Riding the power-pop road to Wellville

Wellville, with the Crustaceans, Barbarella, March 20, 1998

Things just seem to keep falling into place for Wellville. The band has only been together since January of last year and has slowly built an audience appreciative of the power-pop, confessional songwriting of vocalist Liz Larizza. It all started with a young girl's passion for Joni Mitchell.

Larizza was first exposed to the first lady of folk in her native Australia. "I loved Joni Mitchell so much that I wanted to sing her songs," recalls Larizza. "A friend of mine turned me on to her. I was one of those kids who hung around with older people, and she was 17 or 18."

Larizza developed a deep reverence for Mitchell after hearing "Court and Spark" on her friend's record player. From then on she had a burning passion to express herself through song, a need that would not be fulfilled until years later.

Larizza made her way to Toronto, eventually settling in Orlando where she would go into business for herself. One year she attended an Easter celebration at a friend's house. That friend also had invited the bassist and drummer for popular local band Braille Closet and a struggling songwriter named Steve Burry. Burry needed a band, Larizza wanted to sing, and Braille Closet's rhythm section was more than happy to fill out the group.

The Beat Me Ups remained together for over two years, becoming one of the most popular local bands on the downtown scene. Their sound was mostly jangle-pop, with Burry's and Larizza's voices melding together in harmony. Eventually a lack of focus led to the demise of the band, and by the end of '96 Burry went to Atlanta to find himself with bassist Ralph Ameduri. Eventually they came back and formed My Friend Steve.

Larizza stuck it out in Orlando. It wasn't long before she was introduced to bassist Dave Kazyk and drummer Matt Brown. Brown was already pounding the skins for Heronymous, but they both were intrigued with the idea of contributing to Larizza's still-raw songwriting approach.

Finding a guitarist took a little more effort. Brown and Kazyk added weight to Larizza's breezy-pop style with their funk and jazz backgrounds. They needed someone with a basic, emotive guitar approach. Then Litton "Buddy" Parker saw Larizza in a solo performance, and although he only had two years of guitar-playing under his belt he jumped at the chance.

He had good instincts about what we needed, says Larizza. "He played minimally, but he came up with good riffs."

Wellville was born. The band put together a four-song demo, but they evolved so fast that the demo soon sounded dated. A year's worth of gigs resulted in a catalog of 20 songs, most of which the band intends to capture in the studio by the end of the summer.

For now, the stage is where the band lives, and Wellville is attracting a core following -- many of whom are young girls who share Larizza's love of Joni Mitchell. Larizza has no problem feeding their Joni jones with "Lesson in Survival" and "Court and Spark." Larizza is pleasantly surprised by the renewed interest in her idol. "When I play shows and these girls find out I like Joni Mitchell, they ask for ‘Carrey.' You wouldn't believe how many. I'm amazed."

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