Art Vandalay celebrates the release of “Champagne & Chandeliers.”
Ten years after the release of its last album, “Heaven’s Operahouse,” the Twin Cities quartet Art Vandalay will celebrate the release of “Champagne & Chandeliers” in concert on Saturday, April 9, at the Aster Cafe, 125 Main St. SE in Minneapolis.
The band takes its name from the fictional character who was dreamed up from time to time by the fictional character George Costanza to avoid getting caught in one lie or another on the 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld.” Like Jerry Seinfeld and his pals, the members of Art Vandalay don’t take themselves too seriously. As Henry, a resident of Saint Paul’s Snelling-Hamline neighborhood put it, “it’s just a lot of fun to make music with these guys.”
These guys are Ben Cook-Feltz, keyboardist and singer who also works as manager of the ticket office at Park Square and SteppingStone theaters in downtown Saint Paul; Calvin Keasling, drummer, an assistant principal at Rosemount High School; and Drew Stevenson, bassist, a software developer for the Minneapolis media company Soona.
Henry, who works as a project manager for the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, attributed the long span between albums to a lack of original content, not having enough money to record in a professional studio, and “life events” such as starting families.
He described the new album as more rock-oriented than the band’s previous LP. “Champagne & Chandeliers” also features two guest guitarists, Colin Monette and Rich Rue. One composition, “Never See You Again,” was cowritten by Seattle folk artist Jaspar Lepak. Another is a cover of Eliza Gilkyson’s “Angel & Delilah” a folk song that Henry described as “a vivid picture of a dysfunctional relationship.”
Several cuts on the album have received air time on local radio stations, especially the rocker “Never See You Again.” Henry performed some of the songs live in a solo show over the Christmas holidays in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma.
Before the pandemic, Art Vandalay played once or twice a month in the Twin Cities and the surrounding area. They played in “dive bars, breweries, coffee shops, on front lawns and at soybean festivals up and down the I-35 corridor,” Henry said.
Henry was formerly employed in digital marketing at Red House Records, the Twin Cities label where he became acquainted with a host of songwriters, including Gilkyson. He developed his interest in songwriting, singing and guitar playing while majoring in sociology and Norwegian at Saint Olaf College in Northfield. There, he fronted Buffett Buffet, a Jimmy Buffett cover band.
After moving to Minneapolis, he earned a degree in music production at the former McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul. He also began playing bass with the acoustic pop trio Nothing of Consequence.
Art Vandalay got its start as a trio. Then in 2014, Stevenson approached the group and asked if they wanted to add a bass player. “Drew has been playing with us ever since,” Henry said. “He’s truly a positive force in the band with bass grooves that really round out our sound. Each one of these guys is so good at what he does that they help bring these songs to a whole new level.”
“Champagne & Chandeliers” is now available at artvandalaytunes.com. The band will share the stage on April 9 with j. bell and the Lazy Susan Band. The music begins at 9 p.m. For reservations, visit astercafe.com or call 612-379-3138.
— Carolyn Walkup
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