Vanessa Upson, a California native who moved to Chicago to attend Loyola University, hasn’t been performing as Violetness for very long. In fact, her first show was just a few weeks ago. But her entire life has been full of music and influences that have all led to where she is today. A year after graduating in 2007, Upson came back to Chicago to work with production company Cassette Company. “That’s where it all came together, where I found something that stuck with me,” says Upson. She remembers thinking, “This is exactly the sound I’m looking for and exactly the way I wanted to have people hear me.”
That music so far, in her few recorded songs, is primarily based around Upson’s delicate vocals, drums—including floor tom hits and snare rolls—and other percussive sounds, handclaps, shakers and bells. “I wanted it to be kind of tribal,” says Upson, “and I wanted to have a dark feel to it.”
In her next studio session, Upson plans to add more programming to bring a new element into the songs. “It’s kind of primal right now, which I like, but there’s a whole other side of me that kind of wants to make the sound get a little bigger and maybe a little dancier.”
Upson is half Peruvian and she had opportunity to spend a lot of time in Peru when she was younger. The title of one of her songs, “Nazca,” refers to the Nazca Desert in Peru, where, by helicopter or Google image searches, one can see ancient lines on the ground, depicting huge monkeys, spiders, birds and people as well as geometric shapes. “[Peru] inspired a lot of my sort of worldly sound or wanting a worldly sound.” This region inspired the lyrics of what Upson describes as “almost a mating call.” She sings, “Will you hear me call? / Will you come here, my love?”
As for how long Upson plans on staying in Chicago, she’s unsure, but she is planning on eventually relocating to New York.. “I think my heart is in New York. I want to finish an EP here and I want to hit as many of the venues in Chicago as I can, just utilize it as much as I can and when I’ve exhausted that, go to New York.”
In September, Upson plans to return to Reel Sounds Studio in Skokie to record two more songs for her upcoming EP. She will also be traveling to New York next month to play two shows. (Todd Miller)
August 26 at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, (773)276-3600, at 9:30pm. $3-$6.