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Meeting of Important People gets act together

| Friday, March 27, 2009

Josh Verbanets and Matt Miller are proud of their association with Lohio, one of the more promising bands to emerge from Pittsburgh in the past few years.

But they also came to a realization that the music they're best at, and songs they were working on, don't mesh completely with the band helmed by Greg Dutton.

"Greg's songs are so good, and the style of music is so unique already," Verbanets says.

Instead, Verbanets (guitar and lead vocals) and Miller (drums, vocals) recruited Aaron Bubenheim (bass, vocals), who also performs with Br'er Fox, to start a new band. Meeting of Important People will release a self-titled debut CD on Saturday at Brillobox in Lawrenceville.

Verbanets says Meeting of Important People is, in essence, a new version of The You, a band he was in a few years ago that garnered some attention during a national talent hunt. Like that outfit, the trio plays pop music with a twist. The group has an affinity for up-tempo, lyrical songs that fall somewhere between the Kinks and the Who, Fountains of Wayne and the Flaming Lips, in tone and subject matter.

That sound, however, took time to develop.

"I think that's something we struggle with, where to draw the line," Miller says. "Are we a garage rock band and do we cater to the kids who like that stuff, or are we trying to do something that's a little bit more pretty• Maybe we do both."

"It's definitely pop music," Bubenheim says. "But it's got an ugly underbelly to it, something a little bit more scary."

The fear factor stems from the lyrics, most of which are short character sketches about suburban kids who don't quite fit in with the popular crowd. In "Dead Man," the protagonist's salvation lies in the notoriety of getting in a fight; an elegant melody belies a strange meeting set forth in "Down in the Hollow"; and the band channels Pete Townshend in "Hanky Church," the lyrics part "Tommy," part Addams Family.

Miller says Verbanets' background growing up in suburban Plum contributed to many of the lyrical scenarios.

"I started listening to some of the lyrics about bored kids in cemeteries," Miller says. "You do stuff like that because you have nothing else to do. There's no culture there."

"Or, it's having pop culture pushed on you and not knowing what you're really doing," Verbanets says.

The other notable difference from the work Verbanets and Miller did in Lohio is the sheer physicality of the music. Lohio's metier is breezy, Wilco-like songs that are easily extended. Performing the songs of Meeting of Important People requires a different set of musical muscles that belies the trio's soft-spoken nature during an interview.

"In this band, it's not that we're playing characters," Verbanets says. "But just the physical activity of playing this music the way we have to, getting our vocal chords stretched and sometimes screaming, playing the bass ferociously in 'Dead Man.' ... It's a huge difference."

Additional Information:

Meeting of Important People

What: CD release party

With: Mariage Blanc and The Red Western

When: 10 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $6

Where: Brillobox , Lawrenceville

Details: 412-621-4900

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