Walking through VIP area at The House of Blues in Las Vegas, Steven Berez of Venrez follows his tour manager, Troy Farrell, through the dimly-lit balcony. The repeat guttural beat of the bass drum resonates as they search for a quiet spot to chat. Taking the elevator down, solace is found in a banquet room bathed in gold overtones and heavy velvet curtains. Seated at the head of a massive king style table, Berez suppresses his excitement for the upcoming night.
Steven (Ven) Berez/vocals, Jason Womack/guitar, Alex Kane/guitar, Michael Bradford/bass and Ed David/drums formed in 2010 as a group of friends helping friends. “I think it just shows how humble most artists in the music industry are for the most part. It all started with our house up in the Hollywood Hills. My roommate at the time, Tommy “Joho” Johnson, was a singer songwriter. We had a huge sundeck on the house and Tommy suggested we build a tiki-bar. I said sure, go ahead and do it. Next thing I know I have all these guys over that are phenomenal musicians, including Dewey Bragg who is the lead singer of Kill Devil Hill. Joho was good friends with Jason Womack who was the bass player for Juliette Lewis and The Licks for three and a half years. Jason and I started jamming and figured out we could write some really great songs together. I asked him what he really wanted to do with this. He answered ‘I really want to do music full time.’ I laughed and said so do I, so damn, let’s do it! That was four years ago and here we are today!”
The songwriting chemistry between Berez and Womack is more than just a match. “It’s all Jason Womack, I call him the professor. I think he’s a genius. He writes the music and I write the lyrics. Jason was influenced by The Jesus and Mary Chain and the bands that were influenced by that type of genre. Born in the 70’s, he grew up with the 70’s beat of rock music and I believe he pulls from all of his experiences and influences from that era. The Venrez sound is actually all of Jason’s creation. I think our sound is a new genre. It’s American rock and roll, it sounds like something you’ve heard before but yet you haven’t. There seems to be a familiarity to it and that’s what we wanted to create. Clearly when you have a new band with a new sound that everyone is really digging or liking it, they want to compare it to something, but you really can’t compare us to anything. I think we have something that’s very rare between us. It’s quite unbelievable how it’s happened. We write some very powerful songs together.” Their unique sound of classic rock of the 1970’s meets the grunge movement of the 1990’s has proven that their previous genre differences are now mixed perfectly. Davis and Womack were originally with Juliette Lewis and The Licks and Kane was a guitarist for Life Sex and Death, as well as Blitzkrieg. “Our music is our own, not only with Venrez, but with acoustic stuff that Venrez doesn’t even play, we have already recorded an acoustic album that we will probably do something with next year.” Touring with Fuel for a brief span, Berez speaks of a notable moment about a show at the Mohegan Sun Casino. “It was an acoustic show in The Wolves Den to an audience of 2,500 people. We had played some prettier songs that feature my vocals in a much different way than Venrez does. Jason walks out with a guitar, then I walk out; it was 2,500 people, a sound system…it was a microscope from hell,” he says laughing. “We all kind of puckered up a little bit, but we really put on a stellar and memorable performance. That was when we decided to record all the songs we had been jamming together for the past four years. It’s going to be really great because the harmonies we have between each other are just something that doesn’t happen every day. It has kind of an Alice In Chains feel to it.”
American Illusion will be the bands second album in three years and was released on July 30. The first single from the album titled Unforeseen is receiving rave reviews for the video released on June 18. “Yes! Unforeseen is making quite a bit of noise and we’ve had some really good pre-sales for the album. I really do think it’s a major progression forward for the band. When we recorded our first album, Sell The Lie, Alex, Mike and Ed had just come on board. We felt we were a bad boy band, so we went out and got us some bad boys,” he grins. “I think we were then just a group of talented musicians making an album, whereas several tours later, American Illusion is our first album as a band. I think that is a big difference and you can really hear the tightness on this album. We toured six times together with a few times in Europe over the past three some odd years. I don’t think anyone’s going anywhere. We all feel like something good is about to happen”, he says with a huge smile across his face. Berez explains his feeling about his music and the title to the new album with an unexpected conviction in his voice, “The name American Illusion came from my wife, the beautiful, talented actress, producer, director Anna Gurji. Of course, Tommy “Joho” Johnson was my roommate at the time who introduced me to Jason Womack. They came up with the design for the album cover. I feel a responsibility to write songs that have some substance to them, to teach some lessons, make people aware like Bob Dylan and John Lennon did. I feel music is lacking that tremendously today. It’s not all about sex, drugs and rock and roll. The title track to the current album that’s out, Sell The Lie, was about corporate greed, blood for oil. That was the song took a shot at government control and senseless killing. The song on American Illusion, Intellectual Drool which I wrote the day after it was announced that they had supposedly killed Bin Laden, but that’s another subject. With each album I kind of take my shot at my being vehemently against murder for money. That’s what going on in the world today and I think it’s deplorable. One of the songs on the album is a remake of The Beat Goes On which we did for a soundtrack to a movie and the director wanted something that hadn’t been covered too often and to make it our own. Jason came up with a demo of the song and we just loved it. It is definitely the most alternative track we have ever recorded.”
Venrez toured America this year, and hasn’t toured Europe since 2011. “We’ve done at least 30 or 40 shows this year, and of course the last three shows with Slash. We were to go out on the road with the great Steven Adler beginning in July and do 25 shows. We were booked a total of four months, but unfortunately Steven had to cancel the tour and that did hurt us touring wise for the summer. However, our brilliant manager, Bob Chippardi was able to get us the last three shows with Slash and we’ve done two and tonight’s the closing show. It’s a dream come true to play with Slash and I’ve been dying to play Vegas for the past three years. Man, what a way to do it!! Slash, Las Vegas, House of Blues. Yeah Baby!” The band joined Alice Cooper and Fuel and will no doubt be touring with some great bands again. As they toured 13 or 14 months behind Sell The Lie and expect to do the same with American Illusion. “Last year when we toured with Fuel, we played the South and finished at The Hard Rock in Biloxi. They came out in droves to see us that night, as Michael and Jason grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. Now is the best we have been received ever. We are playing a nice mix of Sell The Lie and American Illusion because a lot of people who saw us last year with Alice Cooper are returning to see us again. This being our sixth tour in three years, it’s a huge difference. We’ve always been well received but this time is outstanding. No doubt about it,” he states. “As for the acoustic album, we won’t probably even think about doing anything with it until well into next year. We have a lot we want to do with American Illusion. I think the fans like to hear the stripped down thing and I’m not sure there are a lot of artists out there than want to do it, or can. There’s not a lot of bands that can go out there and do what Alice In Chains did in the 90’s on MTV Unplugged, but we can do that so why not showcase it? We are already well into pre-production for the next record. We are writing some really heavy dark stuff, it’s going to be another natural progression for the band. After this show we are going to take a break between tours and then start working on and recording some of what we’ve been writing. If the fans will have us, (knocks on the table) so far they seem to like us, we’ll be around a long time, put out a lot of albums and do a lot of tours.”
Just a short 45 minutes before it is time for Venrez to take the stage, Berez eagerly anticipates the moment. “We are kind of like the Stones in the 70’s, you go on feel. How the players are feeling and how the crowd reacts. We do sound like the album but it’s live. We’re not going to be like MUSE or U2 and have every show be the same. I’m going to sing every song different. I’m going to do something different at each show. In fact, I have no idea what I’m going to do at a show. It’s live, it’s real and I think that’s why the fans like it. There’s nothing scripted or choreographed, it’s just us. Tonight is the closing show with Slash and we are going to leave it all on the stage baby! We are going to kick some serious ass tonight!” As he stands to say goodbye, Berez adds, “I’d like to say thank you to all the fans that support us in rock n roll. Without you we have no careers, and I feel a lot of artists lose that along the way. I’ll stand out there all night long and sign autographs all night long.”
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