Reprint Special – Splashes of Paint – Justin Vilardi and Paint the Town Red

Hey there.  Another reprint this week, kids.  This one continues the theme of “bands you’ve probably never heard of” that’s been running for a little while since the CryoShell content, broken up by that beloved indie band Nine Inch Nails (that’s a joke, I know what indie means, trust me).  Tomorrow’s special (a Box Set Special – oooooh) will also break that chain, but other than that, it’ll keep going for a couple more days.  Paint the Town Red will be one of those bands next week.

So this one’s got a bit of a different origin.  I wrote this for my Beginning Reporting course way back in December 2013; the assignment was to do a profile on someone in the Tampa Bay area, and I remembered Paint the Town Red from a show I’d gone to the previous year (we’ll talk about that more on Tuesday), so I got in contact with Justin and did a Skype interview with him for about an hour, and I got the rare opportunity to learn things about a band I liked that very few other people likely knew.

Man, that sounds pretentious and douchey.  Par for the course.

In any case, enjoy this one, and we’ll see you later.

We as in I.  I guess.

Also I just discovered that Eric Best has apparently rejoined PTTR.  Well then.  That’s weird.  Need to find out more about that.

For Justin Vilardi, there are no typical days.

On the day of our primary interview, he’d just gotten out of bed, after reading a poetry book with his girlfriend.

“We read poetry, which isn’t very typical, it’s the first time we’ve ever done that,” he said, laughing. “That was today. But that wasn’t very typical. Usually, my days are pretty hectic.”

Vilardi is currently the co-creator and frontman of Paint the Town Red, a band whose sound can be loosely classified as “indie pop.” Initially conceived in 2009 with former bandmate Eric Best, Paint the Town Red (PTTR for short) was an acoustic duo, consisting only of Vilardi and Best’s voices and guitars. After a few years of playing shows and writing music, the duo began booking studio time, looking to put 12 songs to tape and release them as an album.

“They were like the equivalent of a super-band, on the St. Pete scale at least,” said Tommy Jamin, who produced Paint the Town Red’s debut album, when describing the meeting.

12 songs turned to eight in mid-2012 after Best’s departure, which Vilardi used as an opportunity to widen the band’s sound, adding a bassist, drummer, and keyboardist to flesh out and complete the songs he’d been working on. The resulting album was released in August 2013.

“The album, given the fact that outside of putting it on Facebook and having a website, with no major marketing at all for it, did well.” Vilardi said. “Interestingly enough, it did better in streaming than it did in actual units sold.”

Music, as tends to be the case for many professional musicians, runs in the family for Vilardi. His parents participated in a local choir; his brothers, almost all six of them, are capable musicians in their own right. One of his older brothers owned a bass guitar; that same instrument ended up being Vilardi’s gateway into being a musician, one summer while Vilardi was in middle school.

“One year I acted a fool, and got in trouble, and I got grounded for the entire summer. And this was pre-Internet…no Facebook, no Myspace in that time period. I wasn’t allowed to talk on the phone or do anything. So I picked up this bass,” Vilardi said. “At the time, standing up, it was taller than I was. It was huge – a cream-colored Fender [Precision] Bass, really, really heavy…I wasn’t allowed to have friends over or talk on the phone, so I picked up this bass and turned on the radio.”

The radio, home to, among other things, the Seattle grunge movement of the 1990s, taught Vilardi the basics of music, and he stuck with it all through middle and high school, forming a band with friends in 2001 called Weaksauce, a reggae/ska influenced group that lasted until 2007, when Vilardi took a year-long sabbatical in Costa Rica, returning to the U.S. in 2009 with the idea for Paint the Town Red in his mind.

But his return to the states gave him another, unexpected opportunity: a solid, enjoyable day job.

“I was interviewing bands [at Jannus Landing], that’s all I was doing…I was living in Dunedin and driving out to St. Pete for that, and I wasn’t getting paid. It was just an opportunity, and I said yes to it,” Vilardi explained. “When I was there, I’m the type of person that’s like ‘Hey, I’m here, put me to work.’”

The jobs he did expanded at Jannus – converting taped shows to digital media, running cables for cameramen, and any other miscellaneous work he could find.

After a year, though, despite a steady stream of cash coming in, Vilardi was no longer content working at Jannus, leaving the company and freelancing for several months. Eventually, several months after his departure, he received another big break – a co-worker, who had left Jannus as well, contacted Vilardi to form a new production company with him.

“I got a call that said, basically, ‘Hey, I really enjoyed working with you, and I think you have a lot of drive. I’m doing infomercials now, would you like to be a part of that?’ And I said sure, and I joined on as a production assistant.”

Joining the new company paid off – Vilardi now works as the company’s assistant director, working on both pre- and post-production for the videos produced, including casting, arranging catering, hiring cameramen, and then editing the film afterwards.

“At this point, I’ll do almost everything for a video except shoot it.”

Vilardi is very happy with where he is now. Though Paint the Town Red is his passion, he’s content with the band’s level of success, and financial stability matters to him more than taking risks on PTTR’s potential.

“Music is in my heart. But would I throw all my stuff in the back of a van and live off McDonald’s for a year to get a break? Probably not. I’m 31, I’ve done that. I don’t want to do it again.”

Plus, the life of endless touring doesn’t quite appeal to him.

“I’m a realist. My brother’s in a popular band, he’s been touring for the last ten years, and it’s disenchanting. He’s never home. He owns a house, and he’s done well for himself in music, but – in my opinion, looking in from the outside – it’s tough. I couldn’t deal with not seeing my family for such a long time.”

One of Vilardi’s other brothers, Jordan, agreed with this sentiment.

“Justin and I have a really good relationship, probably the closest in our family. But the whole family is really tight-knit.” he said. “When Justin was in Costa Rica, he got a job at an Internet cafe, just to Skype with the family for free and keep in touch.”

That’s not to say huge success would be unwanted for Vilardi. But, for now, in a small house in St. Petersburg with his girlfriend, he’s satisfied with the life he’s got now.

“You’re reaching out to me,” Vilardi said, addressing me at the end of our main interview. “That’s success.”

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