Thank You Sooo Much
Review by Kent Manthie
Philadelphia-based trio, Vexxed is releasing their debut EP, Thank You Sooo Much on May 4th (2018). The members are not unknown to each other. Quite the opposite: Max Steen (bass) and Zach Sewall (keyboards, vocals) met at the tender age of five, at Hebrew School in Philadelphia. They formed a lasting friendship and grew up with the playing music together and enjoying the childhood dream of being in a band, even if it was just the two of them most of the time. Unfortunately, at some point in adolescence, the two drifted apart, each doing his own thing. Then, in 2014, as luck would have it, the two found themselves reunited, as it were. As for guitarist and vocalist Lucy Stone, she met Max through Sewall, who had rented a room in Lucy’s apartment in the northern section of Philadelphia. From that point, things “coalesced”; the childhood friends’ love of music and their having spent time jamming together must have been one catalyst that got this band on its feet.
Well, fast forward a few years and, after playing around town when they had a chance or wherever and whenever they had a chance between that cold, slap-you-around thing called living life, a funny thing happened: a blizzard; “winter storm Juno” (when did they start naming snowstorms?). The three of them happened to be snowed in and, being housebound for the duration, the three used the time to write music together. The result was Thank You Sooo Much, a five-song EP. Luckily for them the blizzard and the immediate results only kept them inside for a couple days (who knows, if it had been an unusually intense storm system or some other natural disaster they might have come up with a double CD’s worth of songs. Then again, as it was, they were only snowbound for a weekend.
Having fleshed out some songs during their weekend in relative isolation, the trio spent much of the ensuing time working together in earnest, every day. Lucy would set out on a two-hour trek by bus to get to West Philly, Max would drive over from New Jersey and they’d meet up with Zach for nine-hour days where they’d write more material, practice, etc. and as a way to get inspiration, the three would take time out and listen to an olio of music: everything from gritty, raw garage rock, hot soul music, psychedelic space-y blissed-out rock to Euro-disco fever a la the vinyl suits & skinny shades in grotto-like dance clubs in Milan, Venice or maybe Barcelona.
As their time spent together wore on – the nine-hour days, the close quarters of the studio, etc. they even began dressing alike, but don’t expect to see them perform in matching suits or turtlenecks & sport coats or whatnot when they burst out on tour, the dates of which haven’t been brought to my attention (yet). They did play a gig at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on 4/20. But since it’s just out and while they may be gigging around their local haunts to keep the hometown fans enthused and as a preliminary sort of warm-up for bigger things ahead, there ought to be some news on that front in the near future. Check their website or Rare MP3’s site for further info in that regard.
The EP starts out with a laid-back, stoner-friendly low-fi kind of ambient, to coin a subgenre: “Mood Ring” is the name of the opening track and its an aptly named song. It’s also quite catchy. That’s followed by “Heaven’s Away Team” a wry, witty and dark tune about the creeps in that San Diego County-based cult; that herd of cattle who followed that insane weirdo with that creepy grin, Marshall Applewhite and his equally crazy wife, both of whom had this silly delusion that there was this spaceship that was riding along and hidden in the tail of the Hale-Bopp Comet, which, discovered in 1995 by Messrs. Hale and Bopp, appeared in the skies to the naked eye in 1997. So, the plan for the Heaven’s Gate crew was to dress up in matching dark blue jogging suits and Nike sneakers, then drink some poisoned fruit drink, Jim Jones-style (though there weren’t 900+ of the “Space Ship Kookie Crew”, thankfully) and then, so the plan went, wait to be “picked up” by the passing spaceship when the comet passed by. Of course, there was no spaceship, obviously, and all that happened was a bunch of brain-scrubbed cult-types and their grinning guru and his wife lay dead in a room made into a dorm, in a bunch of bunkbeds. “Prince of Darkness” is a song inspired by Sewall’s translation of the Book of the Dead which, I’m assuming, is the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or, transliterated from the ancient Egyptian, [rw nw prt m hrw.]
The general outlook of Thank You Sooo Much shows influences as well as appreciation of mythological as well as spiritual facets of various societies, outlooks, interpretations as well as viewpoints. This music fits quite well with that whole weltanschauung. Besides, whether you’re of the Alan Watts, Eastern Mysticism/Buddhist-Zen-Inner Working school of thought or are more in line with Timothy Leary’s “Tune In; Turn On; Drop Out”, LSD-psychedelic planes of higher consciousness (two paths which seek similar ends); or if you’re just looking for something richer and more durable than the typical radio hype machine pop that is hammered at you with fascist repetition and/or happen to have higher expectations, Thank You Sooo Much could be just what you’ve been looking for. –KM.
(PS, sorry about the last paragraph above: I don’t know how that one ended up being so different from the rest & plus I wasn’t able to change it to match the rest. Hope it won’t interfere with the flow of your reading. -km).