It’s been four months since the horror metal band Devour Once Dead last competed in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City’s Road to Vegas 2.
Members displayed massive improvements in their stage show compared to their first battle in the 2016 Road to Vegas. The following year, the band received a new member, a new image and a new outlook -- and it helped the band secure a finalist spot in Hard Rock’s battle of the bands competition.
In anticipation for the band’s latest show with Dead Horse Trauma and Hemlock on Thursday (Sept. 7) at The Marquee, The Weekender got a chance to sit down with vocalist Vince Conway and bassist Jason Verbeski about what the band has been up to since the battle:
Looking back on your performance during that entire battle, what will you take away?
Conway: I felt like our stage presence actually grew quite a bit.
Verbeski: We’re more of a show now instead of just playing our songs.
Conway: It’s pretty cool. We try to bring that to every show.
The band’s look changed over the course of the year. What started that shift?
Conway: The whole image thing that we transformed into was pushed a lot by Cody [Shipp]. He was like, ‘We need to do something! Get a look!’ And he was the one that pushed for that. I’ve always wanted to do something kind of like that with the chef coats that we once had. Cody gave us a different outlook. I think it worked. We added the fog machines, the cemetery gates in the back. It all came together.
I heard a lot of positive comments about Devour Once Dead’s upgraded show and that there was always something new. Was this all part of the battle plan?
Conway: It just kind of happened. I think me and Cody one night just went to Lowes without a plan. We’re like, ‘What should we do? Let’s try to build something.’ That’s where the big cemetery gates come from. We were cutting things in my living, sawdust got everywhere. We just kind of ran with it.
Back when the band was a four-piece in Road to Vegas, how do you think you fared in the first battle compared to the second?
Conway: I think we went up against Arson City. I called that one. I was like, ‘They’re going to beat us out this first round.’ I’ve seen ‘em before. We still gave it our all. We weren’t there as performers I thought. We played well but we didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor in the performance. I was surprised in Road to Vegas 2 that we beat Earth Groans. Once we beat them I was like, ‘Holy sh**!’ It kind of blew me away.
Verbeski: It’s like what Chris [Dolphin] said, if we beat Earth Groans, as far as he’s concerned, we won the battle.
Another dynamic that changed from the first Road to Vegas to the second was the introduction of Jason as the bassist, putting Vince in charge of just vocals. What as that like?
Conway: It was kind of liberating. The last band I was in with Chris Dolphin, I was just the vocalist and it was awesome. I loved it but I didn’t have the frontman confidence. When we started this band, I still wanted to be the vocalist but I also wanted to play something. I’ve gone from guitarist to bass back to guitarist back to bass. I almost wanted to hide behind an instrument. It got to the point where my confidence level surpassed that. [Verbeski] came in and was like, ‘I wanna play one song with you guys!’ and I was like, ‘Why don’t you just play bass and I do my own thing?’
Verbeski: The next day I ordered a bass.
Conway: I feel now I have the confidence to be a frontman. It frees up my vocals and I can try new things. It’s pretty hard to play an instrument and do any kind of vocals. It was too hard for me. It was like try to pat your head and rub your stomach. It was pretty liberating because even in some of our long pauses where there are no vocals, it forced me to either interact with the crowd in someway or build onto my vocals and do extra things.
Jason, what was it like for you to transition from fan to band member?
Verbeski: I’ve always wanted to play for Devour Once Dead. I went to all their shows. I wanted to play one song with them and play with my favorite local band. He said, ‘Why don’t you come to practice?’ So I sat down for a practice and he said, ‘I was actually thinking about having you play bass.’ I was shocked. My head just spun. Through the whole battle, I was like, ‘Is this really happening?’
During that battle, you and Carla Hansen were really big into the marketing aspects of the band. What does it take to do that?
Verbeski: As far as merchandise, it was a lot of friends helping out.
Hansen: There was a lot of legwork. We would go bar to bar. Our weekends consisted of going to bars selling shirts. We had tickets and t-shirts for the show. You can promote it all day online but once they see you face-to-face, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah! I want one!’ That’s how we got rid of a lot of stuff. It was a lot of legwork.
Verbeski: I felt like I was the new guy and I had some catching up I had to do. I had to put my work in. So I’m going to show you guys what I can do for this band.
Making it all the way to the finals at Road to Vegas 2, what does that say for the band?
Conway: We definitely have it to take it to that next level. We have the potential to take this as far as we want to try and take it. It was a good matchup; two Sioux City bands, completely different. This last one was awesome.
Verbeski: It stressed me out! (laughs)
What’s Devour Once Dead up to now?
Conway: We’ve only played a handful of shows. Still working on the last bit of our CD. Hopefully that will come out soon. Once we get the CD and have good audio, we want to do music videos. I already have some storyboards.
Verbeski: We got a show October 6 with Blue Felix and Fear the Broken at The Marquee. October 22 we’ll be at Sioux Falls with Dead Horse Trauma and Ektomorf.