February 5, 2008

Varsovia’s roundtable, Slim and Michaelson

Thursday, Feb. 7Varsovia (formerly the Poor Richards) is an increasingly popular rock ’n’ roll act based primarily in Lexington. As the group continues to catch fire, it is preparing to show its fresh ideas and classic sensibilities.LEO: What were your influences, musical or otherwise, growing up?Cedric Warner Sparkman: My whole family was musical, and my father exposed me to a wide range of music from an early age. I was very sheltered, growing up in a house full of 1950s furniture, phones and televisions. I enjoyed watching “What’s My Line” and “I’ve Got a Secret,” as well as any number of sci-fi and horror flicks from that era. The melodies of The Beatles, the phrasing of Frank Sinatra and the near-operatic timbre of Roy Orbison were huge influences on me. Being involved in the theater from a young age as well, David Bowie’s creativity on record and stage has enormous appeal for me. Right now I love what Of Montreal and The National are doing.LEO: Do all of you hail from Eastern Kentucky, and to what extent does that heritage inform your art?Laurence Adams: We are not all from the same area, but we do share a common love for the same artists and bands. Honestly, where we came from had little to no influence over the creative process. A fascination with music scenes such as Manchester, England, in the ’80s was much more of a guiding force in our music than anything dealing with where we grew up.Jason Matuskiewicz: No, but I think we’re all from the country, though. I would hope that big, star-filled skies and hills densely covered in trees and small winding creeks informs our music as much as existential alienation and surrealism. I think it does.LEO: What is the shared vision for the band?CS: Slater and I have played music together growing up, Laurence and I shared a love of English pop music. We met Andrew through a friend, and a band was formed. Jason has recently joined us, taking over bass duties while Laurence moved to second guitar in order to give the band a fuller sound live. As for our vision, I think it is simply to make great pop records in the old fashioned sense: Music that is simultaneously accessible, melodic and artful.LEO: Is it easier now or harder than ever for an unsigned band to get its music out there to the masses? Andrew Knight: I think the music industry is in a slow transition period. There’s a disconnect between what’s being pumped out of the major labels and what’s happening on the streets. It’s all tabloid rock now … it’s only popular on the radio and the news if the artist(s) are making the headlines, or attempting to be political. It is both easier and harder to get the music to the people today … musical conduits like MySpace help tremendously to make your music accessible, but in order to really get it out there, you have to get out on the road and build a fan base the old-fashioned way … the way it should be done.LEO: Speaking of political-minded rockers … any thoughts in this year of election? JM: Rush Limbaugh has said that if (Arizona Sen.) John McCain or (Arkansas Gov.) Mike Huckabee is the nominee, the Republican Party will be destroyed, so I’m pulling for McCain or Huckabee to be the Republican nominee.Varsovia plays Phoenix Hill Tavern (644 Baxter Ave., 589-4957) at 10 p.m. Thursday. For more info, visit www.phoenixhill.com.Monday, Feb. 11Independence had its privileges for Ingrid Michaelson.The former after-school theater teacher saw her songs wind up on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Hills,” the CW’s we’re-trapped-in-high-school-forever saga “One Tree Hill” and an Old Navy commercial.She sold out the Bowery Ballroom in New York without any advertising, and, with those heaps of attention, drives herself on tour. She alleviates Louisville’s Monday doldrums when she and Matthew Perryman Jones play the 930 Listening Room (930 Mary St., 635-7053). Doors open at 7 p.m., and tickets are $12.Monday, Feb. 11The much loved but little known Watermelon Slim & the Workers regularly puts in overtime to bring the best blues to the nation. You can bet that frontman Watermelon Slim, a soldier turned anti-war activist as well as a former truck driver and saw-miller, has plenty on his mind.Moreover, the legendary producer Jerry Wexler thinks he is the real deal, and that is enough of an endorsement for us. Catch The Workers at Stevie Ray’s (230 E. Main St., 582-9945) Monday night. Doors are at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com