The first and foremost striking feature about San Diego band Viva Apollo’s music is the vocals. Amanda Portela provides these, along with the lyrics, in a noteworthy fashion. Her powerful, engaging voice nestles comfortably between blues and rock.
The rest of the band, comprised of Brendan McGill (percussion), Ryan Amyot (guitar, synth, organ), and Elliot Ramsey (bass), also follow suit with warm rhythms, punctuated by psychedelic elements.
Viva Apollo’s solid 4-song debut EP Skeletons gives a glimpse of what the group is capable of — and we have a feeling there’s plenty more to come. The opening track, “Take It Out,” delivers a surf vibe with careening guitars that drift between the heights and depths of Portela’s vocals. The tune is firmly rooted in rock-and-roll, setting the tone for the songs to come.
The next track, “Should’ve Known,” strikes a balance between showcasing Portela’s pipes and giving the band room to display their chops, punctuated by Amyot’s guitar solo halfway through the track.
“Earthquake” takes the mood down a notch, as it explores the deeper side of Portela’s voice with a slower, more melody-driven vibe. The result is smoky and atmospheric, with some ’90s nostalgia thrown in. The band manages this dalliance into more fragile territory without forfeiting their rock-and-roll prowess thanks to more experimental guitar sounds and a solid drum beat.
Last, but not at all least, “Going In Circles” takes a dreamy turn and plays up the emotions in Portela’s voice, demanding the listener’s attention to be focused on the heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics.
With only an EP, the band sits on the cusp of “fluke or next big thing” — and we’re hoping for the latter. Frankly, the group should have been up for Best New Artist at this year’s San Diego Music Awards, and we can only hope their next release will prove that point.
Jen Van Tieghem is a San Diego native with a healthy obsession for all things local music. She has been covering indie-alternative, folk-rock, and more — sometimes all within one night — around town for years. Her bucket list includes playing tambourine on stage with any band that would have her, creating a local music festival called Jenerated Sound, and finding the perfect moscow mule. Email her at Jen@SoundsinSanDiego.com.
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