April 2010 / Band Bio

There’s just something about the Catskills and great music that go together. An energy that radiates from the mighty, life-giving nexus of the Hudson River and courses through the mountains and the tall pines, between the dozens of old stone houses; a beacon in search of creative spirits to embrace and nurture. It’s a light that’s found several such spirits in Verdes, an exciting band that took root in 2006 in the famously creative town of New Paltz. A group whose singular brand of melodic and soulful hard-edged rock is rich with the natural allure of the region.

“The Catskills is one of the most beautiful spots on Earth,” says drummer, vocalist, and lyricist Roland Hasbrouck, whose French and Native American ancestors were among the first to inhabit the area. “It hasn’t been completely spoiled by big-city development yet, and there’s a certain raw innocence here that we draw from as musicians.” Indeed, one has only to scan the titles on Verdes’s eponymous five-track debut (released April 2008) to get a sense of how deeply the territory has woven itself into the group’s collective psyche. But while the names of songs like “Esopus Creek” and “Thruway North” reference landmarks most familiar to locals, they also serve as image-laden jumping-off points for universal themes of anguish and redemption. This is music that speaks to anyone with a heart and a soul.

And it’s music written mostly by band founders Hasbrouck and lead guitarist Tim Curtis-Verderosa; an organic and modern mélange of classic touchstones like Tom Petty, Wilco, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and, of course, local legends The Band (it’s no surprise that another singing drummer, the great Levon Helm, is Hasbrouck’s biggest hero and the chief influence on his fluid, economic style). The versatile and warm-toned Curtis-Verderosa, whose curious resume includes a stint as a side man and music director to rock ’n’ roll pioneer Chubby Checker, is Verdes’s other master of understatement, a player who truly understands the concept of playing for the song—not just the other guitarists in the room. “That’s what great rock ’n’ roll is all about, the songs,” says Curtis-Verderosa. “It’s not about playing 10-minute solos.”

The most recent addition to Verdes is guitarist and vocalist Mike Chapman, a singer-songwriter in his own right outside of the band. Chapman’s rootsy playing style gives the music much of its earthy texture, and the way he harmonizes with Hasbrouck on the pleading choruses of bursting-heart anthems like “Back Again” is a key element of the group’s sound. Recently, the outfit became a quintet by adding bassist Mark Ormerod (“He was in his momma’s belly at an Elvis concert in 1973,” says Curtis-Verderosa) and esteemed jazz guitarist Mark Dziuba, who plays lap steel in Verdes and gives the band a sound best described as ambient Americana.

In addition to the above-mentioned tracks, Verdes is rounded out by the earnest, mid-tempo “Outbound” and the warming ballad “Slow Burn.”

“There’s still plenty of life left in that archetypal rock ’n’ roll 1-4-5 progression,” says Curtis-Verderosa. “We’re trying to write songs that won’t go away.”

Not an easy task, making songs that won’t go away. But one that Verdes somehow does over and over again, as the timeless gems found on the band’s debut so clearly show.