Songs beyond genre

Fernando Viciconte moved to Portland 15 years ago from Los Angeles after the breakup of his band, Monkey Paw.

Fernando Viciconte moved to Portland 15 years ago from Los Angeles after the breakup of his band, Monkey Paw. In a new city he started playing music again, taking to street corners, coffee shops and any other venue that would have him.

Since then Fernando, as he and his band are primarily known, has imbedded himself in Portland’s music scene with music that is diverse, while at the same time deep and soulful. Sometimes country, sometimes pop, sometimes even rockabilly, Fernando’s music is genuine and entertaining however it is packaged.

Viciconte was kind enough to chat with the Vanguard while he was laid up in bed this past week, sick with the flu. Despite the bug, he still spoke with good humor and passion about his art.

RO: You moved here from L.A., what attracted you to Portland?
FV: Fifteen years ago it was a little bit more of a small town kind of feel, and that kind of creative atmosphere wasn’t something that was pervasive in Los Angeles. You could come here and just play around and put out a 45.

I saw that little glimmer of hope, creatively, here that wasn’t in Los Angeles. I ended up starting a record company a year after I moved here, called Crave Dog Records. It’s still going as a CD manufacturing company. I don’t have much to do with it anymore.

RO: What prompted your change in music style from the heavier rock you played in L.A. to your more current music style?

FV: I did hard rock, punk rock music exclusively from 1987–93, and my first love was country music and folk music. And when I moved here it just kind of naturally moved that way cause I didn’t have a band.

RO: You have one album out right now, but it’s only on your Web site?
FV: We are gonna release it as digital for only 90 days. We did that one a year and a half ago and we’ve already started production on another one. We just want to get it out there. On May 1, it will be available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby. It won’t be available in stores as a CD release.

RO: You were gonna have a release party at Dante’s for the current album right?
FV: That’s gonna be on Feb. 13, with Jim Boyer and this guy called Mike D. and the Loyal Bastards. That’s the official record release party, or digital release party, whatever you want to call it.

RO: What about this album you are working on now?
FV: It’s kind of a garage rock record. This one is more of a happy, guitar-driven, maybe a little bit more psychedelic, maybe a little bit more experimental.

RO: What is your song writing process?

FV: You know what, I don’t know. I just think I try to write the best songs I can—I don’t look at it as genre specific. I just get in the mindset of writing a certain song, and I just follow that inspiration. If you think about genres and making a specific kind of record, I just can’t do that. It sometimes starts as I write a few songs in a specific area, and it kind of just goes that way.

RO: Listening to one song you wrote, “The Change In Us,” it seems to speak to the incident awhile back at Laurelhurst dog park, when dogs were poisoned.

FV: While I wrote that song, I was living literally like six blocks away from that park. That song talks more about human nature and the frailties of being a human being. That’s what I wanted it to be about more than just those events that happened at that place.

RO: If there were a sandwich made in honor of you, Fernando, what would it be made out of and what would you call it?
FV: That is a really easy question because there was a sandwich made in honor of me. There was a restaurant named Fellini’s, right next to this old club called Satyricon, that was owned by two friends of mine, Chico and Mike Martinez. And when I first moved to town, I used to eat burgers on a daily basis, cause it was pretty cheap. To jab at me they made a burger in my honor cause they though it was funny. It was called the Fernando Heart Stopper : a big chili pepper, jack cheese, a half-pound burger, pepper bacon and garlic mayo.