Arts: Poetry becomes music for Villanelles

In poetry, a villanelle is an originally French form consisting of 19 lines, where the first and third line of each stanza are rhyming refrains. It’s a very beautiful and flowing form, Villanelles guitarist and vocalist Tristan Baribeau said, and a name the band settled on after being inspired by their English literature professor at Champlain College.”It’s a son of a bitch to write,” Baribeau said. “I like the flow of the name, and I wrote a song called Villanelles and it kind of stuck. Right now we’re battling poetry for Google standing.”Three of the band’s members — Baribeau, bassist Evan Borden, and drummer Kevin Marcello — all live together in a funky pad close to downtown. Keyboardist Zane Gunderson, the “external link,” lives just up the street. On a recent evening, the four discussed their music over some of Borden’s lasagna.Intense crescendos, repeated several times throughout each song, are a defining characteristic of the Villanelles’ sound. Borden in particular is able to glean the maximum sound out of his instrument at the height of each crescendo.    Since Gunderson joined the lineup in February 2008, the band has done much work developing a unique sound. Baribeau’s lyrics have folk sensibility, the band’s tempo is as fast as most punk and their song form and style is solid rock. “That’s all still there but we have it all contained with a single sound,” Borden said. “A song will go from a ballad to slamming on a guitar.”Baribeau possesses an impressive vocal range and his lyrical delivery is reminiscent of a sped-up version of Muse’s Matthew Bellamy.In their most-played Myspace song, “My money keeps me warm,” Baribeau puts his talents to full use. A literal interpretation of the song’s lyrics conjures a moderately hilarious visual image, but, once you get past that, the song hits the ears on many levels. Marcello’s drumming keeps the sound tight and Gunderson does a cool piano interlude.Borden, sporting tan ostrich-skin cowboy boots as of late, enjoys every minute on the bass.Villanelles are “big on choosing the songs and the instrumentation to cater to the venue and the specific audience,” said Baribeau, though the band waived that rule at Winooski’sMonkey House last Thursday. “Because we’re pretty versatile.”Faced with a lethargic crowd, the four didn’t hesitate to rock out.  Tight chords, interesting key changes, and continuous energy belied the mellowed late-night crowd sipping beers and watching the Lakers-Nuggets game.The acoustics at the Money House caused the guitars and drums to overpower Gunderson’s keyboards and Baribeau’s singing, but their efforts didn’t escape unappreciated.”Just because the crowd is slow doesn’t mean you guys aren’t awesome,” a girl seated at the bar called out. Right now Villanelles are currently recording songs for an EP and plan to start touring around the northeast circuit —Portland, New York and Syracuse are all in the pipeline.  In order to catch them before they take the road, visit Radio Bean on May 1 at 9 p.m.You can follow them and find upcoming shows on their blog, www.villanellesmusic.com.