Vinnie Donatelle of Friend Dog talks about opening for John Mayer, gigging with his new band, and The Last Revel's life-changing resurgence
Flip Rushmore is celebrating the release of their new EP, Choose Your Villains Wisely, at the 7th St Entry on Wed., Aug. 10. Friend Dog, comprised of Vinnie Donatelle, Lauren Anderson, and Nate LeBrun, is a featured guest on the bill. Vinnie, who spoke with us in 2021, got on the phone with Flip's Alex Smith for a follow-up interview as he balances between Friend Dog and his much more high-profile Americana trio, The Last Revel.
Alex: Alright, we need to talk about the John Mayer thing. The Last Revel is opening for him [Aug. 21] in Wyoming? I know you have a big following out there. How did the booking come together?
Vinnie: That was out of the blue. There’s a venue in Paradise Valley called Pine Creek Lodge, where the show is happening, that’s pretty near and dear to our hearts. We’ve hosted a couple mini music festivals out there. And Ryan [Acker, of The Last Revel] actually met his now-wife at Pine Creek.
The day after we played there this summer, there was some massive flooding along the Yellowstone River that destroyed a lot of property and basically closed West Yellowstone for the season, which really throws a wrench in the economy out there. All the folks who depend on that tourism are kinda SOL for the season again after getting beat up by COVID, too.
So John Mayer, who has a ranch out there, decided to put together this show and hit up our friend, Chip, who owns Pine Creek Lodge, and asked if he could set up a couple shows there to fundraise. Chip, of course, said, “of course,” [laughs] and that led to John Mayer’s team to say, “Ask two of of your favorite bands to play,” so Chip called Ryan.
Alex: I assume you knew you weren’t getting pranked because it was Chip calling you, but what was your reaction to the news?
Vinnie: Well, he tried to call us at like 2 in the morning, when we were driving home from a festival. And we were, like, dude, slow your role. We don’t know what this is about, but it can wait until tomorrow. So when Ryan talked to him the next day, we all just kind of froze and said, “that’s insane. There’s no way that’s actually happening.” But sure enough…
Alex: What kind of venue are we talking about? What’s the cap on that place?
I think it’s 1,000.
Alex: So pretty intimate for something like that.
Vinnie: Yeah, and 1,000 is a lot of people in that space. We played to 500 or 600 people before. That felt really packed. It’s basically a small little resort with a nice kitchen that has a bunch of storage container rooms surrounding a stage. People rent out these cabins if they want, or just drive up to the shows. That’s the gist of it.
Lazenlow discusses new album, forthcoming wedding, and performing dark indie pop for children ahead of 7th St Entry debut
Flip Rushmore is celebrating the release of their new EP, Choose Your Villains Wisely, at the 7th St Entry on Wed., Aug. 10. Lazenlow, comprised of Gillian Needham, Mike "Ghost Channels" Ryerse, and Mo Bluntz, is a featured guest on the bill. Gillian and Mike got on the phone with Flip's Alex Smith to discuss Lazenlow's Entry debut and much more.
Alex: I’ve seen allusions to an album being mixed.
Mike: I’m in the finishing process. Which many know: five percent finishing takes 95 percent of the time. I’ve been fine-tuning stuff, then putting it away for a week, then fine-tuning stuff. Right now, it’s 10 songs. We worked on around 20 songs for this particular batch and cut it down to 10 we feel really strongly about. It’s definitely our most electronic-leaning record. We put the guitar to the side. It’s still there, but it’s electronic first. Four to the floor. Beats and stuff. But still very much our dark style. We’re super excited about it.
Alex: Do you track everything at home?
Mike: Yeah, so, Gillian and I are engaged. We live together, and I built a studio in one of our guest bedrooms.
Mike: Thank you.
Alex: When did that go down?
Gillian: He asked me on New Year’s Day, actually. The first day of our vacation. We’re getting married next year in September. So, we’re excited. We’re having our engagement party tomorrow [before press time].
Alex: So, if you’re tracking everything in your own studio, doing all the mixing work. Do you need to step away for awhile before re-listening, or are you listening to the same song for several days in a row?
Mike: No. I think the first few weeks when you’re doing the intense stuff, yes, it’s every day. But it’s been a really important part of my process, to stop listening to it for a couple weeks. Don’t even think about it. Then pick a weird scenario. Put it on headphones. Listen in the car. Our lil’ old record player we have. Bluetooth. It’s important to switch things up because it keeps it fresh, like you’re hearing it for the first time. It’s very important to shelve stuff, and then come back to it, because you don’t know what it sounds like when you’re too close to it.
Alex: That makes sense. You guys seem very invested in visual content. TikTok. Twitter videos. Which, you know, OK, other people do that, too, but I feel like it’s something you emphasize.
Gillian: We’ve gotten some coaching from Mark Mallman. He’s been a mentor for us, as far as creating content and how to corner that market. “At this point, if you’re not using TikTok to promote your music, you’re doing it wrong,” is how he presented it to us. There isn’t a lot of original music getting posted on there. It’s not necessarily to promote our own music all the time, but to get peoples’ attention of who we are. Mark says if you use your own music, it shoves you down to the bottom of the algorithm [laughs], so it’s just another way we’ve tried to gain traction with people who don’t know us.
Vinnie Donatelle aka Friend Dog discusses his debut EP, moving to Portland (and back), The Last Revel, and late friend Max Graham
Vinnie Donatelle is a Minneapolis-based musician known primarily for his work as a multi-instrumentalist in The Last Revel. His first solo EP--Tending a Timid Flame, under the name Friend Dog—will be available in the coming months.
He took a phone call from Alex to discuss the EP, The Last Revel hiatus, and several other topics, including what he learned during a short-lived move to Portland, how "impermanence" shapes his musical vision, and the love he has for his late friend, Max Graham. (Please note: Max's family is in need of support. Please visit this link to see how you might be able to assist his wife and children.)
Alex: So … Friend Dog. What was the spark to start a new project with its own name? I feel like when you name something, it becomes important. What led you to that step?
Vinnie: For a long time, I thought it would be an important step in my music career to take on a solo project I can float on my own without having to go through as many logistics and creative negotiations to both produce music and play live shows. But much more on the creative content end of things. At the same time, I never really liked the idea of just putting effort into music as “Vinnie Donatelle.” Something didn’t feel right about that. Maybe it’s too egotistical for my humble Minnesotan roots.
The Last Revel was kinda taking a bit of a step back, professionally. I thought it was a nice opportunity for me to establish a new project and see where it goes.
Who has played the 7th Street Entry? Nirvana, The Strokes, Billie Eilish, The Killers, Lizzo, Green Day, Jonas Brothers, and more
Flip Rushmore is a Minneapolis indie rock band that's been fortunate enough to headline the 7th Street Entry on multiple occasions. Our current goal is to ... play any show, anywhere, ever again. Please. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to make any suggestions for this post. And if you have any specific memories of these shows, please share! Check us out on Spotify here.
First Avenue is the cornerstone of Minneapolis-St. Paul's legendary music scene and one of the most celebrated rock clubs in the world. The Mainroom—where Prince shot Purple Rain—has hosted thousands of notable artists.
But the small room next door is perhaps even more beloved by local artists. The 7th Street Entry (capacity: 250) is where Minnesota musicians cut their teeth, and it provides a warm welcome to national artists making their first trips through the Upper Midwest.
pure SHIFTER back at 7th St Entry: A conversation about songwriting, “heads-up moments," and dark secrets of the Kitty Cat Klub
Flip Rushmore and pure SHIFTER are playing Minneapolis’ legendary 7th St Entry with Denim Matriarch and VIAL on Friday, January 17. Find tickets here. Alex got both members of pure SHIFTER (John Genz and Doug Deitchler) on the phone to discuss the show and whatever the hell else.
As a member of Beasthead, Doug has "crossed paths" with various members of Flip Rushmore and Denim Matriarch in the past. Friday will serve as a chance to reconnect, as well as a chance to show off the difference between pure SHIFTER and Beasthead.
Alex: When you start a new project, there’s always a reason. So what was pure SHIFTER gonna allow you to express differently?
Doug: You want to take that one, John?
John: This music is pretty much all my stuff, and Doug came on to help me reign in some of my … how do I put this … Doug helps to organize the music and put it together. He’s an arranger, in a way.
Doug: We’ve actually had a little bit of confusion with this recently. Just with The Current and City Pages. I’m from Beasthead. And John and I brought Mitch Miller from Beasthead on the drums, so it sorta seemed like because there were two members (that it was a Beasthead project) … but the actual genesis of this was, this is John’s music. We just made songs out of it. And I don’t think I’ve picked your brain about this, John, but are the songs we’re playing right now, were they written in the past few years on acoustic instruments? This is sort of a rewrite of all those songs with different genres and newer tastes involved? I stepped in last spring to reform his songs and give them some new life. Making a live band and a show out of it.
You’re taking John’s original arrangements and reworking them. But are you sitting down together and doing that? Or is Doug just going into the lab and coming back with something?
Doug: When we got together last spring, John had all of this done. Pretty much all written.
John: A lot of was done, but sort of in imperfect form. The beats would be sort of made and laid out, and the songs would exist, but sort of, like, they’d just be a couple loops, maybe a chorus. Very little fully-formed stuff. Or it would go on for 10 minutes and nothing would change. Doug would be the guy who would say, “Let’s think about the average attention span here.”
Doug: He played me a lot of these nine-minute “blob ideas,” and I was like, “I can hear the 15 percent that’s usable here. Let’s carve out some songs. Early on, we ran into some things, like, you’re gonna have to rewrite this. Or rewrite lyrics. Figure out a different synth. And sort of against my instincts, any rewriting that comes up, I’ve purposely been uninvolved. Just to keep the core of it in the same stylistic vein … It’s interesting doing that with songs that I technically didn’t write, but did everything else for.
Denim Matriarch kicks off new decade with 7th St Entry gig: A conversation about line dancing, Mario Kart, and that curious Chad Smith connection
Flip Rushmore and Denim Matriarch are playing Minneapolis’ legendary 7th St Entry with VIAL and pure SHIFTER on Friday, January 17. Find tickets here. Alex caught up with the entire Denim gang for a phone chat. They were in a car. “Not driving. Just sitting.” Totally normal.
Early in the conversation, Alex realized that it would be next to impossible to accurately attribute each quote to a member—three of them sound exactly alike when they speak. So some of the responses will just be labeled with “No ID.”
Alex: A couple days ago, I spoke with Kate from VIAL. She said Friday is their first time playing the Entry. Any advice for new artists at 7th St?
Nathan: Just rock your socks off. Seize the moment. Try to find a good spot on the street to load in there.
No ID: Oh, that’s actually real advice. It can be kinda hard to load in there.
What is the sweet spot?
Will: It’s the garage now.
Nathan: I guess now you have to load in through the garage. Never mind.
No ID (continuing advice): Definitely get a good meal in ya at the Depot.
No ID: Buy drinks in the Depot because it’s 50 percent off.
Nathan: Yeah, take that 50 percent discount and you’ll be playing like you’ve never played.
VIAL ready for 7th St Entry debut: A conversation about method acting, political internships, and how to mark an important Nirvana anniversary
Flip Rushmore and VIAL are playing Minneapolis’ legendary 7th St Entry with Denim Matriarch and Pure Shifter on Friday, January 17. Find tickets here. Alex got on the phone with VIAL bassist Kate Kanfield to discuss the gig and—apparently—everything else.
Alex: You guys have way too many Kates in your band. Did you purposely seek each other out?
Kate: Absolutely no planning or anything. It just happened that way. Taylor knew myself and KT, and we thought, “Oh my god, that’s funny.” Then we were on Tinder and we were looking for a drummer, and we matched with Katie. We thought, “Oh, that’s perfect. Three Katies or Kates or KTs. That’s just hilarious.”
So there was a little bit of fate. You saw the name, and it made sense.
Yeah. “We need to message them just because their name is Katie.” It worked out perfectly.
How did you guys all start playing music with each other?
I’ve known Taylor since we were both in high school. Five or six years now. We played together in a program back then and did some stuff together. Taylor messaged me earlier this year and said, “I want to get a band together.” Taylor also knew KT through a program called She Rock She Rock. Taylor connected us, and then we found Katie on Tinder!
Is that how bands are being formed now? On Tinder?
We haven’t found another band yet who’s used Tinder, but we highly recommend it.