Verskotzi: This album was totally a cleansing experience

Photo By Gretchen Burkhart

Joey Verskotzi moved to Minneapolis in 2010, and it didn't take the talented singer/songwriter long to amass a striking batch of new songs. He assembled a band around him called, fittingly enough, Verskotzi. Over the past year, Verskotzi has been hard at work crafting a new album, Lemon Heart, along with guitarist/producer Izaac Burkhart, bassist Ian Allison, and drummer Grady Kenevan, and the group is set to celebrate at Icehouse on Saturday night with a record release show. Verskotzi has just signed with Princess Records.

Ahead of their release show, Gimme Noise was able to ask Joey about the writing process for the new album, how recording these songs was a cleansing experience for him, how his collaboration with Zoo Animal's Holly Hansen came about, and how he draws inspiration from the Twin Cities music scene.

Gimme Noise: What was the writing and recording process like for Lemon Heart, and how long did it take for these songs to come together?

Joey Verskotzi: The writing process always varies for me. It's probably the most unpredictable part of the process when it comes to making a record. There are few times when I actually enjoy the writing aspect. It's such a challenge, but super rewarding. As soon as there was a solid set of songs, Izaac, my producer, and I started pre-production. As more songs were tracked I had a better vision of what the album was shaping up to be. I found new inspiration in that and wrote songs like "Luck", "Honey", "The Flying Piano", and "8th St. Train." It took a little over a year for the entire process.

You candidly touch on many deeply personal issues throughout these new songs. Was writing and recording the album a cathartic experience for you?

It was totally a cleansing experience to say the least. It's one thing for me to write down stories and lyrics on a sheet of paper to get it out of my head, but something about singing it is therapeutic. Throughout the process of writing about intensely emotional, personal topics I almost wanted to shift gears just so that I didn't have to think about those things. But now I'm glad I decided to hang on.

When did you first start playing music, and do you remember the moment that got you hooked on pursuing making music?

I started piano lessons at 6 or 7 years old. That definitely wasn't the "spark" moment though. I've played drums since I was 12 but it didn't make me want to write songs really. But I can remember my next door neighbor getting an electric guitar like it was yesterday. I thought there was nothing cooler. So as soon as I got my first guitar I started putting songs together and was pretty determined to make something come of it.

Holly Hansen from Zoo Animal plays on one of your new tracks, "Abandoned Love." How did that collaboration come about?

I met Holly pretty early on when I moved to Minneapolis in 2010. She's always been super kind to me, we've played shows together, and I just love her songwriting. The raw, organic aspect that she does so well is what made me want to have her on "Abandoned Love." Izaac and I set up pretty loose creative guidelines for how we wanted her to approach it and she just killed it in a few takes.

Do you have a live band assembled to help you bring these new songs to the stage?

Yeah totally. The tracking of bass and drums on the record was primarily done by Ian Allison (bass) and Grady Kenevan (drums). They've been my band along with Izaac (guitar/vocals) for 2 years now. Just had our last rehearsal last night and we're really excited to play these tunes at Icehouse.

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