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To this day, Cassidy can only guess at the reasons behind Graham's behavior. "I don't think that he really felt in tune with our music. We couldn't even write new songs after a while because he didn't feel it needed his part, or that we weren't giving him enough space. We never really knew what he wanted or needed. It's hard unless everybody reads music, which we don't, to deal with a horn player when you're a string player. Guitarist and bassists can look at each other and know where they are, whereas a horn player needs to know what key you're in, what scales they can use. He was playing all by ear, pretty much. He's a super-talented person, but he just had some other things that he needed to work on, and I guess we were taking away from that."
In the wake of Graham's departure, the remaining members rallied. "It took us a while to get over that hump that he was gone and to realize that, damn, we have all this space now that we need to fill up with something," Cassidy comments. At first they supplemented the lineup with guitarist Ryan Martino, who produced Venus Diablo, but this experiment was later scrapped in favor of continuing as a trio. In Cassidy's words, "We've written a whole new album of material that we were working on--ten or twelve brand-new songs that Jessie never played on that I feel are some of our better songs, actually, because we're not used to hearing that extra part now. We wrote them as a three-piece, and we're playing them as a three-piece. They just feel solid that way.
"We have a few songs now that tend toward swing-style music, where you could actually dance to them," reports Cassidy, a jitterbug enthusiast. "There is a swing scene in Albuquerque, but it's pretty small, and we only get out to swing dance maybe twice a month when those shows are happening."
Denver's swing-friendliness is only one of the reasons that Cassidy and company are hoping to spend more time in Colorado--or practically anywhere else. Although Venus Diablo still draws crowds in New Mexico, Cassidy notes that "it seems like we're getting less shows here. The promoters want to keep the scene fresh, or something like that. It seems like we don't get as much respect here as we should, and it's been making the band restless. For a while we couldn't get out of Albuquerque due to Jessie's condition, and once we got over the hurdle of losing him and rebuilding ourselves, it didn't seem like we were getting any appreciation in Albuquerque. So everybody was kind of like, well, I better start doing something else, because this is sucking."
At this point, the three men in Venus plan to stay together, but Cassidy concedes that there are times when doing so is difficult. He offers as an example a recent gig with singer-songwriter Lori Carson, who lobbied to play her mellow set first. "All these people were coming in asking if we've played yet and sticking around to see us," Cassidy contends. "And then the Dingo Bar ends up paying us $100 on a Saturday night while we kept the crowd there to see Lori Carson--and she got her guarantee.
"It's terrible," he grouses. "When you're a band that lives in a small place, it seems like they treat you like shit. Because you're expendable."