by Natalie Perez
If The Used’s first album had met My Chemical Romance’s “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” and both had merged with Panic At The Disco’s first record while on acid – and then you added a Circus twist to it for flavor, you’d wind up with The Venetia Fair. Benny Santoro spoke to me via email to discuss the band’s debutting efforts “The Circus” along with the current touring route, and everything else you could possibly think of when the circus hits your town.
1. The beginning is always a good place to start. Let’s kick this off by telling the history of the band.
Benny: Mr. Chark and I pretty much learned how to play instruments by playing together in Middle School and we met up with Sam in High School. We worked on various projects together before eventually deciding to start The Venetia Fair shortly after High School graduation. After we recorded the 6 song concept piece “The Circus” with Nick and Andy from The Dear Hunter in 2008, we caught the attention of Mike Krilivsky at Red Blue Records and eventually signed a deal.
The new pressures of being a signed band eventually left us without a keyboardist or drummer but I knew Joe played keys and pretty much shocked the band when I suggested he join up with us since the only reason I knew him was that he banged my girlfriend in high school. So, despite the fact that we still had no drummer, we wrote and recorded four more songs with Dan Coutant which became the prelude of our full length, “The Venetia Fair Presents: The Circus”. With plans for a CD release and tour kick off on June 12th, 2009, we were definitely in need of a drummer and Chris showed up in the nick of time to fill the position. We’ve pretty much been touring ever since.
2. You guys have a primarily punk-rock sound, but I hear bits of screaming tactics thrown in between. Who out there has influenced your style?
Benny: Musically, it’s intended to be theatric, melodic, chaotic, catchy, creepy and startling all at the same time so we’re influenced by a lot of different stuff. Truthfully I don’t think there’s even one band that everyone in the group agrees on so our influences are kind of all over the place. We definitely wanted an aggressive, somewhat abrasive sound so that would be where some of the screaming comes from but we’ve always tried to write with a pop sensibility. The same song might contain elements of post hardcore bands like The Blood Brothers and At The Drive In, composers like Danny Elfman and Julius Fucik, and classic pop artists like Billy Joel and The Beatles. We’re also pretty influenced by Motley Crue but that’s a lifestyle thing, not musical. Since Chris joined the band, we’ve tried to live by the credo WWTCD? (What Would The Crue Do?). It’s gone okay so far.
3. What sort of impact has your hometown/local scene had on you as a band?
Benny: There are a lot of different scenes in our area and we were able to dabble in each without ever really finding a solid home. The fact that our music made it difficult to fit perfectly on a bill also made it possible to sort of fit on any bill, so we might play a show with really heavy bands (like the band Joe was in before he joined up with us) and then the next night play with pop bands (like the band Chris was in before he joined up). Chark and I went to shows together every weekend when we were in high school so we’ve watched bands rise and fall and definitely made note of some of the things that worked and some of the pitfalls that lead to break ups and/or slipping into obscurity. Joe was doing the same thing a few towns over, so we definitely learned a lot from having such an active music scene.
4. Not to long ago you released “The Circus”. What does that refer to, at what point in the process of writing, recording, and releasing this record did you think of the name?
Benny: The album pretty much named itself when we began constructing the concept. Originally we planned to just release the 6 song “Circus” portion of the album as a standalone piece with that name but decided to turn it into a full length once we hooked up with Red Blue. The story refers to a circus with no audience as a way to represent the absurdity of human existence, performing for nobody and no reason in a ridiculous, often dangerous setting. So it was named before we had even written any songs for it, in early 2008. We were in the studio recording it in September of 2008 when Britney announced her Circus…
5. Congrats on landing the deal with Red Blue Records. How did you hook up with them?
Benny: Jess Maron at Red Blue Records saw us perform and recommended that Mike Krilivsky check us out. A couple months later he called us up, wined and dined us, and we could tell that this was someone really passionate about music and someone that was willing to work tirelessly to make sure that our music reached as many people as possible. We immediately started working together and soon after that we made it official. Red Blue has been amazing, I mean, they literally took a band playing songs together in their basement and helped turn them into a professional band playing across the country.
6. When it comes to The Venetia Fair performance wise, what can be said about it?
Benny: Our music is intense, theatrical and passionate and we use every bit of ourselves we can muster at every show to ensure that those same characteristics are present in the performance. We’re constantly trying to one up ourselves and each other and have as much fun up there as our bodies will allow so things tend to get a little crazy sometimes. We also tend to spit a lot of water around/on ourselves/on each other/in each other’s mouths… not sure when or why that developed but I’m sorry to all those bands that had to play after us on the slippery stage. I recently recovered from a horrible case of mono so I, personally, will probably have to take it easy with the spitting since I don’t want to infect people as we travel around the states.
7. Have you had any that were over the top?
Benny: I don’t think you can go “over” the top when it comes to a live performance as long as the audience is safe and as long we’re at least together enough to play the next show. That being said we’ve definitely had some pretty damn near over the top shows. I’ve definitely stepped off stage and into the emergency room for some stitches in my face and we’ve broken more than we probably should (I accidentally knocked a cab off of a stage and onto a drum set and chris has put his hands and feet through countless tom heads) but so far we’re all alive and well and nobody in the audience has suffered anything more than a light strike from a rogue microphone or drumstick so nothing’s been too “over” the top.
8. The band is hitting the road in January. Will this be your first full tour?
Benny: No, we toured out to California on the Fresh Meat Tour with our label mates Phone Calls From Home and Sound We Sleep this summer where we shot our video for The Ringleader (coming out in February) and then made our way to Florida and up the east coast on the Screw The Party, Let’s Sleep In The Van Tour with Phone Calls From Home and Signal The Escape. We’re really excited about this tour because we’re heading out with Kiss Kiss who’s been a big influence on us so we’re excited just to be able to watch them play every night!
9. Where do you see yourselves in the future, say 5 years?
Benny: I’m hoping we’ll still be pushing ourselves creatively and working just as hard to get it out into the world. I just hope it’s never too hard that we give up and never too easy that we get lazy and stop insisting that we love everything we make.