Vegas DeMilo

Indie Rock Black Sheep Return with New Album

Vegas DeMilo was founded in San Francisco in 1994.  Between 1996 and 2002, the band released three widely praised albums, received airplay at more than 60 commercial rock stations across the U.S. (including LIVE 105 in San Francisco, KROQ in Los Angeles and WXRK in New York), and toured extensively, including multiple appearances at such festivals as SXSW, NXNW and CMJ.

Their visibility prompted Billboard magazine to hail Vegas DeMilo as a band "on the verge of a national breakthrough" and Music Connection to name them one of "California's hottest unsigned acts."  The band's last album, “Motel California,” released in 2001 on LA indie Pinch Hit Records, included the single “Payback,” which was heard on Fox Sports and played at sports arenas across the country.

The band’s songs have been featured in dozens of films and television shows, including “Felicity,” “One Tree Hill,” “Clubhouse,” “The Osbournes,” “Skate,” “Just Deal” and “Pasadena,” and the motion picture “Scorched.” 

In 2022, eight members of Vegas DeMilo reunited in Austin, Texas, to record new material.  “Black Sheep Lodge,” the band’s fourth album, is set for release in March 2024.  

Vegas DeMilo is Foster Calhoun Johnson, Alec Johnson, Bradley Wait, Dug Nichols, Scotti Fraser, Travis Ballstadt, Andrew Griffin and Handsome Dan Catherwood.

Vegas DeMilo Are Back with "Black Sheep Lodge"

Bands are like big dogs; most have a short lifespan.  Typically, the time between the first rehearsal and the inevitable breakup is a couple of years or less.  Vegas DeMilo lasted almost eight years.  That’s a minor miracle in the music business.  

Brothers Foster and Alec Johnson formed Vegas DeMilo in San Francisco in 1994.  Over the next eight years, the band signed to an independent record label, released three albums, crashed two vans, toured all over the country, played countless shows, drank countless beers and somehow lived to tell the tale.  By the time the band went on hiatus in 2002, it had played all over the United States, including major music festivals like SXSW, CMJ, NXNW and venues ranging from  the storied Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco to the Mercury Lounge in New York (with many basement keggers and Taco Bell parking lots in between).

In the darkest days of the pandemic, people turned to all kinds of things to escape the ever-present fear, boredom and stress: wine, endless hours of “Tiger King,” long walks, new pets and, of course, more wine.  Vegas DeMilo turned to music.  

What began as weekly Zoom calls soon became a full-fledged reunion.  And it wasn’t just a few former members of the band but almost everyone:  Dug Nichols, Bradley Wait, Andrew Griffin, Travis Ballstadt, Dan Catherwood, Scotti Fraser, Foster Calhoun Johnson, and Alec Johnson.  There were more guitar players on these calls than in your average ‘70’s southern rock band.  

Just as the first vaccines were being rolled out, VDM found themselves together again in Austin, Texas, making their first new record in two decades at 512 Studios with producer Omar Vallejo.  

What is the record about?  Much like the band, the record started as one thing and ended up as something else.  One of the band’s all-time favorite albums - and certainly one of the best albums of the 1990s - is Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville.”  It’s an album of naked emotional honesty that captures the sexual politics of the time in one lo-fi classic after another.   Famously, Phair’s album was a song-by-song response to the Rolling Stone’s album, “Exile on Main Street.”  When the band began writing songs together again during the pandemic, almost as an exercise, it adopted that same concept as a conceit.  Only rather than responding to the Rolling Stone’s druggy classic, the band found itself writing a response to each of the 18 songs on “Exile in Guyville” - but from a very different perspective, typically that of the terrible boyfriend or incorrigible lothario inhabiting so many of Phair’s songs on her record.  The “Black Sheep” referenced in the title of the band’s new album.

Originally, the idea was to record a literal 18 song-by-song response to “Exile in Guyville.” But the band ran out of two things during the recording process: time and money.  When everyone lives in a different town, it takes a long time to record even one song.  It takes forever to record 18 songs.  So instead of a song-by-song response to “Exile in Guyville,” we made a song-by-song response to the first 12 songs on “Exile in Guyville.”  Then (just to make it a little more confusing) we had to reorder the album sequence to fit all the songs on two sides of a vinyl record.  The original track list was both technically (and aesthetically) unfeasible.  So, what we ended up with was a song-by-song response to the first 12 songs on “Exile in Guyville” but jumbled out of order, like couples at a ‘70s key party. 

If you listen closely, you can still hear the original concept.  The album was always going to start with “Charlie Watts,” which is written from the perspective of the oblivious musician boyfriend in Phair’s “6’1.”  “Imaginary Blondes” is written from the perspective of the (soon-to-be) ex in Phair’s “Divorce Song.”  And “Tuesday Night Fever” is a kind of feverish mirror image to “F*ck and Run.”  

With the exception of “Mesmerizing,”  the other songs are there, too - in theory, at least - scattered across the 12 tracks that make up “Black Sheep Lodge.” At the last minute in the recording process, the track VDM had originally written got replaced by a song Alec wrote called “Get in the Van.”  That song - which has nothing to do with Liz Phair or “Exile in Guyville” - might as well be called “The Balled of Vegas DeMilo.”  That song is about an epic road trip the band took from San Francisco to Austin in 2002 to play South by Southwest.  Two weeks of misadventures boiled down to four minutes.  But it’s really about more than that.  It’s both an elegy and a tribute to the journey the band started in 1996 and somehow (amazingly) still finds itself on today.

Someone famously said, “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”  That sounds right.  Boats sink, bands break up.  But sometimes they get back together again. That’s the sound of “Black Sheep Lodge.” 


Black Sheep Lodge

Vegas DeMilo

"Black Sheep Lodge," the new album from Vegas DeMilo, featuring the singles "Tuesday Night Fever" and "Charlie Watts."

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Press / Reviews

One of the more intriguing indie albums arriving this spring.” - Darryl Sterdan


I love everything about the back story and the concept behind the record. I love the candid nature of the lyrics and the cool, effortless flow of the music – music that majored in rock and roll and minored in English Literature. How cool is that?” - Dave Franklin

Dancing About Architecture

"Black Sheep Lodge celebrates the youth in all of us, and plays with the pessimistic, rebellious optimism that comes with an experience Vegas DeMilo knows well: the freedom of being young, uninhibited, and musically inclined."” - Maddie Jaffe

Music Mecca

“…one writer described (Black Sheep Lodge) as “The Replacements fronted by Liam Gallagher.” It’s an apt comparison as the expertly produced collection displays its ’90s grit while also exhibiting the songwriting finesse of Paul Westerberg and Jeff Tweedy clamouring against the dramatic tension of Oasis anthems.”” - Vanessa De La Rosa

Press photos

VDM at the Fillmore 2001

VDM recording "Black Sheep Lodge" at 512 Studios in Austin, Texas


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