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SoundCheck: Violet and the Undercurrents Find Their Groove on Vinyl

Violet and the Undercurrents
Courtesy of Violet Vonder Haar
Violet and the Undercurrents
Violet and the Undercurrents
Credit Courtesy of Violet Vonder Haar
Violet and the Undercurrents

Violet Vonder Haar has always had nautical themes in her life; her father was a riverboat captain. Last year, her Columbia-based band Violet and the Undercurrents released The Captain, a double album centered around these themes. 

“I started working more nautical themes into my writing and then I started to see this connection between all the songs. Also, developing this character of a captain, of somebody who’s the captain of their own life and their journey,” she said.

Violet and the Undercurrents include Vonder Haar on lead vocals and guitar, Phylshawn Johnson on drums, Linda Bott on bass, and Lizzy Weiland on lead guitar. This all-girl band has earned their place as a staple of Missouri music. 

The Captain took about three years to write, record and design.  Vonder Haar and Johnson joined us by phone and said this was the first recording they decided to press to vinyl.   It was also their first project without a deadline. 

SoundCheck: Violet and the Undercurrents

“We were able to sit back and listen to everything we had done in that session a week or two later and really decide on if we liked what we heard or if we needed to improve upon things,” said Johnson.  

This process allowed the Undercurrents to explore new sounds, as well as different images and emotions. That imagery plays out with the artwork included with the physical copies of the album. Vonder Haar created a collage for each song. 

“It ended up being a chance for me to just get to know the songs at a deeper level and try to understand what each of them meant to me and also helped to develop that concept of this character, of this captain, and try to tell the story through the imagery,” said Vonder Haar.

When it came time to find a company to press The Captain to vinyl, Vonder Haar and Johnson recall their difficult time trying to navigate the murky waters of the process.

“We were very new to it. Everything didn’t make sense. But we knew that we had to research a few different printing places to understand what was going on,” said Johnson.

Eventually they found a company that was able to answer all of their questions and put the album together in a way that suited the band.

When delivery day came, Vonder Haar and Johnson were full of excitement.

“It came in on a dolly with a truck in pallets. I work at a drum shop downtown in Columbia called Access Percussion and since we have lots of deliveries all the time, the owner was totally cool with us having our vinyl delivered there. Actually, Violet, you met me there! So we took two cars to get all the boxes into our house!” said Johnson.

“It was a pretty incredible feeling, opening the boxes for the first time and just seeing this vision come to life. I just remember having butterflies in my stomach. We didn’t really know if it was going to turn out how we wanted until we were able to actually look at the product. So, that moment of cutting the tape, and opening the box, and opening it up and seeing it exactly as I envisioned, it was an amazing feeling. It was so gratifying,” said Vonder Haar.

Violet and the Undercurrents have a lot of young fans. Vonder Haar kept that in mind as she created the artwork and the booklet for The Captain

“I remember as a young child opening the books that came with the CDs and memorizing all the lyrics. That was so impactful on me as a young artist. And that was part of the reason I really wanted to do that with this album. If we can help inspire any younger kids growing up to just be creative and follow their vision and their creativity and their passions, then it’s worth all the work it took to put into it,” said Vonder Haar.

Copyright 2021 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. She now commands the front desk, taking your calls and greeting you at the door. Jessica co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. In 2006, she earned her BA in Applied Anthropology from Missouri State University. When she’s not at KSMU, Jessica plays bass in local bands the Hook Knives, Brother Wiley and the Ozark Sheiks, and sings in Shattered and JM Buttermilk. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, CT and Ellie, and way too many house plants.