Sign in / Join
Abe Vigoda

‘Crush’ on you: Q&A with Juan Velazquez

Juan Velazquez plays guitar in Abe Vigoda – the band, not the actor. Velazquez is one of a growing number of out musicians playing in cool indie bands, including Grizzly Bear, The Soft Pack and These Arms Are Snakes.

With its welcome use of synthesizers and dance beats, “Crush” (PPM), Abe Vigoda’s new disc, might take some of the group’s fans by surprise. The band has definitely increased its potential for a larger LGBT fan base.

I spoke with Velazquez (a real trooper, as he was seriously under the weather) in early 2011.

Gregg Shapiro: Would you say that the sonic difference of “Crush,” audible in the songs “Dream of My Love,” “Throwing Shade,” “Repeating Angel” and “We Have To Mask,” was a conscious decision or did it occur organically?

JV: Definitely organically, but it took a while. We write sporadically, usually when we’re practicing. Our drummer (Dane Chadwick), who really likes dance music, introduced electronic elements to the band. For those songs, I think we were finally more comfortable using synths. We toyed around with them as a thing that we would be able to use and then we realized how much we liked it.

GS: How has the response to “Crush” been from longtime Abe Vigoda fans?

JV: It’s very varied. Some people just don’t get it. To me it sounds more accessible than other things we’ve done through the years. Some people are not so jazzed on it, and some people like it.

GS: The songwriting on “Crush” is credited to the band Abe Vigoda. How would you describe your role in the process of song creation in Abe Vigoda?

JV: It’s different for different songs. Sometimes Michael (Vidal) and I will have an idea or something we’re fiddling around with on the guitar and bring that to practice. Then everyone does their own thing on it. We generally jam together as a band. Everyone is in charge of their own instrument as far as what they contribute. We all edit each other and edit ourselves. It’s a pretty democratic way of writing songs, I think.

GS: What’s the best part of being the lone gay member of a band?

JV: What’s funny is that some people think everyone (in the band) is. Or they think there is one, and it’s Michael, the singer. Which is really funny (laughs). When we’re on tour, the other guys in the band aren’t looking for girls. They’re really nice guys, which is awesome. If anyone, I’m probably the one who’s more like on the prowl (laughs). I get really excited when I find someone else in a band who is gay because there aren’t that many of us in indie rock. Sometimes I’ll venture out (while on tour in a city) and check out the gay bars, or if I have a friend in town we’ll go out and do our thing. In a way, I have a little freedom where I can go and do my own thing. I get some space away from the whole touring thing and being in close quarters with everybody.

Sometimes we’ll all go out to a gay bar. It’s a non-issue, obviously. I don’t think I could be in a band where it was an issue.

GS: Are you aware of a contingent of LGBT fans among Abe Vigoda’s fans?

JV: I’m not aware of one if there is. Not to generalize, but we’re usually playing for kind of a straight crowd. I’m not even sure people know that there’s a gay member of the band. It’s also not the focus of our music. There are some bands for whom that is the focus of their music, to be in a queer band to give voice to queer issues, even in a fun or punk way.

GS: Abe Vigoda is on a cross-country tour. Does being in a touring band make it difficult to maintain a relationship?

JV: You betcha! If you would have asked me this at this time last year, I would have said, “No! I have an amazing boyfriend.” It was the first time that I legitimately fell in love with someone. Before that it had been more casual. In January of last year, I was in love. We went out on tour with Vampire Weekend and then recorded “Crash” around this time last year. I was gone and missed him and talked to him on the phone. It felt like a relationship. It was great and exciting. Then I got home and soon after I got dumped. He didn’t enjoy that I was gone for so long. Hopefully, I’ll meet someone who doesn’t mind that their significant other has to leave for a while.

GS: Does Abe Vigoda the actor know that Abe Vigoda the band exists?

JV: I have a pretty strong feeling that he does. One time somebody who wanted to interview us, instead of contacting (the band’s publicist) Kasey, found his publicity person and messaged them. They got a response saying that it wasn’t the band’s publicist that they had reached, it was the actor’s. If his publicist knows, he knows. And he doesn’t seem to care, which is good.

Abe Vigoda performs Feb. 21 at Der Rathskeller/U-W Memorial Union, 800 Langdon, Madison.

Leave a reply