A Few Minutes With… The Va Va Voodoos
ALBANY – Continuing with our end-of-year check-ins with local artists and bands, this weekend I found myself fully ensconced in a wonderfully positive, energetic, and intriguing discussion with veterans of the local music scene, The Va Va Voodoos. Humorous and informative, keep reading on to learn what this band has been up to over the course of the pandemic, as well as some teasers for what we might expect from them in the near future. To support the band and check out already released material, follow the link at the end of the article!
Lucas Garrett: Hey, there! Thanks for the chat. Nippertown has been going around checking in on some of this area’s wide selection of artists and bands. I hear you have something new in the works! What’s been going on with The Va Va Voodoos?
Jo Agopovich: Hello! [motioning to a CD] This is us. This is our newest CD. It just got released. It’s the Toad Hall Sessions. We recorded it at our friend Steve Blake’s studio out in Massachusetts. We’re pretty happy with it. We’re very excited that it is hitting the shelves…
Johnny Mystery: How happy are you, Joann? Tell us how happy you are.
JA: I am so damn happy. I’m just so damn happy I could jump up and dance, but I had a long day and I’m tired, so, I’m not going to do that.
JM: The disc itself is available now at the River Street Beat Shop, on River Street in Troy, NY; sold by a very famous friend, Jimmy Barrett. We’ve got a show coming up, December 18th, at the Ancient Order of Hibernians Hall [Watervliet] for Christmas. It’s going to be the Erotics, Blackcat Elliot, Brother T’s band, X-bred…
LG: That’s a hell of a lineup right there.
JM: Yep There’s going to be pictures taken with Santa Claus – a very different Santa Claus.
JM: That will be very fun; there’s going to be door prizes. Also, there’s going to be a 50-50 for Toys for Tots. And, you are encouraged to bring a toy for Toys for Tots; that wonderful program the marines put on every year for kids, who otherwise would not get a toy under the tree – or not that many toys. We have some gigs coming up in ’22; I can’t talk about them too much, ‘cause I don’t know all the specifics. The first one we have coming up is going to be at Pauly’s, I think on January 6th.
JA: I have a good feeling that 2022 is going to be an awesome year. We’re already hitting the ground running, as John says. We might have a show coming up in March but don’t know the details just yet. We’re just raring to play out whenever we can. How many CDs did we put out in 18 months?
JM: Three CDs.
JA: Three CDs in 18 months.
LG: That’s pretty damn prolific, right there.
JM: We weren’t going to be able to play out ‘cause of COVID…
LG: Yeah! How are you guys handling that? Now, they have a new variant and no one really knows what’s going on…
JM: No one’s said anything to us, yet, so we’re just going to keep going ahead.
JA: We’re taking all the usual precautions, of course. I work out in the public, so I’m pretty much masked all the time. I am double vaxxed and getting my booster when I can. When this whole thing started, a lot of people formed small pods. We’re being careful and we decided to still rehearse so we’re good. We’re being super careful about keeping ourselves and our friends safe. I nearly lost a couple of really good friends of mine to [COVID]; I don’t want this happening to anybody.
JM: We’re going to continue recording, at least. That’s what we did during the pandemic.
LG: Now, where did you record your albums?
JM: The first we did – we recorded before it hit the fan – that was in Troy, at Don Fury’s studi. The following fall, he said he was opening his studio up to one band a week, and we were the first band in there. We went in and recorded the entire album in three and a half hours.
LG: Damn! The entire album in three and a half hours, huh?
JM: Yessir, we did. And, it sounds great.
JA: Bang, bang, bang.
JM: It sounds terrific. From that album spawned an actual song that became a charted song. It got on James Prell’s show in Florida and he works with the Independent Alliance charts. The song is called, “Liar, Liar.” It’s a remake of a song from the group The Castaways, back in the 1960s. That made it on the national charts. It made it up to #16. That came out of nowhere; they started playing it and people liked it.
JA: That was from this record right here [pictured above]. It basically says the Va Va Voodoos in Japanese.
JM: Then, the second one. You have the second one, right?
JA: Yeah! Here is the album, Apocalypse Wow! (pictured below).
JM: Tell him about the picture on the front, there.
JA: The people on the cover – the old-timey looking couple with the firearms – those are my grandparents. It’s hard to tell; there’s a guy there standing with an ax. That’s Earl Spencer, who was my great Aunt Ida’s boyfriend; and probably Ida took this picture. Apparently, Earl and Ida lived in sin for several years before they actually got married, which is a big no-no in those days. Aunt Ida kind of marched to her own drummer and didn’t care. Also, she could’ve been a world-class concert pianist, if she wanted to. But, she was quite happy teaching piano to kids for her life. If there’s any musical talent, maybe I got a smidge of hers, I hope. That’s Apocolypse Wow!
LG: What is the lineup of the Va Va Voodoos, for those that don’t know?
JM: I’m Johnny, I play guitar.
JA: I’m Jo. I play bass.
JM: Our drummer’s name is Tony Vasquez. He does primal screams.
LG: Very nice.
JM: It’s nice. We make a nice, terrible noise. But, people seem to like it!
JA: Tony’s also a really good graphic artist, and he is on the covers for our past three records, there. We’ll give my great-aunt Ida credit for the original photo, but Tony did some work on the shot. It’s a lot of fun.
LG: Where did the name Va Va Voodoos come from?
JM: When we were the Mysteios, I wrote a song and we recorded it, called, “Va Va Va Va Va Va Voodoo Baby.” After we recorded the song, I thought, “You know, that’d be a good name for a band.” But, we were already the Mysteios. After our drummer left, we got a new one and decided to call ourselves The Va Va Voodoos. I think it’s worked out better. It’s got more of a… it’s snappy. It sounds right.
LG: I really like the name.
JA: Thank you!
LG: What else is going on with you guys? Anything you’d like to talk about that I may have missed?
JA: Well, I’m trying to work on putting more videos up on YouTube. I did a really basic – Tony does live videos, which are great – and then I did kind of… We’d like to do more animated-type stuff. We have a lot of visual ideas I want to work on. I did a video; it’s really just one static, weird picture of Conway Twitty from the eighties for our song, “Twin City.” But, it’s fun to listen to.
JM: Our one and only ballad.
LG: One and only ballad, huh?
JM: Yeah, it’s pretty different. It’s got a glockenspiel in it. Some keyboards and stuff.
JA: Timpanis, right?
JM: Aren’t those kettle drums? The place we recorded in September; he had kettle drums or timpanis, I don’t remember. And, glockenspiels. I said, “You should put those things on the ballad, Steve. Why don’t you Phil Spector it up?” He said, “Oh, you don’t want me to do that.” I said, “Oh, yes I do.” It sounds spectacular, but I don’t know how well it goes over for a band like us to have a ballad like that. Our fans are used to hearing us do punk stuff. We’re very heavily influenced by the Cramps, New York Dolls…
JA: The Ramones.
JM: The Ramones. I’m a big Black Sabbath fan. I like metal. I like punk. That’s the type of music that we do; and it’s got a sixties vibe to it, too. But, this song is different. It’s very different. I haven’t sent the CDs out; I’m going to do that this week. I think next year is going to be really good for us.
JA: We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but keep your eyes out. It’ll be a very good year. I’m very excited about it.
LG: Well, I heard of you guys a few years ago before the pandemic. I was going to reach out; I heard of you then and thought, “Wow, this is a pretty cool band.”
JA: Thank you!
JM: We got a “schtick” down and we’re still working on our “schtick.” Hopefully, we don’t poke ourselves with the “schtick.”
JA: Walk softly and carry a big “schtick.”
LG: Thank you for taking the time tonight to talk.
JM: Thank you for inviting us! We appreciate it.
LG: Have a goodnight! Rock and roll!
JM: That’s what it’s all about, man. That’s what it’s all about!