Review Fix chats with Venus In Furs’ dancer Lita D’ Vargas, who discusses why the band is a special one and what their goals are for the rest of the year and 2018.
About Venus in Furs:
Edgy and electronic, Venus In Furs blends a full band with synthesizers and vocals. The live shows are an event with dancing girls and dark, electronic rock. The band has shared the stage with many acts including Killing Joke, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Sponge, Violent Femmes. We’re currently enraptured with delight to be slated with Lacuna Coil, Christian Death, and Lords of Acid in the coming months.
Review Fix: How did you get involved with the band?
Lita D’Vargas: Roundaboutly over years of hits and misses, honestly. Once upon a time in the Monroeville Mall of Zombie fame (RIP, Romero), I was managing and slinging shoes at a big deal department store where I met Rose Nolan (way too long ago for me to tell you and the mundo). Rosie manages the band (among her many talents) and is married to Mr. Michael Nolan. Michael is the man with the mic and the music for Venus In Furs. At that particularly unnamed department store in the best mall ever erected, she was brought in to do PR just in time for the store’s liquidation! You might be able to guess that we didn’t get to work together very long there, but we sort of had that immediate “I think you’re probably a creepy kid like me” connection that kept us in touch after we were scattered to the winds. Through the commodity of online social media, we found out we knew most of the same weird kids (like Robbie Venus, our noise man). As our suspicions of mutual freak flags were confirmed and paths continued to cross, we all found ourselves in a web of weird that worked with room to grow.
And how did it grow? After we closed the store, I got going what was still then a very fresh and nubile Pittsburgh burlesque scene. I was just-me-starting-out in my troupe, and they were Venus In Furs as Venus In Furs (and damn sexy about it), but we managed to pull a few shows together. Turned out we all liked each other a lot, but this took an absurd amount of time to get us to actually join forces. Rose hollered at me for a handful of shows over the years to come in and go go, but I was going so hard in burlesque that the dates never lined up. I was always afraid she’d stop asking, and there would be these long breaks but schedules finally jived in late 2016. It was October, and she was holding a fundraiser for transgender rights for her birthday that included drag, burlesque, and the band was playing with a few other local crews who can wail. By this time in my career, I’m a regular dancer at this L.A. styled nightclub, Cavo, in The Strip District. We’d been understaffed, but we got this new girl in just in time for me to get off that night to offer my time to the cause. It was kind of cosmic how it all happened. Everything worked last minute like the twists of fate that also left my friend and fellow burlesque entertainer, Gigi Coudray available to dance. She actually did a burlesque number, then ran around, got redressed in barely anything, and the family came together that night. There was a natural chemistry none of us have wanted to let go of since. It was instant playtime set off with a heartfelt dynamic. I feel like Penny Lane in Almost Famous sometimes when I look around on stage and over at Gigi while we’re dancing to our boys playing that sound. And that sound is so damn good. I just love dancing to it, and I get to do it on stage with my best friends. Best job in the world, you know?
Review Fix: How did their sound change because of you?
D’Vargas: To have such power! Ha! I don’t get to make the sexy sound; though I’ve been bugging Michael all summer about finishing the new album so I don’t have to feel guilty pulling him away to work on a little ditty with me we were writing (Shameless Plug Alert: because I’m a jerk, and I sing.).
All the music stems from Mr. Nolan. I’m supremely grateful, however, to have that experience working in the studio with him. Learning his process, perspective, and influences (for being Alternative Industrial Electric Rock, Michael digs a lot of soul. We were listening to so much Prince and talking about Sade) certainly fortified the foundation of my fandom for him and Venus In Furs. I got to watch him build the layers and visit his vast, mouthwatering synth collection. The man keeps some tasty instruments in his command center. He had guitars I wanted to lick. For a long time.
But so Mr. Nolan writes the tunes and sets them up to bring in the rest of the Furs and any collaborative friends he feels like yoinking who feel like getting yoinked. They come up to the lab and lay down guitar, vocals, and whatnot, for mastery. Michael also, however, lays out demos for the whole band throughout the process to weigh in with notes. He cares so intensely that he also sends us demos to give our significant others for their notes. Why? Because we’re family. We’re all involved.
Review Fix: What are your goals as a band?
D’Vargas: You know it’s so lame to say it, but we just want to play, man. What we have to say is that “it’s not so bad” to a lot of people the way most people who make art want to. We’re here to entertain and provide a savory escape from the weight of society’s pressures. So we just want to do that in as many places as we can, and we want to do it together.
We have a new album coming out this winter with some links due out in October. It sounds righteous. Gigi and I are like a couple of prancing ponies chomping at the bit to dance to it all live. What this means is Rosie and I are going to get working on the circulation of sound and booking shows out of town to spread us around more. Our legs are loosened up, you know? We’re ready to go walkabout with it for 2018.
Review Fix: Why do you think female-fronted rock has been so instrumental to the genre?
D’Vargas: Dude, I wish they had more instrumentality. There’s great stuff out there from legends like Siouxie Sioux to Donna Lynch of “Ego Likeness” out there now, but it’s still a market dominated by dudes. Chicks get the fringe and come in through angles to seek spaces to fill. I’m shooting myself in the foot to say “and we always have to be sexy.” But we do, and it’s annoying. Courtney Love was cool when she was raw (as in punk-raw and tantrum-prone) and angry. She was a mess, but it felt real, so it was worth your attention. And don’t get me wrong. I celebrated her sobriety and rooted for her, but she took it further than being clean. She got “pretty,” and her sound got pretty, too. She got more palatable, invited to all the parties, and less like a wave maker you had to hear. Like, that’s when I could believe she killed Kurt, you know? I could see her with her hands in the air pleading “the marketing made me do it!”
Review Fix: How does it feel to have gigs with Lacuna Coil, Christian Death, and Lords of Acid coming up?
D’Vargas: So I’m basically a professional cheerleader for rock and roll in all its branches, and it comes from a genuine place of serious effing (yes, I typed “effing” out loud) interest. Everyone knows what it’s like to hear that riff that makes it all okay (you know the one I mean). Lords of Acid was one of the first bands to tell me that. They were vicious, but they were having such a fun time! They were cheeky! Lords of Acid let you in on a joke with a wink and a middle finger at your nosey neighbor for that evil eye she chucked your way every time she caught you in a fresh coat of black nail polish with all your seething teen angst like it was her problem. Christian Death I always remember hitting me with that sound like a lucid dream flashback transmitted from Hunter S. Thompson to my solar plexus. And then the first time I saw Lacuna Coil was before I knew them. They were opening up for Type O Negative (RIP, Pete!) at this old club everyone in Pittsburgh misses called the Metropol, and I was dating this dude who looked good in leather pants. Ended up having to ditch the dude in the eventual, but my love for Lacuna Coil lived on with the wings of dark angels on their raw power and synchronized headbanging. They were fire, and I felt it.
So how does it feel for me? It’s a lot of me wiggling. And I’ll be wiggling in a leather corset and thigh-highs with my cool friends in our cool band trying to act like I’ve been there before. I expect a full-scale backstage selfiepalooza to ensue, so stay tuned (Shameless Plug: I’m on Instagram and Facebook :End of Shameless Plug).
Honestly, we’re all pretty excited and blessed. It’s fortuitous timing with the new album to be mixing with some fresh ears who will be coming in from out of town for these gigs. We have a phenomenal local hub of people who dig what we do. We’re grateful at every gig (and non-gig!) we can all get together. Again, I just want more. We want more of that connection and getting to talk to people about who they are and where they come from. They come with us then, you know? They become a part of the ride with us, and we’re on theirs with them. This is how we make the world a better place, isn’t it? And who doesn’t want to be a part of that? If you don’t want to be a part of that, you should probably dance more. Find a band to follow! It will change your life!
Let me take this opportunity to express that my skewed views are my own and not the views of Venus In Furs.
But I know I’m right. I just want more, is all I’m saying. And who doesn’t, really?
Review Fix: Bottom line, why must someone listen to the band?
D’Vargas: You must listen to us because we will help you make the sexy. Does that work? Did I win?
Okay, how about this? Black coffee and cigarettes, man. We have a sound that drives you around on ribbons of wet pavement on a moonless night wired after midnight; smoke fuming out the wide-open window while you’re looking for that one who scathed you the deepest just because you have to see them again. And you might not know if you want to kill them or probe their epiglottis for the meaning of your existence, but you know you need to see them, and pin them up against the wall.
That’s why you need to listen to Venus In Furs.
Review Fix: What’s next?
D’Vargas: After the links start popping up in October for the new album, we have the physical release during the holiday shopping season, and then total world domination. All your base are belong to us.
In the meantime, we’re wrought with excitement to produce a round of new video promotions with award-winning Pittsburgh filmmaker, Brian Cottington and his crew. The band started working with Brian in Spring when Michael contributed original music tracking to his short film Prelude to the Inferno (as in Dante). That was a sensational project which featured Rosie, and myself with a handful of independent Pittsburgh performers! Very spooky short. It disturbed my mother. Brian has it in circulation for some new fresh festivals this year (for those who are so inclined to lean on horror genres with extreme interest; keep an eye out). Prelude brought us together from an extremely cool relationship we all have to an annual project known as Macabre’s Atrocity Exhibition. I’m doing another shameless plug, yes. I’ve been involved with Atrocity for the last five years like it’s this gift that keeps on giving (because it does). Essentially, it’s an indoor arts festival built by Steel City natives Macabre Noir and Doctor Morose. A very dark arts festival, of sorts. For several years, Brian has contributed his short films to set the tone for the night that is comparable to a psychotropic Coney Island experience with a Victorian sense of otherworldliness. The event blends burlesque and sideshow, musicians, bone collectors, fabricators of all kinds from all over to vend, perform, and freak out Pittsburgh’s historic Southside. This year was no exception, and it yielded a great response for the contributions from Venus In Furs. We’re grateful to have gotten paired up with someone as passionate and perfectly demented as Mr. Cottington!
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
D’Vargas: You know what? A lot. But since I’ve already been rambling on extensively, I’ll just tell you how to keep up with Venus In Furs: www.venusinfursrocks.com. You can pick your poison or go crazy on all the paths we wander via social media. We have you covered on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify for new music, upcoming shows, who we’re with, how scant Gigi and I are dressed. So if you follow us, and we won’t lead you astray. Much. Catch us if you can!
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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