I recently had the opportunity to ask Benny Santoro, lead singer of The Venetia Fair (previously featured in the Unsung Heroes), a few questions. A few topics we covered are the band's latest album, Every Sick Disusting Thought We've Got In Our Brain, its vinyl release, pre-show habits, and dealing with consistent injuries from playing shows. You can check out the interview after the break.
Benny Santoro: My name is Benny Santoro and I do the singing in The Venetia Fair.
NDM: Could you explain how you came up with the band's name?
BS: I sure can! Pluto had just been demoted from the full fledged planet it had been in my youth to a dwarf planet. A band needs a name, so we figured that was as good a place as any to start looking so we did some research on pluto and discovered that an 11 year old girl named Venetia Burney had been the first person to suggest naming it Pluto. By the time we heard about her, however, she had married and took her husband, Edward Phair's, surname so we just popped the "PH" out and replaced it with "F" for no real reason and tossed a The in front of it. The Venetia Fair. Venetia Phair died two months before we released our debut album, living just long enough to see her name start to be erased from history books as Pluto started mattering less and less but not quite long enough to ever hear about a band named in her honor.
NDM: So The Venetia Fair put out a new album called Every Sick Disgusting Thought We've Got In Our Brain not too long ago. The band successfully utilized Kickstarter to get the album out and more than doubled the initial goal. What was that like?
BS:That was a real treat for us, truly. I am always super pessimistic about everything so I was very scared we weren't going to reach the goal at all but then we reached in 4 days like it was NOTHIN'! We have some very weird, pretty amazing fans, and that kickstarter really proved that to us and was the gust of wind in our sails we needed to keep movin'.
NDM: Would you consider using Kickstarter or a similar service again?
BS: Sure, it was a great experience all around. We got to interact with our fans, come up with weird rewards, and make the album that we wanted to make on our terms. It's been a lot of work fulfilling all of our promises but it's work we're more than happy to do.
NDM: You ended up having six different cover song requests through the Kickstarter as rewards and you've been teasing a “Rock Lobster” cover a lot recently. Are the others just as weird or ridiculous?
BS: They are 6 very different songs. We're not sure how we're going to proceed with the release at this point, we may put some out to the public and may keep some as a private gift between us and our backers. Some are very well known songs, some are more obscure, they were all very challenging. If you've ever heard our cover of a "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" you know we don't just play the songs, we strip the song down to it's basic components and build our own song out of it so we've been working very hard to make each one unique and awesome.
NDM: Another reward was designing a meal for band member Mr. Chark to eat. A few people took you up on the offer. What did the meals end up being?
BS: I'm not sure Mr. Chark has taken the plunge on that yet, we're still making our way through the list of rewards and that's kind of near the bottom. However, one person designed him a pretty gross 3 course meal that I believe included some of his own ejaculate and another person asked that he eat an entire raw onion (the only food that Mr. Chark hates, it's like his kryptonite).
NDM: Now a little more about the album itself. Was the writing and recording process any different from recording The Circus and The Pits?
BS: The thing about this album is that we began writing it back in 2010, a year before The Pits came out. We were originally planning on releasing a 10 song album in 2011 but when Warped Tour came up, we took our four favorites and made The Pits. So some of this record was written exactly the same way that The Pits was written but definitely different from how the Circus was written. We really just tried to focus on making each song awesome on it's own this time, as opposed to The Circus that was all about feeding the concept. There was also something fundamentally different about our state of mind when we approached writing it because The Circus was the first one, when we were writing it we had no idea if anyone would ever hear it and we weren't comparing ourselves to the acts that we loved, we were comparing ourselves to the other local bands we were playing shows with. After hitting the road, we were like "it's not good enough that we make the best album to come out of some college students in a basement on the north shore of Massachusetts, we need to make the best album in the world by anyone ever". We weren't trying to be the coolest fish in a tiny pond anymore, we wanted much, much more.
NDM: What are some of your favorite tracks off of the album?
BS: We all have different favorite tracks, and different favorite parts of different tracks but the two that I think we're most proud of as a group are "We Used To Worship The Moon" and "Only In The Morning". I, personally, also love "The Day I Set Them Free" and "The Sky Came Down"
NDM: You recently announced that the album would be released on a very limited run of vinyl copies. This is the first time the band has done anything involving records, so what was that experience like?
BS: Our guitarist, Mike, runs a really cool boutique label called SwitchBitch Records and had been wanting to release some TVF stuff for a while. Obviously with the success of the Kickstarter we didn't have a huge need for a label and if we're being honest, we were really excited to be an independent band again for the first time in almost 4 years. But when Mike approached us about the vinyl it seemed like the perfect time to collaborate with the folks at SwitchBitch and we really just let them run wild with whatever ideas they had.
NDM: You'd clearly been thinking ahead quite a bit since you announced the vinyl copies and began shipping them out within a week's time. Plus you had the whole SwitchBitch Records Package for the first one hundred buyers. How far in advanced had you planned the release?
BS: We'd been talking about and sort of hinting at it for months; we knew we wanted to do it even before we released the record in March. We didn't officially announce it until the vinyls were in our hands because we've been through enough release dates to know that something always goes wrong and we absolutely hate disappointing our fans with delays and shit like that.
NDM: How did you come up with the idea of the spinning wheel for the cover? That's one of the more unique ideas I've seen for record packaging.
BS: I believe it was Mike and SwitchBitch's idea and we helped figure out the best way to get it done. We knew we didn't want to just put out a standard black vinyl with a sleeve, we wanted to make this thing something unique and special.
NDM: Would the band like to press The Pits and The Circus eventually?
BS: We have no plans to do so currently but if people want them we'll do our best to figure out how to make 'em.
NDM: You just played an all-day show with a bunch of other bands, including Vanna and Lions Lions. What was the turnout like? Did a lot of people stay for most of the day?
BS: That was honestly one of the most fun shows we've played in a long time. There were so many bands and so many kids hanging out all day and there was no bull shit, no drama, no sets getting cut, no egos. The whole thing ran smoothly, everyone was awesome, and there were a lot of kids who watched every single band that played that day. Very refreshing. We also love that venue, everyone at 3065 Live is family to us.
NDM: Speaking of, you have a really over-the-top live show. I remember the first time I saw you at Warped Tour a few years ago, a few of you were bleeding and someone had broken their guitar by the end of the set. How do you keep up with the fairly constant injuries?
BS: We're pretty used to it by now, we're in a god damn rock and roll band, after all! Also painkillers.
NDM: Going back to Warped Tour for a minute, I actually remember bumping into someone from the band back in 2009 at the Scranton stop. How different was it to take the stage after trying to get mostly apathetic kids to listen to you?
BS: Playing or not playing, either way there are so many people at Warped Tour that if you're not on the main stage, most of the people there are going to be mostly apathetic towards you. The beautiful thing about that, though, is that as a band, if you care enough, you can convert a whole bunch of those apathetic strangers into loyal fans. We busted our ass both years to meet as many people as possible and show them what we're all about. The thing is, though, is that performing IS what we're all about. That's the best way we communicate. So it's always easier to get people to care about us when they see us play rather than just talking to us or hearing a clip of one of our songs.
NDM: So Mike Abiuso actually runs your label as well. How did that come about and what's it like being fully independent and more or less in control of what you're doing as a band?
BS: Mike runs SwitchBitch Records and they put our vinyl out but The Venetia Fair is a totally independent, unsigned act right now. We were signed for many years and are very glad to have full control of our art and career back. That being said we're always open to new relationships with good people which is why we worked with the SwitchBitch team on this vinyl.
NDM: What's the biggest headache encountered as a label owner?
BS: I dunno, probably nobody buying music ever again or something. I don't run a label, i ain't no suit.
NDM: Do any members of the band have any strange habits or rituals that they always do before playing a show or practicing?
BS: I fall into a very strange, antisocial, groggy sort of mood about one hour before we play where I feel like I'm going to fall asleep and people wonder if something is wrong with me. I don't do it on purpose but I feel like it's some sort of meditative trance that I involuntarily slip into that prepares me for the performance. Sometimes it doesn't turn off until the first note of the set is played and it's kind of worrying but it always shuts off and then I become the guy you see on stage. Mr. Chark has a strange ritual where he brings a milk crate full of toilet paper into and out of every venue and practice space we ever go to. I don't know that I've ever heard of him using any of it. I don't know why he does it.
NDM: If you could recommend any two The Venetia Fair songs to someone who's never heard you before, what would they be?
BS: The Day I Set Them Free and Only In The Morning.
NDM: At Neck Deep Media, we like to promote up-and-coming bands and musicians such as yourselves. What other bands would you recommend for our readers to check out?
BS: Check out some of those SwitchBitch bands, The Wicked, Flannel Mouth, Ramsey.
NDM: Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
BS: NO! I'VE TOLD YOU SO MUCH ALREADY!
NDM: All right, thanks again for doing this interview with us!
BS: You're welcome.