At the end of January I had the pleasure of seeing Vinnie Ferra play with his band at the Silverlake Lounge during their Monday Night residency. I immediately was drawn in by the quality of the songs, Vinnie’s voice, and the energy of the entire band. Recently, I got to sit down with the 23-year-old Los Angeles native and ask him a few question about his music, the LA scene, and his plans for the future.
What’s your approach to taking the music you write and arranging it for your live band?
In terms of the parts everyone in the band is playing, if it’s melodic then I wrote it. I work out as much of a new song as I can for the most part before bringing anything to my band. I have to really thank the guys for bringing the songs to the level of rock they are live, but I’m really into sad, more down-tempo stuff, that’s where my heart is. When it comes to rocking out I still enjoy it, I’m just not used to doing it with my own music yet.
What are your plans for recording with the band?
We’ll be recording later this month with Pierre de Reeder (guitarist of Rilo Kiley) who’s worked with Rilo Kiley and She & Him. He’s producing two tracks with us – “Destroying Me” and “Golden” – and we’ll be recording from March 31st through April 4th. We’ll probably release “Destroying Me” at the end of April. Doing these two tracks with de Reeder is a test run: I want to make sure any producer I work with has good ideas that take my songs were I want them to go.
What’s your end goal for recording your music?
I want to get an EP out there. People aren’t going to listen to a twelve-song album, they’re really going to focus on the singles and that’s it. If I can release a single to build some buzz, then release the EP a few months down the line, maybe with another single with it, plus some music videos, acoustic shows, and generally just lots of content, I think that’s the most effective way for an artist to build a following right now.
What was it like opening for Edward Sharpe?
Terrifying. It was at The Grove of Anaheim and there were around two thousand people there. I was playing solo with just another singer and right before our first song someone in the crowd yelled, “I know you! I went to high school with you!” Everyone in Edward Sharpe was great.
Can you tell us a little bit about the current lineup of your band?
It’s been a revolving door. Right now both Alex Fink (guitar) and Scott Manke (bass) are the only permanent members of the band. It’s great that Alex and Scott are so committed because right now it’s my group, I’m the one with creative control. When other people tell you they want to be a part of that, it really means a lot.
How will you knew when Vinnie Ferra’s made it?
When I can answer that last question and tell you everyone is a permanent member of the band. At least that’s when I’ll be happiest.
What do you have coming up for the future?
We’re playing at Boardners in Hollywood on April 4th for Club Moscow. Them Howling Bones are playing that show as well. That weekend we’ll also be playing San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.
Which other bands would you like to share a bill with?
Definitely Them Howling Bones – a blues band I play bass in – at least as an opener, just because I love those guys and I love playing in that band. I would like to play with Mumford, but I don’t think they’d ever be on the same bill as me just because they don’t always use a full drum kit, so we’d sound very different. Definitely Fleet Foxes. I would love to open for them. And Sufjan Stevens.
What are your musical goals for 2012?
I want to be on a U.S. tour with a bigger artist this summer and be pushing the EP by that point. After that’d I’d like to do another U.S. tour in the fall with a different band, hitting all the same cities again. After that it would be awesome to hit Europe, and then come back to the states for the festival circuit for 2013. But it’s difficult to get attention from the festival people because, with a band name like “The Vinnie Ferra Project,” they write you off as just another songwriter.
You seem to know a lot about the business and what you want to do, where does that knowledge come from?
I managed some bands and DJs back in 2008 and 2009. I got a lot of experience from that, one band I managed played Coachella in 2008. I worked at MTV and BuzzMedia for a while. After working in the business, I’ve decided I really want to get rid of the current conniving industry mentality of hoarding your contacts and suppressing the youth. If anyone needs help, I want to share my contacts and experience as much as I can.
What part of the LA music scene should people be paying attention to?
The east side – The Silverlake Lounge, The Echo, The Bootleg, among others. They almost always have good bands, especially on Monday nights. They’re particular about picking really good music, which is great.
One of my favorite Vinnie Ferra songs is “Golden.” Can you tell us a little about that song?
The main lick comes from an I idea I had on my friends couch. I recorded it on my phone, forgot about it, and wrote the whole song a week later in about 15 minutes.
I really enjoy some of your lyrics, like “no longer a ghost in a dreamers field” from Ghost Town. What is your writing process like in terms of lyrics?
I feel like a puppet when I write lyrics, especially meaningful ones. The words just come out at first and after I’ve been playing the song for a while I’ll understand what it’s about and edit something to make it flow better.