Marc Johnson for TheToneKing.com
When it comes down to it, Verticoli is a band that you want to bring a date to. With velvety vocals over dance-worthy beats, Verticoli’s sound is sure to get people going. A band that puts as much thought into their stage show as they do their tunes, their energy really has it all going on.
Their catchy tunes have that same energy. Some compare them to Maroon 5, but they would be more closely compared to Stevie Wonder meets Prince meets Brian Setzer with a little hard rock thrown in for good measure. With a huge show of support, they richly deserved to be the winners of April’s contest. TheToneKing.com spoke with the groove masters Verticoli about shows, Will Ferrell, and, of course, gear.
TTK: So, I have to ask. ‘Verticoli’ Isn’t that from the Will Ferrell line in Blades of Glory?
JPizzle: Yeah it is! I’m glad that you have seen the movie and get the joke!
King Doug: We are all huge Will Ferrell fans. When we were thinking of a band name we wanted something that was one word, ambiguous, and had a tinge of mafia flavor.
Swagasaurus: We didn’t like the trend of having a sentence as a band name, so we stuck with that. As a matter of fact when fans know where the name comes from it makes them like us even before they hear the music, similar personalities and such.
TTK: How did Verticoli come to be?
JPizzle: All of us except for B-Money are from a metal or hard rock background. Here in Miami it’s almost impossible to be in a serious metal band. I wanted to start a band that didn’t play metal, and I knew Swagasaurus through a mutual friend. We spent a summer writing and to see if we could actually write good music that wasn’t metal and really liked the results, so we decided to get more members.
Swagasaurus: I went to high school with B-Money and he joined pretty much when we first started gigging. After going through a few band members, we finally asked Double D if he could play with us, since we had a few gigs lined up and no drummer, to which he obviously accepted (laughs). And after we had finished recording, we started writing more songs that really felt like they needed a keys and synth sound, so we drafted King Doug for that position.
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TTK: I want you can be described as a hard-hitting groove that dives head first into R&B territory while One Girl has a strong swing influence. Who are some of your influences?
King Doug: I really like the Avenged Sevenfold guitar attack, Jim Root for guitar, for keys it’s a lot, Stevie Wonder, and salsa music as well.
Swagasaurus: Every bass line on Michael Jackson’s Thriller grooves so hard! It’s amazing!
Double D: Sly and the Family and Bob Marley for this band at least (laughs).
TTK: Trying to orchestrate/coordinate these styles can sometimes be challenging. How do you guys write your tunes?
Swagasaurus: That’s a secret! (laughs)
JPizzle: It really depends on the song, most of the time a melody is thought of and then developed. Boring answer I know. But then we see how can we put an image to the song, we got through many styles and try to mash up things. One girl for example is a mash up of Boys II Men with Panic At The Disco. Vocals are the most important thing for us so we make sure the hooks are clean and catchy, and then tastefully layer instruments to support them.
TTK: You say that you guys like playing music that people can dance to, especially the ladies. How do you guys get the crowd going at your shows?
King Doug: Dancing! We have a stage show to coordinate with what we are playing, so we like to have a 30 or 45-minute nonstop set of fun for our audience. We are really big on no silence, so we have music nonstop, through guitar changes and jams.
TTK: Now, let’s talk about gear. JPizzle and King Doug, what kind of guitars/amps do you use?
JPizzle: I used an Orange Th30 head with a 2×12 open back Orange cab for all of the recordings at Cat 5 Studios here in Miami with Chris Andrews. I also use a MXR Evh phase 90, Micro Chorus, Keeley 4 knob comp, MXR 10 band EQ, CAE 404 Wah, MXR Carbon copy, Way huge aqua puss, Boss harmonizer, 2 g30 wireless Line 6 systems. For guitars a Fender Blackout Telecaster, special Silverburst edition Fender Telecaster, and a Zach Myers pre se. Phew!
King Doug: Yeah, I don’t use all the stuff he uses. Just a telecaster Fender, Twin reverb, Line 6 G30 wireless, a compressor and a Zvex box of rock. Keep it simple since Jpizzle keeps its complicated!
TTK: A lot of similar bands will try and cover up their guitar sounds with a ton of effects, but you guys manage to keep your tone relatively straightforward. Is that intentional?
JPizzle: I use effects a lot but only in subtle places. Chorus for the bridge in “bad health” and phase on the verses on “I want you” are just some examples, the keys usually add a aura of sound that the guitars don’t have to worry about, but we all have big pedal boards, Swagasaurus has a pedal board is as big as mine!
TTK: Now, King Doug, you play keys and sing, too. What kind of set-up do you use?
King Doug: A Juno di and a Korg R3 is all I need, depends on what were playing, but those are straightforward workstations and synths.
TTK: All of vocals melodies/harmonies are very carefully crafted. How do you guys go about working them out?
Swagasaurus: We’re huge fans of groups like Boys II Men, The Beatles and 90’s era pop bands. They have great performances, so we usually have one practice a week with no instruments for just vocals. We usually have the main vocal line, and then try out the 3rd and 5th harmonies. We even have some 7th’s in there! But lately we have really been trying out lower octaves and the different 4th harmonies, whatever sounds best on the song!
TTK: Props on the cover of Tupac’s Cali Love. Do you catch any flak from your Florida fans when you play the tune live?
B money: No. No. No. People love to hear hip-hop performed live. Even though people might not be fans of the original song, when a live band performs it people will turn their heads!
TTK: Swagasaurus, tunes like this demand a strong bass presence. What do you use to keep the low end going?
Swagasaurus: I use an Ampeg SVT amp head with an 18” Mark Basscab. It is an overwhelming amount of low end but I can’t have it any other way! I love pedals, and love to compete with JPizzle to see who can get more! I use a BOSS Compression Sustainer, MXR Bass Envelope Filter, MXR Bass Octave Deluxe, MXR Classic Overdrive, MXR Carbon Copy Delay, and BOSS Dynamic Wah. For basses I use two Thunderbirds; one tuned to standard and the other tuned to BEAD, so I can have even MORE low end!
TTK: B Money, the sax players I’ve played with only had the one case to lug from gig to gig. Are you one of those guys?
B Money: I usually carry one case to smaller gigs, but, to larger gigs and especially with Verticoli, I always take many cases for my alto/tenor/baritone sax/ clarinet/ and my Gibson ES 335. I also carry my Shure wireless mic system. Best wireless mic for horns in my opinion. It’s very durable and you just plug and play.
TTK: All joking aside, you’re very careful to not overshadow the other instruments in your tunes. Do you find it difficult to avoid overpowering the other instruments live? Are there any tunes where you get a chance to wail?
B Money: It’s not difficult to not overpower the other instruments as long as I am listening and paying attention to what all the other musicians are doing, and I make sure to complement the song melodically without taking away from the lead vocals/guitar/etc. unless I’m playing a lead or soloing. A song I get to really wail on is “Bad Health.” Check out a live recording of it on Youtube to see how I make sax work out in contemporary music! And subscribe to my Youtube channel brandensax, and check out my reggae band Known as Major.
TTK: Most of the TTK site deals with guitar and bass gear. Educate us on what kind of Sax you use and why.
B Money: I use a P. Mauriat system 76 because the response on the keys is great and the style of the horn gives it a very dark sound. In essence, it sounds like a vintage sax but plays like a brand new tenor sax. I also use a Jean Baptiste baritone and the mouthpiece is a Jody jazz classic size 6 with Vandoren zz 2 1/2 reeds. Great mouthpiece for any type of rock, fusion, pop, etc. lots of edge and very loud.
TTK: What can everybody expect to see from Verticoli in the coming months?
Jpizzle: We are currently writing more songs, we want to have 60 by the end of summer, then go record them hopefully with a great producer like Paul Trust or David Kahne.
Swagasaurus: We are revamping our stage show as well, more dancing, lights and surprises for our fans. Verticoli doesn’t play shows, only concerts. We are really gearing up to start doing gigs again in the Miami and West Palm area!
King Doug: Photo sessions, music videos, and getting visual promotion, all thanks to Michelle Renee photography, you can visit her page at http://www.michellereneemercado.com/
Double D: An amazing live show is what were going to give our fans, in the mean time we will have a video blog with updates and as much media and content that we can on www.verticolimusic.com, stay tuned!
- JPizzle: Guitar, Vocals
- Swagasaurus: Bass, Vocals
- Double D: Percussion
- King Doug: Keys, Guitar, Vocals
- B Money: Sax
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About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.