On a balmy June night, in a dank East Main Street rehearsal space, amidst the grime, beer bottles, and static, The Veins made it. No Grammy. No applause. No fat cats puffin’ cigars with hollow promises and crossed fingers. No glittery glamazons hanging on their arms, just a few girly pictures lost among a sea of rock ’n’ roll memorabilia. So many bands base their success on payola-ed airplay, the size of the prize, or the purity of the blow --- pitiful pop culture intros to the bragging rights of stardom. “I don’t even fucking care, to be honest with you,” says Veins guitarist Jet. “I’m having fun.”
This is a straight-ahead, heavy rock ’n’ roll quartet without the bitter metal aftertaste or the rising bile of punk. Yes The Veins are loud, and yes they’re intense. But unlike many of their contemporaries, they have a melodic ace up their sleeve. Kind of like Gabriel sweetly serenading you with his heavenly horn just before he brains you with it. The music kerrangs, it rages, it roars. You stagger away singing, your ears ringing. Singer Dave Gentner careens onstage as if in a perpetual free-fall. Jet’s fleet fingers earn him his own slack-jawed fan club on his side of the stage, sheepishly watching as if skinny-dipping with John Holmes. Rob Kordish, the mysterious one with the intense gaze, is “hands down, one of the best bass players I’ve ever played with” according to Gentner. And the ensemble is ultimately corralled by Rob Filardo’s rat-a-tat, outta-the-garage drumming and low-key cool.
The Veins graciously embrace their fortune as good musicians. There’s no chasing the elusive golden carrot on a stick. “Here’s to being 33 and not giving a fuck about that anymore,” says Kordish. “We’ve all got lives. We don’t need this.” “We just want to play music that’s cool,” says Jet. “Music that feels good to play. When I pick up my guitar, I wanna play something hard, heavy, and loud.”
This impact, weight, and volume first appeared in 1997, emerging from the twisted wrecks of Rochester rock progenitors Uncle Sam and Zezozose. Depending on how you look at it, both bands were either a product of, or impetus for, the hard-rock/punk-rock collision of the early-’90s.
“The music really wasn’t that good,” says Filardo of his former band Zezozose --- an over-the-top rock circus with an emphasis on the show. “Every time we pulled off a show, we amazed ourselves.” The band’s irreverent insanity pissed off as many as it pleased. “We didn’t even know why people liked us,” says Jet. “We knew why they hated us, but not why they liked us.”
Uncle Sam seemed on the edge, right on time with its full-throttle debauchery, proud and profound alcohol abuse, and pure rock ’n’ roll. The band baptized stages throughout the US and Europe with the blood and vomit you’d expect from long-haired maniacs giving their all but not really giving a shit. Sadly, it was way too everything to work in the long run.
Filardo and Jet got the Vein cannonball rolling. “I just wanted to make one last cool rock band,” says Filardo. “But do it the right way with good songs.” “It was all Rob and Jet,” seconds former Uncle Sam singer Gentner. “I was retired. I always wanted to be in a band again but didn’t think it would ever happen. They couldn’t find anybody, so they decided to call me.”
Gentner, Filardo, Jet, and then-bassist Rick Cona (Chesterfield Kings) displayed a common rock denominator --- a desire to perform stellar material. “We spent a lot of time on the basics, on songwriting,” says Gentner. “Bonafide songs with bonafide hooks. Something you can hear once, walk away from, and hum.”
The anticipated disaster from this unholy matrimony blossomed into much more than was expected. “I think the core Uncle Sam-Zezozose fans were a little disappointed at first,” Gentner says. “People expected this crazy Iggy Pop ‘we’re gonna break shit’ attitude,” says Filardo. “But it was like ‘no, let’s get the songs down first.’ That’s what’s most important. It’s not that the other stuff is unimportant, it just comes later.”
The Glorious Sounds Of The Veins (with bassist Mike Crider) was self-released soon after, garnering the band accolades from the hard-rock world, including Circus and Kerrang,who wrote that the band was “scary exhilarating glorious ” The album was recorded by KK (Kevin Matthew) at GFI studios in Webster, and mixed in London’s Wessex studios, which produced such classic platters as The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks and The Clash’s London Calling.
When bassist Mike Deuce and Jet joined Spacetrucker in 2001, The Veins essentially ended. “They were considering other options and we basically figured it would be best if we just ended it. Done,” says Gentner with a “you’re out” motion of his arms. “I never left,” says Jet. “The Veins were in a lull and Tommy Brunett [Spacetrucker] asked me to fill in as guitarist. We were at a party on mushrooms and he said ‘Dude, will you help me out? Will you fill in?’ and I was like ‘Yeah.’” Spacetrucker ran smooth with Jet’s addition and Brunett gradually stopped looking for a replacement. “It was working, but it wasn’t where my heart was,” says Jet.
Meanwhile Gentner and Filardo found themselves in limbo. “We were standing around with our dicks in our hands trying to figure out what to do,” says Gentner. “We had all this material --- Veins material --- that we wanted to do something with.” So The Lucys formed within a month after The Veins ended, with Filardo, Gentner, ex-Spacetrucker bassist Rob Kordish, and guitarist Dan Pickett of Bitter Flesh Thing. The band clicked right away, according to Gentner. “It was refreshing. The best new band experience I’d ever had.”
With the demise of Spacetrucker and Pickett’s quitting The Lucys, all parties found themselves staring down the runway to continue The Veins’ throbbing mission. Changing the name back to The Veins was due in part to the quartet’s obvious six-string drive. “People always associated Jet with The Veins,” says Filardo. “We did consider ‘Love Butter’ or ‘Dick Farm’ for a while.” He laughs. The Veins are back. They’ll prove it on tape in July at Nick Marinaccio’s Ohm Co. Studios on South Union Street. Expect a stocking-stuffer release.
Without the “success” siren threatening to dash them on the rocks, The Veins live the life they love and love the life they live. Jet is a tattoo artist whose art is as bright and sacrilegious as his guitar playing. Balancing the two careers can be tough. “Balance?” he laughs. “It’s more like a teeter-totter. It’s hard to do two things at once.” This remark cracks Filardo right up. “Only two?” he asks incredulously. Filardo plays drums (and sometimes bass) in just about every band in Rochester, runs GaragePop Records, works at The Bop Shop, and is an all-out disciple of the big beat.
So let the other music monkeys chase rainbows. The Veins just want to play good rock ’n’ roll. With delusions of grandeur out the window, they have risen above the music-biz cesspool and are on top of their game, on top of the world. In the groove, grounded, and feelin’ good. “Do you fuck because you aspire to be a porno star?” asks Jet. “No. You do it because it feels good.”