INTERVIEW: Kendra Villiger and Colin LaMure talk Villa Mure, their new EP, & Immortality!

The music of Villa Mure builds moods, painting in broad, simple strokes to tell their story. Imagine if you will, mid-90’s alt-rock filtered through Pink Floyd and southern rock, but stripped down and laid to its barest essentials, just pure rock goodness. The brainchild of Kendra (nee) Villiger and Colin Lamure, their music matches their personalities, at least insomuch as I could tell, which is pretty damned chilled out, just a couple of folks looking to do what they do, as they do, and let that out as it will.

You can hear them below live on WCHQ and catch them tonight at Zanzabar with Darlington Pairs and Phourist and the Photons for their Paint the Sky EP. We caught up with them to ask about their new EP, their music, and the kids! 

Never Nervous: What are your musical backgrounds?

Colin Lamure: I started playing guitar at nine. As a teenager, I played my guitar more than I hung out with friends, and I didn’t know very many people who played music too, unfortunately, so I ended up just learning songs in my bedroom for years. At eighteen, I started playing bass. Bass guitar works with my mind a lot better than guitar does, so that opened up a lot of possibilities for me. I soon had a lot of jams buddies from work and college, and for a few years I played in this terrible experimental band. Picking up bass got me playing a lot wider range of musical styles. I have primarily stuck to alternative rock when making my own music, but I’ll play anything with anyone if we get along.

Kendra and I started playing together about four years ago. We share a lot of the same beliefs about music as well as a lot of the same favorite artists (70’s progressive rock: Boston, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, etc was the common ground that brought us together in the first place). We have very different backgrounds in some ways (she started playing in cover bands, I have almost always pursued original music), but we share the same kinds of ambitions and philosophies. We really make music for one reason: It makes us happy.

Kendra Lamure: I started with piano when I was a kid, played clarinet in middle school band, and then picked up the electric guitar when I was 14. Played in cover bands for 8 or so years before finally writing my own music.

“We really make music for one reason: It makes us happy.”

NN: How did the band start? Give us your origin story, and don’t be afraid to get spicy.

K: Back when we both attended IU Southeast, we had a class together but never spoke. We were aware that the other played music. When the semester ended, I had begun my own solo music project and needed a bass player. I messaged him and we started hanging out. A couple of the riffs on the album came from that time when we just jammed at his apartment well before this group started. Between other bands and then playing in a few cover bands together, we hadn’t really gotten the original project going. Eventually, some years later, magical stuff happened and we started dating…

C: Villa Mure started shortly after we started dating about a couple years ago. We had been in and out of failing projects with each other for a while, but we loved working together, so we decided to remove all the other elements (people) and create a project just for the two of us.

At the time we had no experience writing music together, just playing it. That was a little scary. Creating the initial chemistry can be difficult, but we have always been good at getting through to each other, and this was thankfully no exception. Kendra’s thinking tends to naturally fill all the gaps in my own, and vice versa.

We got married shortly after starting the band. “Villa Mure” is a combination of our last names at the time: Villiger and LaMure. We really hate coming up with band names, and that one worked out well enough for us. No complicated meaning, but plenty of ambiguity if you don’t already know what it means.

NN: Who does what? Who plays what instrument? How is the labor divided in the band?

C: So far as playing music goes, Kendra plays guitar and sings, and I play bass and sing less. Jordan plays drums, and one of these days we’ll probably have him singing. Kendra and I write the songs.

Outside of the strictly music part of things, Kendra handles artwork and layout, and I take our pictures, for the most part. We have a lot of overlap in our skills, so we’re able to be really flexible. To make it simple, we both do everything, but we both have our specialties.

We record ourselves. I handle most of technical side of that, but making music together is entirely a collaborative process. We both have lots of ideas, and those ideas tend to work very well.

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NN: The FB page lists just Kendra and Colin as the band, although I know you have someone that plays percussion. What can you tell us about that?

C: Jordan Hubbard is our drummer. We started the band with the intent to keep the musical direction between Kendra and I, so that’s what the band really is at heart, me and her. But we knew early on that we would need extra hands pretty soon to make our ideas happen on stage, so it was inevitable that we would have to get a drummer. We’ve known Jordan for a while. He used to come out to our acoustic gigs and jam along on our cajon, so back in August, we asked him to effectively join the band as the drummer. It was a great decision. Jordan’s an awesome musician all around, and his style and versatility give Ken and I a lot of room to play however we want. At some point in the future, we may add more live musicians, such as a keyboardist, but for now we’re digging the dynamic we have as a power trio. I personally am most comfortable in a three piece band, and with Jordan on drums, it doesn’t limit us too much.

It is also worth noting that Jordan is more than just the drummer. When the shit hits the fan, Jordan is somehow always prepared and equipped to handle any situation, at any time. Seriously, if we forgot to bring something to a gig, Jordan happens to have two in his trunk. He never fails. I have no idea how he does it.

K: This is not a drummer advertisement. Do not steal our drummer. He’s ours. You cannot have him. 😀

NN: How do you compose? is it just the two of you jamming together? Is it one person coming in with a riff? Is it lyrically driven?

C: If we ever want to be an efficient songwriting team, we will probably come up with some method of writing songs, but for now, it seems like we don’t compose so much as songs just kind of slowly write themselves over time, and then it just happens. Kendra will be sitting around playing her guitar or something in the living room, and a riff sticks, we play with it for a bit, then put it on the back burner until the next part comes along. Sometimes a lot comes at once, sometimes it takes a while.

One thing that tends to happen a lot is that one of us will come up with a bit, and the other will reimagine it. That’s the case in at least a few of the riffs on our record. Like, I’ll have a riff, and Kendra will put it in a different time signature or change the accents or tempo or whatever seems right. That’s how a lot of songs start.

I would say our music is not very lyrically driven. Lyrics are usually the last part we come up with, even though vocal melodies tend to be one of the first things written. I enjoy lyrics that speak to me, but I would have to say frankly, it’s the least important part of music to me, and I don’t consider myself particular good at coming up with them either, and usually we have to work together writing them. I don’t totally hate it, though. I enjoy attempting to fit a complex idea into a few short stanzas, but it can be frustrating to struggle to communicate yourself within the confines of what sounds good and works with the music you have written. So usually we go for the vague and impressionistic approach, which, for me, allows more mental energy to focus on the musical part.

Writing music with Kendra is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had creatively. We both put our whole self into it and don’t compromise the other. It’s really an exact 50/50 kind of writing process, and it works best that way for both of us.

“It just feels very free and limitless when we write together. It’s 100% teamwork and we have a lot of fun with it.”

K: We kinda write at random times. Sometimes it’s in the car singing about some nonsensical silliness. Sometimes it’s at home making pancakes. It just feels very free and limitless when we write together. It’s 100% teamwork and we have a lot of fun with it.

NN: Speaking of, tell us a little about your lyrics. What’s on the table, what’s off, subject matter wise?

C: I’ve never really thought about what would be considered off the table. If I feel that something is important enough to attempt to express it lyrically, then it should be on the table. If it isn’t, I guess I would be unlikely to find the drive to write about it anyway. I think that few things, if any, should be out of bounds for artistic expression.

K: Lyrics just kind of come. We don’t really have any rules of what’s on or off the table, but we tend to like to write about ideas of things as opposed to personal experiences. Sometimes they might just be about a weird thought we had, and other times we just put words to what the song instrumentally sounded like it was about. What’s nice is that we’re super honest with each other and would tell the other if something flat out sucks. But we also have a lot of respect for the other’s creativity, and we usually like what the other comes up with much more than what we ourselves come up with, haha. So, who knows what we might say next.

NN: What’s the story behind Paint the Sky? How and where did you record it? What was that process like?

C: Paint the Sky is sort of an example of impressionistic writing, but there is a fun story behind it. I bet Kendra would tell that better than I would.

We recorded that song, and all of the songs we have so far, at home. Well, at Kendra’s parents’ home. We started working on some demos of songs that we had written, because we wanted tracks to show our songs to potential drummers (Jordan hadn’t come along yet). So we just recorded guitar and bass together, then Kendra recorded a track playing the cajon as a point of reference for how the drums may sound. We added some other percussion instruments and mixed it a little, and as it turned out, Ken really liked the overall effect of using a lot of different instruments for rhythm as opposed to a proper drum kit. So we started over, this time more seriously, and recorded five songs. We decided to release that as our first EP. Even though we intended to end up sounding different ultimately, we really wanted to record this particular stage of our development. So we are the only two people who played on the EP at all. We will not do another record that way, but I’m glad we did this one like that.

K: The idea for the song came when just talking to each other. I remember driving in the car to somewhere and seeing beautiful sunsets. They look like paintings. Everyday they’re different and can never be the same again, almost like it came from someone’s hand somewhere. Maybe a deceased artist. We started talking about an idea that what if when you die, your name (maybe not your name, but your identity or your essence/existence) goes into a draft of sorts. When you are called, it is your day to paint the sky. It’s kind of just a silly lighthearted idea of what might be in the afterlife. We didn’t originally talk up this idea for a song. It was just a fun conversation that inspired more fun ideas and conversations. It’s something we typically would say when there was a nice looking sky. “The sky painters did good today. Whoever’s day it was…”

Some time passed. We were listening to Billy Breathes by Phish a lot at that time, and that’s when we came up with that last section of the song. We just started singing those words to a melody with an acoustic. Then the harmony came and we sang it over and over again. Eventually we sat down to write the first half of the song. That’s when we expanded on the idea of painting the sky and what would happen when it was your time. In the first half of the song, you have been gone for some time, but you get to come back to the world for a day to see what’s going on and what it’s all about. However long that day might feel as a dead person, we haven’t decided. But you have that time to figure out what you want to say or express to life, and then paint your message in the sky with color. That is your time to paint the sky. It’s a fairly abstract silly idea of a song, but it’s very special to me the way we entertain each others thoughts, creating imaginary worlds through conversation.

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NN: Is there a theme to the record? Is it your first?

C: This is our first record. There wasn’t an intentional theme when we started writing it, but I noticed during the recording process that we seemed to write a lot about trust and understanding, whether or not it comes across clearly in the lyrics. It’s a record for best friends.

NN: What does the title mean?

C: The title comes from a line in the first song, “In the Room.” It was kind of a late decision to call the EP that, and we were initially going to name it after that track. But I have always thought it was cool when an album was named after a line in a song rather than a song title.

We decided to make Stay With Me the title only a short time ago. I was thinking about the lyrical themes that seemed to be present. They seemed to be mostly about knowing yourself and trusting others. The line “Stay With Me” in the context of the song itself is meant to say “Let me in: I want to know you. I want to understand”, and I thought that was one of the more positive ways to frame the general impression of that group of songs.

NN: What constitutes a good live show and why? What about a bad one?

C: So many things constitute a good live show, and no one live show can do it all. A good setlist is key, of course; it has to ebb and flow the exact same way that a song does. A lot of other simple things play into it. The venue has to make you feel good (and it has to sound good. Not too loud). It’s got to be at the right time, there has to be a good not-too-homogenous-but-tasteful blend of acts, an agreeable audience helps… there’s just too many things. Shows are, after all, just the best kind of parties, and the science of throwing a wicked party is a massive subject.

The most important thing is that the show leaves you with a memory and a unique impression. Too many factors play into this to describe, but you know it when it happens.

K: A good live show to me is one where you can see that the musicians are enjoying themselves. I like when you can tell that the band members have a close relationship or have been friends for a while. I love when they interact. It also should be full of energy. I enjoy seeing the humanness in musicians. Mess up? Who cares. You’re not a computer. Imperfection is beautiful. The music should be good too, haha. A bad show? I’d say a bad show is where the musicians look like robots who do not want to be there.

“A bad show is where the musicians look like robots who do not want to be there.”

NN: Are the kids alright?

C: The kids aren’t alright.

NN: If you could live forever without aging or suffering untreatable disease, would you? And no, you’re not a dracula.

C: Since you offered, I have to take it. But I am 100% that at some point I will regret it.

K: I don’t think so, but I would like make it without suffering or disease for 100 years. Can I have that? I hope to get to experience each age. I would like those senior discounts one day. Plus I want to see the real old man that is Colin. He’ll be a silver fox 😉 I’d also like to be a nice old grandma who plays guitar and bakes cookies all day.

NN: What non-musical things have you interested lately and why? Have you read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth mentioning lately?

C: I read when I can. I like stories. I just like being taken on a mental journey. Music is my more active pastime, and outside of that, I just like experiencing things. We like to travel a lot and try new food everywhere we go. We’re huge fans of Adventure Time, and that’s how we live life in general. Kendra is Finn the Human.

K: Lately, what has caught my attention the most besides releasing this EP has been the cheese counter at Kroger. I didn’t realize how many delicious types of cheese they have to offer! Colin and I have begun an exploration of cheese. It could get expensive, but Colin came up with a great idea to busk once a week to be able to afford it. A weekly cheese busk. It’s pretty much the best idea that ever happened, besides our ongoing quest to find the world’s best fish taco.

NN: What is your number one desert island album as of this moment and why?

C: I would take Duke by Genesis to that desert island, but joke’s on you, I also slipped It is What It Looks Like by CABIN into the sleeve while you weren’t looking!

K: This is a nearly impossible question. But since he’s already got “Duke” and “It Is What It Looks Like” (I’m totally going to the same island) I might have to go with Boston’s debut self-titled album Boston. It’s too good. Every song is perfect and the keyboard solo on Smokin’ makes me cry. It’s been a huge influence for my entire musical life. I will sing/play these songs forever.