Introducing the Snow Junkies
March 16, 2012
The Snow Junkies were the latest Park City-area band to emerge from the basement into the spotlight when it played Molly Blooms on March 9.
The main difference between this and other new bands is age. The Snow Junkies is a four-piece rock band comprised of musicians who are 40 years old or older.
All of them are professionals or retired professionals.
Guitarist and founder Kim Oliver is a former pharmaceutical executive. Bassist John Flynn is an attorney who lives in Park City but practices in Phoenix. Drummer Karen Thomas is a stay-at-home mother of two. Rhythm guitarist Paul Wacht owns a tiling company and vocalist Mike Vausbinder is a mortgage lender.
The quintet has only been playing together since September, but it has made strides thanks to band coach Douglas T. Erekson, who is on the faculty of the Utah Conservatory.
"I think because they realize that they need to take baby steps and allow me to identify those steps to become better, they are easy to coach," Erekson told The Park Record. "Kim first came to me and said they wanted to play for local events and parties for their friends. They didn’t have any delusions of becoming a professional band, and I think that helped them with their focus, and I think that’s why they are able to play with confidence."
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The origins of the Snow Junkies emerged from Oliver.
"I was taking lessons at the Utah Conservatory and kept seeing on Friday afternoon all these groups of kids come in and go and learn how to be a jam band, and it gave me an idea to form an all-female band with some neighbors of mine when I lived at Trailside."
The outing proved difficult for a variety of reasons scheduling, no coach and strong personalities.
"I went back to the conservatory and asked if they would like to do a jam-band thing for adults," Oliver said. "So, they approached the adult students and there were several people who were interested and I learned bass for the purpose of the jam band and did this every Saturday morning."
Oliver has always wanted to play music.
"I grew up playing classical piano, and always thought about picking up another instrument, but I got busy with my career and never had time to take up something else," she said. "A couple of years ago, I was getting ready to retire and adopt my daughter from China. I had seen a lot of women suffer from a loss of self when they have a new child, and I wanted to keep something for myself and felt this was the perfect time to do something."
She picked up the guitar.
"My career had been in a very scientific area and I worked 60-70 hours week, and though I knew that I would spend a lot of time taking care of my child, I thought guitar would be a perfect thing for me because it was so artistic," she said.
Oliver dabbled in any style she could think of, including flamenco, blues and classic rock.
"I’ve played electric guitar and acoustic guitar with the nylon strings and strumming and got into the singer/songwriters thing and tried my hand at writing my own songs," she said. "I’m kind of trying to find my niche, but what’s most fun for me is playing with other people, and it gets better when you involve more people, because you get more motivated."
When Oliver moved to Promontory, she and her friends decided to form their own band and have Erekson come to her house to coach.
"We felt if we were coached together, we could grow together," she said.
Something clicked, and even though Flynn and Thomas hadn’t ever played music before, the band began to rehearse.
"Because those goals were so realistic, I think I was able to herd them so they wouldn’t go off course," Erekson said. "I will bring songs to them, because I know their individual skills, weaknesses and strengths, and each Friday night, we’ll go over old material and help them tweak the songs and then go into new material."
The once-a-week practices weren’t enough for the band, so it began rehearsing Sunday night as well.
"The main challenge is scheduling, because John, even though he lives here, works out of state," Oliver said. "So, we have to cram everything in on the weekends."
Lead singer Mike Vausbinder remembers how he joined the throng.
"I had known Kim, John and Karen, because we live in the same neighborhood, and my wife told me that they were looking to put together a jam band," he said. "She had mentioned that I was a pretty good singer, which was obviously a little biased coming from my wife, but they asked me to try it out and it grew from there."
Vausbinder’s influences were different from the classic-rock songs the others grew up to.
"I grew up in Southern California, so I was into the ’80s alt-scene and Los Angeles punk rock and listened to bands like X, and even Black Flag and Circle Jerks," he said. "I also liked the ’80s synth music and always kept out of the mainstream. I felt if a song was on the mainstream radio, it wasn’t for me."
Throughout the years, Vausbinder started listening to some jazz and blues.
"It’s funny how the band started out with classic rock, because I can tell you that’s not my forte, but as I learn and sing the songs, I get attached to them," he said. "It’s fun to play a simple song very well as opposed to playing a difficult song okay.
"I also know because we’re new, we also have to understand our audience and need to keep ourselves on track."
The most difficult thing for Vausbinder is learning the lyrics.
"It’s a lot more difficult than it seems, because it’s one thing to hear a song and singing in the shower when you’re 16, but a different experience going on stage to sing," he said. "It’s a whole different game because you’re nervous and because of that, it’s tougher to remember what you need to do. But the songs we play have become second nature to me."
Reflecting on the band’s debut outing at Molly Blooms, both Oliver and Vausbinder enjoyed the experience.
"It was scary, and we made a major rookie mistake and didn’t have a sound check," Oliver said. "I found my tone was turned way down and nobody could hear me, but overall we played well."
"It was all a great learning experience, and even though I did forget a few words, the music was so loud, that I don’t think very many people caught it," Vausbinder said with a laugh. "The show made us excited to play more, so we’re looking forward to playing other places."
For more information about the Snow Junkies, email Kim Oliver at email@example.com