Out with a Bang
Visqueen End a Glorious Decade of Rock and Hilarity
Visqueen burst onto the Seattle music scene in the summer of 2001 with a debut show that instantly identified the band as a force. Consisting of former Hafacat members Rachel Flotard and Ben Hooker and former Fastback Kim Warnick, Visqueen blasted out of the gate with a shiny batch of power-pop punk songs that sounded awesome live. The coming years brought lineup changes (when Warnick stepped down, bassist Christina Bautista stepped up), but the song remained the same, reaching its apotheosis on 2009's Message to Garcia, featuring Visqueen's strongest batch of tunes yet and killer Kurt Bloch–enhanced production. Released on Flotard's just-formed label Local 638 Records, Message to Garcia seemed to portend years of Visqueeny adventures to come—but now, after 10 years, the band is officially calling it quits so its members can devote themselves to full-immersion side projects. Following the creation of Local 638—now home to both Star Anna and Rusty Willoughby's Cobirds Unite (of which Flotard is a co-member)—Flotard is creating a new Flotard, and will be rocking a full five-month baby bump at Visqueen's last-ever show this Saturday at the Neptune. In advance of this special-guest-studded show, I forced Flotard to dissect her beloved, soon-to-be-former band.
Tell me about the first Visqueen show.
It was on my birthday, July 14, 2001. Warnick brought a cake onstage for me at the Bad Juju Lounge. I felt awesome and 28. I remember it being packed inside the club and being very excited to eat cake.
Did the band make a profit? Break even?
Absolutely. Amazingly, we have never gone into band debt. We've all worked and had jobs to prep for each tour we went on. On the road, we paid ourselves $10 a day. For the essentials, of course—pinwheels and foam cowboy hats.
Did you ever get any creepy overtures about licensing Visqueen music that you had to shoot down?
I don't know what would be super-creepy at this point. There's mouths to feed. If Summer's Eve came a-knocking, I'd rewrite "Hand Me Down" to "Hand Me Douche."
What was Visqueen's biggest show?
Opening for X at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco felt like the biggest. Or at least the scariest. X fans want to see X. Your dumb band is in the way. But that night, they jumped us into the gang. We were part of the family and sold more merch than at any other show on record.
Did being in a band mean you got to see a lot of great shows by other bands?
Yes. I think I'm banned from seeing the Hold Steady because I was jumping on a speaker in Minneapolis like Janice from the Muppets, completely tearing my face off. There are so many great moments, it makes me feel like I'm writing a fairy-tale book for my grandkids by talking about it. Cheap Trick, Guided by Voices, X. Not to mention Neko adventures—Porter Wagoner "opened" for her while I was touring in her band. Billy Bob Thornton on drums, Dwight Yoakam on bass, Marty Stuart on mandolin. I walked up a flight of stairs behind Dwight, whose jeans were shellacked on. I could see his prostate and I was beside myself with joy. Life is amazing.
What's the closest you ever came to splitting prior to now?
Believe it or not, this is the closest. There have been difficult times, of course. Losing or gaining band members is a pretty weird thing. There have been times we've gassed it a little hard on the highway at the end of a tour so we can get home in time to see our families, but honestly it's been our life. We've never really joked around about quitting. Ben is someone who I can rely on completely. He is one of the most solid human beings on the planet. As much as I make fun of his gangly ass and as much as he makes fun of every single thing I do, the underlying fact is that we never ever want to let the other down. He's the best friend in rock and roll I've ever had.
Favorite Visqueen song?
"Sailor." Because it's the first one. There are others I like better musically, but that one started the engine.
Biggest regret of Visqueen's career?
Not going to Japan.
Biggest source of pride from Visqueen's career?
Our friendships and the goodwill we're shown. Over the years, I think our "reputation," if I can objectively use that word, seems to have a tone of happiness and laughs to it. That makes me very happy.
What will you miss the most about the band?
Playing those songs. And turning around and seeing Ben.
Local 638 Records and management will still be in full swing. There are a few folks coming onto the roster in 2012 that I'm over-the-moon excited about—but I can't flap my gums yet. I'm also apparently going to be doing Kegels all the livelong day while I work and try to imagine a bowling ball cruising out of my body come April. There's no question that I'll write and go play new music in some form. I'm on the edge of my seat with a fat pack of Milk Duds dying to see what's next.