10 Questions with Tula Vera

This Montclair-based group consists of a couple skilled guys playing guitar and bass and a very talented female duo on drums and vocals, the latter of which is responsible for the band’s poetic lyrics. Tula Vera considers themselves a garage rock group, but you can tell they’ve got some roots in blues, as well.

At the end of 2015, Tula Vera released its first set of songs on a self-titled debut album. The six tracks that make up this moving album feature some catchy, bluesy riffs, inventive melodies, and thoughtful lyrics. The band’s newest release, which came out this past winter, features four brand new tracks, and Tula Vera is not slowing down yet.

The band has its own unique sound, and each one of its songs differs from the last, making these musicians a really cool act to see live.

Tula Vera is:
Claire Parcells – Vocals, Guitar
Dylan Drummond – Vocals, Guitar
Joe Jansen – Bass
Margaret Marino – Drums

Where did your band name come from?
Tula Vera: In the ‘80s, Claire’s dad had a rehearsal studio called Giant Studios. He had made a T-shirt with many of the bands who had rehearsed/recorded there over the years, one of which was a band called Tula Vera. Apparently, the band had only rehearsed there a handful of times and hadn’t gigged out much, so we figured it was up for grabs.

What is a typical week like for Tula Vera?
Tula Vera: Most of the week, the band is separated from each other, as we’re all currently at school. However, on the weekends, we try to fit in as many gigs and as much rehearsal time as possible.

What are the top three albums that changed your life?
Tula Vera: The Beatles’ Revolver, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Twin Peaks’ Sunken.

You all fluidly blend blues and rock & roll, which itself isn’t unusual, but you do it unlike a number of other groups. What is the songwriting process like for you?
Tula Vera: Well, every song has a different process, but generally Claire or Dylan will have worked on a song for a decent amount of time before bringing it to the rest of the band to add their parts. The new record that just came out in December, most of the time Dylan would bring in guitar parts, and Claire would bring in lyrics, and we would piece them together.

Sometimes musicians can get so caught up in the music, arrangements, riffs, etc., that they neglect the lyrics. But how important are lyrics to a song?
Tula Vera: Certain songs have deeper meanings than others, but the main goal is to make sure the lyrics sound good with the music behind them. Claire tends to treat the lyrics as poetry and write them separately from the music, while Dylan writes his lyrics as he writes the melodies and chords underneath.

What do you do when you’re suffering from writer’s block while trying to write music/lyrics?
Tula Vera: When we have writer’s block, we will learn other artist’s songs as a way to improve our writing. However, sometimes taking a break from writing and allowing new ideas to flow into our heads is a good idea too.

What hobbies outside of music do you enjoy that rejuvenate your musical creativity?
Tula Vera: Claire and Margaret like to draw. Claire did the EP art and makes a lot of the posters for our shows. Margaret made a sick portrait of the four of us. Joe plays tuba in school and is a music business major. Dylan enjoys watching stand-up comedy.

What have been your biggest challenges as a band?
Tula Vera: Losing a member is always super difficult. So when we lost our original drummer and bassist, we had to find people who were capable to play the parts and were available to do the gigs we wanted to play. But we are super happy having Margaret and Joe in the band. They’ve filled the gaps super well, and we dig the parts they come up with.

Tula Vera has a released around 10 tracks so far, and your newest album features several brand new ones. Do you have plans to release more songs in the near future?
Tula Vera: We recorded our self-titled album with Max Rauch that just came out. And we just went into the studio at William Paterson, where Dylan and Joe go to school, to record some demos. Recording and writing is a constant process, and we definitely want to release some more music in the next year.

Imagine you all are Skittles. Which flavors are you, and why?
Claire Parcells:
Sour Green Skittles, because they taste good.

Joe Jansen: The berry-flavor ones or the yellow ones, ‘cause nobody likes them.
Margaret Marino: The red ones, because although they are small, they are lively in color.
Dylan Drummond: M&M’s, ‘cause I’m different like that.


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Hero image: © Tula Vera
“Human Progress” live video: © Audio Verve and Tula Vera

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