Winners of Sonicbids Competition, Viva Viva and Royal Teeth, Will Play at Boston Calling This Weekend
Planning for the second Boston Calling has been underway for months, and finally, the city’s new signature music festival will be back at City Hall Plaza in less than 24 hours.
But just last week, two more bands were added to the festival’s already impressive roster, thanks to an emerging artists competition hosted by Crash Line Productions (the team behind Boston Calling) and Sonicbids (a local platform connecting bands with venues).
After sorting through nearly 1,000 submissions, the Boston Calling team found what they were looking for in two up-and-coming bands. Viva Viva—a ’60s- and ’70s-inspired rock band from Boston—and Royal Teeth—a dance/pop group hailing from Louisiana—will join big-name artists like Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer, and more on the Boston Calling stage this weekend.
Viva Viva are no strangers to playing festivals, and they are certainly no strangers to Boston.
“Not to sound like an asshole, but it’s not our first rodeo,” said singer and guitarist Chris Warren in a phone interview.
Warren has been living in Boston for more than a decade, and Viva Viva—also consisting of lead singer Dave Vicini, bassist Dan Burke, keyboardist Fumika Kato, and drummer Dominic Mariano—has been around for a few years.
Viva Viva is all too familiar with playing Boston venues like the Middle East and the Middlesex Lounge, but they’ve also ventured beyond the city on tours through the south—on what Warren calls a “rock ‘n’ roll vacation”—and playing at Austin’s popular South by Southwest music festival a handful of times.
But playing to a crowd of tens of thousands right in the heart of their hometown? That’s definitely something new.
“I’m curious to see how it’s all going to work, with a big crowd in Boston, a city I love,” said Warren. “It’s going to be neat to see how the whole day unfolds.”
While they’re “delighted” over being chosen, Warren shared that entering the competition was not part of any big plan.
“None of us really had much to do with it. Our manager submitted us and they said yes. It was a neat thing when we found out and we were like, ‘Wait, what did you do? OK, great. OK, yes,'” he said. “It’s not a show that you say no to, and we’re flattered.”
Viva Viva will kick off the entire festival at noon on Saturday, followed by a multitude of indie rockers including Local Natives, Gaslight Anthem, Okkervil River, Lucius, and headliners Vampire Weekend. Viva Viva’s sound seems to fit right in.
“I’d like to think of us as rock ‘n’ roll. People use that term a lot and it’s not always applicable, but our influences are pretty obvious,” said Warren. “Some ’60s and ’70s stuff, with a modern twist. Hopefully we’re updating the old sound a little bit.”
Viva Viva will be repping Boston’s music scene alongside local bands You Won’t, Bearstronaut, and Passion Pit.
“It’s high profile for us, but we would play no matter what. I obviously want big things to happen, but I don’t know if they will and it’s just another day in the life,” said Warren. “Essentially, it’s just another gig in Boston and we’re looking forward to it.”
Earlier this week, a corner of Sonicbids’s office in the SoWa district of Boston’s South End was transformed into a performance space for an acoustic set by Royal Teeth.
Singer and guitarist Gary Larsen, singer Nora Patterson, drummer Josh Hefner, and keyboardist Andrew Poe played stripped down versions of a few songs, including “Wild”—the lead single off their recently released debut album Glow—and a cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats,” while bassist Joshua Wells and guitarist Stevie Billeaud watched alongside the Sonicbids team.
But when the band takes the stage at noon on Sunday—a day whose lineup stars more upbeat acts like Major Lazer, Flosstradamus, and Wolfgang Gartner—Royal Teeth promises to bring an entirely different set.
“Acoustic shows are awesome and a lot of our songs are made from the ground up like that, but working on the live show is when we feel most comfortable. From the first song all the way to the end, we try to keep the energy really high, have a lot of fun, and have a lot of dancing and interaction,” said Larsen. “We don’t want there to be that invisible barrier between us and the crowd and lose that connection. I want the crowd to feel like they’re a part of the show and let themselves go a little bit.”
Like Viva Viva, Royal Teeth have previously played at South by Southwest, as well as the CMJ Music Marathon, a festival held in New York City—both gigs they landed with the help of Sonicbids. They’re currently on tour with Vancouver-based band Said the Whale, but when they noticed a few open dates that coincided with Boston Calling, the band decided to seize the opportunity.
“It was really lucky how everything worked itself out because we booked this tour and it just so happened that we’d be in the area, so we submitted ourselves and luckily enough, we got picked,” said Larsen. “We did it with the idea that if it worked out, it’d be perfect, and if not, at least we’re still out there playing shows.”
The band will be spending the entire weekend at Boston Calling, checking out other bands—Patterson is especially excited for Bat for Lashes—and getting pumped to take the stage themselves.
“There are a lot of bands we’re excited to play with and see each day. Just being part of it is enough,” said Larsen. “Sunday’s a little more dance-y and we’re first, but as long as people are ready to have a good time, we’ll do our best to start the dancing early.”
Aside from dancing, Royal Teeth’s live shows often include confetti (“We don’t have all the expensive equipment, but we grab what we can afford and make it a good time,” said Larsen), and after hearing about Matt & Kim bringing balloons to the first Boston Calling in May, they’re eager to make their Sunday set as flashy as they can.
“It’s always a choice of the venue, but maybe we can convince them,” said Larsen. “Trust me, if we don’t have confetti, it’s not because we didn’t want to.”
Check out Royal Teeth’s acoustic performance of “Wild” at the Sonicbids office below: