Bowie, Krokodil, and Crazy Uncles: My Interview with Vipers of Nature

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By: Harrison Giza


The music that Vipers of Nature create pretty much speaks for itself. It’s pop/rock with a twinge of space and Bowie-lovin’. To be honest, this is the kind of stuff that dance freaks can dig, a great beat behind a consistent sense of groove and upper hand bounces of surprise. However, the band is more than just a Killer-dancer combination.

“Human Mind” is a light song with drips of a darkened quill, the end of which melts my soul. The duo, who go by Guy & Dewd, are infested with RHCP influence, and at points even sound like they could be a Ween relative. Their funk is as strong as their lyrics are dependent on genres of the past. 80’s characteristics are abundant, but with more brain and cult appeal. And, if you think me saying cult appeal is pretentious, go listen to “Uncle Roy,” a blistering fuss of “Cookie Puss” level quality (that was a Beastie Boys reference, read up people).

Stop and listen HERE:  http://vipersofnature.bandcamp.com/track/uncle-roy

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Their music is just starting to reach Spotify and without a doubt they’ll continue to grow. With this dance-pop revival coming back in the form electric break beats, Vipers of Nature are more Random Access Memories ala mode. Listeners will be able to identify the careful precision the two put into their records instantly. Why? Because their instrumentation can bend and parade through your ears like a Transformer on krokodil.

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I got to talk with Guy & Dewd over the past month. From what we talked about, I’ve learned they have a mountain of energy for their favorite artists and a passion for individuality.

HG: Who are your favorite bands?

VON: With a lot of bands you’ll have each member bringing a little bit of their favorites into the mix. We’re two guys and we’ve known one other for a really, really long time… like most of our lives. The two of us share a very specific taste regarding the sounds we want to hear, but no affinity for any particular genre. We grew up on our parents’ music- 60’s beat and British invasion, classic rock. In our teens, we ditched our trumpet and trombone for bass and guitar and gravitated towards lo-fi and punk rock music. Some of that stuck, but when we started buying vinyl records at thrift shops and found James Brown and Bootsy Collins, we were in love. It’s hard for white kids in southeastern Ohio to get into soul and funk, but we were trying to play it from the beginning. Funk was not en vogue in 1999. We were like 6 years too late for the last resurgence (laughs) Specific favorites? Here are a few of our shared favorites:

Bowie, XTC, Funkadelic, Hot Chip, Hall and Oates, Grandaddy, The Rolling Stones, George Duke, T. Rex, Harry Nilsson, Butthole Surfers, Ween, John Frusiciante, Black Sabbath, Squeeze, Elliott Smith

HG: Who was your first musical crush?

Guy- The Cars

Dewd – RHCP

HG: “Master Astronaut” is fucking funky. Where do your funk influences begin? You guys have post-funk electricity.

VON: As mentioned previously, it started with picking up soul and disco records at thrift shops as teens. Every once in a while, we would get a badass Pariliament-Funkadelic  or Sly Stone record, but usually it was that light disco-funk shit or blue eye soul.  We would get things like Charles Earland, Earth Wind and Fire, Hall and Oates and The Isley Brothers. It didn’t matter what it was, really. We were just looking for something with some groove.

HG: Describe your perfect breakfast.

VON: We are from the Midwest originally, so probably something pretty unhealthy.  Bacon would be involved. Eggs, French Toast, Sausage Gravy and Biscuits (hardly a thing in NYC).

HG: Where did “Uncle Roy” come from? It has this melted distortion-kicked sound.

VON: I (Guy) wrote the chords and lyrics simultaneously several years ago while sitting in my kitchen smoking weed and drinking beer with my friends and former bandmates. Luckily they were present and quite amused by the lyrical content or it may have never been a thing that exists- they helped me remember the lyrics I had sung, I wrote a second verse and it wasn’t until last year that we finally recorded it. It was definitely in the “should be a song” pile for a while. I like to think that everyone had an uncle that is just a little bit off, but is really crazy and fun and cares about you all at the same time.

HG: What can people expect when seeing you live?

VON: They can expect a full band, with a more rock and roll emphasis than some of our recordings.  Probably not too many solos of any kind… Definitely dancing…  Sing alongs? Crooning? Lots of synthesizer noise.

HG: What is your writing process like?

VON: It has evolved a lot over the last decade. Using a DAW (computerized recording-time box) has made multi-tracking and experimentation a lot easier and more fun, but can sometimes lead to songs never being fully realized. Every once in a while we will break out the old casio and acoustic guitar and just doodle until we hear something we like, then just build on that- it could be a riff or a chord change or even a patch on one of our synths. Dewd writes the majority of the chord progressions and does a lot of drum programming. Guy writes all of the lyrical content and a lot of the melodic content. There is some overlap here and there. We share most instrumental duty, but Dewd plays guitar almost exclusively and I (Guy) play most all of the bass guitar.

HG: If you want it, should you take it and run with it?

VON: Fuckin’ A…

HG: Who are you biggest influences?

VON: You know, I thought this question was the same as question one, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is not the same at all. As songwriters, are influences vary so widely that it wouldn’t be a fair assessment to just throw out a few.  Pop music like The Beach Boys appeals to us as much as noisy, early Beck records. I (Guy) am influenced by a lot of singers, but my earliest influences are the Elvis movies I would watch with my mom and his smooth, soulful singing. What a total hardass. Punk rock and new wave singers crooned a lot too. Dudes like Ric Ocasek of The Cars and Joey Ramone had some soul, but like, in a rockin’ way. Dewd’s guitar work is pretty original. I think the fact that he doesn’t use a pick to strum influences how he decides to play things a lot. It also led to the development of his rhythmic playing style. I know roots reggae is one of his earliest influences (mine too- we were in a 3rd wave ska band in high school together). This led him to embrace funk when he heard it, I think. It’s all about the rhythm with him. It makes me want to dance just thinking about his playing. John Frusciante influenced him a lot- Dewd is a big fan of his music. He also really digs Walter Becker and Donald Fagan- two badasses that called themselves Steely Dan. Any really synth-heavy stuff from the 70’s gets us going… Jan Hammer, Zappa. We love weird/stupid-sounding synths from the 70’s and 80’s.

HG: Where do you see yourselves a year from now? How will the music sound?

VON: The music will definitely sound a bit different- we are always getting closer and closer to defining what a Vipers of Nature song sounds like. Each track gets better and better and easier and easier to finish writing. The two of us have been writing music together for 14 years in various bands and with one-off projects. We probably won’t stop any time soon. In fact, we are releasing a single (complete with B-side) in early September. We are recording it in Bushwick now. We want to make 45’s. Stay posted.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE MUSIC: http://vipersofnature.bandcamp.com

CLICK HERE FOR TWITTER: https://twitter.com/vipersofnature

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