'Blue Is The Color, Fame Is The Game'
LeonVest is the phenomenal SF Bay Area songwriting duo who recently stunned the music industry and radio listeners alike with their surprise hit single, "It Would Be You" from their first CD, So Blue. The song reached #6 nationally on FMQB's AC charts in March of 2006 putting music lovers and industry execs on notice.
Along with their band of world class musicians, LeonVest has accomplished a feat seen only rarely in the life of independent artists. This March, they were the only indie act to find themselves in ACQB's TOP TEN - ahead of Santana, Cold Play and Alanis Morissette and alongside Goo Goo Dolls, James Blunt and Kelly Clarkson.
LeonVest's compellingly original material hearkens straight out of the SF Bay Area music scene - and that's just what their San Francisco Bay Area fans want to hear. As songwriters, the team of Sandy Leon Vest and James Vest are as gifted as they are prolific.
Leon Vest is presently recording their upcoming CD, Alive by Request, at Red Rooster Recording Studio in Berkeley with their band (featuring saxophonist Paul McCandless, of Bela Fleck and Oregon).
Chatting recently with Sandy, and noting that they once jokingly referred to themselves as "micro nanostars in and around Bolinas" (the small CA coastal town where they live and perform), I first wondered if that was still true today ... and what would it take to shake such a self-induced label?!
"That 'self-induced label' is a JOKE ;-))) Whether or not we can 'shake' it ... well, I guess that's in the hands of the Gods ... besides, having a few fans you can count on isn't such a bad thing in a small town like Bolinas ... the room is always full of smiling people when we play ... it's a feel-good deal all the way around."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying either 'So Blue' or your upcoming 'Alive By Request' CDs, how would you yourself describe your sound? "Actually, Average Joe has heard of us. He lives in Bolinas ... you didn't know that???;-)))"
"But about our 'sound': Our sound guy, Derek Tracy (also our good friend and manager) describes our music as "sparkling with originality, yet waxing evocative of the idealism and romanticism that graced the music of the sixties and seventies ... the songs of LeonVest are lyrically poetic, while at the same time reflecting Sandy's fiercely political point of view ..." I think that's a good description. Our upcoming album (ALIVE BY REQUEST) is less 'California pop' sounding than SO BLUE and more focused on the rhythms ... more powerful stuff - lyrically, melodically and groove-wise."
Your album title 'So Blue' was an interesting choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? "Nah ... I'm just a depressed person who happens to like blue ... nothing personal."
And was the new title 'Alive By Request' inspired by the classic Peter Frampton album, perhaps? "Ummm ... no, but I love Peter Frampton. ALIVE BY REQUEST was inspired by the fact that three years after I was diagnosed with a supposedly terminal and incurable type of blood cancer, my songwriting partner and best friend, James Vest, was diagnosed with Leukemia (CLL), also considered clinically terminal and incurable. In both of our cases, the treatments are often worse than the disease - and a lot of people die from them. We pretty much had two choices: to either sit around and wait to die or line ourselves up with the Gods or whomever it is in the universe that makes all those bizarre decisions ... we opted for the latter and we're both defying all clinical odds and thriving - for now anyway ... that's why the record is called ALIVE BY REQUEST - because we are."
If there was one track on 'So Blue' that truly encapsulated LeonVest at their musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? "Now there's a question after my own heart ... But it's hard to answer because I hope LeonVest hasn't yet reached our 'musical and lyrical finest' ... the music evolves faster than we're able to keep up with. If I had to pick a cut from SO BLUE, 'Color Me Blue' has some pretty dark and intense lyrics ... I think a beautiful melody as well ... it's deeply personal ... I remember I was attempting to process a sense of betrayal I felt ... the betrayal came from someone I never could have imagined could do what they ended up doing ... interestingly, it's not about a romance gone wrong or anything romantic at all ... just a deep sense of betrayal and despair over a relationship that should have been very different than it ended up ..."
Noting that your last name is Leon Vest and that James is simply Vest, at what point did the former beat out the latter for final band name?! "LOL ... that's a good one ..."
"My name was Sandy Leon and because I was a journalist, that was also my byline so I wanted to keep some continuity. When James and I got married back in 2000, I just tacked his last name onto mine, so people could still google me and know who I was ... just a fluke."
With you being such a longtime political journalist, I was wondering what your quick take on the government of today was ... and what changes could/should occur to enhance matters therein? "Oh, pleeeeese ... do not get me started ... government - what government??? How about a MASS CONGRESSIONAL, JUDICIAL AND EXECUTIVE LOBOTOMY??? How about some leadership ... vision ...??? Still, if you really want to know what I think, google 'Sandy Leon Vest' or go to www.leonvest.com and click on 'Writings.' If you click on the 'Live Journal' link, I promise you'll find more than you ever wanted to know ...!"
Can we expect to hear any different sides of LeonVest on the upcoming 'Alive By Request,' perhaps? "Oh, yes ... Russell, Russell, Russell ... I'll even scoop you a copy of our upcoming single from ALIVE BY REQUEST ... it's called QUEEN OF NOTHING, and it speaks for itself ..."
Just for fun, and taking the titles of a few of your album tracks, please let us know:
'Color Me Blue' - OK, if you could paint your bedroom any color - but one color - what would it be ... and why?! "Ummmmm ... forest green?"
'If Wishes Were Horses' - If you really had one wish, one that would come true instantly, what would it be?! "I would wake up tomorow and find out that everything really is a dream and that the dream goes on forever, shape-shifting its way through time and space ... Love really would be the Answer, there really would be such a thing as karma and there would be no wars, greed, power-playing or betrayal and I would have a brand new life and a baby in my arms ... we'd be touring the world with U2 and all of our songs would finally be realized as the classics that they are ... Everyone would have solar or wind power and there would be no nuclear power or oil pipelines to blow up ... Death really would be just a passageway into a bright new dream and no one would be starving or thirsty or dying of AIDS in some godforsaken dust pit somewhere ... ummm ... that's my one wish ..."
'City of the Angels' - Have you ever seen an Angel or ghost, perhaps? If so, where and what happened? "Yeah, Russell ... in fact, I was saved once by an angel ... someday we'll sit down over a shot of something or other and I'll tell you all about it ... BTW, 'City of the Angels' is actually about my dad ... he really was a cabbie; he sort of disappeared when I was eleven years old; he really did die in a hotel room in LA, the TV really was on and the phone (just like the song says) really was disconnected ... poor guy ... he was soooo lost ... and I followed ..."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "Now, I like cheese as much as the next guy but eighties cheese ...? LeonVest is actually famous for never doing covers and there are two reasons for that: 1) We have more originals than our band has time to learn and 2) I don't really consider myself a singer ... I have a very limited vocal range so I kind of have to write for myself ... But OK, I'll play ... If I could, I'd sing 'One,' from U2's 'Achtung Baby.' I love U2 like a mother ... my dream is to open for them and rock so hard that Bono would proclaim to the world that LeonVest now owns the rock world ... Oh yeah ... I'd do Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' in a heartbeat ..."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "Yeah, they walk really cool ..."
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best for the future "Sure, Russell ... that was a lot of fun ... all best, slv."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of LeonVest's 'So Blue' CD, just answer this easy LeonVest question: On Thursday, January 26th, 2006 Sandy wrote a long entry in her 'Live Journal' found on their website ... what was it entitled?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before June 15th with your answer and the subject title 'LEON VEST SIGNED CDs' to: email@example.com
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