A captivating climb for local teen

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lake Forest Park-based band Verlee for Ransom releases their CD on May 20The band includes Kaye Gill, bass; Nathan Keiffer, drums; Kyle Morrison, lead guitar and cello; Rio Chanae, keys and backup vocals; Keira Verlee, keys, guitar, lead singer, composer.

By Mark D Goodwin
Verlee for Ransom
Putting together an album and promotional tour can be a challenge for any musician. The Lake Forest Park-based Keira Verlee just finished recording her second full-length CD (“Happy Like Monkey that Climb”) with eclectic new band Verlee for Ransom, and is booked for the entire summer. On Friday, May 20, they will be playing the Q Café in Interbay to debut their first record as a band.

While Verlee may make it seem all too easy at the age of 17, she has more than enough to keep her busy aside from intelligent songwriting, fronting a band and playing multiple instruments. A junior at Shorecrest High School, she is also working towards a music transfer degree at Shoreline Community College via the Running Start program. She is surprisingly able to make time for her hobbies scuba diving and snowboarding, as well as a part-time job. This daunting schedule isn’t too much for her to handle, however.

Keira Verlee. Photo by Bridget Christian.
“Last quarter I had finals, and I had a show on one of my final’s nights - that was a little intense,” Verlee said. “But as long as I balance it out right and get my stuff done, it’s really not too bad.”

She and her band-mates may be young, (none of the five are past 20) but combined they have decades of musical experience. And it shows in the quality of their music. Their nine-track seminal work is as polished and professional as anything you might hear on the radio, but good luck trying to categorize it into any one genre.
Band photo by Bridget Christian
“We like the fact that we can’t be pigeon-holed,” keys player and backup vocalist Rio Chanae (pronounced Shuh-nay) said with a devil-may-care smile. “It’s like we’re all elusive, it makes us seem magical.”

The official Verlee for Ransom website describes their style as “indie alt-pop music from Seattle.” 

Whatever that might mean to you, it certainly includes styling influenced by: jazz, rock, ska, lounge, classical (the guitarist also plays cello on the album), latin, blues, funk, folk, country, and, believe it or not, doo wop. Yet the tone stays consistent and never becomes a confused mess. Even the song “More of a Mess,” which possibly straddles the most genres on the record, is tight and controlled while playfully verging on unhinged the whole time.

Keira at the Keys. Photo by Jeremy Wheeler.
The band was featured as “Band of the Week” in The Stranger this February. Chris West, writer for international music review magazine Skope, used terms like “raw talent” and “Julliard-bound wunderlings” in his opinion on the album.

Band manager Guy Fusman has had prior experience with the independent music scene of Washington. He has managed bands in the past and ran an independent record label in the ‘90s called Mysophobic Records. When asked about rushing into a record deal, he said while gesturing toward a whiteboard full of bookings: 

“So far [the band] has been doing just fine on their own. I’d like to see how far we get as an independent first.”

If and when Verlee and her band make it big, they wouldn’t be the first band with Lake Forest Park beginnings to do so. Recently, The Head and the Heart (singer and violinist Charity Rose Thielen is a graduate of Shorecrest) appeared on “Conan,” and now have a headlining tour which is rapidly selling out. This time last year, they were exactly where Verlee for Ransom is now.

Photo by Rachel Shaw Tate
The band will be playing all over the state this summer, as well a possible trip to LA at the end of July. Their show on May 20 will be at 7:30 pm in the Q Café, 3223 15th Ave W, in Interbay between Magnolia and Queen Anne. Tickets are $8, and CDs as well as merchandise will be sold. If you can’t make it to the show, the album will be available on iTunes and the Amazon marketplace shortly after.

For more information, visit the band's website.

Mark D Goodwin is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory, interning with the ShorelineAreaNews.

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