In the city of Longmont, tucked into a quiet, almost-suburban neighborhood off of Main Street, is Wind Over the Earth. A studio disguised by a successful storefront selling music equipment, Wind Over the Earth is home to a new project, Solid State Rocket.
The self-described “three-piece indie-rock group” comprises Wind Over the Earth owner Mark Venezia, local cellist Sam Rae and Lara Ruggles, the Boulder-based singer-songwriter who recently released her first album, Cynics and Saints. Venezia is the engineer behind Solid State Rocket and says the project just started unfolding after he closed his studio in New York and moved to Boulder, where he had the opportunity to focus more on his writing.
“I basically sat down and kind of wrote this batch of songs one day,” Venezia says. “I’m not 25 years old anymore, and I just wanted to get a kind of community vibe and get different people to perform, too.”
Venezia says that for a multitude of reasons, he wanted to have someone else singing his lines. He adds that he truly enjoys living vicariously through someone else, and that it’s an “attractive” thing and takes on a whole new meaning. Lara Ruggles was one of the first names that came to Venezia’s mind, as she was living across the street from him at the time and Wind Over the Earth was sharing studio space with her label, Immersive Records.
“Lara is one of the hardest-working musicians that I know, and she’s a great writer,” Venezia says. “She finally agreed to come in and said she’d sing some of my stuff.”
Venezia says Solid State Rocket began as just the two of them, though he always hoped to bring more people into the project. Things started picking up speed when Sam Rae came into Wind Over the Earth to record.
“After I met her, I told her I’d love for her to come play cello on some of my stuff, but then I asked if she sang at all,” Venezia remembers. “She started singing on some tracks, and immediately I was just enamored. She’s a great cello player, but her vocals are just so Kim Gordon meets this really cool vibe.”
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The project has taken nearly two years to get off the ground, mainly because of scheduling conflicts. Ruggles has been busy recording, releasing and then touring for her album, and Rae was working on her own music before heading off for a tour with Brandi Carlile in the spring of 2015.
“It was a slow process,” Venezia says. “Lara would come in and do some backgrounds, and then Sam would come in and take some of my vocals. From there, we’d have some session musicians come in and build that into a song.”
Solid State Rocket’s debut album, Lush Life, is sprinkled with more than a handful of other artists, including bassist Owen Tharpe and Colorado Springs flute player Jane Rigler. Venezia says he believes in creating a community with the artists he works with.
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“Solid State Rocket doesn’t play live and we aren’t touring, but the three of us are the nucleus of the band,” Venezia says. “We’re always thinking, ‘Who can we bring into this project?’ Lush Life was just kind of a demo record that I came in one morning and wrote like eight songs really quickly, but then you bring in a band and you start making a record for real. I’m one of those people that knows when people start singing on it, you start making moments.”
While Solid State Rocket currently has no plans to play any shows, the bandmembers have released two music videos in addition to Lush Life, and are already working on new pre-produced material. Venezia has already created a track featuring local baritone sax player Niki Mariskanish of the Dollhouse Thieves.
“I do music because I’ve got a good studio and a bunch of cool people to work with who are like-minded and passionate about their craft,” Venezia says of continuing with Solid State Rocket, despite knowing their next album could likely take months, if not years. “I just want to make something that sounds cool to at least where it’s moving me and I know it’s going to move certain people in my life. That, to me, is really what making music should be all about.”