“I’d written a ton of music and had it backlogged,” says local multi-instrumentalist Lenny Pettinelli. “I”m not the only person like that in town. There are so many prolific artists.” So, what to do? Plan a collective project, tapping 50 (and still counting) fellow musicians to record a dozen albums in a multitude of genres over the span of a year.
It sounds ambitious (if not downright crazy), but Pettinelli and his collaborators have already completed four albums — with material for three more currently in production — under the name V.O.V. (Vibration of Versatility). V.O.V. vol. 1, the sonic flagship for the project, will be played live and in its entirety as part of the Saturday, July 18 show at New Mountain.
That event is headlined by Calif.-based hip-hop outfit Blackalicious. “I grew up around conscious underground hip-hop in L.A., and Blackalicious [members] were my heroes,” says Pettinelli.
In fact, V.O.V. vol. 1 has a soul-influenced conscious hip-hop theme and features DJ Ra Mak, Philo, and members of Free Radio and Empire Strikes Brass, among others. Sales of that record have already started to turn a profit, 30 percent of which is donated to Fender Music Foundation, which provides instruments to music education programs. Pettinelli says that all 12 releases from this year — and he hopes the project will continue past its initial one-year goal — will donate 30 percent of profits to worthy causes such as the Bob Moog Foundation and LEAF in Schools and Streets. “I really want to help local and regional charities,” he notes.
Pettinelli is an L.A. native. Moving to Asheville was a long-term dream that finally became a reality in 2012. “I consider Asheville a musical mountain haven where anything is possible,” he says. Not that it’s been all nature hikes and hammock naps — the musician has at least four weekly gigs (including playing in a Phish tribute band, the Sean Mason Trio, a reggae jam and solo piano). Like him, many of the artists he’s met in Asheville perform in cover bands and at restaurants to make a living. The V.O.V. project offers a platform for original music and creative expression.
“It would be better if I just had a ton of money and we could go into the studio,” Pettinelli admits. The 12 albums depend, instead, on time carved out of busy schedules — he spends about 15 hours a week on sessions and another 20 on editing. “I really love making music, but I also want to make things sound good,” Pettinelli says.
A release party for V.O.V. vol. 2 (electronic and dance), vol. 3 (reggae, dub and ska) and vol. 4 (singer-songwriter) took place at The Millroom on July 7. These albums include tracks by Boy in Sleep (Javi Bolea of RBTS WIN), Oso Rey, Jeff Thompson, Andrea Lee, Searra Gisondo, Rachel Waterhouse, JP Furnas, David Morris Einzig, Soleil Leblanc and Pettinelli.
While that release party served as an introduction to the local community, the July 18 Blackalicious show offers more exposure and sets the V.O.V. project on a national stage — all the better to spread awareness, raise funds for worthwhile causes and provide an even greater platform for local artists.