The quirky band 7 Speed Vortex relaxes at Biagio's Bistro in Clifton, slowly sharing a bottle of red wine, interrupting each other as if they're at a family reunion. Lights dim. They relax and kick back, discussing venues and their visible connection. No rush to eat or leave.
Paris Triger (né Tricia Suit) says, "Chemistry is not a science."
Weaver (Mark Messerly) says, "The decision to play as a unit was more making sure we got along. We are one of the few bands who will bring a pot luck dinner to a rehearsal."
Bench (Eric Applebey) adds, "We're fortunate that we like hanging out with each other."
"And people give me help when I need it," Bebe Neptune (Bettina Bellucci) says.
Why the peculiar stage names?
When the band started in 1994, the original members were journalists who needed to keep their professional names intact. In 1998, the first incarnation released a full-length CD, Hard Luck Din.
Triger and Bench are original members. The nicknames stuck, but their musical style became less Noise Pop and more charming, mature and curious, with a strong vintage taste, like an aged wine. With a mix of modern Pop and historic lyrics, this band is artsy enough to open for a black and white, WWII-era, retouched photography show. Or play The Comet. Either or. In one word: artsy-tricky.
Vocalist Triger is blonde and bright, wearing a '50s-style white dress printed with a gazillion tiny navy stars. With an eccentric flair, Triger lives in Northside with Bench, her husband of 10 years.
Triger says, "I always enjoyed being the center of attention as a child. I needed my stage. I model my singing style after Debbie Harris and Doris Day. I'm a fan of great American songwriters like Tony Bennett."
Bench (also of Travel and The 50 Shoes) is dark-haired and squinty-eyed. He studied music at Ball State University. Although he played bass for Clifford Nevernew for a decade, Bench wanted to be a drummer, and 7 Speed Vortex gave him the opportunity. An experienced tap dancer, his much-studied rhythmic roots came in handy with the skins.
In 2000, Triger and Bench met Neptune at a local underground play. Basically, they handed her a bass and told her to play it.
Neptune responded, "I don't play bass."
Bench said, "You do now." That was that.
Neptune's dark features, curly brown hair and olive skin, show every bit of her Italian roots. Independent early, she worked as a youngin; this band was her first opportunity to play music.
"It was like an art project," Neptune says. "Everyone was switching around on instruments."
"She gets it. She's a fantastic bass player," Weaver says.
The three met guitarist Weaver (also of Wussy) through friends. Talkative and passionate, Weaver wears an amusing, reddish shirt with a confusing pattern. Studying sound engineering at The Berkeley College of Music for 10 years, Weaver played acoustic with the duo, Messerly and Ewing. He joined 7 Speed Vortex in order to learn the electric guitar.
Their new album, Favorite Frequency, will hit the streets Saturday. J. Reynolds (of the 4 Track All-Stars) recorded and mixed the disc locally. The music was wholly written as a group. It took a year for the band to collectively pop out "Hello Engine," a track that twists and turns like a woman dancing in a poodle skirt. Tapping around, the result is "Modest Mouse attacked by Grace Kelly's lipstick."
Neptune says, "That's what makes it cool. Thank God we're not writing about the same thing over and over."
Bench says, "Writing as a group is challenging."
Weaver adds, "We trust each other's taste. The sound is not the sound I would've created on my own. That's a fascinating thing. This is the most leaderless band I've ever been a part of."
"We like each other, which helps," Triger kids. "If we're in a car, or a basement together, I very rarely want to kill anyone."
Bench adds, "We like to think that translates on stage."
7 SPEED VORTEX (sevenspeedvortex.com) play at The Comet Saturday.