AAP staff report
ST. PAUL (Dec. 16, 2011) — Venus On Fire, a Twin Cities rock band with two Hmong American founding members has released its second EP “My Furious Frenzy” this month — a follow-up to the 2009 EP “Clone Factory” that brought the band enough critical and popular attention to embark on a tour.
The band is fronted by lead vocalist and keyboardist Tory Envy. Leng Moua is the guitarist and inspiration behind the band, along with bassist Carl Smith.
Envy describes their new EP as more guitar-driven than the first release that had a heavy synthesizer sound. She said the vocals are more complex this time around with harmonies and overlaying.
“I wanted to experiment with my voice,” said Envy.
Moua said the band too a new approach on this EP with a goal to make it bigger and better.
“We had fun recording the EP and hopefully that reflects on the listeners as well,” Moua said. “Going forward, we hope to evolve and change as our fan base changes with us, which means releasing new material continuously and keeping our audience interested.”
Contemporary Hmong American bands differ in their approach. Some sing all in Hmong, or all in English, and some in Hmonglish. For this CD Venus On Fire sings in English to appeal to a wider audience.
The band is naturally a part of the Hmong American music scene but its members say they are not a Hmong band be definition. There happens to be two Hmong members of the band.
“I don’t think the songs not being English will steer away the Hmong audience,” Moua said. “The Hmong community is so small that it’s easy to be recognized and promote ourselves. Plus, the Hmong community is our biggest support.
Envy said people in general will relate to her lyrics because they are based on many shared experiences of relationships or going through different stages of life.
“Leng and I wrote the songs,” she added. “We’ve known each other for years and have worked and collaborated well together. Usually I’ll come up with a chord progression on the keyboard or guitar and start singing a melody to it and eventually the lyrics will find its way.
The art of collaboration is a process that has evolved as the band grows together in the creative experience. Sometimes Leng will come up with a guitar riff and play it for Envy, who will in turn become inspired with a melody or lyrics.
“My favorite song on the EP is ‘What Do We Know?’ It’s actually the oldest song,” she said. “I wrote the lyrics to the song during a transitional period in my life. I was look at the world and wondering why we are the way we are and why change is so hard, but at the same time so simple.”
Envy said she is just one person and isn’t about changing the world. She prefers to see change in herself and influence others.
“Change is such a broad term so when I say change I mean change the way I think, speak, and do things to help others and not just myself, my family, or my friends… but to help people I don’t know and not be afraid to be different and look like an idiot to make someone smile or just be kind and forgive.”
Envy is still surprised when people recognize her and the band. The support of fans is all the difference is fueling their joy of recording and performing.
“Fans are our biggest asset and without them we would be no one,” Envy said. “As for future plans… our mgmt is trying to put together a tour. We are slowly working on an acoustic EP. In a few months we’ll have our first music video out.”
Leng said it is reassuring to hear people say they enjoy the music, but that he doesn’t thrive off of popularity.
“I greatly appreciate everyone who is supportive of our band,” Moua said. “Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done. We plan on touring in the year 2012 and hopefully release another recording, perhaps another EP or a single.”
As with many young bands, it is a labor of love that is kept going with the day job. Envy said music is her life and not a distraction because it is the universal language that everyone can understand in every day relationships.
“That is why it is so important to me,” she said. “We have fans across the world and they may not know what I’m singing but they can still relate to the music. Being in a band is hard work. I’m always trying to push us forward. It’s easy to want to take a break, but if we do we’ll fall behind and it will harder for us. It’s hard, but also very rewarding with every push.”
Carl said being a member of a band can be difficult. It means balancing practice and shows with work and life. He thinks of Venus On Fire as a distraction, but in a positive way.
“I feel it’s an extension of ourselves that we can share with everyone,” Smith said.
Moua said the band is not is a part of their lives. “That’s the kind of commitment I think we have to this band,” he said.
The band is managed by Vladimir Xiong.
The band’s origins date back to Moua and a high school friend. They began rehearsing together and playing gigs before forming the band. Envy has been singing since age 17 and joined the band in 2008.