Thursday, December 31, 2015

JULE VERA: 2015 Band of the Year

2015 Band of the Year

This was such a clear-cut
no-brainer that I almost
feel sorry for all of the
other bands in the world.

The mission was clear as I fought my way tooth and nail through the turnstile, entering last summer's Orlando, Florida Vans Warped Tour date. In fact, there were only TWO simple objectives. 1) See Ariel Bloomer perform live with Icon for Hire. 2) Stalk, and then propose to Ariel Bloomer, immediately after seeing her perform with Icon for Hire. Unfortunately, said mission would be thwarted, as a torrential downpour brought the daylong festival to a screeching halt, just before Ariel was set to take the stage. But for me, oddly, the real Warped Tour story actually revved-up before the clouds ever rolled in.

I thought that my 2015 Warped Tour
experience was going to be all about
Icon for Hire. I thought wrong.
12:45pm — I'd already been up for hours, and after sweltering in the scorching Florida summer sun since 9am, I was famished and parched. With my super-tough guy survival instincts now melting away at warp speed, all I really wanted at that moment was a tasty fresh concert corn dog and an icy cold $10 lemonade. But just as a concession stand popped into view, I was stopped suddenly, dead in my tracks by a supernatural force that began drawing me physically to the Hard Rock Kevin Says stage. As I was pulled closer to the stage, I began to recognize the sounds. I'd heard them before, in the past — long, long ago. Electric guitar riffs that actually sounded as if they were being created by — electric guitars. The glorious thunder of bass guitar, stuck together with sonic crazy-glue to power-drumming that didn't sound like synchronized drill presses. And angelic vocals draped around glorious melodies. Oh, now I remember those sounds. Those are the sounds of a real rock band! From the merch booths, all I could see onstage were skinny jeans airbrushed onto railroad spike bodies, flailing guitars and hair — lots and lots of hair. At a distance, I struggled to decipher the band's logo banner. Hmm. Looks like it says Julie Ever.

I didn't have a clue about any impending ominous weather conditions, or about this particular little-known up-start called JULE VERA when I awoke that morning and headed off to Orlando. But by day's end, I'd been affected profoundly by both.

Jule Vera, doin' the deed
in Orlando, FL - 7.5.15
The first thing that thwacked me, upon arriving at my final destination — pinned against the security barricade directly in front of the Kevin Says stage, was the unique-sounding effect of guitarist Jake Roland screaming into the pickups of his tour-beaten, classic Gibson SG. Wow, this kid's got style. By the end of their set, I'd made five other professional observations: 1) That girl up there sings and performs like a God-sent angel. 2) I wanna be in a band with that drummer. 3) That bass player is a freaking rock star. 4) I gotta get their record  today! 5) Jule Vera should AND could be the BIGGEST band — in the world.

The story of Jule Vera is a bona fide rock and roll fantasy dream come true — a prime example of how the biz can work, if you get it ALL "right." A couple of high school kids from a small town in Alabama form a rock band, somewhere around 2012. They play the right song, at the right show, in front of the right industry guy. That right industry guy falls in love with the band, makes a line-up adjustment, helps to further polish their songs, then produces their record. In short order, the band lands a record deal. In shorter order, the band subsequently scores a slot on the 2015 summer Warped Tour. And by mid-summer, their epic debut record is released. BAM!

Ansley Newman is a God-sent angel.
I said it. I meant it. And I'll stand by it.
Although they've been compared stylistically to many of their contemporaries, what sets Jule Vera apart from the rest of the Hot Topic pack is that they deliver substance over style, which equates into impeccably well-written songs. Life is often tough enough already. Hence, I don't personally embrace music that only further amplifies the world's darkness. I want, need, and demand music with a crunch that's gonna crack my ribs and a thump that knees me in the nards, all wrapped in a vocal that kisses me gently on the cheek. That's Jule Vera! And their debut record, Friendly Enemies, hasn't left my car hi-fi for more than a few minutes at a time since last July. I even named it, "Record of the Year," in my recent 2015 wrap-up feature. You can find my official review of Friendly Enemies HERE

Possessing second-to-none drive, dedication and determination, Jule Vera embarked on their second U.S. tour last fall, supporting Against the Current. Like a crazy kid ripping open a package on Christmas morning, I tore through the tour itinerary the moment that it was posted on social media. Orlando — November 15th. BINGO!

In an effort to arrange a one-on-one press op, I reached out to the band's handlers immediately. I didn't hear back. Didn't hear back. Still didn't hear back. Then, just a couple of days before the show, I heard back. YIPPY — IT'S ON! Then, I didn't hear back. Oh well. Better luck next time.

In true creeper-like fashion, I stalked Jule Vera
bassist William Stacey after their July 2015 Orlando
show and paid him $7 to pretend that he liked me.
So there I was, watching Fox News and enjoying a delicious roast beef sandwich at 1:38pm on Sunday, November 15th. With no Jule Vera pre-show interview ever being confirmed formally, I could enjoy that night's concert as a "civilian," and I wouldn't have to leave my house for another three hours. Ah, chillaxin! Suddenly, my phone pinged — a text from Alex, Jule Vera's tour manager confirming that my interview with the band WAS in fact, "ON," and that they'd be waiting to meet with me — in ONE hour. Yikes! There was NO way that I was going get from my house, just south of Cocoa Beach to The Social in downtown Orlando by 3pm. I still gotta shower. I still gotta get ready. ROCK-AND-ROLL-BABY! So I flew like a bat out of hell — racing, weaving in and out of traffic on I-95, at 90mph — while following-up with text messages to Alex — apologizing, and trying to stall him, while still saving face. "No worries," he reassured me. "Take your time. And be safe." With my stress level now diminished (ever so slightly), I backed-off the accelerator — bringing my in-flight speed down to only 85mph. Somehow, I'd arrived in Orlando, parked the car, and was at the Will Call window at 3:06pm. Thanks for the protection, Jesus!

Alex greeted me at the venue's back gate, and I could immediately see them  my guys  bassist William Stacey and drummer Kyle Horvath, standing near the club's rear loading entrance. In the distance, sitting on the curb behind the tour buses was Jake Roland — "noodling" on his aforementioned prized 1980s Gibson SG — a cherished gift from his guitar teacher in 2013. Seemingly all still shellacked with authentic stage shmeg from the previous night's show in Atlanta, the three guys welcomed me warmly. As we all sat cross-legged, "talkin' shop" on the greasy asphalt, I heard Alex announce that Ansley was getting her make-up done and that she'd be joining us, shortly. And within a matter of minutes, I had a pair of black leather boots and skin-tight black leggings planted in my immediate peripheral. She had arrived on the scene.

Jule Vera, live at The Social
in Orlando, FL - 11.15.15
I'm not saying that Ansley Newman has a halo. That would be unrealistic, and a bit silly. However, I will say that when I stood up and shook her hand, I may or may not have noticed that a rainbow had appeared suddenly above her head and that she was sprinkled with magical fairy dust — I think. But just like "one of the guys," she took up a space on the ground, along with the rest of us, and joined in on the conversation.

I went into this very informal Jule Vera interview as an acknowledged super-fanboy. Which was kinda dangerous, given that per my lifelong industry experiences, I've learned that the closer you get to your music heroes, the greater the disappointment — greed, egos, arrogance, intra-band turmoil, and other brutal rock and roll realities inevitably rear their ugly heads. That was NOT the case with Jule Vera. Prior to our meeting, I was impressed by the band professionally — their music and their apparent work ethic. However, following our little chat, I'd become wowed personally by their individual character. In fact, I'd never met such a decent, down-to-earth, and — humble group of artists.

Third-greatest day ever.
(Doggonit, I love this band!)
Jule Vera took the stage early that night — 6pm sharp. They performed a Xerox set list from when I'd first seen them live back in the summer. However, this show was different. There was only ONE stage — unlike the Warped Tour, where there are 73. The club was packed and hundreds of fans were jammed in nut-to-butt. Also, this was an indoor show. Crank up those crazy stage lights, please! I'd informed the band earlier in the day that The Social was well-known for it's state-of-the-art sound system, and I guaranteed them that they'd sound absolutely amazing. All of these ingredients made up a sure-fire recipe for a rip-roaring set. Simply put, Jule Vera delivered in spades — commanding the stage (as always) with confidence and undeniable arena caliber rock star power!

I shot this live clip of Jule Vera
at The Social in Orlando. Dig it!

Jule Vera is currently in the studio, developing songs for their second record. And in January 2016, they'll be heading out on their third US. tour, supporting Never Shout NeverOrlando  February 23rd. BINGO!

-Christopher Long
(December 2015)

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