It’s Thursday evening on Buchanan Street. It’s before the night gets too old, the drinks and vomit have fallen to the ground, but not too late for the remnants of the day to be scattered everywhere. Worn and torn Wal-Mart coupons, wet bank receipts and an old McDonald’s bag; it’s enough to encourage feelings of disgust, making one want to go to more familiar and better lighted areas like Main Street. That is until a grabbing noise from the old Rose Theater gives you the instinct to follow. It’s a sound of throat-wrenching vocals, harmonicfilled guitars, chest-pounding drums, and that high disdaining white noise that only amplifiers can make. This is the practice area of The Victory Lap, a band that wants it all or nothing. Walking into the Rose, the band performs a fun and unexpected rendition of Black Eyed Peas’ iTunes darling, “I Gotta Feeling.” Of course the band has added their twist on the song, by giving it a rock edge, with an alternative voice more like Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy than Will.I.Am. and in their case, this may be a good thing. “Yeah we’re not playing that tomorrow,” lead vocalist Mark Anderson says with a scoff, quickly turning back to all business with “we all need to invest into some new cables.” They would end up performing the song the next night. Anderson has every quality a music fan would look for in a frontman. He has a dark complexion, tattoos across his chest and arm and his seemingly endless confidence as a showman. He easily takes the wheel of the band while the rest of the band is relatively quiet. There’s Matt Leimkuehler, the laid back bassist who is never shy to add a quick witty remark. The two guitarists, Zach Pannel and Michael White, and the drummer Jimmy Rector are relatively quiet, but not from a lack of confidence. They would much rather choose to let their instruments do the talking, especially White, who barely puts down his guitar, always practicing. While the band was first put together as something to do to kill time, it was not long before they became serious about their craft. “We decided to spend all our well-earned cash on this,” said Anderson in a laugh that tells he really means all of their cash. “We’re not a bar band anymore,” said Leimkuehler. “We don’t play covers for four hours.” When asked to describe their sound, Anderson quickly replied, “Green Day and Lady Gaga had a baby.”
White said that all the members were in typical pop-punk and metal bands in high school, and when he and Leimkuehler came together, they “channeled their junior high selves” playing New Found Glory and The Starting Line songs, but eventually their sound took on a more pop feel. The band calls it “dance punk.” “I would have stabbed myself in the forehead if I listened to anything that wasn’t pop punk back in the day,” Anderson said reflecting on his high school days. “Now the only thing I can say that I’d stab myself in the forehead for listening to is radio rock.” The Victory Lap loves playing together, but they will not lie to themselves. They know that getting to the top will take a lot of work, but they want to make it to the top, or they will not be a band anymore. “Basically we said we were going to do this for four years,” Anderson said. “And if it’s not one step away from the right direction, then it’s not going to be worth it.” While the band is realistic about their goals, one must realize they are doing everything they can to get there. This is evident after spending only a few minutes on their MySpace profile. They have such professional looking produced photoshoots, merchandise, recordings and videos, a fan would think they were signed to a professional label. One thing that cannot be questioned about The Victory Lap is their dedication. Pannel has to drive over three hours just to get to the practices. Leimkuhler talks about leaving his apartment at 8 a.m. and not coming back until 10 p.m. and then doing homework until 4 a.m. Over the summer, they played 30 shows, but what the audience did not see was the work that went into it. They would drive anywhere from three to eight hours to get to shows, balance jobs and school, hold practices and even hold business meetings. “We talk about merchandise, talk about our record, talk about what’s on the Internet we need to check out. We talk about all that every week,” Anderson said in a playful but annoyed tone. “It’s monotonous, but it makes us tight and makes us set the difference from any other band at our level right now.” When it comes to the business side of the music industry, The Victory Lap claim that it’s one of the most important parts of being a band. “Matt will top off his hat and say ‘time to politic’,” Anderson said, referring to Leimkuehler’s post-show tradition. “We learned that ironically from Tech N9ne. It was one of the most motivational and true things we ever heard.”
The band knows they have to “shake hands and kiss babies” and that being in a band means to invest into a business. They operate under the realistic assumption that a band is 70 percent business and 30 percent music. The Victory Lap may break down their enterprise like a business, but they are confident that people who come to their shows will want to invest in them.
By Brian Johnson Features Editor
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