Victor Ribas is the type of guy who, when discussing his various musical pursuits, casually drops in the fact that, at 31, he’s found an unlikely additional income as a model.
“I’ve been working with Talent Plus,” he says nonchalantly, though not without appreciation for the unexpected work. “They just kinda found me. ‘Would you be interested in modeling? We have clients in need of your look, which is ethnically ambiguous.’ I went in for one photo shoot and they figured I could fill different demographics. I thought it’d be an audition. But I signed a contract that day and did my first shoot for the Missouri History Museum; I’m on the homepage of their website. I’ve done steady commercial shoots since then.”
Modeling is the side hustle. Well, one of a few. Ribas also juggles work as a touring drummer (more on that in a second) with a day job at Coda Music Company.
“We provide instruments for most of the large acts that play St. Louis,” he says. “For example, LouFest rents from us. So when they hosted the Chuck Berry tribute last year, all the gear was ours. We work with the Peabody, the Sheldon, Verizon Amphitheatre, the Pageant… at all of the major venues, we’re there. It’s really a pretty basic concept: We have awesome gear, millions of dollars of it. And when a band’s touring through St. Louis and has a need, we supply it. We’ve got 50 drum kits, hundreds of guitars and amplifiers, grand pianos.”
Coda’s Valley Park warehouse is neighbors to the world-class light and sound design business, Logic Systems. Combined, the two places allow Ribas a daily playground of incredible gear, and he’s plenty busy during the concert season, supplying his accounts with all that good stuff. And this summer there will be several occasions when he takes leave of the day gig for road trips to music festivals in major markets.
“I do the buildout for festival sites for AEG,” he says. “I was in Carolina for the Carolina Rebellion, a festival with an attendance of 40,000 a day. I’ll be working the Mo Pop Festival in Detroit, which does about 15,000 a day for three days. For those, I’m the site operations director. I’m in charge of overseeing the build-out. We decide where port-o-johns go, where dressing rooms and fences are set.”
This would seem the perfect side gig for a touring musician, and enough for any one person. But Ribas has the type of personality that won’t allow him to settle into one gig and let that be The Thing, so he works his primary job as a musician in a variety of contexts.
A native of Seattle who has split his life between that city and St. Louis, Ribas is currently working for the St. Louis Blues on an annual project that sees him co-writing the team’s entrance-to-the-ice music. It’s the kind of fun, random thing that’s fallen his way over the years, with his deep connections in the industry paying off in various ways: He’s a sponsored drummer, rocking endorsements for Ddrum drum kits, Paiste cymbals and Westone ear plugs. In each case, the opportunities came about through unusual means; for example, he scored the Ddrum’s gig when the company was scouting another player on the same bill.
“It is about who you know,” Ribas says, “and, at times, I’ve really hated that. But you practice for hours a day for years. If you’re talented and work hard, you’ll succeed. My first gig came from knowing somebody who knew somebody. Luck is about getting the audition. Getting the gig is about craft.”
Touring for the past eight years, primarily in the hard rock bands Hurt (currently on hiatus) and Smile Empty Soul, Ribas has found ways to make his daily gigs fit into an active touring schedule. While Smile Empty Soul has sometimes toured without him, he is the band’s primary drummer, and he’s out on the road with the band for tours that, these days, top out at four weeks, max.
Coda, he says, is key.
“The job allows me the ability to travel. That’s the stability that so many touring musicians don’t have. I come home and have friends here. It just ingrains me into the music industry of St. Louis, where I get to work with the best venues and personalities. I get to be part of the greatest projects.”
When not working in Valley Park, he’s on the road. While all those hours on the bus can be taxing Ribas seems to have cracked the code of surviving and thriving in that self-contained world.
“I feel like a lot of musicians would say ‘I can’t do this forever.’ But I can’t see that,” he says. “I have an extreme passion for people and culture and geography and history. When I go on tour, the second I’m off the bus I just walk four miles in one direction. I like to discover things, meet people and hear stories. Sometimes, it’s just about shutting the fuck up and listening to a complete stranger. I’ve met the best, coolest people by just walking around a town and talking to strangers. The diversity of cultures we have in America is insane. The way people talk, interact, dress, eat… it’s crazy.”
Ribas tells a lot of stories in a short amount of time, each of them containing some level of enthusiasm. In one, when on a tour stop in Memphis, he bounced off of the tour bus and walked over some street musicians. Not long after arriving, he was playing the bucket-drums. For the next hour, he walked the neighborhood and joined in with other bands, never imposing and never self-conscious.
“There are so many things like that that I’ve enjoyed,” he says. “So many people are just buried in their phones. I’ve been on a tour bus with eleven dudes, and 90 percent of the time, they’re like this [stares at phone]. I get to travel the world. How many people can say they’ve been to every state, like ten times? I’ve done that well before 35. I’m not bragging, I’m just so blessed. I wanna use music to experience the world. I don’t see an end to touring because of my love of people.”
As our conversation winds down, it’s obvious that Victor Ribas could take on another job for his couple of free minutes: as a life coach. An upbeat cat by nature, Ribas isn’t without the awareness that he’s on an interesting path right now, with opportunities arriving and calendars updating regularly. Being that the stars have aligned for him of late, he understands that he sounds, well, happy.
“Oh, my gosh, it’s been really crazy the last couple of years,” he says. “I have a lot of stuff going on. The music industry’s been really good to me and I’m so grateful, so lucky.”