joshua allen

Artist profile: Various Blonde

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
The version of Various Blonde I saw live at Czar in 2011 is very different from the band playing this Thursday at Lawrence Field Day Fest. The 2011 iteration, led by guitarist/vocalist Joshua Allen, moved through a set that dabbled a little in the psychedelic while adhering to a heavier rock and punk-based sound. It was a solid set, though I remember thinking the vocals needed something and the melodies hinted at something more. What exactly? I didn't know.
The release of Summer High a few years later illustrated the elusive what hinted at back at Czar years before. I caught up to a very different live band back in November at Apocalypse Meow, and again last week at The Riot Room.
The only element that remained from the band was Allen. His guitar and vocals were still there, but now different from what I remember. There was a new bassist, EvanJohn McIntosh, a new drummer, Mark Lomas, and the addition of keyboardist Eddie Moore. The three-piece had grown, shifted, and mutated into a very different band creating a very different sound.
There is a seriousness to watching this four-piece perform. Like any professionals at work, it is obvious they enjoy what they do. But, also evident is that they are on stage to work, put on a great show, and hone their craft. A lot of the songs they perform create a serious reflective mood, but they cut that stoicism nicely with soulful grooves and melodies that manage to conjure a very difficult thing: movement. I tried to fight the urge to move along with the tunes, but, damnit, I happily failed.
Joshua Allen can sing. His voice shifts effortlessly from an easy tenor to a smooth falsetto that avoids piercing metal clichés. That he is a solid guitarist is as advantageous as it is necessary to VB's sound. He could easily get away with just singing, moving to the music and fronting the band, but thankfully he doesn't. Without him, songs like "Savage Children" would fall into the trap of being a "jam" song. Which is fine I guess, but I wouldn't know, I've never made it through an entire "jam" song. Allen's guitar and vocals dice tunes like “Savage Children” into succinct, building well-rounded songs. While the vocals help guide on "Savage Children,” they truly shine on the danceable, rocking tune “Indigo Children.” The first time I heard that song was literally a WTF moment. A perfect illustration of the elusive what:familiar, yet totally different and new.
The consistent blues infused groove created by McIntosh is unstoppable. Good luck not moving some part of your body. McIntosh's bass lines lead without overstepping, cyclical but never simple. I've been a fan since his days in Cherokee Rock Rifle and am selfishly happy he's found another outlet for his formidable skill set.
I don't know how long McIntosh and Lomas have been playing together (I'm just that thorough a correspondent) but the sound they produce belies whatever actual time they've spent working together. Their styles align perfectly. Nicely complementing each other as the foundation of the tone and mood of this band. Lomas' playing seems unflashy, until you take a moment and try to keep up with what he's doing. Seeing and hearing this guy live as he holds down patterns and changes that would make a drum machine pass out is mesmerizing. And again, good luck not dancing.
The addition of keyboardist and local jazz standout Moore adds depth and changes things drastically for this group. From a songwriting perspective alone, Moore's instrument and playing allows for a myriad of new directions, from sonic to classical to his specialty, jazz. As a musician, Moore's jazz sensibility and musical intelligence lend themselves perfectly to McIntosh’s and Lomas’ rhythmic foundation. Moore knows how to create his own distinctive musical plots and subplots within the framework of the sound already set in motion by his bandmates; he does so effortlessly, and without overplaying.
Obligatory comparisons? You should make your own... while dancing.
With the excellent full-length Summer High already out, I can't wait to hear what these guys build next. Until then, they play at Lawrence Field Day Fest this Thursday, June 25, at the Replay Lounge before taking a little Summer Hiatus.

Video and story by Chris Nielsen 


Artists on Trial: Various Blonde

We will be highlighting some of the artists playing The Deli KC’s showcase for Middle of the Map Fest next Thursday, April 3 on the Seen Merch Stage at The Riot Room patio. Today’s Artist on Trial is Various Blonde.

Joshua Allen is the songwriter and frontman of Various Blonde, a project he’s been involved with for several years, that has a dark, dynamic rock sound. Allen tells us a bit more about the band’s current lineup and what they have going on.
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?
Allen: Bombastic, psychedelic, soul, rock.
The Deli: Give us some background on the band.
Allen: This particular lineup is all new. Middle of the Map will be the sixth show with myself, vox, guitar, sound fx, Evanjohn McIntosh (Sons of Great Dane), Eddie Moore (The Outer Circle), and Mark Lomas.
The Deli: What would you say your biggest accomplishments been as a band?
Allen: Since the bands original conception we've opened up for some of our favorite indie acts from Russian Circles to Dead Meadow. We've also had the pleasure of being a part of the Midcoast Takeover in Austin and have the pleasure of participating in this year’s Middle of The Map Fest.
The Deli: What do you have coming up?
Allen: Well, actually I spent this last year working on the upcoming Various Blonde release Summer High, produced by Ikey Owens (keyboardist for The Mars Volta, Jack White, and Kelis) and am planning to release it this summer. It's literally the hardest I've ever worked on anything so I’m really excited to share it with everyone.
The Deli: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Middle of the Map this year?
Allen: I dunno, I think it would be fun to see Har Mar again. I haven't seen him in like 10 years. He puts on a fun show and always has tons of energy. It would be fun to see them again and it would be cool to catch DEL and Shabazz Palaces too! But honestly there's so much talent involved there's too many to list. I'm definitely gonna try and see my boys in Jorge Arana Trio and the young powerhouse trio that is Bummer, because they slay!
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Allen: I think it means something to the effect of trying to be as active in the scene as possible rain or shine, not making excuses for why you can't do this or that (ie, pay, staying up past 10), giving as many honest listens as possible and getting behind anyone you think has potential. Personally, if I'm not at work I want to go to a show!
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?
Allen: I hate using the word "favorite" but if I must, I will choose based on bands that sound like music I listen to in my spare time. The Conquerors, Bummer, and Jorge Arana Trio are all right up my alley.
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
Allen: Temples, Warpaint, The Range, SUUNS, Crystal Antlers, Rubedo, and AAN have all had recent albums I really fancy. Then there are also some things I won't mention, but you can see I listen to if I forget to hit private session on Spotify. ;-)
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Allen: Queens of the Stone Age, The Mars Volta, and Various Blonde at Red Rocks 2015!
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there? 
Allen: Miles Davis, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince. They all brought it and they all changed the face of music inside and outside their respective genres.
The Deli: What other goals does Various Blonde have for 2014, and beyond?
Allen: Tour regionally for the upcoming record and figure out what were doing in 2015.
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Allen: Various Blonde Kicks off Ink's Middle of the Map Fest at Riot Room Thursday April 3 at 7:00. Come out and check out some new tunes, the new lineup, and then stay for more great bands. Cheers!
Various Blonde is:
Joshua Allen – vocals, guitar, sound fx
Evanjohn McIntosh – bass
Eddie Moore – keys
Mark Lomas – drums
Don’t forget to check out Various Blonde at The Deli KC’s showcase at Middle of the Map Fest next Thursday, April 3. They will take the Seen Merch stage on The Riot Room patio at 7:00 p.m. Facebook event page.
--Michelle Bacon
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays bass in The Philistines and Dolls on Fire, and drums in Drew Black & Dirty Electric.

Hit Counter