Consider for a moment the great bands and their origin stories. List the similarities between one and the other. Quite often, the names of the musicians change, the locale perhaps, but the plot points remain the same. Though culturally codified, the stories continue to be exciting because we are told of a seemingly ordinary person with a great talent who meets other seemingly ordinary people (granted they may have a proclivity towards several vices unnatural to the typical citizen) and who, with their combined talents, produce captivating music.
There are certain narrative conventions inherent in this genre—a genre that shares much with the plot of a stock superhero team’s origin, of which there are two types.
Groups like the Fantastic Four belong to the first. They were present for a unique, once-in-a-billion moment when the stars aligned and something as organic as the rays of the cosmos gifted them with superhuman powers. So often in these comic book stories another character, desperate to possess similar powers, will try to recreate the superpower-imbuing circumstances, and the result is consistently grotesque and tragic. The world will thankfully never know just how many Liverpoolian childhood friends, seeing the success of the Beatles, came together to form a band. To further drive this point home, I ask you to also reflect upon the monstrosities that were the Monkees and every label-manufactured boy band that have followed them.
The X-Men probably best represent the second type of origin story. Prodded as much by their loneliness as they were by their superpowers, the individuals sought out one another not only to, in the words of Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class, “start something incredible” but to also relieve “their isolation” and to realize “their hopes and ambitions.” We can only imagine the despair of a drumming phenom who is band-less, certain that somewhere just beyond the horizon there are musicians who can compliment and complete him. It is the loneliness of the last dodo.
And so it is in the pantheon of this latter narrative to which The Vashta Nerada add their name.
While still in his early twenties, Jeff Bonilla taught music at a high school in Modesto, California. In one of his classes sat a student with prodigious bass-playing skills: Anthony Palermo. Anthony was then only fifteen years old, and so Jeff had to ask his principal if one of his students could join his band. The two have since collaborated on several albums, including the most recently self-titled The Vashta Nerada that was produced by Adam Ruppel. Armed with the album, Jeff and Anthony relocated to Los Angeles, determined to discover musicians capable of translating the unique sound of the album to the stage.
Jeff next met drummer AJ Brown while smoking a cigarette on the communal balcony of his apartment building. Looking out at the Best Western across the street and the Hollywood Hills behind it, Jeff and AJ talked music and discovered that they had a lot in common. Jeff invited AJ to sit in on rehearsals and, just like any scene in X-Men: First Class when one of the mutants showed off his or her skills to an impressed Magneto and Professor X, Jeff and Anthony understood immediately the depth AJ could bring to the band.
The three then held auditions for a lead guitar player and found one in Mark Perez—imagine, if you will, Professor X and his students holding auditions for someone with an adamantium-infused skeleton. The analogy is, of course, meant to carry over to Mark’s ability to shred on guitar. With the addition of Mark’s talents, the band was complete and ready to take to the stage. They have since played shows up and down Southern California
And while any aspiring or serious musician would hesitate and hem and haw when asked to decide upon which group he would much rather belong (the Beatles or a superhero group like the X-Men), with regards to their origins it becomes evident that very little separates the two. To join one or the other is to become involved in a narrative in which people with incredible talents come together to create something uncanny and magnetic.