Abe Vigoda - Biography
Abe Vigoda is a Los Angeles-based four-piece self-proclaimed “tropical punk” band, who took their handle from the actor of the same name (Barney Miller and The Godfather). Since the group began playing together as high school classmates in 2004, Abe Vigoda has earned a reputation as one of the indie-underground’s freshest acts while playing gigs at the all-ages venue, The Smell, in downtown Los Angeles. The band has also evolved from its original dissonant, amorphous sound with the incorporation of distinct baroque island elements and worldbeats into their music, a la Vampire Weekend.
Hailing originally from Chino, in California’s Inland Empire, Abe Vigoda came together when Juan Velasquez (guitar) introduced himself to Michael Vidal (vocals) when he saw Vidal wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt. The two, along with David Reichart (bass) and Reggie Guerrero (drums), began playing together, despite the fact that Guerrero had never played drums in his life. Velasquez had use of his parents van to get them and their gear to gigs, namely The Smell in Los Angeles, where they made a lot of friends. Already coalescing as an art-punk entity, experimenting with genres and styles, Abe Vigoda released their first album—Sky Route/Star Roof—via Dean Spunt’s label, Post Present Medium (PPM) on vinyl only. This was followed by a second small release—Kid City—this time released by friend and Smell owner, Jim Smith, on olFactory Records. Though the band was still raw, they were energetic and just schizoid enough to cater to whims musically.
As a full-blown scene developed at the art space, The Smell, Abe Vigoda recorded their next album in 2008—Skeleton (PPM Records). Blending together disparate elements such as tropical forays (via mimicking the sound of a steel drum with guitars), ska flashbacks and colonial noise, as on “Visi Rings.” Only two tracks on the album exceed three minutes, yet all possess varying levels of jolly slightly-off-kilter discordance, punctuated with berserk drumming, cowbell and—in the case of “Forever Whatever”—distortive fun time. The album spawned a lot of critical success, and pushed Abe Vigoda towards the front of innovative underground bands that were at the time dotting the indie landscape, drawing comparisons to Animal Collective, Fishbone and High Places.
Abe Vigoda’s next offering was in the form of an EP, 2009’s Reviver, a five-song package of further honed—if slightly digressive—noise pop. Less frenetic on whole than Skeleton, the album is more inviting to initial listens. The opening track “Don’t Lie” and the end track “The Reaper” make for interesting bookends, as both contain a gothier-sounding Vidal and catchier hooks than previous output. Abe Vigoda also dishes up a cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Wild Heart,” which, at nearly six minutes in length, is a long hissing fuse towards a single stick of dynamite rather than the smaller packs of jumping jacks all going off at once, as fans had come to expect from previous Abe Vigoda songs.
A new drummer, Dane Chadwick, joined the band shortly after Reviver was recorded. The band released Crush in 2010.