Long Beach’s the Vespertines are that rare act capable of combining jazzy atmospherics with explosive rock power without wandering into wankery. Although their talents are sharp enough to construct complicated swirls of dub, prog rock and funk, their songs remain delectably coherent and digestible to the last note. Formed in May 2009, the jam-leaning band unites vocalist Vanessa Acosta (who also plays trumpet), bassist Kyle Cavaness, guitarist Alex Kater and drummer Chris Walker. They’re finishing up their debut EP, Gravity Optional, which they tracked at Compound Studio in Signal Hill, where Cold War Kids, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, as well as the Mars Volta have also made memorable music.
OC Weekly: Have the band always subscribed to a more experimental, jam-band sound?
Kyle Cavaness: Chris and I started out in a different version of the Vespertines. It was more blues-rock-based a couple of years ago. We kinda kicked around with a few other bands, and then we met [Kater and Acosta] last year. We’ve been doing this as a four-piece since last May. Before we met Vanessa, it was just [Walker, Kater and me] working on musical ideas, and a lot of it just became the foundation for the songs we’re playing now.
Vanessa, how’d you come into the band?
Vanessa Acosta: Actually, I played in another band called Feed the Feeble with [Walker], and he knew that I sang and played trumpet, so he approached [the Vespertines] and said, “Hey, I know a singer.” [Laughs.] We did a gig together at Viento y Agua Coffee House in Long Beach, and we’ve been together ever since.
How’s work on the debut EP going?
Cavaness: We’re in the midst of getting the packaging together and getting it printed and put online.
Chris Walker: We might also record another song and put it on the EP.
What are some things you’re enjoying about the process of putting the record together?
Walker: The title of the EP is Gravity Optional, and we were just hanging out one day at the studio and I was like, “Damn, wouldn’t it be cool if you could just put your cup in the air at a party and be like, ‘Gravity is optional, I can choose, whatever.’” So we’re also doing a photography book inspired by the whole theme of “gravity optional” that’s gonna be for sale later this year.
So it’s like Vespertines: The Book?
Walker: We’re all gonna be in it, but it’s also gonna include some Long Beach locals.
Do you guys think the city has been a good launching point for your sound?
Acosta: It’s definitely been a growing scene. There’s always been a lot of good groups popping out of Long Beach.
Crater: In Long Beach, it feels like all the musicians know one another, and they all play in one another’s bands, and they’re all multi-instrumentalists.
Are you guys trying to reach a specific fan base?
Cavaness: We’re definitely trying to develop this into something in which we can put on a show and have a lot of people come. That’s what everybody wants. We’ve been doing some promoting, and hopefully, we’ll be going on tour in the next month or two. It’s still in the works, mostly all in our heads. But we’re planning on it once the EP is finished.
What’s the most random gig you’ve played so far?
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Cavaness: One of our bigger shows [called Acostock] was actually at Vanessa’s house with On Blast. It was random because there were actually a lot of people there. [Laughs.]
The Vespertines perform at Carnival del Corazon Haiti Benefit at the Cellar, 201 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 495-9000; thecellarlbc.com. Sun., 9 p.m. Suggested donation, $5-$20. Downstairs, 21+; upstairs, all ages.
This column appeared in print as "Floating Ideas."