For 15 years, the best radio station that few of us can hear, Oxford's WOXY (97.7 FM), has hosted its 97xposure competition. Area modern rockers are invited to submit their original songs in the hopes of garnering airplay and the chance at an attractively evolving prize package. With two rounds of eliminations complete, Cincinnati's Ruby Vileos is still standing, with the live performance compulsories to come.
The band is one of the bright new lights on our scene's music horizon. Fans will recognize guitarist Billy Alletzhauser and drummer Dave Morrison from the city's pre-eminent scatological folklorists, The Ass Ponys, while singer/songwriter Ali Edwards may be remembered from her work with Snaggletooth. Since the winter of '99, Ruby Vileos has been appearing in clubs like the Southgate House, Top Cats, The Comet and the now defunct Ripley's.
In the course of about 18 months, the band has put together a nice collection of eight memorable musical nuggets that feature Ali's excellent voice and the sparse but sympathetic accompaniment of David and Bill. The band's bass, guitar and drum nucleus is augmented by Morrison's suitcase of sounds, which he plays with one hand while drumming with the other.
Few, though, are blessed with an instrument as distinctively effective as Edwards' voice. Ranging from whispers to sharply-aimed bellows, her rare gift is truly the band's distinguishing feature.
Think of a less stylized Sinead, without all of the idiosyncratic yelps or inflated self-importance, and you'll be in the ballpark. Together the three entreat listeners to some crafty, melodic tunes, each bathed in its own sonic atmosphere.
CityBeat: Let's talk about the beginning. What was the impetus for starting this band, and where does your name come from?
Billy: Ali and I had talked about doing something together. She had a bunch of good songs written, we jammed, and it clicked.
Dave: It was her songs, and the fact that someone who sings like that should be in a band. We (Billy and myself) were still busy with the Ass Ponys, so we weren't looking for another band. But when it happened, we thought, "Damn, this is worthwhile."
Ali: Ruby Vileos was my great grandmother's name. She was important to me, an old character who lived in a trailer and played the zither. My parents almost named me Ruby, until they saw Love Story, chickened out, and named me after Ali McGraw.
CB: Billy and Ali, you two are a Rock & Roll couple. Describe the ways a relationship can hurt or help your band.
Dave: I'm the one you should ask!
Ali: When we have a band issue or a disagreement, it's really hard to keep it out of our personal relationship. When we're home, we are still in the band together.
Billy: I think we figured out early on to try to keep our feelings out. Getting mad about something is just a waste of time.
Dave: I've never thought it was a detriment. The fact that it's been part of the equation from the start probably has made it less of an issue.
CB: Dave, people seeing R.V. probably wonder what that right hand is doing. Where do the additional sounds come from?
Dave: It's really pretty simple. I have a small MIDI keyboard that I use to trigger sounds that come from either a bass module or an organ module. I'll use it to trigger samples, too, noise loops that we can just leave on, and play on top of.
CB: It seems to enable your three-piece band to sound a number of different ways. How do your songs get written? Do they start with you, Ali?
Ali: I participate in a four-track club, where a bunch of us get together from time to time to play our newest tapes for one another. So yeah, the skeletons of our songs are things I've thrown together for that. The chords, the words and the changes are mine, and then these guys will interpret and flesh them out.
Dave: Billy and I play roles in this band that are very similar to what we do in the Ass Ponys.
CB: You've been finishing up a record. What's the plan?
Billy: We'll have them available online through a Web site called RoyalFuzz.com. We'll probably send some to labels, but we're wary.
CB: Understandably so. We all have heard horror stories. With the cost of breaking a band so high, to introduce a label to the mix can mean new layers of frustration for a band.
Dave: Be careful what you wish for.
Ali: I don't mind that some of the songs we do are accessible to people, but I don't ever want to be told to make them a certain way.
Billy: We're also trying to play for some new faces, out-of-town and some newer spots in town.
Dave: It's satisfying to hear from new people who've never seen the band — "Hey, that was great!" We still have a lot of room to grow, but we might as well enjoy the steps along the way.
RUBY VILEOS will play Thursday in the upstairs part of the Southgate House, and they will be staking their claim on the 97Xposure booty on Sunday at the Mad Frog.