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In the belly of the Whale

07.24.2008 by André Natta · → 1 Comment

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picture courtesy of Vulture Whale/Skybucket Records

And here you thought the Beluga was the only whale currently on Birmingham’s (or at least Larry‘s) mind.

I’d seen Vulture Whale live before and I knew that they had a dedicated following of genuinely cool people. In fact, one of my good friends even provided vocals on one of their album tracks. That’s just it though: I knew OF them.

That all changed when I first met Jake Waitzman and Wes McDonald at the band’s rehearsal space in downtown Homewood. A former car wash with, I’d imagine, a very acoustically-sound practice area down downstairs and a studio equipped with a den upstairs. All of the members of Vulture Whale come with a story.

Wes’ past with the Athens band The Ohms provides a whole different dimension, but no ego. In fact, the guys are keen on telling the story of how Vulture Whale’s current nomenclature came about. To sum it up: they were known as Wes McDonald and the Fizz, but it was so much of a mutual effort that the frontman/backing band name didn’t feel right. So, the compound animal name was chosen. They even agree that the words “vulture” and “whale” have to grow on you, but “after a while it’s like yeah,” says Jake.

Friends since junior high, they are keen on helping people understand the point another is trying to make. They are genial, friendly and delightfully Birmingham. That comes as a surprise when I find out that the other two members Les Nuby and Keelan Parrish both live “away”. Les is a Birmingham mainstay as far as music goes, but travels back and forth from L.A. and Keelan is a happy husband and dad who is a peach farmer in Clanton. Yes, it is awesome! Keelan joins in the talk later on in the evening and after an hour or so of hanging out, I left with a better understanding of local music and the musicians who make it from an extremely reliable source. These guys don’t harp on the fact that they are extremely talented guys with a very unique sound; they don’t have to. They’re prefaced in town by the fact that they are great friends and fun guys to be around.

When asked about their thoughts on the label “alt-country”, Wes’ pretty quick and natural reaction was, “Why can’t it just be rock and roll?” This seems like a cliche response to an overplayed question, but in all honesty, that’s what it is. Vulture Whale doesn’t exploit any eccentricity. However awesome it is that their 2007 release was recorded here in town, mixed in LA and mastered in NYC, they provide a prime example of what a rock band sounds like when it hails from Birmingham, Alabama.

My own favorite track is “Who Knows It”, but be sure to listen to the other 3 songs from their 2007 Ol’ Elegante record on their MySpace. There is a certain brooding factor that comes along with Vulture Whale’s music. It’s like an older and less abrasive Kings of Leon vibe that fits my ears so much. It’s good for those moody days where nothing seems to feel good but your CDs, or the commutes after work where you need to elevate your mood. Seeing this live after spending even an hour of your time with the album will make you giddy on the inside. That’s a money back guarantee courtesy of Whitney.

There’s sure to be a big turnout for these guys this weekend, so try to get your tix in advance online at thebottletree.com or at the cafe itself (3719 3rd Avenue South).

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I can just hear Wes McDonald saying that: “Why can’t it just be rock and roll?” with his head tilted and a grin on his face. It's true. It's rock and roll. Really awesome rock and roll.