It only takes one good local concert (or few strong drinks) and I'm primed to begin my often repeated sermon about how this city is filled with a disproportionate number of good people and great bands. St. Louis is not that big; we have no right to be so awesome. But like an opportunistic fungus, art finds fertile ground in the oppressive weather and dank basements of the Midwest. The right people just seem to find each other, and when the magic is poppin' it seems like nothing short of divine intervention.
That is why, with a heavy heart, I called up singer/guitarist Mario Viele and asked him about his upcoming semi-permanent move to New York. Viele is a ridiculously skilled musician. He seems to jump on any instrument with a virtuosity rarely witnessed -- dude really does play the guitar just like he's ringing a bell. Truthfully, his ubiquitous talent would be flat-out annoying if he wasn't so damn humble.
Though only in his mid twenties, Viele has left deep footprints all over the local scene. His own label, Roadhouse Tunes, promotes and presses local records and his recent bands include St. Louis favorites such as Bunnygrunt, the Pubes and Sex Robots.
I'm not ashamed to say that Sex Robots have saved my life, or at least my wee rocker heart, on more than one occasion. I've had some of the best nights of my life watching the Robots play energetic, shambolic sets in dirty dive bars. The bands hooked-out sound and simple melodies reflect everything amazing about rock and roll, all rolled up into tight, two-and-a-half minute songs. I'm too young to have seen the Replacements in their prime, but I can't help but imagine that a Robots show is very similar.
With only two more local shows scheduled, Viele's upcoming move, rumors of bassist Tracey Morrissey going back to school and drummer Maysam Attaran working with a new band, the future of the Robots appeared grim. Robots go bye-bye? Really, I couldn't stand the thought.
Determined to get to the bottom of this, I caught up with Viele a few days ago to discuss the status of Sex Robots. He was with Bunnygrunt, finishing recording its album at Bel*Air Studio in Athens, Georgia. When his duties were complete he called to set the record straight. After I relayed my breathless, fangirl fear that his move marks the end of the Sex Robots, Viele seemed to try hard not to laugh, reassuring me that I couldn't be more wrong. Me? Wrong? I guess there's a first time for everything.
"The thing I like about 2009 is that there's definite plans," Viele explains, "There's plans to tour and make an album and because of that, our working energy is going towards making those things happen and therefore everything else, as far as where we are and where we will be, is all kind of a big x-variable, and that's really cool."
Sex Robots have one show scheduled tonight at Mangia and another set for February 13 at the Schlafly Tap Room, but are going on an East coast tour between these dates, with plans to record an album in St. Louis in the summer and tour again in the fall. Viele, for one, relishes traveling and the time on the road and seems completely unconcerned with the upcoming change of surroundings or the strength of the band.
"I feel that if we went and recorded now, it wouldn't be as good as if we took a little time away and then got back together to play it out. That way it will be all worked out, but also be totally fresh. I'm following what my brain says and my brain wants two things: to make music and tour. I just do what my brain says. The voice in my brain goes 'Hey, do this' and I go 'Okay, Brain, I don't know why, but I trust you.'
"I'm getting to the point where I trust what my brain tells me to do. I just look at it as, the more we're traveling, the more I see it as gaining ability to write and operate from anywhere. It's an adventure. I think of the band as the best excuse ever to make ridiculous decisions and go on the road with my best friends."