The Vonneguts: Anti-Hipster Rock N' Roll
November 1st, 2013, 11:00 AM
The Vonneguts are an anti-hipster rock band that can be found playing house parties, dive bars and even in the actual back alleys of Detroit. What makes them anti-hipster, you ask? Their bald-faced enthusiasm. They aren’t old enough to drink in the establishments they play, and have yet to be infected by the ‘too-cool’ scene attitude so many gain after years in the city.
Their music is authentic Detroit as well, a smattering of bare teardown messy rock n’ roll influenced by the early days of the genre with smatterings of surf and rockabilly. Bassist Joe Myers, guitarist Mike O’Brien, singer Miles Hubbell gathered around a literal fire, the only source of heat in their East Side home flanked by blight on either side, to talk about their aspirations as a band in the city.
How did you guys get the name ‘The Vonneguts'?
Joe Myers: Well he was a writer. The name came about when we were juniors in high school and we were required to read "Slaughterhouse Five." Around the same time we started playing music. It was something that connected us. We definitely try to keep him in mind when we’re talking about the band or writing songs.
Michael O’Brien: At least in the weirdness aspect.
What are some of the challenges you’ve found playing in Detroit? What are some of the opportunities?
Mike O’Brien: Well it’s cheap. Though we never get paid. Even touring bands get stiffed.
Miles Hubbell: Plus since we’re the young people at shows, people look at us like ‘are you fucking serious?’ We’ve started to get more respect at shows.
Joe Meyers: There’s definitely a level of "cred" in Detroit. If you play long enough. We aren’t seen as kids playing at having a band anymore. But it takes a while.
Miles Hubbell: That’s kind of weird, getting over that obstacle. It takes time.
Joe Meyers: It obviously depends on what kind of music you play. You can’t be terrible and just play for years, so you can headline.
Miles Hubbell: We try to reference Detroit in our songs, but we don’t want to go too garage with it.
What Detroit Bands Do You Like?
Mike O’Brien: Definitely. Gardens. Deadbeat beat, Feelings, The Mexican Knives.
Miles Hubbell: Sugar Coats
Joe Meyers: Growing Pains, The Characteristics. There’s lot of really cool bands. There’s a LOT of bands in Detroit in general. You just have to shift through them.
What’s up next for The Vonneguts?
Joe Meyers: Lately we’re writing a lot more harmony-based songs. So before, when we were in high school, we were more about raw energy. Like being crazy on stage and stuff. We’re starting to collaborate more. That’s exciting.
Miles Hubbell: That was before Mike was in the band. Phil Dage would go for the faster, three chord songs and Joe writes more pop, like, functional music. And I’m kind of in-between.
Joe Meyers: We definitely have our own styles. It’s more fun then, to play in a band, when you can mash ideas. We play a lot of shows. We’re not stretching ourselves thin necessarily, but sometimes they blur together a bit. Every weekend we’re playing a house party or a bar.
Miles Hubbell: November 8th, we’re reopening our venue. It’s in a house just around the corner from here. It’s called Elijah’s on Monart and Loose. We aren’t playing but we are holding down the fort.
Mike O’Brien: Elijah’s house of dirt.
Joe Meyers: Mexican Knives are playing, Growing Pains are playing. The Characteristics are playing and this band from Kansas City that’s touring is playing. We’re also talking about releasing a full-length album. We released a seven-inch vinyl, but a full album is what we’re focused on.
Miles Hubbell: We’ve been recording demos to get a better idea of what we want to sound like. It’s going to be different than before. Now we have really good equipment to record with. We’re really looking forward to crafting it.
What musician were you in a past life?
Mike O’Brien: I would like to think, maybe Bach? But that’s not very realistic. I’d really like to play with Pink Floyd. With Sid Barrett. And maybe Santana could open.
Joe Meyers: I think, in a past life, I’d like to be Chet Baker. That’s who I’d aspire to be. Except without the drugs. He’s a badass trumpet player.
Miles Hubbell: I think I’d want to be an old blue musician probably. Like Blind Willie McTell. I’d have to be blind and have one shoe that doesn’t fit. Let me change my answer: I want to be Woodie Guthrie, fighting the man with my banjo.