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darthvato

There comes a time when a band has just come to a conclusion to call it quits because they feel as though there is no other choice. To be honest I think like that about the site all the time. Darth Vato is one of those bands that should have never disbanded. A "Do It Yourself" attitude and busting your ass for 7 years mentality just wasn't enough in this industry. When I first saw Darth Vato I said to myself this band is going to make it big and deserve to. In my eyes they still are big but to the scene it just didn't happen. There were not many sites out there that could have pumped them but the classic Sublime Archive is how I found the band and was a fan since. Others ones just didnt give them a chance and I never understood why, which is a major reason why I started MusicBailout, to help get bands like Darth Vato out there. I arrived a little late. Recently I caught up with Darth Vato to ask them about their time as a band and why the chose to end it.

For those unfamiliar with Darth Vato please give our readers a little background of the band.

Steve: DV came about in 2002 because Kerry and I wanted to play Sublime covers at a bar. We asked Eric to join because he was the best drummer we knew, and he said yes because he wanted a side project. Seven years, four records (two full-lengths and two Eps), three vans and two tours later, his side project turned out to be pretty popular.

Eric: "Vans breaking down, owing people money all the time, being 25 and stupid, trying to balance full-time real jobs and weekends of buffoonery, perpetual fighting about dumb stuff, etc… "Darth Vato was originally started by Kerry and Steve with several different drummers. They approached me in 2002, and I said I would do it. Over time, we started playing shows, and did an EP, released a sticker and a shirt, and before we knew it, there was a growing local fan base. After doing a full-length, and a west coast tour, we noticed our fans were becoming more and more widespread. We realized that we had something, other than crabs or herpes, and we had a lot of fun doing it. Over 7 years, we did our best to revitalize the punk/ska/reggae thing, and even put our own stamp on the genre, while continuously being surprised at what our music meant to so many people. It really was something special.

Kerry: We started playing in 2002. And then we got older along the way.

So I have noticed Darth Vato is slowly putting on a few shows here and there. Does this mean a full reuniting or just temporary?

Steve: We'll play every couple of months for fun, and we're working on new material, because a lot of those old songs don't carry the same personal resonance for us that they used to. We're not going to play out of town or anything like that, but we miss playing live shows.

Eric: I think that we all still really enjoy playing our music, and for some reason, people still really enjoy listening to it...not to mention seeing us make asses of ourselves on stage. Buffoonery is a BIG part of our live show, and our friendship for that matter. I think that we will continue to do shows here and there just to remain sharp (relative term). I am super busy with my full time band, drumming for Jamie Richards, so it makes it difficult. However, we are trying to find a way to do a show every month or so.

Kerry: I’m not sure. It’s tougher and tougher to get schedules to line up these days. I am hoping that we can play every once in a while.

What were the biggest reasons you guys called it quits in 2009?

Steve: We weren't really having fun, and it felt like the best time to move on while we were all still friends. The last album is our strongest work, but there was a lot of tension and frustration that went into it. The lyrics and sound are darker, heavier and more mature, reflective of where we were as people at the time. Then 2008 rolled around; I had a rough year, and Kerry had a really rough year, and we figured it was time to cut our losses. Not to mention that we went through three vans that year. When the third one quit on the way to Austin, that was the writing on the wall for me.

Eric: I think that there was just a staleness to the whole thing. I don't know how or why that happened, but it did happen. Our last record, although we really believed in that album as being the most accurate representation of our sound, didn't do as well as we had hoped. Plus, I think Steve wanted to move back to Lodi, and Kerry had family on his mind. I think we all just needed a break, and it came in the form of a disbanding. I always knew we would do more shows, though. You don't do something for 7 years at the level we did, and just hang it up. There will always be a Darth Vato as long as these 3 guys have any say.

Kerry: I wanted to start a family, and at the time I think we were all ready to move on. In some ways, I felt like we did it like Seinfeld: quit while we were on top. Well, we weren’t really on top of anything. It’s not like we were the best band in town or anything, but you know what I mean.

What have you been up to since the last show?

Steve: I play in a doom metal band called Vorvon as well as a “Texas space rock” band called EPIC RUINS with about nine other dudes from Fort Worth.

Eric: Since the last show, I have been busy on the road with Jamie pretty much every weekend. I also got engaged to my lovely lady, Kelly.

Kerry: Well, I made a baby with my wife. Now I gotta take care of her. And that is tough work. Just ask my wife. She does all the work.

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How often did you get people asking you or sending you e-mails for Darth Vato to get back together?

Steve: It's sort of tapered off, (as far as I know) but our reunion show in November was huge and lots of people thanked us for playing.

Eric: We get emails/requests constantly about playing "this" town, or coming to "that" country. Our music really reached all over the globe (thanks to Fuel TV playing our first full-length in its entirety behind surf and skate videos...also, 2 of our songs off the last record were featured in a straight-to-dvd movie called Sexpot. It was awful...I mean, really awful. But, I do own a copy, and it is pretty neat to hear your music behind a bunch of naked chicks making out. Even if you do have to wade through 90 min of awful attempts at stoner comedy).

Kerry: I don’t really get any emails, but I do notice people posting on our Facebook page, wanting us to drive to their town and play a show. And that’s pretty awesome to have people still wanting to see us play a show.

What were some of the biggest obstacles Darth Vato had during the 7 years together?

Steve: Most of them were typical of any other band without a label support, which basically translates into having to have full time jobs, as well trying to get on shows with bigger bands. Booking Dallas was always a hassle, too, so we mostly gave up. I had an easier time getting a show at Spaceland in L.A. than places in Dallas. Our first van sucked up tons of money, too. If we hadn't had to fix it constantly, 2006 would've been a really lucrative year for us.

Eric: Obstacles? Lack of money, broken vans, Steve's nauseating gas, etc...Everything we accomplished, we did on our own. We never had a backer. We never had a cousin that worked at a record label that wanted to sign us. We really were the epitome of D.I.Y. Any obstacles that presented themselves were briefly scoffed at, and then forgotten.

Kerry: On one hand, I can look back and *only* see obstacles. But on the other hand, I don’t think most bands stay together for 7 years. To do that, we had to work hard. And since we did everything on our own, there were a lot of obstacles. Vans breaking down, owing people money all the time, being 25 and stupid, trying to balance full-time real jobs and weekends of buffoonery, perpetual fighting about dumb stuff, etc… But in the end, we made 2 solid albums and 2 great EPs. We toured everywhere that we could get to on our own dime. And none of that happens without challenges along the way. I think we did a pretty good job, considering all the crap we had to deal with.

I never understood why you guys were not picked up to tour with some of the big names in the scene. I remember shows coming through and getting pissed you were not tagged as the opener, especially for the TX dates. Did the option to do so ever come close?

havoc-frontcover

Steve: We never got an offer to tour with anyone, but occasionally we'd get to open for someone cool. We were direct support for Pepper right around the time they got big nationally, and we opened for the Toasters and Authority Zero once. It always irked me that most of the big shows in Dallas had Eleven Fingered Charlie as the opener; they were really good, but they lived in Austin and San Marcos, so that kind of ticked me off, only because we lived closer and already had a good fan base.

Eric: That always puzzled us as well. We did open for Pepper at the Tea Room, and we opened for Authority Zero once. Other than that, we were overlooked for good looking doods from San Marcos that played safe (boring) reggae. We became used to it, but never understood why we never got to do any really BIG shows. We probably would have had an amp blow up, or have a wreck on the way, anyway. Par for the course...

Kerry: We got to open for Authority Zero in 2003, Pepper in 2004, and the Toasters in 2005. Those were awesome shows. At the Pepper show, I remember selling a lot of merch and CDs to people who had never even heard of us. But other than those 3 shows, we never really got any offers to play with big acts. And it was kind of depressing, too. Some of it has to do with the fact that, at the time, bigger bands really only played in Dallas, and we were in Fort Worth. So we didn’t know the booking guys in Dallas clubs like Trees, the Gypsy Tea Room, the Granada Theater, or the House of Blues. And I also think sometimes it was tough for club owners and booking agents to match us up with other bands on any given show. We like to consider ourselves a punk/ska/reggae band, but our reggae songs are not fully reggae, our ska songs are not traditional ska, and our punk songs are not a typical brand of punk (like FatWreck, Epitaph and/or SST). Also, from July-2005 to May-2008, we didn’t put out any new material. We chose to use all of our money to buy a van and play shows nearly every weekend all over Texas. Looking back, having new material is a catalyst. It creates momentum. Although we were playing more shows than ever during those years, I think it hurt us in some ways to not have new songs for people to hear during that time. But really, who knows? It is the music business after all. So who really knows what the hell is going on?

“Situation Overload” and “Pass Me By” are two of my favorite Darth Vato songs. What would you say is the Darth Vato song people should be sure to check out and why?

Steve: “D'reetos,” because those are the second-best lyrics I've ever written. If you're interested in how I felt about life circa 2007, that's pretty much it. “Madness” is an amazingly sad and gorgeous instrumental, and I think Kerry's strongest lyrics are in “In With the Brew.” Honestly, I think people should listen to Oh No! We're Doing Great start to finish, because it was really personal to all three of us. If you bought the CD, there's a cover of “Good Guys Don't Wear White” at the end.

Eric: Those are good ones! My faves are probably Seven Seas, Clocked Out, In With The Brew, Up Your Body...hell, I like em all (maybe could do without Ain't Got No).

Kerry: I think our songs got better and better over the years. I would say our final album (Oh no…) has the majority of our best work in terms of lyrics and songwriting. Our Seven Seas EP is really solid. But there is something special about our first album (Havoc). I still get compliments on that album. It’s like everyone still likes the songs from 2004. And I don’t blame them. There’s something special about Havoc. Maybe it’s just that we’re all over 30 now, and we’ll always look back at our early 20’s and remember that album. But to answer your question, my favorite song is ‘Havoc’. It means a lot to me, so I think people should check it out.

For the up and coming bands trying to make a name for themselves in the scene, what kind of advice can you give them?

Steve: Practice as often as you can and get tight. Go to other bands' shows, build a following, treat clubs and other bands with integrity, don't fuck anyone over, get guarantees as often as you can (if your band can back up the demand with a big crowd) and if some meathead who claims to be a major booking agent tells you he can get you a show at Red Rocks on July 4th, he can't. And if you plan on touring, suck it up and buy as new a van as you can afford, even if it means making payments. The shitty vans are tons of fun until their A/C goes out on the way to Corpus or they throw their drive shafts onto the freeway. Also, watch We Jam Econo. That's pretty much all you ever need to know about how to be in a band.

Eric: For young bands: Don't take yourself too seriously...you haven't done shit yet, and until you do, you will continue to be treated as such. Don't book shows in Tucson...they always fall through. Other than that, just keep at it, and eventually you will be a band that people like, unless you suck, and constantly demand more money than your worth.

Kerry: I really have no idea how to answer this one, but I’ll give it a shot. If you want to get signed, feed the people what they want to hear. I don’t think we ever did that. We went another route. We made music that we liked. So if you want to be like us and never get signed, never play showcases, and never make it to events like SXSW: Make music that *you* like. Be original. Write a couple of catchy songs that people can sing along with – songs that get people moving. As long as you have a few of those, you can have 10 songs that are super weird and probably more of what you want to play anyways.

Can we anticipate a new album ever again or even possible another solo album by Kerry?

Steve: We might release something new later in the year, maybe four or five new ones, plus “Superstar,” our oldest song, but one we never recorded until the last album. It didn't fit thematically, so we cut it.

Eric: I think we are gonna write new shit, and eventually record it. We really like being in the studio, and Kerry and Steve have a bunch of cool ideas. I would say another addition to the DV collection is inevitable.

Kerry: I’m not sure. Being a dad is more difficult than anything I’ve ever done. At the time, I really needed a break from touring and spending my weekends in bars. Now, it’s the other way around. I long for the night where I can sit and play guitar for 30 minutes with no interruptions. I’d like to record another album with Darth Vato, and I’d like to record another solo album. But I’m not sure how that would even be possible at this point. Even if I could magically write an album’s worth of songs, it’s just so expensive to record, mix, master, and print CDs. I’m going to keep my hopes up. Wish me luck!

Anything you would like to add?

Steve: Listen to the Minutemen. And go watch Eric play in Jamie Richards' band. He's probably one of the best and most unsung drummers in Fort Worth.

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