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BUT WHAT ABOUT BETTY?

There's nothing ladylike about Veronica. The Boulder-based trio--guitarist/vocalist Ted Thacker, drummer John Call and bassist Vernon "Tom" Sprenkle--delivers punchy, two-minute pop songs with a careening energy fueled by testosterone and/or alcohol.

In its brief four-gig history, the tight-knit threesome already has earned positive reactions from clubgoers. This response is understandable, given the band's blistering half-hour sets, songs with perfectly descriptive titles such as "Asteroids" and "Baby in a Blender," atonal group yelling and Thacker's bull-in-a-china-shop guitar stylings and sturdy bark, which recalls Cracker's David Lowery and ex-Replacement Paul Westerberg in their more anguished moments. All in all, the phrase "catastrophe rock," offered by Sprenkle to characterize the tunes he pens, is as good a label as any for a Veronica performance.

But good word of mouth isn't solely responsible for Veronica's growing notoriety on the Denver/Boulder rock circuit. That's because all three of the group's members have been playing together for years under the guise of Baldo Rex, a quartet fronted by singer Phil Wronski. "We have an unfair advantage over most start-up bands in the fact that we've paid a lot of dues," offers Thacker following a few snorts of cheap Scotch and expensive Mexican beer.

"And we have this unfair advantage of being better than most of those bands," Sprenkle interjects, tongue only partly in cheek.

"People know who we are," Thacker notes, "and I can get us gigs." He adds that the players appreciate the "drunks at the Lion's Lair" who have supported Veronica thus far, but insists that Baldo Rex remains foremost in his affections. "It really makes me grit my teeth when people say we're better than Baldo," he says. "I always feel like kicking them--and then I remember I'm in both bands."

At this point, Wronski's feelings about his mates' decision to pursue a side project without him appear to be pretty much a nonissue. Call reports that Wronski initially felt a bit "put out" by the situation, but Thacker swears that nothing could be further from the truth. He believes Wronski understands that if Veronica lands a quick and dirty recording contract, the funds raised could be set aside for Baldo Rex's future studio work. As for Wronski, he says "I don't care" about his exclusion from Veronica in a tone that suggests he's either annoyed by the question or (as he claims) simply late for work.

In comparing the two bands' approaches, Thacker observes that Baldo plays "a lot more weird shit" than does Veronica, while "I'm a lot simpler lyric writer than Phil is." He's also a more melodically savvy one, as his composition "Birthday" proves. Over the song's insistent bass line, Thacker whispers a wavering, not-quite-falsetto vocal hook that makes the tune one of Veronica's most memorable offerings to date, as well as a fitting tribute to musical influences that range from Eighties pop flashes DeBarge to the obscure punk act Bikini Kill. In Call's opinion, "Ted's not afraid to have sex with his voice."

Nor is Thacker shy about expressing his opinion on his latest band's moniker. "It's really `now,'" he says, wearing an expression of mild disgust. But, he concedes, the best name other than Veronica that the players came up with was Piss Midget.

"We don't have any philosophy," Thacker continues, other than to avoid headlining gigs like a dose of the clap. While Baldo Rex can perform in either Denver or Boulder no more often than once a month in order to maintain its drawing power, the members of Veronica feel that as a warm-up act, they can play out as often as they like without fear of diluting their turnout. As part of an opening band, Thacker observes, "you're just a leech," drawing fans from the headliner's following in order to build your own. By the same token, he hopes that future Baldo tours will allow him to slip Veronica demos to the club owners he encounters. He sees this as a valuable means of contact in a business where, he says, "It helps if they know your face."

Veronica's approach to recording will be equally straightforward. The bandmembers plan to enter the studio any day now in order to record a twelve-song, approximately thirty-minute-long cassette they want to make available by early September. The musicians will then sell copies at shows and local stores and shop their product to record labels with an eye toward an eventual CD release.

In the meantime, the men who would be Veronica are eager to share the stage with any acts that will have them. While Call says that the group's first Denver appearance without Baldo's Wronski was "kind of weird," he is quick to add, "It felt really cool.

 
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