Trans-Atlantic post-punk band Venus Bogardus formed in England and relocated to the Santa Fe, NM area in 2009, playing national shows and UK shows on return visits. The band is inspired by no-wave, new wave, and experimental literature. Before moving to the US, Venus Bogardus signed first to Pretty Mouth/Big Deal Records in 2008, then moved to five03 records (New York) in 2009, when Pretty Mouth ceased to function. Five03 re-released 2008′s Tourist in 2009, and releases the Spitting at the Glass LP in February 2010. In America the band continues to garner exceptional press, gain new fans and play high profile shows.
Founding members James Reich (vocals, guitar) and Hannah Levbarg (vocals, bass guitar) met in 2002 as fans of Richard Hell’s writing and music, fell in love, opened (and closed) a nationally acclaimed independent bookshop in Bath, England and began collaborating on Venus Bogardus songs in 2005. James is a published author and poet. Hannah, originally from Texas, is Richard Hell’s Web forum moderator (since 2003). The couple is fictionalized in the book Julie & Julia (Little Brown, US/Penguin, UK) by Julie Powell.
In 2007 Venus Bogardus was chosen as one of the six best emerging bands in Britain by Glastonbury Festival and a panel of judges and critics from Q Magazine and BBC Radio 1. The band went on to play Glastonbury Festival 2007. They also played a headline set at Ladyfest Bristol, as well as venues and festivals across London and around the UK, and headlined Frankfurt’s New Glam Underground Festival. The Wire magazine selected a demo version of the title track for 2007′s Motorman for its compilation CD in March of that year. Since 2007, Venus Bogardus have been Church of Girl (Portland, OR) “Radio Stars” twice.
In 2008, Venus Bogardus toured the US where they met Luke Carr (originally from the Baltimore area), an accomplished guitar and bass player who, like original drummer Annie Gardiner (now of The Hysterical Injury, UK), took up drums to join the band while UK drummer Obaro Evuarherhe returned to Bristol to complete his PhD in Neuroscience. They played their debut US show at The Viper Room, in August 2008 with Pretty Mouth artist The Human Value, and returned in November to play shows in Boston, New York, Austin TX, and across the southwest. The three Austin shows attracted the attention of Hunt Sales (Iggy Pop, Tin Machine) who described the band as having a “really great evil groove” and discussed producing the band. Flattered, but undoubtedly too broke to afford Sales, the band made other plans, finding a new label home with five03 and moving ahead with writing and recording their next album in their customary DIY style.
2010 saw the release of the band’s last studio album, Spitting at the Glass, on five03, but also the subsequent closure of the label, and the band shifting with the departure of Carr to front a new Santa Fe act on guitar and vocals. James Reich also sold his first novel, I, Judas, to Soft Skull press that year, and saw it published nationally in October 2011. Joined briefly by the wildly talented jazz drummer Dave Wayne, Venus Bogardus played a few 2010 shows including the Santa Fe Reporter summer block party, then went into band hibernation. Hannah and James played out a handful of times at great gigs like Santa Fe’s AHA festival, the South by Santa Fe (SXSF) Transit Festival and supporting the magnificent Carla Bozulich, and wrote some new music, but kept a fairly low profile.
In the summer of 2012, John Butler of Animals in the Dark joined the band on drums – a major 2013 onslaught of public noise is in the works.
BEYOND ROCK :: art and literature
“the powerful vibration of the heart…the exquisite passion of the mind” – Poet Owen Ames’ response to the band
Venus Bogardus is named after a femme fatale character in the 1962 lesbian pulp fiction classic, Beebo Brinker, by Ann Bannon. The author sent the band her blessing, and praise for their first recordings.
The band has worked with avant-garde artists and writers in the UK, France and the US since forming in late 2005.
Stanley Donwood (Radiohead), a regular visitor to James and Hannah’s independent bookshop, and with whom they organised an alternative literary performance event in their shop’s ancient cellar, contributed art for their DIY single, Jacques Rigaut (Patchogue Records 2006, 7″ vinyl). Jean-Luc Bitton, biographer of Dadaist Rigaut and commentator on the DVD release of Louis Malle’s classic 1963 film, Le Feu Follet, contributed spoken word to the vinyl release.
For the album Motorman (Patchogue Records, 2007), avant-garde author (and one-time custodian of William Burroughs’ dreams) David Ohle read from his 1972 cult novel, Motorman, onto a cassette which he posted to the band from his office in Lawrence, Kansas. French artist Laurent Collobert (Cassius etc.) provided the Motorman sleeve art.
The artwork for the new album Spitting at the Glass is provided by Michele Maier, photographer for and assistant to feminist artist Judy Chicago during the 1980s, continuing Venus Bogardus’ commitment to intense art rock and potent performance.
James Reich – guitar/vocals
Hannah Levbarg – bass/vocals
Luke Carr – drums