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MUSIC: LOCALS CAN CATCH SOME FLAX
The Vermillions were one of the most popular bands to come out of the Fredericksburg All Ages movement. They were known for high-energy live shows with fast songs and crunchy guitar riffs. They disbanded in 2011 when lead singer and guitarist Jeremy Flax graduated from the University of Mary Washington and took a job in Spain for two years.
Now Flax is returning to Fredericksburg with his new band, J. Flax & The Heart Attacks, with a new sound and a new set of songs. The band will open for Titus Andronicus April 26 at Eyeclopes Studio. Weekender caught up with Flax and talked about his new music.
Did you begin The Vermillions when you were a Mary Washington student?
I spent two years at VCU, where I started The Vermillions, and then I transferred to Mary Washington for my last two and a half years. We didn’t really come into our own until I lived in Fredericksburg. That was the first place that kind of accepted us and listened to what we were doing.
How did you start your new group?
I was a teaching assistant at a bilingual high school in Madrid, Spain, for two years. I had just graduated from UMW and didn’t know what else I’d do, so it seemed like a good time to skip the country. I started J. Flax & The Heart Attacks in Madrid. I had a few songs written and I wrote a couple more when I was over there. When I got back to the States I knew I wanted to keep it going, so I got some new guys down here in Norfolk.
So now you’re based in Virginia Beach?
I was offered a job in Virginia Beach when I was still abroad so I figured it was a good way to save some money. I moved back into my parents’ house and I’ve been doing the teaching job with the idea that it would only be a temporary thing. So as soon as this school year’s over, I’m moving to D.C.
Who are the guys in your new band?
Our bass player’s name is Doug Nicholson. He’s been in this band called Long Division for about five years now. They’re relatively well-known down here and throughout Virginia. They’re kind of an instrumental post-rock band. He knew a guy named Josh Seaburg he thought could play keyboards. We called him and it turns out he’s phenomenal. He came with the drummer, Bryan Adkins, like a package deal, so it fell together quite nicely.
What are some musical influences of J. Flax & The Heart Attacks?
I want this band to be a weird take on surf rock. So Dick Dale is an influence for sure. I’ve been listening to The Tielman Brothers, a 1960s group from Dutch Indonesia. They did this crazy Hendrix stuff; not distorted like he was, just the showmanship is insane. The riffs are really cool. Anything with cowboy tremolo guitar, I’m all about that.
Does this band sound different from The Vermillions?
The big difference in the songs I’m doing for this band and the songs I did for the Vermillions is the power for these songs isn’t just coming from really distorted power chords. The organ and the guitar have equal importance in this band. I don’t play as many power chords but the volume is still there and it’s a combination of those two instruments and the bass. In The Vermillions I couldn’t really stop playing guitar. That’s where the sound was; it was a guitar band. Now I can lay off for a verse and the band is still going and it doesn’t sound like there’s anything missing.
How do you feel about returning to Fredericksburg for a show?
I am so excited. Words can’t even explain it. Since I got this band together I’ve been wanting to come back and play a Fredericksburg All Ages show. I was really worried that wasn’t going to happen. So when we got the call about opening for Titus Andronicus, I was so stoked.
Fredericksburg still feels like home to me, so I want to see some familiar faces out there.
What: Titus Andronicus with J. Flax & The Heart Attacks and Arctic Atlantic
Where: Eyeclopes Studio, 620 Charlotte St., Fredericksburg
When: Saturday, April 26, 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $8 in advance and at the door.
Stephen Hu is a familiar face in Fredericksburg. You should say hi to him.