Early Show


Victoria Reed

Wed, April 5, 2017

Doors: 6:30 pm

Mercury Lounge

New York, NY

$13.00 - $15.00

This event is 21 and over

Bombadil - (Set time: 7:30 PM)
Dear listener,

Fences is something new for our band Bombadil. It is more than just an album; it is a new path, a reset after several challenging years. The path began in January 2015, when a longtime member of Bombadil unexpectedly left our band. Daniel Michalak and I sat down to discuss our next steps. It was a time for soul searching. A duo of a bassist and drummer did not feel like a band. Moving forward seemed daunting, but we both felt like there was more to say with the band. We wanted to make music. So we began simply by making some. Writing and recording the Still Bombadil EP was fun. A fast and dirty exploration of a creative idea, no room for fiddling, deadline looming. Our last album, Hold On, had not been like that. It had been an ordeal.

Daniel suggested composing songs using guitar instrumentals our old bandmate Bryan Rahija had written, and of limiting ourselves to a small palette for the next album: guitar, piano, upright bass, harmony vocals. The goal was to make a folk record, something easy to understand, something beautiful. He shared a demo for “Binoculars” and I loved it. It was simple, elegant. We added it to the live set almost immediately. Daniel continued writing, focusing on guitar, harmony, and emotion. The songs inconveniently had no drums (what was I going to play?!). He instead wrote parts for me to sing and we began collaborating on composing tunes with a similar approach. “Fence” was written together at a friends house in Crozet, Virginia to kill time on tour. An old song of mine, “Long Life,” was revived and extended. Percussion parts started to show up. Daniel’s commitment to songwriting continued to inspire, a new demo was in my inbox almost weekly. Daniel enlisted the help of an old friend and data scientist, Nasir Bhanpuri, to analyze the success of our old catalog of songs and make suggestions to guide our writing and arranging. It was an experiment that pushed us to take the songs further than we might have in the past. In part, we were throwing ideas at the wall to see what would stick, but we were also searching for something new, actively trying to push ourselves to new creative heights.

We kept the Bombadil ship moving by accepting all shows, searching for more opportunities to play. We found wonderful people to tour in our band. There were good shows. There were bad ones, too. I learned to be a lead singer on the fly and on stage (with the help of an encouraging septuagenarian opera singer). And we kept writing, practicing, and recording. In July 2015, Stacy Harden sent me an email inquiring if we needed a musician. In his audition, he played through songs like he had been in the band all along. He even knew the harmonies. He had grown up a fan of the band, singing along in the car. In October, Stacy and I drove our equipment across the country for a West Coast tour in a four-day sprint and listened to every song the Beatles recorded. His easy-going spirit was infectious, his presence made the band more fun and more inspiring. We had found our man. “What's So Great About You” was the first collaboration between this new trio, and we started to discover what a new version of our band sounded like.

In January 2016, the three of us left North Carolina for Littleton, Massachusetts to spend several weeks at a friend's farmhouse. We recorded all day long, cooked together, spent our breaks around a roaring wood stove carefully tended to by Daniel. The resulting demo recordings gave us a roadmap to follow. Our label, Ramseur Records, suggested a producer, a departure after self-recording our last three records. John Vanderslice was given the demos and was enthusiastic about the material. He insisted that we listen closely to Paul Simon’s first record. He told us the songs needed a sense of danger, that our demos felt like we were being too careful, and that the songs needed more percussion. John is opinionated, talented, and inspirational. And most of all, making the record with him over 12 days in September 2016 at Tiny Telephone in San Francisco was easy. And fun. And fast. We used only analog equipment, recording to tape through high-end vintage equipment. Bryan came to play his guitar parts (which by this point Stacy had learned for live performances of the material). The recordings were all first takes, new ideas were quickly embraced, mistakes were left alone as intention, very little artificial reverb was used but John's concrete echo chamber was used extensively. We hoped to catch lightning in a bottle and I think that we did.

To me, Fences represents the journey of the last two years. It is the discovery of a group voice, the willingness to explore collaboration between old friends, and an openness to let new voices into the fold. It is something I am proud to have been a part of and am excited to share with the world. To me, it is an example of the power and positivity of collaboration, of a group of human beings working diligently on a shared vision. If nothing else, I can say that we tried as hard as we possibly could. I can't wait to do it again.

Thank you for listening,

James Phillips/Bombadil
Victoria Reed - (Set time: 6:30 PM)
Victoria Reed
One spring evening four years ago, Victoria Reed played her cards right. Sitting on the bed in her apartment in Chicago's Wicker Park, she shuffled her tarot deck and laid out her life: For her present, she pulled the Death card—"and it felt spot on," she says. A philosophy major at DePaul University, she had fallen down the rabbit hole of reason and was in the midst of an existential crisis par excellence, doubting everything and ready to give up. But then she played her future card: The Chariot. "It's about overcoming any previous difficulties," she explains. "It's about triumph."

And so, after that experience, she did what any budding performer would do: She wrote a song. "Let go and let flow/ I want to tell you that you're not alone," she sings in a lilting alto on "Chariot," the title track of her debut album. "When tides are low/ The calvary best is shown."

Chariot, out February 26, is most definitely a triumph—a deeply personal collection of Americana pop that echoes in your heart and ears long after the record ends. Featuring some of New York's best session players and produced by Jeff Hill, it's a rich, optimistic album that puts Reed's intimate yet inclusive lyrics and alluring voice at the forefront, bringing to mind Neko Case's The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Jenny Lewis's Acid Tongue.

Performing was always in the cards for Reed, who was born to a rock musician and a Playboy Bunny in Detroit. Her father, Alto Reed, is the longtime saxophonist for Bob Seger, so she spent her childhood backstage at the city biggest venues and front-row at Tigers and Red Wings games as her dad wailed out the National Anthem. "I don't think there was one moment of my life where I wasn't thinking, Of course I'm going to be a singer someday," Reed says.

She started writing songs in grade school, drawing inspiration from her parents' Carole King and Gordon Lightfoot records, and when she was 14 jetted off to Miami to record a few demos with a successful producer. "I was going to be a young teen pop star," she says, but now is grateful that didn't happen. "I was recording my songs over the tracks that Lindsey Lohan or Mandy Moore had passed on. It wasn't right."

Songwriting took a backseat when Reed moved to Chicago for college and began studying philosophy. She worked at "a spa for the spirit," did an independent study in metaphysics, and assisted her then-boyfriend's psychic mother "teach classes on developing your intuition." But she missed making music and, after a failed attempt at mastering Ableton Live, finally picked up the guitar her dad had given her years ago and taught herself a few chords. Within a month she was out playing open-mic nights and recording bedroom demos, which she posted online.

But her philosophy studies kept pulling her into a dark place and soon she was practically incapacitated by fear. "It was realizing that there is no backstage to life," she says. "I just doubted everything away at one point and I was like, Oh shit." A conversation with a numerologist at the spa where she worked put her back on track: Stop trying to do everything at once, he told her, and just focus on one thing. "I only had one semester worth of credits left to graduate, but I called my parents and said, 'I'm dropping out of school. It's music. I've got to do music.'"

That very same day, Gary Waldman, a manager she had befriended at a Citizen Cope show two years before, emailed her out of the blue after hearing one of her songs on Facebook. "He said, 'Why didn't you ever tell me that you sing and write songs? Come to New York and I'll help you make a cool recording." Reed laughs at the memory. "And I was like, Yes! The Universe supports my decision!"

The next thing she knew, Reed—who had never before played with a band—was in a studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, recording "Chariot" with a group of high-caliber session musicians who had put in time with Norah Jones and Ryan Adams. It was magical," she says. "We didn't talk about what kind of sound we were going for—it just happened."

A few months later Reed packed up her Wicker Park apartment and moved to New York for good. She recorded Chariot slowly over the course of two years, but for her the pace was ideal. "This was all so new to me in the beginning, and as we went along I learned to express what I wanted in a room full of people who had been doing this for years."

One of Reed's favorite songs on Chariot is "Make It Easy," which was one of the last she wrote for the album. "You should wake up with a smile on your face/ Monday, Tuesday, everyday/ 'Cause honey I'm so happy for you," she croons over gentle slide guitar. It's a sentiment she wishes she could have told herself when things were difficult: "I had a funny revelation where I thought about my past self and present self and future self, and I thought, If me today could give advice to me two years ago I would say, 'Are you kidding me? Don't worry! Hang in there! You have no idea how good this gets.'"

Now, Reed says, things are so good that she doesn't feel the need to test her fate with tarot cards anymore. "I don't want to curse myself," she admits. "If I get a bad future card, I won't be able to stop thinking about it." But the double Leo still believes in the stars, and for her 26th birthday had a reading with her favorite astrologer. "She put things in perspective for me in a cool way—what's happened in the past few years and where I'm headed—and it brought me some clarity and even some closure." But Reed, ever cautious, won't share specifics. "It was all positive," she says, her smile audible. "Really positive."
Venue Information:
Mercury Lounge
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002