Leon III, The TVD
First Date and Premiere, “Skeletal Pines”

“Like a lot of people who go on to make music of their own, I’ve always been obsessed with recorded music in physical form.”

“I am lucky enough to have a father who was really into music—mostly country, but he also loved opera like Mario Lanza and Pavarotti. As far back as I can remember, he would take my brother and me to a record store called Peaches in Richmond, Virginia a few times a year. He would never really restrict us on how much we could get, so it felt like an absolute free-for-all since I was young and would come away with three or four records in whatever the format du jour was—records then tapes and then CDs.

I have vivid memories of my dad coming to the register with big stacks of things he was going to buy. Later in life, my brother and I realized that he was often buying the same things he already had because he forgot he owned them. I swear he has 30 copies of Willie Nelson Stardust.

I still have a lot of the things I bought on these sprees at Peaches. I know I have some Peaches branded tape and CD crates somewhere. Run DMC King of a Rock and Duran Duran Rio vinyl for sure. Ratt Out of the Cellar. R.E.M. Chronic Town and Del Fuegos Boston Mass on tape.

I don’t know if I still have it but I definitely remember buying Kool & the Gang Emergency on CD right after CDs came out because it was one of the only things I could find in the store on CD. I guess we had a CD player at the time but I am not so sure. I think I liked the colorful light refractions off the disc more than I liked Kool & the Gang. It was like holding the future in your hand. Or so I thought.

Anyway, Peaches was just the beginning. My favorite record shop to this day and the place where I spent pretty much every dollar I came across until I was about 25 is called Plan 9. It’s also in Richmond. The first time I went there was the day my buddy Jay turned 16. He got his license and we went straight there and then to this small head shop / record store called Bohannon’s that was next to a XXX movie theatre. That’s the first time I saw a bong and black light posters and learned about the concept of a 10” record. I was just getting into the Dead at the time so thought it was all Shangri-La.

Plan 9 also had a shop in Charlottesville, Virginia where I went to college. I bought some of the records of my life in that Charlottesville store. Palace Music Viva Last Blues, Uncle Tupelo Anodyne, Morphine Cure for Pain and countless others. I wish I could travel back in time to about 2000 so I could go shop the used vinyl section at Plan 9. For like $15, I would come away with 10 records. That was before the vinyl revival hit full swing and before prices became insane. You could take a $2 chance on some random thing just to see what happened.

After all these years, I’m still into the physical form of music and having something I can study and touch. A lot of my friends and people I know have abandoned the physical form of music in favor of streaming. I have been handed several collections that people were on the verge of just throwing away. There are gems in there. Hoyt Axton My Griffin is Gone is something I randomly came across in some records I was given. It’s wild. That’s just one example off the top of my head.

In a lot of ways all of this has influenced what I want to create as a musician. I want to make full album experiences with crazy artwork and tactile elements—not just a bunch of digital singles. This isn’t really what is en vogue at the moment. I realize that. But it’s what I feel has the most lasting impact. Maybe one day someone will find a Leon III record in the $2 bin or in some collection they are given and fall for it. That’s not going to happen with a digital single.

“Skeletal Pines” seems like a timeless folktale in the vein of something off of a Grateful Dead record or Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection. It’s a story about a ghost revisiting his living wife and not liking that she has a new companion. It turned out quite beautiful thanks to Kai Welch’s (Kacey Musgraves) piano and Dana Colley’s (Morphine) baritone saxophone. Bobby Bare, Jr. once told me that Mark Nevers (who produced the album) does his best work on the quietest songs. I think it shows here.”
Andy Stepanian

Antlers in Velvet, the new full-length release from Leon III arrives in stores on March 5, 2021—on vinyl.

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