Press Play: Starship Crash,’ Verst’s propulsive debut

By Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal

Verst, an explosive new indie rock quartet, blasts onto the Marin music scene with its debut album, “Starship Crash,” a sweet and sour clash of jangley electric guitars and angelic vocals.

Verst is built around the considerable talents of singer-songwriter guitarist John Dickey, best known for his exploits in the ’90s with Pie, an East Coast band that achieved some indie success, sharing stages with Yo La Tengo and Built to Spill. Known for its fiery shows and what has been described as “wild personal behavior,” Pie disbanded in 1996.

One of Pie’s biggest fans was Bay Area bassist John Parsons, who fronted the band Rule of Thumb and produced Matt Jaffe’s first studio record.

When Parsons learned that Dickey is now living in Terra Linda, he approached him with the idea of forming a new band. He recruited keyboardist Mark Marvelous and Rule of Thumb drummer Brandon Hemley, and Verst was on the launch pad.

“My dream is to expose this unheralded genius,” Parsons says. “People have gotta hear this guy’s stuff. It’s brilliant.”

Whether music fans find the 10 original songs on “Starship Crash” brilliant or not, there’s no argument that Verst’s intriguing space rock is strikingly different from the standard neo hippie stuff that seem to dominate the local jam band milieu.

On songs like the melodic title track, Dickey and Parsons sing sweet, high harmonies above sometimes discordant, Sonic Youth-like guitars that cut the confectionery vocals. Think Led Zeppelin crossed with the ’70s soft rock band Bread. In fact, Verst does a cover of Bread’s hit “I Want to Make it With You” in its live shows.

“Starship Crash” was recorded in Novato, Terra Linda and San Francisco. Parsons says it’s the first of what promises to be a series of albums from a new band with a prolific songwriter in John Dickey. Bring it on.

SWMH Note:  Verst plays Sweetwater on 9/30, tickets available here.