Abe Vigoda’s Reggie Guerrero (left), David Reichardt, Juan Velazquez and Michael Vidal are unapologetic fans of Barney Miller.
ABE VIGODA as part of DIPLO FALL TOUR at Circa (126 John) Tuesday (October 21), 9 pm. $15. 416-979-0044.
This just in: Abe Vigoda, now 87, is still alive. In fact, false reports of the Godfather and Barney Miller actor's death have been circulating since 1982. Vigoda's status as a minor Internet meme is being bolstered by a bizarre indie rock band from Los Angeles.
Quirky punk quartet Abe Vigoda, from Chino, California, are bringing their tropical noise pop to dance floors all over North America thanks to Diplo's refreshingly eclectic fall tour lineup.
"It's kind of exciting but really scary. I mean really exciting but kinda scary," laughs singer/guitarist Juan Velazquez, quickly correcting
There's a slight hint of anxiety in his voice. This tour will be the burgeoning band's biggest to date. They've done one North American jaunt before, but that was opening for hometown friends No Age, a band with a compatible sound that ensured that Abe Vigoda played to receptive audiences. On this tour, the band will be travelling by bus, playing larger venues and attempting to make inroads with Diplo's tastemaker electro-club set.
"We actually got asked to do this tour once before, but we thought it would be weird," says Velazquez. "Then Telepathe, our friends from New York, were asked to join the bill, and it made more sense so we agreed."
He does see it as an opportunity to tap into a new audience. "There's an overlap cuz Diplo works with and remixes a lot of indie rock bands. It might be a weird match, but that's exciting."
Velazquez says Abe Vigoda's history stretches back to his meeting guitarist Michael Vidal at recess during their grungy schoolyard days in the 1990s.
"We ended up becoming friends because we liked the Smashing Pumpkins a lot - to the point where we'd download live shows and trade them. It was pretty geeky stuff."
When Velazquez and Vidal began making music ("We were much more of a noisy punk band at first"), neither thought it would ever amount to anything - hence the goofy moniker.
"Even before we had a band, Michael and I thought it would be funny to name a band Abe Vigoda. We were never super-psyched about the name, but people remembered it, so it stuck."
Back then, their biggest problem was escaping suburban cultural blight.
"There wasn't any music scene in Chino. It's like the suburbs; there's like nothing there."
Soon, the band - rounded out by bassist Dave Reichardt and drummer Gerardo Guerrero - was making the 40-minute train ride into Los Angeles, where they discovered a lively group of underground music venues, including the Smell, where they met bands like Mika Miko and No Age.
"Just going there to see shows, we slowly began to realize that we could probably play there."
After releasing two LPs and touring around the Bay Area, the band began to embrace their current pop-oriented sensibilities, especially after Velazquez got turned on to the Slits.
Now that their latest release, Skeleton (Post Present Medium/Bella Union), has the indie scene buzzing, a odd, somewhat morbid competition is under way. Namely, which will last longer? Abe Vigoda the person or Abe Vigoda the band?