Interview: Vulture Whale

Vulture Whale

I was hanging at the Alabamy (yeah, that’s what I call it) showcase at SXSW a few months ago when my Web penpal Duquette Johnston introduced me to former Verbena drummer Les Nuby. “Les is in Vulture Whale, they’re playing later,” Duquette told me though I had other plans (like seeing Dead Confederate next door).

Fortunately, a few weeks after SXSW ended, a copy of Vulture Whale’s self-titled sophomore release showed up in my mailbox and I agree with Blender magazine’s review that said “spin this thing when you’re sick and fucking tired of Kings of Leon and their arena-filling corporate rock” (okay, they didn’t really say that but they did namedrop KOL and the Drive-By Truckers as examples of Southern rock bands that Vulture Whales DOESN’T sound like!).

That tired-but-true description of “straight-up rock n’ roll” certainly applies to these fellas, I’m picturing it as the soundtrack to a drive home at 2:30am this summer after seeing a rock show in a sweaty club and drinking a few too many PBRs. You need something to fuel the ride home, something to sing along and air drum to while focusing clearly on the road ahead.

Drummer Jake Waitzman was kind enough to compile answers from his bandmates (Wes McDonald, Keelan Parrish, and Les Nuby) for the questions I sent last week. Hang on tight kiddies, this is a good one.

Vulture Whale movie

I just read somewhere (Was it Billboard.com? Maybe it was in Variety Magazine?) about the Vulture Whale movie that is in production. The article mentioned that Vince Vaughn will be playing the part of Les but didn’t give any details on the rest of the cast. Can you tell me who will be playing the roles of Wes, Jake and Keelan?

Yeah, you read it in Fangoria. Vince is actually playing the part of Travis Morgan (Skybucket Records). Les is played by David Lee Roth. The rest of us are playing ourselves. Les directs.

Have you decided on the tagline for the movie? Is it something like “The story of a man, his band, and their dream”?

The movie is a magical realism appropriation of David Lee Roth’s autobiography, Crazy From the Heat. The tagline is going to be “Nuts, Balls, and Dicks: the Slamming and the Kicking.”

It was mentioned that the movie is loosely based on real events but that some things will be embellished and/or even added to make it a more well-rounded story. Are you at liberty to tell me about the scenes that are in the movie that didn’t happen in real life?

The part where Les jumps out of a limo on a traffic-congested bridge in Tampa and runs a couple miles to rendevous with a radio station van did not happen. He trotted and walked. He smokes.

What are you like a big Ned’s Atomic Dustbin fan or something? You killed your television and all you have left is movies?

Who plays Wes’s love interest and will the song “Head Turner” be playing in the background the first time she is seen on screen?

“Red Hot” will be the song you hear when she enters the frame in slo-mo. It’s Bea Arthur. The last thing she did before her untimely passing. May her kind soul rest in peace. Great gal. Loved a good pastrami sandwich.

Obviously the soundtrack will be filled with Vulture Whale compositions but what other bands have you lined up to be on the soundtrack? And, what song – other than ones you wrote and performed – will play a pivotal role in the telling of the story?

Obviously. DJ Shadow and John Williams collaborated and turned in some great stuff. We’ve got Toby Keith rapping over it, essentially narrating the storyline. We are big fans of his flow in that song “I Wanna Talk About Me.” Just some extraordinary song-smithing there.

I know you don’t want to give too much away, but who plays the part of Teedy? And, how did you manage to land J Mascis in a cameo role for the part of the scientist, Sum Yung? BRILLIANT casting move in my opinion. Any truth to the rumor that it’s actually J singing vocals on “The Waves”?

Teedy is played brilliantly by Ally Sheedy. J didn’t think he looked quite youthful and Asian enough for the Sum Yung part, so it will be played by Jonathan Ke Quan, best known for his role as Short Round in The Temple of Doom. You wouldn’t want to see him now. We went back and extracted him from scenes in The Goonies and Temple and super-imposed him into our movie. A big shout out to our friends at Industrial Light and Magic! We’re also using CGI to re-animate the late great Charles Bronson as our tour manager/spiritual guide/dreamweaver. J did actually overdub the vocals of “The Waves”. We met him at ILM while we were in post. I think he was working on a new Dinosaur Jr. video game for the Wii. He was wearing one of those green screen suits with all the little balls all over it doing a bunch of kicks and shit.

Was any of the movie actually filmed at Teedy’s or did you recreate the restaurant on some soundstage in L.A.? Any chance you’ll have any promotional tie-in’s with Teedy’s once the movie is released – like, Vulture Whale action figures with the purchase of a combo meal or a Vulture Whale mug with the purchase of a large, to-go coffee?

Teedy’s has been good to us. We have a booth reserved in every town (that has a Teedy’s). We had a falling out with them about a year ago, though, but we’ve since patched it up. We took issue with a bunch of items on their menu that used the progressive verb tense. Like “Pepper Ranch Chicken Lickers” and “Onion Slammer Blossom Dunkers”. I mean what’s with all the slamming and the kicking? Seriously- why encourage people to play with their food? But now we’re kind of on the Teedy’s payroll. A lot of product placement in the film and such.

Yeah, around the time of release they’ll launch the “Vulture Whale Clappy Meal”. The way it’s been explained to us is, you order it, then when they bring it to your table, the whole staff has to come out and do a big clap along to one of our songs. The rest of the patrons will probably get pissed when this goes on, because their chip basket will be empty or something. As far as coffee mugs, you get a free mug if you order coffee and walk out with your mug. . . Vulture Whale style.

Having seen the run away success of the Anvil documentary, will you follow in their footsteps and play shows at various movie screenings across the country and at influential film festivals?

We don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps. We’re releasing it exclusively on VHS or Beta. Our lawyers are in talks with the lawyers for VHS or Beta about it now. The guys in VHS or Beta are a little concerned about how we can release a movie on them. But we know it’s possible. We’ve tested the format on lab rats, and only a few of them have died.

Now, I’m certainly not a scriptwriter but can I plant an idea in your head? If this movie takes off the way I think it will, how about a prequel that shows how Les came to join the band? Maybe you could even feature cameos by his ex-Verbena bandmates. I hear the ladies go crazy for Mr.Bondy and that alone would put butts in theater seats.

The problem is the ladies actually really do go crazy for AA. They have to be restrained and institutionalized for months. Doesn’t really help with word of mouth promotion, so we’ll probably steer clear of that one. The prequel will likely center on Keelan’s time in the Sahara, before we met him. When he was over there diggin’ wells. He saw the Vulture Whale come up out of the sand and then soar off into the clouds. We believe him. You have to, though. If you try to doubt him, he pulls a knife, gets in your face, and says real firm and slow like, “It weren’t no damn mirage.”

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Here’s the first video from the soundtrack, “Thought Eyes”. If you squint hard enough, you’ll see David Lee Roth’s cameo.

3 Replies to “Interview: Vulture Whale”

  1. Weird. I was at that Alabama showcase. I also sneaked over for Dead Confederate and still made it back for Vulture Whale. One of the best shows I saw at SXSW!

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