Former Madison, Wisconsinites and current Verbs members Seth Hoffman and Jacob Lowery came to Albuquerque over three years ago and settled in as the house band at Stella Blue. Over the course of several Tuesday night jam sessions at the club, Hoffman and Lowery joined up with mandolinist Christie Lipinskai, bassist Cory VanMinefee and drummer Vance VanDonselaar to create what Lowery candidly refers to as, "the only thing in my 16 years of playing music that I'm really proud of."
"I played in a lot of death metal bands and I think it's actually more difficult not to play shredding guitar solos that rely on scales," Lowery, The Verbs' electric guitarist, says. "It's kind of cool and more challenging to sit back and watch other people do their thing."
The Verbs' debut album, Elementary, begins with anticipatory guitar that sounds as though it was modeled after beached whale calls. What follows is an instrumentally loose, but not quite jam-bandish collection of 11 tracks that Hoffman aptly calls "a conversation of sound. The songs fit together in a way that it's almost like reading a book or watching a movie," Hoffman says.
In essence, Elementary is an especially uncluttered live album that was recorded and mixed over the course of just three days. "We were able to get the best of both worlds as far as preserving the band's live sound and capturing the cleanliness of a studio album," Hoffman says.
Elementary induces a kind of pseudo-somber dance frenzy that varies from high- to relatively low-intensity. "Some of the songs make you feel like you've just watched Rocky and other ones are a little more mellow," Hoffman explains.
Despite its ever-present density, the album never becomes convoluted or overly complex. This a clear reflection of The Verbs' ability to hold back at times. "As talented as everyone is in our band," Hoffman says, "we're all really good at listening to one another. You can tell we're not just doing this to hear ourselves play."
Whether it's the muscle-y, guitar-based grooves of "Ain't No Doubt" or the rhythmically charged "campfire-reggae" sounds of "You N Me Babe," Elementary is unquestionably listenable and accessible. "The pop appeal wasn't intentional," Lowery admits, "but it's definitely there."
Hoffman looks forward to showing Verbs newbies what the band is all about. "I think we're an untapped secret," Hoffman says. "It's kind of like if you've been pushing a bolder up a hill for a while and then it suddenly starts to roll. I'm pretty excited about where we can go."