In the fall of 2008 I went to Lawrence, Kansas to see Jenny Lewis in concert. That evening I wore a tight fitting maroon t-shirt with the word “veda” written in yellow down the side in a stylish, cursive script. At one point during the show I swiveled my head around and locked eyes with Kristen May, the lead singer of the band formerly known as Veda. I had bought the shirt, even though it was a bit tight, back in 2004. I had been very impressed with the young, up-and-coming band and saw them play in Kansas City a half-dozen times in ’04 and ’05.
I bought their EP (2004) and their debut album, The Weight of an Empty Room (2005), and bumped into the members of the band around Kansas City when they were not out on tour as the opening act for various hardcore bands such as Thrice. Around this time the band changed its name to “Vedera” because of another musical group named Veda that took legal action against them.
Earlier this week I paid to a visit to Streetside Records where Vedera’s brand new album, Stages, was displayed with other new albums. Here are a few observations about the new album.
1) Vedera has really changed its sound. Their earlier sound combined Kristen May’s strong vocals with a heavy, guitar-driven, hard rock sound. The new sound is much lighter and brighter. Stages is a pop album. Kristen May’s voice is even more dominant than before. Now she doesn’t just belt it out; the instrumentation is restrained and her voice soars above it.
2) The new sound reminded me of several other acts. On the more up-tempo songs May sounds a bit like Avril Lavigne. On the more acoustic numbers she sounds a tiny bit like Lisa Loeb if Lisa Loeb had a bit higher vocal range. The instrumentation is quite produced and, at times, sounds like what you would find on the last two Liz Phair albums.
3) Their listening audience has changed. On their first album they thanked bands like Acceptance and the Get Up Kids. On this album they mention touring alongside pop acts like Jason Mraz and Eisley and pop-rock groups like Jack’s Mannequin, the All-American Rejects, and the Fray.
4) Their relationship with their past is unclear. The sticker on the Stages album declares that this is their first album. That isn’t exactly true.
5) They’ve hidden their past. If you do a search on youtube for the video to "The Falling Kind", the lead single off of Empty Room, you cannot find it.
6) Their relationship with their past is complicated. The first single off Stages is the song “Satisfy.” This song borrows its pre-chorus and chorus from the song “Desire on Repeat” from the Empty Room album.
7) Just check out the videos to see how Vedera has changed. In the video to “Satisfy,” Kristen May acts flirty and twee, walking through fields and frolicking in the ocean with an obscured man. In the video to "The Falling Kind," May dons a straight jacket and lurches about with jerky spasms.
8) The first few bars of “Satisfy” on the acoustic guitar sound a lot like the first few bars of Green Day’s mellowest song “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”
9) The bridge on "Satisfy" is really weird. Pay attention. Following the chorus the instrumentation drops out and May’s voice is completely exposed. You expect a powerful guitar solo will follow, but the guitar just disappears and is replaced by a sample of orchestral strings. The first time I heard the song I was so surprised that I actually stammered, “Are those strings?”
10) Good for Vedera. I am completely serious! Good for Vedera. From my previous comments you may think that I would criticize them for “selling out.” Far from it. It is very cool to see a Kansas City band find national success with their music featured on MTV programs. Good for them. And, even though I really like the loud energy of songs like “The Falling Kind,” I would definitely pay to go see Vedera in concert when they come back through Kansas City.