Incense smolders in the corner; the band does the same in the center of the room.
Jimi Hendrix looks down from a poster above as the members of Mama Zeus ease into the first tune of the evening slow and easy, like taking a first pull from a stiff drink.
Guitarist Bill McCleary gets the song’s blood flowing with some spitfire soloing; his counterpart, fellow six-stringer Charlie Vantine, often plays with his eyes closed, even when his fingers are but a blur up and down the fret board.
Bassist Kyle Adoor and drummer Vinnie Castaldo lock in on a rhythm that makes the floor beneath everyone’s feet vibrate, while singer Nicole Sotile keeps time with the thump of a tambourine before unleashing a voice equal parts honeysuckle and hellfire.
It’s a bit past 9 p.m. on a recent Tuesday night inside the main tracking room of Castaldo’s Tone Factory studio and Mama Zeus are rehearsing for their first show in eight years, Friday night at the Canyon Club at the Four Queens.
All it took to get the band back together?
Some old live videos posted on YouTube, a timely text message and a few drinks.
“Bill and I went to the bar, and we were talking about the band and just reminiscing,” Adoor recalls from the studio control room, surrounded by guitars and Jesus candles. “I said, ‘How fast do you think the band would get back together?’ And he was like, ‘Two minutes.’ So we put it to the test and sent a mass text out and within two minutes everybody responded.”
Founded in late ’92, Mama Zeus became one of Vegas’ most promising acts over the next few years with their bluesy rock ‘n’ roll bombast, earning plenty of label interest. But the A&R dudes who came calling always seemed to want to change the band in this way or that, and eventually the pressure became too much.
“Towards the end we were writing poppy rock songs that weren’t us,” Castaldo says. “We started the band with the idea that we would just make songs that we liked, and then we started doing formulated songs. It wasn’t what we were about.”
And so Mama Zeus called it a day in 2003 after a fateful gig at the Crown and Anchor, which literally ended with the PA on fire. But after Castaldo posted some old show footage online last year, good memories were rekindled and the band decided to get back together and finish what they started.
“It’s not a one off thing,” Vantine says. “We’re going to keep going.”
With Castaldo’s studio at their disposal, the group already has a new record in the works.
This time, the only input they’re seeking is their own.
“We’ve had moments of wondering if there is anybody who wants to hear the kind of music that we want to play,” Sotile admits, before answering her own question. “I definitely think there is. People always want good, honest, real music.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.