Getting the word out

When I talk to John Vecchiarelli, the first thing I ask him about is his Web presence. He doesn’t have a Web site—the only information about him comes from a record label’s homepage.

When I talk to John Vecchiarelli, the first thing I ask him about is his Web presence. He doesn’t have a Web site—the only information about him comes from a record label’s homepage.

“I used to have a Web site,” he says. “But it seems like people just want to see MySpace these days. And Facebook. But by the time I figure those out, people will have moved onto something else—I just let the record label take care of that.”

Although he seems to employ a hands-off approach to his own publicity, Vecchiarelli is nonetheless grateful for the degree of control he’s maintained over his career.

“A lot of the people I’ve come up with—musicians or bands I’ve played with in the past—have become very successful artists, and it’s hard not to change. I’m lucky enough to be enough of a midlevel artist that I can control everything. I don’t have anyone else speaking for me.”

It’s difficult to imagine Vecchiarelli needing another person to speak for him. In addition to his own solo work, he plays with such a wide range of bands and artists that his music truly speaks for itself.

Vecchiarelli began playing the drums when he was 8. He calls jazz his first love, and cites Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk as his first inspirations. These days, Vecchiarelli is something of a Renaissance man. Working musicians often piece together multiple gigs to support themselves, and Vecchiarelli is no exception. He’s a multi-instrumentalist (he plays cello, guitar and the keyboard, to name just a few of his talents), which helps him secure work as a freelance session musician. And he runs sound at venues around Portland.

Over the years, Vecchiarelli has been in a slew of bands. His involvement in the late ’70s punk rock scene in New York City led him to move to Boulder, Colo. with a band he had toured with. He lived in Boulder while working as a session musician and band member. There, he played with Sic’em Fifi and formed the band Splinter.

He eventually moved to the Bay Area, where he became the drummer for Dart and continued playing with other bands. Like many artists, Vecchiarelli was drawn to Portland by its cheap rent and burgeoning music scene.

“I really wanted to do my own stuff, so I pushed being a drummer for Dart onto the back burner,” Vecchiarelli says. “Portland seemed like a good place to be. I had some ties to that early ’90s rock scene up here, and some of my favorite artists, like Elliott Smith and Pond, were around then.”

Vecchiarelli describes himself as being “kind of like Elliott Smith”, as far as influences.

“I’m coming out of a louder background. The earlier stuff Elliott did, he’s basically playing Heatmeiser songs with an acoustic guitar. I love that sinewy, kind of smart punk, like Sunny Day Real Estate and Jawbox and those bands—I don’t consider myself a folk artist, since those are my biggest influences.”

In addition to his accomplished solo career (Vecchiarelli has released two critically acclaimed albums and hopes to release a third this year), Vecchiarelli plays with Portland bands Run On Sentence, Shoeshine Blue, The Portland Cello Project, Justin Power and Get Down Stay Down.

At his upcoming May 2 show at Mississippi Studios with Leigh Marble, Vecchiarelli will fill in for Marble’s regular drummer. It’s not uncommon for Vecchiarelli to play in multiple bands on the same bill.

“Portland’s awesome right now,” he says. “It’s just stocked with great bands and songwriters and musicans right now, it’s been booming. I feel pretty lucky to be able to play music for a living. It is a hustle—I’m doing something different every day, whether it’s my own stuff or other people’s stuff. It keeps me on my toes.”