Originally in Issue #21
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Article by Jen Emmert
Florida band VersaEmerge is on the rise to a dimension many young musicians strive to reach: finding themselves and working as hard as possible to stand out while doing so. With a recent signing to Fueled By Ramen Records, a fill-length album (Fixed at Zero) released June 22 and a headlining spot on Warped Tour both this year and last, VersaEmerge has made tremendous strides within the music industry and shows no signs of giving up. Their genuine interest in music and film scores has allowed them to shape their music into a cinematic rock sound with pop snippets that separates them from other bands in the scene.
According to front woman Sierra Kusterbeck, Fixed at Zero is not only more mature, but the material on it has evolved. Guitarist Blake Harnage agreed: “I think a band’s earliest releases are the ones where their influences really shine through most. For us, we had a couple EPs out where we were still discovering ourselves and it’s never going to end; we’re always going to be striving for this certain thing. I think the more we make records with each other, the more it’s going to get closer to the sound that we’re trying to envision. Every record is a stepping stone – this one is definitely – and I feel like it’s the most ‘Versa.'”
Most of VersaEmerge’s song lyrics are written while on the road and typically represent something specific. “At the start of an idea, we always choose a color, element, animal or feel to go with each song to keep us on track so we don’t stray too far,” Kusterbeck explained. “It really helps the story flow; every song just has its own ‘feel’ to it.”
In fact, Harnage said that this ‘feel-based’ music makes them stand out among many other bands. “It’s not so much as writing the song on paper – write the lyrics and then write the chord change around it,” he said. “It’s almost like they coincide and everything happens together, and I think that way it creates a real mind feel for each song.”
“The CD has all these different elements, all these different points that we need to make it a complete circle,” Harnage expressed. “It’s like every song serves its purpose in creating this full piece of art. I think it’s well-rounded and reaches a lot of different feelings.”
The writing process changes for each song, but the band typically starts with music, and collaborates with others, to spark ideas.
“We play off each other’s ideas and once we start getting a groove going or that chord change happening, it’ll spark a lyric idea that Sierra will have, and that’s the next thing that comes in,” Harnage elaborated. “We start singing that in and working that out – it’s really just supernatural.”
VersaEmerge has also reached the satisfaction of establishing something else that many bands have not: giving their fans a name. “Versa Vultures” was deemed from lyrics off the album title track (“There’s a vulture on my shoulder, and he’s telling me to give in”), but there was also a huge music icon that influenced the general idea.
“I’ve overly obsessed with Lady Gaga and I am a Little Monster,” Kusterbeck confessed. “I love the fact that I’m one, and it made me feel that much closer to her. I was like, ‘Blake, we have to have a fan blog or something, and Versa Vultures just kind of turned into this thing. Some people are like, ‘Why would you call us vultures? Aren’t they gross and nasty?’ And some people feel the way I did when Lady Gaga called me a Little Monster – ‘We’re your vultures!’ It’s almost like a crew, our cult. They pay attention and are constantly on top of their shit – they know what’s going on and what we’re doing, and I think that’s really, really cool.”
Despite the soft-heartedness and genuine care the band possesses, there are still occasional misinterpretations. “I feel like we get mistaken sometimes for an Evanescence type,” Harnage said. “We are a darker band, but we’re not a stereotypical gothic band. It’s not forced. You’re either this extreme pop or you’re this extreme goth – we’re kind of in the middle; we’re trying to establish it and hope people can get it.”
“We want to eventually have turned the straight line spectrum of music into a triangle – make our own ‘ish’,” Harnage said.
VersaEmerge’s upcoming plans are still in the works, but expect a tour to promote Fixed at Zero and something more supernatural soon! For more information, check out versaemergemusic.com