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Ambitious rockers The Venditos dry up their act



Take a second, find the nearest computer and listen to "Congealed Bipeds" on The Venditos' MySpace page. If brazenly ambitious art metal of the System of a Down variety doesn't suit you, move along. To enjoy The Venditos, one must love the grandiose spirit of Iron Maiden, but still engage with the sociopolitical vitriol of Black Flag.

The Oklahoma City band's long-awaited debut album, "V 4.0," finds front man Chris Sanders and his crew swinging for the fences on every track. Its title is a reference to both the act's rotating lineup and its ever-changing sound. The disc represents a new era for the four-piece, which began as a venture between Sanders and former member Nathan Steinman, who met in the metro poetry slam scene, of all places.

"I'll never forget sitting in the audience of Galileo's when this long-haired hippie dude wearing jeans with huge holes in them gets onstage to play a song," Steinman said. "It was, like, eight minutes and everyone was asking, 'Who was this guy and why was he playing a song on poetry night?'"

The spoken-word roots of the band are revealed in quieter tracks like "Free" and "My Hypothesis," songs that are relatively calm to the rest of the album, but still resonate with the group's combative spirit.

Largely gone are The Venditos' earlier days of meandering, indulgent jam sessions. Recalling one last-minute, fill-in gig at The Blue Note, Steinman remembered a set that consisted of only a single long song. He said other early sets were filled with tunes that wandered on for more than eight minutes, with the song lengths generally relative to the band's collective drunkenness.

"We would tell them (venue owners) that we have nine songs," said drummer Daniel Stephens. "Then after 45 minutes, they'd tell us our time is up. 'But we're only on song two!'"

"Oh, yes, the old 'drink a bottle of Jäger and try to play a show' trick," Steinman said, with a laugh. "Never quite works out."

The Venditos celebrate their new album with a CD release party at Chaotic Studios with locals Unmarked Cars and The Fine Print. Tickets for the event must be purchased in advance.

The band members have cut down on the drinking and focused on crafting a more crowd-friendly set list. The Venditos retain some flexibility live, so the members can adjust to the crowd, but the group has worked to hone a more identifiable sound.

"There's not a lot of gray area left," Sanders said. "Before, when The Venditos played ... it kind of depended on the night or how drunk we were. Now, we've laid back on the drinking before we play and we have a blueprint set up."

"V 4.0" producer Trent Bell helped the band scale back the tracks so that most songs clock in at three to four minutes. Only two cuts reach the five-minute mark.

"There were just so many ideas on how to cut the fat so the songs would move all the way through, rather than have sections that would just go on for six minutes before getting to the next section," Steinman said.

Sanders insisted that although The Venditos' sound is better defined, the band members haven't fenced themselves in.

"We want there to be no limits. We don't ever want to be where we've created this sound and that's what we've got to be," he said. "If you come up with a goofy Nintendo song, a goofy rap song or acoustic song, try it. We even have an emo song in the works."

The Venditos with Unmarked Cars and The Fine Print perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Chaotic Studios, 3130 N. May. "Charles Martin

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