This week we caught up with Marshall Hicks of the band Virginia Electric and asked him to tell us about his band Virginia Electric and give us his thoughts on the music scene in Roanoke! Their upcoming show is March 9th at Hammer and Forge Brewery in Boones Mill, VA!
Check them out on Blue Ridge Rocks at:
Marshall Hicks of Virginia Electric
BRR- What's the name of your band? What's the origin of that name? Have you changed the band's name before?
We are Virginia Electric, we like to use the abbreviation VAE which is a little confusing to some. “VA” for Virginia and “E” for Electric. We never had any other names, definitely kicked around a few when we just started playing together but our first show as Virginia Electric
BRR- Please list the name and respective instrument of each band member
Rick Nelson - Guitar / Lead Vocals Waylon Hatchett - Lead Guitar Tom Dorathy - Bass / Back Ups Marshall Hicks - Drums / Back Ups
BRR- What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?
If you ask my band this question you’ll get different answers every time you ask it. I like what Waylon came up with “I consider us 'Rock'. Influences everyone who came before as we are just adding to it...”
BRR- How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
Rick and Tom have known each other for years, they met Waylon maybe 3-4 years ago trying to put together a Tom Waits Tribute project and the singer never showed up to practice. That’s basically how this line up was started. I came in to the picture in the summer of 2016, the current projects I had been working with had all disbanded and I was in search for something new and outside of my usual circle of musician friends.
BRR- When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
The 1st rehearsal I had with them was July 21st 2016, I packed up my drum kit and meet them after we all got out of work. They had a bass player who I think had replied to the craigslist add as well. We had fun jamming and getting to know one another. After, I received a message from Waylon saying “Want to try again next week with a different bass player?”. I made the cut and Tom came the following week.
A lot keeps us inspired to play together, for me music is a constant in my life that keeps me grounded as well as exciting, I crave musical interaction with musicians and audiences. Setting goals as a band and achieving them really is a motivator, when you get to cross out a task you have been working on it really feels good and keeps you looking forward to the next thing.
BRR- Do you have a record label? Are you a member of any music organizations?
No record label, We release a 4 song demo on Bandcamp November 2016 titled “Listen to...” that was just a few cover songs with our arrangements, so people could hear our sound and vibe. Something to get us gigs! We still hadn’t played out as a band at that point. December 8th 2017 We put out our 1st original release simple titled “VAE”. It was recorded with the help of my good friend John Thompson and we engineer and produced it together. It’s now available online, on CD and Cassette (with digital download).
BRR- What can you tell me about your instruments? (i.e., Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever's available? What made you choose the instruments you have now?
As the drummer, I don’t have anything too special, Sound Percussion kick, old CB toms, and a Ludwig Acrolite snare. I’d say tuning makes (or breaks) the sound I’m going for, but a few things I love having is my 15” New Beat Zildjian Hi Hats, LP black beauty Cowbell and a pair of good rock mallets.
Waylon makes his own guitars which are very cool and unique, but he likes to swap out pedals and amps fairly often in search of that perfect tone!
Rick plays a Martin D18 acoustic and uses a Radial Tonebone DI, some times we will bring an amp to have a little stage volume for the acoustic, usually a Fender Champ, Blue’s Jr or even a ‘74 Bassman.
Tom like’s Epiphone basses and has a few he will go between using his SWR California Blonde Amp.
BRR- Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Our first show was at Parkway Brewing Co. January 6th 2017, since then we have played many venues and events. In Roanoke/Salem we have had the chance to play The Bazaar, Martin’s Downtown, The Coffee Pot, Billy’s Barn and All Sports. Also we were on the Festival in the Park 2017 and Curly Fest hosted outside of Billy’s Barn. We tend to focus a little more on our surrounding areas, We frequented Lynchburg, Danville and Covington quite a bit in 2017. Favorite venue we have played was The Harvester, great stage and sound. Lest Favorite is usually a sports bar with 50 TVs.
Upcoming shows for us included:
March 9th, Hammer and Forge Brewery, Boones Mill, VA March 31st, Pompeii Lounge. 23 E Beverley St, Staunton, VA April 6th, With The Worrywarts, Billy's Barn, Salem, VA. April 20th, Chaos Mountain Brewing Company, Callaway, VA April 21st, The Rail, Covington, VA May 5th, Big lick Brewery, Roanoke, VA May 19th, All Sports Café, Salem, VA
BRR- Which songs do you perform most frequently? Do you ever play any covers? Do you have a set play list?
We play a good amount of covers while we are still compiling our original repertoire. We tend to do our own arrangements to some covers and extend and jam if the moment is right. We don’t have a concrete set list, we will switch things around from show to show.
BRR- Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?
Everyone has written lyrics and music for our originals. Waylon, who sings the least, writes a lot of the lyrics. Tom and I sing lead on a handful of the set. If you ask Rick he would say our songs themes are whiskey, women and wonder. We are bit broader than that and are constantly changing and trying new techniques.
BRR- Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
There is no set way of making a song, anything can create the inspiration or a concept for a new song. We have had them start from nothing but a jam session. Sometimes, Some one will have some lyrics and a simple chord progression, from that we will learn it in the most simplest form. Once that is established, We will change the arrangement, add things, repeat things until it starts sounding like a complete song. At that point we might do a stereo recording of the room so we can hear it out of the context of playing it, maybe make changes based on what we heard on the recording. They usually change after a few weeks of playing it as well. I describe it sometimes like making a soup, it must stew for bit, let all the flavors marry together.
BRR- What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
We have a set time once a week for rehearsal that we try to utilize every week. Nothing really out of the ordinary. We start with a few songs to warm up, move to “task at hand” kinda stuff which could be anything from new songs, going over set material, to recording demos. Take a small brake and discuss upcoming shows, travel plans, merch ordering or just catching up as friends. Usually get back to playing whatever songs we feel needs tightening up at the end.
BRR- How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
It has and it still is, I don’t think we have honed in our sound yet but it is getting there.
BRR- What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Time is a real struggle. We all have day jobs/ own businesses and sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. Rick, Tom, and Waylon all have wonderful families that keep them busy in the best kinda way. We would love to write and rehearse more than we get to, travel out further for shows spend hours on end in recording studio or making videos but we all have limitations to where our time goes.
BRR- What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
From my experience if you want to start a band, buy a decent small gig sized sound system. You’ll always be in a band won’t matter what instrument you play. You have the ability to bring your show anywhere. The hardest part after that is staying together.
BRR- How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
virginiaelectric.bandcamp.com is where you can listen and download our recorded music. We have CDs and cassettes with us at shows.
virginiaelectric.weebly.com has some videos and links as well.
BRR- Any last words?
We are recording our latest EP right now with Jake Dempsey at Summit Sound out in Eagle Rock, VA. Should be finished and ready for the late summer/ fall.