By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
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But even A Kite Is a Victim's new beginning is mired in dispute. Galvez vehemently insists "Fireflies" was recorded with guitarist Torey Freeman, bassist Brett Fisher, and drummer Jason Haft -- the lineup that replaced Rajan and Perez.
"Silly liar," Perez sneers. "I recorded, played on, programmed, edited, and mastered "Fireflies.' At least the version coming out on that compilation. This is the kind of thing I was suspicious of and Henry gets angry about."
Rajan concurs. "That is definitely Ulysses and I," he says. "The new guys weren't even around when that was recorded. Al is lying through his teeth."
Galvez exhibits a rather short fuse when questioned about that accusation, repeatedly insisting that the new, not old, band plays on "Fireflies." He also broadsides his old bandmates: "That's nice," he says contemptuously. "They're more than welcome to continue to act as nasty as they have. It's just ridiculous to get down to that level. Those guys wish in their wildest dreams they could play the way the new guys play."
However Perez, who sent New Times an MP3 file of "Fireflies" without guitar and vocals, notes that it's exactly the same length -- 4 minutes and 25 seconds -- as the version on Soaking Up the Good Florida Sunshine. The bass and drums sound virtually the same on both. Steve Rullman of theHoneyComb says the band gave him the copy of the song that appears on Soaking about six months before the compilation surfaced in August -- apparently before the new band members had been installed.
By August the refurbished A Kite Is a Victim had begun playing live, introducing a band and playlist that were almost polar opposites of the previous ones. Whereas as recently as 18 months ago the group typically performed seated, the revamped quartet stands, animated and active at a recent Friday-night show at the Boca Pub. In contrast to Perez's satiny brush strokes, new drummer Haft smacks the skins hard enough to send his long hair flying. Lanky lead guitarist Freeman adds buzzing, dangerous leads to the now-harder-edged material, letting his whammy bar do the talking. The set is drastically different, with new songs toughened and tightened by weeks of rigorous rehearsals. Only one -- "Brand New Old Cars" -- is held over from the old days. "Fireflies" is ripped and muscular. Galvez isn't hidden behind an acoustic guitar anymore; he's upright, singing into the mic. With his trim physique and sharp, defined features, he looks creatively charismatic and charmingly mysterious, like a Peruvian Jeff Buckley.
Bassist Fisher reports that the band has been locked down in practice sessions for weeks. Unfamiliar with Galvez or the band, Fisher auditioned after Rajan's departure and was hired. "It seemed like a better gig," he says, having recently left a little-known outfit called 100 Fires.
Freeman, who relocated to South Florida from Ohio less than a year ago, saw the former AKIAV lineup perform at Miami's Piccadilly Garden early this summer. He approached Galvez, the two started working together, and Freeman is now Galvez's songwriting partner and housemate, having moved into the home the musical entrepreneur shares with his parents and the once-sprawling Space Cadette empire. Already in place when Perez left the group, Freeman has some insight into the transition.
"How does this go?" he hesitates, as if summoning up the details. "It seemed like [Ulysses] didn't have the enthusiasm Al and I had, like he was somewhere else."
What do the new members think of the revolving-door history of AKIAV? Is Galvez, in fact, a domineering man and difficult to work for?
"No," answers Freeman. "At times he's a hard guy, but anyone who wants anything accomplished is hard-working. Once you allow an element of complacency to enter your life, you're not going to get anything done."
Galvez pauses after the show to kiss a comely fan and confer with his huddled teammates. He's happy, courting an industry rep who, he says, came to see the band, and he's proud of the work the new guys have contributed.
"They're machines," he boasts. "They're meeting my energy level. I want people who are hungry for this. I want the type of people who aren't into drugs or bohemian, idealist illusions. I enjoy inviting people to dream with me, and I look for people who have just moved to town, who aren't jaded, who don't have many roots here so they can dive in and make it a priority."
Perez notes a disturbing correlation here. "Part of the reason Al found me [to be] an attractive candidate was that I was new here and didn't know much," he reports. "It's the old concept of marry 'em young so they don't get spoiled. None of those new guys know what they're in for."
Is Galvez a shadowy puppet master who looks for expendable bodies?
"You have to wake up every day and do this like it's your job," the bandleader says forcefully. "Unless you want to end up like Ulysses, going into your forties and having nothing to show for what you supposedly love. It's not because he isn't talented; it's because he doesn't have self-discipline. It's not about smoking pot and turning off the lights and playing with lasers on the ceiling, which is what Ulysses has been doing for the last 15 years with this Out of the Anonymous thing. Neither he nor Henry were living up to their potential. I hope they can appreciate the experience someday, because this was truly a gift from me to them. I hope they look back someday and say, "We were so dumb.'"