By Jessica Apperson
Violinist Simon Orvista, violist Erica Ticthdale, and cellist Steve Velez took the time to answer some fun and informative questions in between sessions for Rock Hits 2016 and our upcoming Hits of 2016 Volume 2.
What do you feel you do to add your personal touch to the VSQ renditions?
Simon Orvista - Even though these are tribute albums, it doesn’t feel genuine if I try to copy the original exactly. After getting to know the vibe of each song, I approach the music as if it’s the most meaningful, important music I’ve ever played - and play it from the heart.
Erica Ticthdale - When I was in high school I often fantasized about being a drummer, so when I get a chance to be a “rhythm-section” (such as in Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” or Shawn Mendes’ “Stitches”) I get a little extra kick out of it.
What is the most fun about playing a song that isn’t traditionally played by string instruments?
Simon Orvista - I play the violin, and we often (and rightfully so...back off violas and cellos) get the melody lines. So it’s fun to emulate what vocals do, especially pop vocals, since singers naturally do a lot of interesting and expressive things that aren't normally done on the violin.
Erica Ticthdale - Similar to what I said above, it’s fun to get a chance to “imitate” rock instruments, or even voices. I love all kinds of music, so as a classically trained musician it’s really fun to get a chance to branch out and dip my toe into other genres.
Steve Velez - It’s so fun to find parts of classical music in pop and rock music. Being inspired by George Martin to blend classical with rock was my motivation to do more with bringing it to life with my cello.
What was your favorite track to play?
Simon Orvista - Gah, I can’t pick a favorite kid. Most satisfying to play: Sia’s “Chandelier” and Adele’s “Skyfall”; maybe “Sweater Weather.” Surprisingly dope: The Sigur Rós tracks. I’ve got a big soft spot for Lorde’s “Team.” I’d have to go down the rabbit hole to remember all the songs I’ve done, but I always have a great time recording them.
Erica Ticthdale - My favorite track would have to be “Tennessee Whiskey,” since I not only get to imitate the singer (whose vocals in that song are so soulful and expressive), but the AMAZING guitar solo in the middle as well. I had a lot of fun with that one.
Steve Velez - This is very difficult to pick after doing so many tracks. I love The Nightmare Before Christmas. “This is Halloween” was so fun. I also loved doing Dream Theater, Tool, and Madonna.
What was the most challenging one to play?
Simon Orvista - Um, I’d say some of the slower, more intimate tracks can be hard to pull off well. Things like “Stay with Me” or “Say Something.”
Erica Ticthdale - Ironically, the answer to this is the same as my answer above. Because we work hard to capture the essence of each song we cover, I needed to play along with Chris Stapleton’s vocals over and over to get myself into his groove. It was so worth the extra work!
Steve Velez - Absolutely, Dream Theater, 100%!
If you could transform any modern rock or pop song into a string rendition, what would it be?
Simon Orvista - Some old school R&B, like Donnie Hathaway’s “A Song for You” or some esoteric Stevie Wonder would be so fun...and I think it would sound amazing for string quartet.
Erica Ticthdale - Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” ‘Nuff said.