Heavy Folk | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Music

Heavy Folk

Salt Lake City’s Subrosa are so not gothic.

by

comment

When Subrosa debuted at an intimate house party less than two years ago, lead singer/guitarist Rebecca Vernon realized the true meaning of stage fright.

nn

An experienced drummer who’s pounded skins for Violet Run, Stiletto and Spörk, she’d taken maybe eight guitar lessons before unveiling her pet project to the public. In a performance with now-defunct punk-rockers The Knvz'who, fueled by Karen Cognito’s ferocious howl, absolutely killed the living-room stage'Subrosa surprised the crowd with a set of well-produced, if clumsily executed, electric-folk songs. Perhaps more surprising was how terrified Vernon appeared in front of a relatively warm, accepting audience. White knuckled and wide-eyed, she apologized for nearly every misstep.

nn

“I felt like a total dork,” she says after an equally informal recent house gig. “When I’m behind the drums, I can put on my blank face and not look at anyone. But singing in front of people for the first time was just nerve-wracking. I was shaking. I kept looking at my fingers and playing the wrong notes.”

nn

Since then, Vernon and bandmates'electric violinist Sarah Pendleton, drummer Bonie Shupe and, until recently, bassist Julie Stutznegger'have improved by leaps and bounds. What started as Vernon and Pendleton fumbling around on a shared practice amp in Vernon’s dank basement steadily evolved into a sound wholly unique to Salt Lake City’s downtown-rock scene. Inspired by old Red Bennies recordings (circa Hey Rocker), Mississippi Delta open-tuning and Appalachian murder ballads, Subrosa waver between deep, low-octave chords and chilling screams rooted in years of pent-up frustration.

nn

While dark, the group is gothic in apparel only. They might wear black lace and corsets, but modern goth is distinguished by electronic accents'Pendleton’s violin is Subrosa’s only hint of treble. Misguided labels, however, tend to work in their favor.

nn

“Because some people think we’re goth, some think we’re metal, some think we’re stoner, it seems like we’re able to play in a lot of different scenes,” Vernon says.

nn

They didn’t always fit in. Forget booking shows'Vernon could barely find anyone willing to risk membership in a band whose members didn’t hone their chops in junior high like virtually every other musician in the scene. Some even considered Subrosa with a bit of outdated bias.

nn

“I think a lot of them were like, ‘I don’t know about that. Girls, what could that be like?’” Pendleton says, adding that she doesn’t fault critics’ skepticism.

nn

Turns out, Subrosa do just fine on their own. They’ve faced myriad setbacks, including one member’s departure to pursue love in New York City, a failed experiment with the timpani, and Stutznegger’s deal-breaking diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome (former Wolfs bassist Carri Wakefield, aka Karen Cognito, joined in December), to produce an album that almost nails Vernon’s original intent: The Worm Has Turned (MySpace.com/SubrosaTheatre) features plenty of traditional storytelling, straightforward lyrics, spooky melodies and stripped-down harmonies, but even the most appealing numbers pale next to unfinished tracks off the group’s forthcoming release.

nn

Songs like “Christine,” with its instantly catchy chorus of bratty taunts, and “How to Neglect Your Heart,” which appears scratchy and muddied on Worm, are fully realized under musician/producer Eric LeCroix’s direction. A huge stoner-rock fan, he recognizes how to highlight big, fat, driving riffs. The only thing missing is that eerily beautiful occult element that made Subrosa’s first release so endearing.

nn

“They were recorded on a $99 4-track from Musician’s Friend. They’re super lo-fi but they’re also super gritty, like they were recorded in hell’s chambers or something,” Vernon says. “I would like to bring [that sound] back, but no matter what we do we can’t replicate it.”

nn

Not that she’s fixated on the past. Vernon’s ultimate dream is to hook up with a small-to-medium-sized indie label that could support Subrosa on tour for the rest of their lives: “We’re not a band that’s like, ‘We just want to play to our friends in a bar on the weekend.’”

nn

SUBROSA
nThe Broken Record
n1051 S. 300 West
nFriday, Jan. 12
n10 p.m.
n532-4775

Add a comment