Earlier this year, Chris Santaniello broke down. Recordings of his own voice, acoustic guitar, bass, and homemade drums – sounds he once turned to for solace – now caused him to question his 10-year journey as a musician. His solo project, “I Shot the Pope”, remained stagnant, as was his development as an artist. He lacked an audience, so he questioned the purpose of his innate artistic integrity and perfectionism. He dropped out of community college and threatened to sell his musical equipment, seeming to accept his fate as the heir of his father’s driveway paving business.
In the midst of this, he attended a My Bloody Valentine concert. He was struck by the opening band’s poor production quality and lack of talent; Santaniello was both angered and encouraged by what he now knew to be true – it was he who deserved a place on that stage instead. His friends encouraged him to hang on, and he did.
Santaniello ditched his old acoustic sound and began both listening and composing experimental and psychedelic music, music that embodied his newfound freedom and mindset. A seasoned guitarist, vocalist, drummer, bassist, and producer, Santaniello challenged traditional methods of playing instruments – like using a spoon as a guitar pick.
Around the same time, he met one of his biggest influences – a free-spirited vocalist named Vanessa Gaddy. Together they formed Control +V.
A dream-pop/indie band that considers itself more curious than experimental, Control +V’s sound combines many sounds. Their first four-song EP, posted to SoundCloud last month, and has received significant attention from various music blogs – more attention than Santaniello has ever known.
Santaniello is pleased, but acknowledges his journey is far from over – he and Gaddy are currently working on a second EP. In the wake of the first one’s release, Santaniello shares his story of the origin and future of Control+V.
Gina: How would you define a “good song”?
Chris: I think what makes a good song is if you could completely change the arrangement, instead of having guitar, bass, drum, you play it with an orchestra, or completely minimalist, or make it just a capella…if you could change the arrangement and it still works. Where the possibilities are endless.
Gina: Would you say that’s your goal in producing songs?
Chris: When it comes to writing a song, yes.
Gina: Where have you performed?
Chris: I’ve performed at Toquet Hall, The Dry Dock, various cafes and open mic nights in Connecticut. I’m not really much of a performer; I have horrible stage fright. I’m getting better at it. In the past its always just been me, in an ill-fitting suit, with an acoustic guitar, and then maybe I’d have Vanessa, who’s the other member of Control +V….I owe a lot to Vanessa. Yeah. Because she is awesome. She helped me get my first gig.
Gina: How did you meet Vanessa?
Chris: I met her through mutual friends; she dated a friend of mine. We kind of knew each other, but every time I’d see her she’d look completely different. I was just always like, who the heck is this girl? She just looked interesting to me. And then we’d just run into each other at places, and started following each other on Twitter, and she started listening to my music and I started listening to hers. And her stuff was really experimental. It would just be her singing a capella in her shower. And I was like wow; this girl has a really good voice.
Gina: Tell me the inspiration for Control+V.
Chris: The inspiration for Control +V came less than a year ago. I wanted to put out a collection of music from my own little project called “I Shot the Pope,” which was me playing mostly all the instruments, but I got sick of doing it; it all sort of had a specific sound to it. I would have an acoustic guitar, bass, homemade drums, and my voice would have a slight echo, and that was pretty much every song that I put out and recorded. And I got really sick of that sound.
Gina: So, you asked Vanessa to form a band with you?
Chris: No, not even. I had a mental breakdown. I wanted to sell all my equipment, and I didn’t want to make music anymore. I didn’t want to do anything. I just got sick of it. I was like, why am I such a fucking perfectionist when no one knows who I am? Why do I have this artistic integrity that nobody gives a fuck about? What’s the point if nobody’s going to listen to it – which is a really selfish thing to think, but that was my mindset at the time. So, I went to a concert of one of my favorite bands, My Bloody Valentine.
And I saw the opening band play, which I don’t even remember the name, but they were horrible. Well, they weren’t that bad. But remember thinking, “I should be up there.” I was like, what are they doing? They kept getting feedback; it was so corny and felt really gimmicky – which I don’t like in music, or in general. So, that completely blew me away.
Gina: You don’t remember the name of the band?
Chris: No, I refuse to tell their name. It really had nothing to do with them being that bad. They were probably fine, I was just jealous.
Gina: I see.
Chris: After that, I went to a friend’s house, and he said to me, “Dude, I don’t know what you would do if you weren’t doing music. Do you?” and I was like, “No, not really.” I thought I’d just take over my dad’s business, sell all my instruments and equipment. It was also my first semester not going to school, and I was just in a bad headspace. So I started listening to a lot more psychedelic, experimental stuff. I remember thinking: I just want to listen to music that’s free, music that was made with the mindset: “I’m going to do this because I want to do it.” My old stuff had a formula to how I did things. Control+V is a lot more free. We can do whatever we want – that’s where Vanessa comes in. We started to talk more and I realized she doesn’t care about what other people think; she’s one of the freest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I’ll say; I want to do this. And she’ll say, why don’t you just do it? I used to have too many “why” people in my life. I’d tell them I wanted to try something and they’d ask me “why?” and I’d suddenly have to defend myself. But she would say, “why not?” So we met up and realized we had similar interests. Then we did an EP together, so we were just like okay, I guess we’re a band. Then she came up with the name…it has our initials in it. Control +V saved my life in a way.
Gina: What kind of sounds are you guys planning to explore in the future?
Chris: We’ll just put out our self-titled EP; it’s on Bandcamp and SoundCloud and it will soon be on iTunes and Spotify, but our future stuff is going to be much more minimalist, a lot less guitars, but a lot more vocals. We know each other’s voices well enough to play with each other, using our voices more as the instruments, and no longer really thinking about where the chorus is or the verse is…I feel like it should come naturally. Generally, we don’t have any sort of agenda when writing a song. But that’s just for now…it could always change. And that’s the best thing about that band; I don’t feel like I’m stuck in a certain way. If we want to, we can change, and I know Vanessa’s always down to do whatever. There was a point where I said, “You know what, I think I want to form a punk rock band with all girls and call it The Thigh Gaps,” and she wanted to do it. She’s always down for any project. And our taste is close enough that pretty much anything I come up with, she’d probably be down for.
Gina: So, mentally, now…are you in a good place?
Chris: Yeah, definitely. I’m excited about releasing stuff now, for years I wasn’t, I’d keep stuff in. But I’m more ready to release something than I’d ever been. I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years now, and I’m just now finally starting to figure out what the hell I’m doing. I can call myself a producer because I listen to stuff I’ve done with different artists and I can hear the same sound. And I also know – which I think is the most fun part – that I haven’t even scratched the surface.