Space trash

I met with two songwriters behind the Red Satellites, guitarist Drew Carroll and singer Kevin Hivick, for caffeine and conversation last week, but mostly to ask them, in light of rumors that they’ve been banned from certain venues for breaking stuff, what it feels like to be considered the most dangerous band in Charlottesville. 

The tinkly production values of glam rock get applied to Weezer-like tracks on the Red Satellites’ brisk new EP, TheTriangle.TheTree, released at a show last Friday. It is the band’s second EP in 2010 alone.

Their response? Sure, sometimes a window or a microphone stand gets broken. But reports of their recklessness are greatly exaggerated.

Fifteen months after the brothers Hivick, Kevin and Daniel, decided they’d like to do more than trade piano riffs in their family’s Keswick garage, the Red Satellites have morphed from an eager, if ragtag, group assembled through flyers and Craigs-
list, into a cohesive unit with a stable of convincingly executed, emotionally driven songs. Look no further than the band’s new EP, TheTriangle.TheTree, a collection of four Odyssean tunes that apply the filigree of glam to Weezeresque structures. 

Sometimes, rock’s best moments come when a band’s conviction eclipses its abilities, leaving the audience with the sense that the whole experience is headed for a cliff. (Think of the Replacements, or Guided by Voices.) The loose cog in the machine is Kevin Hivick. His energy arises as much from his teenage training as an opera singer as it does his nervousness to get on stage. It’s the former that opens up the band’s sound to Broadwayesque, faux-British vocal stylings, and the latter that forces Hivick to leave himself behind to embody Marc Bolan, Elton John, Iggy Pop or whatever character he chooses, depending on his mood. The shirtless character that appeared in  photos around the release of the band’s first EP, he says, is dead. We’ll see.

While few singers have the gumption to get out from behind the guitar, Hivick goes whole hog with a lead singer persona, donning the flowy shirts and big sunglasses that earn the band its “glam” classification. Though “glam” gets them in the door, the Red Satellites’ conviction to rock and roll fundamentals is the band’s biggest selling point. Drummer Brenning Greenfield’s drunken, rolling fills channel the spirit of Keith Moon, which can be tough for a band to compete with; most try by turning the amps to 11 in a vain effort compete with a ringing squad of cymbals. But the Church of Meat Loaf is next to the ghetto of the overwhelming, and the restrained passages in the Red Satellites’ songs keep the band safely in the church. 

You can only threaten to spin out of orbit before you crash to earth, or float out into the beyond. “Even the Replacements eventually had to clean up their act,” says Carroll.


High in the tree

Charlottesville writer Kathryn Erskine won the National Book Award last week for her young adult novel, Mockingbird. The story follows a young woman afflicted with Asperger’s who struggles to move forward after losing her brother in a school shooting. Erskine, a lawyer-turned-writer, said in a recent interview with Publisher’s Weekly that the book was inspired both by her daughter’s struggle with Asperger’s, and her own search for answers after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. “My thoughts went to what it must be like to be related to one of the victims and to how a kid like mine who sees the world so differently,” she said in the interview, “who doesn’t feel heard or understood, how frustrated she gets and how frustrated other people get with her because they don’t understand how her mind works.”

The “Oscars of the literary world” took place last week in New York, at a ceremony for 600. The award carries a $1,000 cash prize for being nominated, and $10,000 for winning, which might tide Erskine over until her next book, The Absolute Value of Mike, is released next summer.

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