Let It Be(atle)
The Fab Faux preach the message of Popes John, Paul, George and Ringo

By Lee Valentine Smith

"We're disciples of the music," laughs guitarist Jimmy Vivino during a wide ranging hourlong conversation that touches on nearly every style of music of the modern era. The "we" is The Fab Faux and his quartet has explored all aspects of The Beatles for over two decades. Actually music has been a lifelong occupation for the band since he and his talented mates "speak in a vocabulary based on 45's."

But don't expect costumes, wigs and fake British accents for this performance. This Fab Five is Vivino, leader of Conan O'Brien's Basic Cable Band, fellow late-night alum Will Lee of David Letterman's CBS Orchestra and session vets Frank Agnello, Rich Pagano and Jack Petruzzelli. They don't try to look like The Beatles, their only focus is to faithfully play the music.

Vivino called to talk all things Beatles from Los Angeles.

You played the Tabernacle a few years back when Conan did a week of shows in Atlanta.

They fixed the stage, right? The week after we were there somebody was playing and the stage collapsed! But what a beautiful old theater. I'm glad we're goin' back in there.

You're lucky that your boss loves music as much as you and the band.

I'm so fortunate to have a boss who's into the guitar. He's a Beatles, Buddy Holly and rockabilly freak. He's a song man and he's turned me on to a lot of cool writers. He's just a smart guy and he can talk to anyone about anything - whether it's about music or to Gore Vidal or to some comic.

Let's talk about your side project. It started with a few club shows and now it's a full-blown tour with merch and a big production.

I'm glad you said project, because it's definitely not a tribute show. If it's a tribute to anything, it's a tribute to the recordings and the concept of those records. It's about getting inside them and bringing them to the stage. It's the farthest thing from the wigs and suits and accents and that corny stuff. There's a place for that and I know people like it, but you start to feel like you're in the Hall of Presidents in Disneyland. We don't mimic anything other than the sounds and the parts on those records.

There's so much material to choose from.

You always have an advantage when there's that much stuff. We started with the intent of playing the music that The Beatles themselves had never played live. We picked it up somewhere around '66 and '67 after they'd stopped touring. So it was pretty much from Rubber Soul on out.

Were you tempted to look back at the early stuff too?

Oh yeah, we went backwards too. Now we're one or two songs shy of playing the entire catalog because you have to try everything. Even the quirky things. It's all part of the whole history so each piece is important. And going way back, you see just how tight they'd gotten in the clubs. Because most of the early stuff is covers of great songs.

Each track is ingrained in the fans' heads; they know every pause, every little aside.

It's the x-factor ingrained in the audience and they fill in whatever we might miss. Growing up, we all studied those records more than our books when we were in school. It's just amazing to know that some of it is over 50 years old now but it continues to inspire people. It's a template for how to do it right. There are whole studies on the Beatles' music at colleges. It's fascinating.

You don't look like the Beatles but you sure have a lock on all the instruments.

We're obsessed with that stuff. In today's technology, they're making so many pedals and stuff. Like, they're making a Beatle double-tracking pedal and an Abbey Road EQ pedal, but the missing thing is them. There's nothing like what those four guys did together. Then we take it and do the best we can as a live band.

I remember hearing that you guys were playing Beatle shows around your other day jobs. When did this band actually start?

20 years ago, Will Lee came up to me in the elevator of the building we both lived in on Mercer Street. He said, 'Do you want to start a Beatle band?' I said, 'Get lost. What are you, crazy?' But then I thought, 'Well why not?' If Will wants to do it, you know? I have a lot of respect for him as a musician. So we gathered the right bunch that could hang together for this long and go on this trip of exploring the music.

You've been together longer than the actual Beatles.

Way longer! Almost three times longer. Ringo says it's eight years for the Beatles but yeah, it's been a long time for us to be looking at this music. Think of it, it may take a band that long to make two good albums but the Beatles made this whole catalog - and the movies and everything else they did in that period.

That catalog is so layered and intricate, you'll never get to the bottom of it.

Never. Every day new information comes out. They say there's maybe four good albums in most bands, but they did way more than that. Nobody expected just "good" from these guys. Even what is considered the "worst" thing, with maybe Let It Be - which was considered a mishap - you play the whole album and it's still great. They were dragging the times along with them and vice versa. New fashion, new religious philosophy, and every kind of music you can imagine is on those records. Maybe The Kinks came close, but I don't think anyone was doing anything nearly as good as The Beatles. Even The Stones. Maybe someone will come along to equal them sometime, but I kinda doubt it. So we're bringing the message on the road. It's kinda like impressing your dad, there's a real gratification in playing it right for people who love it. The people who really 'get' this stuff, we're a gang and we're all in it together. We're just sharing the sermon.

The Fab Faux plays at 8 p.m. April 14 at The Tabernacle.For more information, please visit tabernacleatl.com.



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