Ever since their location opened on 530 Wellington Avenue in Cranston back in 2017, Buttonwoods Brewery has been carrying the craft beer torch for the city and surrounding areas. Along with serving …
Ever since their location opened on 530 Wellington Avenue in Cranston back in 2017, Buttonwoods Brewery has been carrying the craft beer torch for the city and surrounding areas. Along with serving delicious brews, the place always has some wicked cool events happening in their tasting room and on December 10 they’ll be ringing in five years of existence with quite the party. Starting at 1pm, they’ll be teaming up with their housemates Origin Beer Project to pour beers all day long while Farm To Sandwich will have their food truck parked outside to sling some sandwiches from 3pm to 8pm. Along with all of this, there will be live music courtesy of local bands Sprues & Runners, Ghosts In The Snow, People Eating Plastic and Strip Mall with the whole event being free to attend as well as being family friendly and dog friendly.
I had a talk ahead of the extravaganza with Strip Mall guitarist & vocalist Vinnie Ortez about how he became familiar with his instrument, the songwriting process within the band, playing at Buttonwoods versus a regular music venue and possibly something special that’ll be available at the event.
Rob Duguay: When it comes to playing guitar, how did you start playing the instrument? Did you just start taking lessons or did a friend or family member influence you to start playing?
Vinnie Ortez: I moved around a lot as a kid and when I finally settled down in Warwick and started hanging out with all the friends I have now, they were all playing music. Specifically one of my buddies Christian, when I met him he was playing acoustic guitar doing Beatles songs and stuff like that. I was like “Oh, this is really cool. I didn’t know you could do this”, so it was just something I wanted to do to get myself in with all these new friends I made. Here I am now playing guitar 15 or so years later and none of my other friends really play anymore, it’s just me so it’s kind of funny.
RD: That is kind of funny.
RD: Strip Mall plays a mix of math and prog rock which often incorporates a complex dynamic between your riffs on guitar and the rhythms that come from Jack Anderson on drums and Nick English on bass. When you guys first started hashing out ideas for songs, was this musical approach difficult to get a handle of at all or has it always been fairly seamless?
VO: I wouldn’t say that we try to stay in a certain lane or a certain genre, I think that it’s just influenced by what we’re listening to and obviously I listen to a lot of that kind of stuff. Usually what happens is that I’ll come up with a riff or a progression and I’ll get hung up on making as many different variations as I can. Most of the time I kind of back myself into a corner with parts on parts on parts and at that point I’ll kind of bring all these parts to Jack and Nick and we’ll piece together a Frankenstein monster of a song. That’s mostly how we work.
RD: That’s a pretty cool approach to have with your music. You guys have played at venues such as The Parlour and Dusk in Providence and at the News Cafe in Pawtucket among other places, but Buttonwoods Brewery is a bit different in terms of layout and setup. What in your opinion makes playing at Buttonwoods stand out?
VO: Besides absolutely loving their beer and spending a lot of my money there, they’re just so enthusiastic about us. They really like doing events with us while letting us completely be ourselves, which is incredibly cool. They couldn’t be more welcoming in wanting to have us and have us do what we do best. Most of the time I realize that what we do isn’t for everybody and Morgan Snyder at Buttonwoods always tells us “The more you guys want to be you, the more it’s cool with us.” With curating this bill, it’s all bands that we love, we enjoy seeing and we enjoy being with while not feeling this pressure to try to put together a mixed bill that’ll make everyone happy.
RD: It’s wicked cool that they have that kind of support for you guys.
VO: Yeah, exactly.
RD: You just mentioned how Buttonwoods has delicious beer, so would you say outside of performing that’s what you’re looking forward to the most at the upcoming event?
VO: Yeah, 1,000,000 %. I don’t know if it’s been announced yet but we definitely have one little thing kind of “brewing” that’ll hopefully be announced before the anniversary party.
RD: You’re talking about Strip Mall having their own beer?
VO: Maybe. You said it, not me.
RD: Well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
VO: Yeah, I guess we will.
RD: What are Strip Mall's plans going into 2023? Can we expect a follow up to the debut self-titled EP that came out last year?
VO: We have a bunch of new songs and we actually just started sending drum tracks out to our guy Mike Nelson at Parkridge Recording in Knoxville, Tennessee. Everything we do is with him, he breathes a new kind of life into everything and I love going to him with our tracks. We actually have started recording stuff and we have plans to start doing my guitar tracks this week so that’s kind of the goal for 2023. We’re looking to put out another EP hopefully around the spring and summer. I know anytime we’ve done these things we’ll establish a timeline but then it comes and goes, but we’re aiming for that timeframe.
We’re definitely going to try to do a cool release and we’ll have a lot of shows going on in the area over the summer. We’ll also potentially do a smaller tour in the fall because that’s something we have yet to do but nothing crazy, we just want to get out of the state a little bit whether that’s up north to Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine or even in the Philly area because we do have some connections down there.
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