin is 13 years older.  For the record, and noting the fact’s non-importance — Marshall is African American and Benjamin is white.

MSHVB’s keyboard player, Traci Eggleston, is Benjamin’s wife, which — of course — makes Marshall her brother-in-law.

Throw in guitarist Matthew Dammer and bassist Jared Price, who, sadly, aren’t related or married to anyone in MSHVB, and what reveals itself is just about as diverse a band as you’ll find anywhere. MSHVB is like the Partridge Family without the bellbottoms, drug addictions and suck. They’re like the Osmonds minus the incestuous creepy factor.

Regardless of any of it, the relationships and the skin colors — which, really, is all besides the point — MSHVB is a quirky, frenetic and much hyped indie-rock group that you’d be silly to ignore — not because of the band’s background or the indie accolades they’ve collected over a relatively short career, but because of the sonic vibrations they create — not to mention the upward trajectory they seem locked in on.

“Our band is so deeply relational,” says Benjamin Verdoes by phone, stepping away from band practice for a moment to explain the circumstances that led to this point. “It’s a really fascinating thing. On some level I think it’s refreshing to people.”

While the band’s diverse makeup, which can make them look like a politically correct ad campaign on stage, is certainly refreshing and intriguing to the mind — at the end of the day it comes down to the music, and MSHVB is slowly but surely constructing a catalogue to back up the hype. In March the band released its self-titled debut on Dead Oceans, and although Pitchfork panned it, most did not. Those not too cool for their ironic mustache tend to believe it was  one of the strongest debut efforts a Seattle band has put forth in some time, and when you step back and consider the drummer is 14 — well, it’s just about enough to blow any music fan’s mind.

But there I go being lazy again.  The MSHVB doesn’t need its 14-year-old drummer to be the selling point — even if it’s obvious. The band could be made up of nothing but Oompa-Loompas and the tunes would still hold their own.

“It has exceeded our expectations. This was totally unforeseen,” says Benjamin of the band’s success.

“If a band stands a chance of staying together, it’s probably us. There’s a real sense of possibility.”

Check out the MSHVB Wednesday at Northern in Olympia.

[Northern, with The Growlers, time and cover TBA, 321 Fourth Ave., Olympia,]  

Read next close


Magic(k) moments

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search