Interview: Kristen May of Vedera – A Moment There

by Daniel Haim

On their major-label debut album Stages, Vedera have at last been able to capture the magic that has made them such a hot live property over the past few years. The Kansas City, Missouri-based quartet, fronted by Kristen May, have toured incessantly since releasing their first EP in 2004, honing their sound and building their considerable fanbase the grassroots way — one fan at a time. “We’ve spent more time playing live than we probably ever will be able to spend in a studio,” guitarist Brian Little (and May’s husband) says, “and we think that’s great. Feeding off a live audience has really shaped what we do and we wanted Stages to reflect that.”

Those who have seen them live are already familiar with Vedera’s sound: dreamy pop melodies, shimmering rock guitar, driving rhythm section, and the band’s not-so-secret weapon: May’s soaring vocals. Her glass-cut voice can swoop from a delicate hush to an open-throated keen on a dime as her passionate delivery provides the emotional uplift required of her lyrics, which address such themes as loss (“Loving Ghosts”), devotion (“Even I”), betrayal (“Forgive You”), romantic love (“Back to the Middle”) and wondering if love is really all you need (“Satisfy”). May and Little knew each other in high school and began playing in a band together after May returned home following an aborted stint at college in Nashville. “I didn’t want to study music anymore, I just wanted to play it,” she says. In 2003, the band she had formed with her brothers needed a guitarist and they called Little. “He and I clicked and our worlds collided in the greatest way,” she says.

With her brothers unable to travel and pursue the career musician life that May and Little craved, they asked Little’s high-school friend Jason Douglas to join and also recruited Brian’s younger brother Drew to play drums. Everything clicked and the quartet headed into the studio to record six songs that would become their 2004 EP This Broken City. Around that time, they hooked up with Thrice and hit the road for nine months. In 2005, they released their first full-length album, The Weight of an Empty Room and hit the road again, landing tours with Mute Math, Eisley, and Jason Mraz among others. (Vedera hit the road with The Fray, Plain White T’s and All-American Rejects in 2009.)

Picture above: Brian Little, Kristen May, Daniel Haim (Me), Drew Little & Jason Douglas at the Billboard Offices 2010

Now comes Stages, which May describes as about “our blood, sweat, and tears over the past five years as a band on the road. It’s about our relationships to one another and the changes we’ve gone through.” Vedera recorded Stages with Epic Records A&R executive Mike Flynn, who co-produced the Fray’s double-platinum album How to Save A Life and Augustana’s 2008 album Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, and engineer Warren Huart (The Fray, Augustana, Howie Day). “Mike is like our George Martin,” Little says. “He has a great sense of melody,” May adds. “As a vocalist and a songwriter, I’ve really benefited from working with him because of his great sense of a song.” The songs begin with May and Little (“we live together so we’re constantly writing,” May says), then the pair bring their ideas to Jason and Drew who “take it to the next level,” May says. “That’s the great thing about being in a band. Brian and I could have been a couple of folk songwriters, but Jason and Drew really make us who we are as a band.” The core relationships that these four people have with one another is at the heart of Vedera. “We’re a family and we’re very devoted to this life and to our music,” May says. “We try to be as honest as we can and put everything we have out there with as much conviction as possible.”

Daniel: I first met you at the Sony Lounge while doing a very exclusive acoustic show, I was blown away by your voice, and the collaboration of the band together was fantastic. Kristine – when did you realize you had such an amazing voice?

Kristen: I started singing when I was a kid. I was a loud child and Im glad I can use my voice as an outlet.

Daniel: You’re coming from Kansas City, what is it like to suddenly being exposed to the big city and performing at incredible locations and networking with so many people? Tell us one story about your adventures in this industry that sticks out in your mind the most.

Kristen: A story that sticks out in my mind is when we played the Troubador in LA while touring with Mutemath. Head of A&R for Epic, Mike Flynn was going to see Mutemath, showed up early and saw us, and wanted to sign us!

Daniel: You’re about to begin a US Tour, what are your hopes, and which cities are you most excited for?

Kristen: We’ve been touring for five years now and I love visiting different cities. New York and San Francisco are some of my favs!

Daniel: I know that you guys are all connected to each other. Tell us the story of how you all met and began making this great music.

Kristen: We all grew up in the same town and went to high school together. I went to Nashville for a year to write and when i came back we formed the band.

Daniel: Seeing you live was out of this world experience – really! I shivered when you sang A World Apart. Are there any talks to making an acoustic album, a live performance piece?

Kristen: Nothing in the works for an acoustic album yet but we are into doing exclusive acoustic sessions and putting them up on the internet and handing them out at shows

Daniel: So iTunes single of the week.. Such a great achievement, how does it feel?

Kristen: iTunes single of the week was huge! We saw our myspace plays and friends online jump up for sure. What a great opportunity to get our music out there.

Daniel: What are your hopes for 2010?

Kristen: Hopes for 2010 are to keep touring, meeting new people, and just seeing where the road takes us. Hopefully the road takes us to the Grammy’s or something *Kristen smiles*