True Collaboration

The creative drive of the fork rock band Venice has led many in music such as David Crosby to be impressed with the steady drive of the band’s first formed in 1977. Kip Lennon joined the group in 1986 and has 13 albums to its credit. Lennon has been associated with not only Venice, but also Pine Mountain Logs. And in this interview Lennon talks about the new Venice release and the magic of making a new record.

Jupiter Index: You just came out with a new release. Talk about how the record came together for the band? (What makes it different than your last record?)
Kip Lennon: We had plans to record an album in the summer of 2018 but by July we didn’t actually have any songs written yet. We have always spent the time between albums recording ideas and lyrics here and there and then we put them together to record a new album. This time around we set up the band in Marky’s living room in the middle of summer and spent many hours putting ideas together. It was a great vibe…front door and windows open to summer breezes, wind chimes and hummingbirds. A perfect relaxed atmosphere for creativity and experimentation. Michael set up a small recording studio and drum kit so we could work out songs. We brought drummer Andre Kemp over from the Netherlands to co-write with us. When you’ve been in a band together for as long as we have, it’s always nice to shake up the mix of writers and styles to get new ideas flowing, and Andre was really great for that. We all realized right away that we wanted this one to feel like one of our favorite classic rock albums. Like a true collaboration between band members with songs that breathe and create moods. In fact, we wanted to keep it so real that we even kept some of the birds chirping and winches tinkling on the recordings. Music is a creative process. How do you know when a song is complete? There is a certain feeling that happens when you just know inside that a song is finished. It’s like you can feel in your gut that you have said everything you want to say, musically and lyrically. Not all songs end up feeling perfectly finished. Sometimes you have to stop knowing you got close but many times you finish and it feels “fully realized”. That is an amazing, fulfilling feeling.

Do you have a songwriting process that works for you?
It’s different every time for us. Sometimes a song starts with a musical idea like a chord change or piano riff or a band groove. Other times it starts with a song title. Sometimes it starts with some lyrics or a vocal melody. We all bring different ideas to the table. It really keeps it fresh for us.

Wthat is the advice you have received on songwriting?
We have been doing this a very long time and have been lucky enough to have gotten advice from many people over the years…artists we respect very much. Although they all vary in their approach to writing, the one thing that holds true with all of them is how important it is to be true to yourself. To find your OWN voice.
You have to have some truth in your song or it will not resonate with the listener, at least when it comes to the kind of music that Venice does. Any time we have written purely hypothetical songs with made up scenarios and sentiments, the songs never stay around for long. We just don’t connect with them as much and the audience can feel that.

Who would you like to perform with but have not? (And why that artist or band?)
Well, that list is pretty long. There are so many artists who have influenced our lives and music so much. Obviously, we would love to work with legends like Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder. Their music transformed our whole generation of course. But you’d have to really ask each of us individually who else we’d like to work with or meet. We have many artists in common, old and new, but we are four individuals so we have different tastes as well.

Life on the road can be demanding. It is more enjoyable or harder to be touring now?
We actually love being on the road. The tough part is really getting enough sleep and staying healthy. There isn’t anything tough about doing the shows, at least for us anyway. We have great audiences that appreciate what we do and are there to support us and celebrate our music with us so it’s always a loveliest. A communal, mutual appreciation. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? Plus, we are still at the top of our game so it’s a blast to perform and put on a great show. It’s what we have put our ten thousand hours into and we love doing it. It also really helps that we are family. We grew up in a huge family full of people who laugh a lot so in many situations where other people might get angry or bored, we laugh. Of course there are tough times and disappointments in show biz but we were raised to be humble and confident and have a good work ethic where we take the work seriously but not the cliché trappings of fame or success. None of us are the type to complain about hotel rooms or backstage or vans etc. and we don’t want to work with anyone who is like that. The atmosphere around a Venice tour is more like a family where everyone in the band and crew is appreciated. Life is too short to spend it with complainers or cliché’ rock and rollers. So, we tend to appreciate the opportunities to see the world, make music, be validated by so many music fans and still mostly enjoy each other’s company.
We also learned from experience very early on that on days off, it’s important to just give each other a lot of space to do things alone if we want to. It really makes a huge difference. But we hang out sometimes as well.

How do you stay healthy as you tour around the country?
Each of us has his own way of staying healthy on the road. We try to keep fit, whether it’s working out or yoga or swimming or running or walking. But we also are very aware of getting enough sleep and resting our voices between performances as much as possible. Alcohol is terrible for singers’ voices so we keep that to a minimum on show days. (Some of us don’t drink at all anyway).
We all agree that the show is the most important thing and we are here to do a job well, which means when people pay good money to hear that Venice sound, we will be as ready and able as possible to deliver 100% every time. We love sounding good together. We take a lot of pride in it. Family pride. It’s great incentive to stay healthy and strong.

Would you like to add anything else about your music and would like people to know?
Anyone who creates things knows that one of the most gratifying things you can ever feel is when you finish something and you realize you created something from nothing. This album was a fine example of that. In July of 2018 we were telling people we would be recording a new album later in the summer but we had no songs. Making this album, one of our best ever, was a testament to staying the course and trusting our instincts. We are very proud of it and really looking forward to performing these new songs and writing new ones in the future.

by G.M. Burns