Saints of Valory vocalist Gavin Jasper learned a lot in his early cover-group days in his native Rio de Janeiro.
His bar band used to play far longer sets than Saints of Valory does, and it had to be versatile: “Brazilians like anything, from The Beatles to country rock, so anything they liked, we would start playing. It was a great way to jump-start your career – go learn a song and then play it for a bunch of people the next week,” says Jasper, who brings Saints of Valory to The City this weekend.
So far, Saints have forged a straightforward, O.A.R.-solid sound that could please the most discerning ear. “Possibilities,” the band’s debut EP on Atlantic, includes the sleek single “Neon Eyes (Into the Deep).” An upcoming full-lengther will include the new track “Fighting,” about the quartet’s five-year struggle for success.
The composer knows what he wants in a tune: “Good stories with good melodies that keep you focused for the entire song – those are the kind that they’ll be playing on the radio for decades to come.”
Rio was a different story, though. If a crowd member demanded a Guns N’ Roses anthem, Jasper had to master it.
”Try to sing it like Axl Rose,” he says. “It always sounded terrible. Red Hot Chili Peppers was another request, and I played bass, so I had to learn how to slap the strings like Flea.” He learned how to wing it, too. When he forgot lyrics, he simply slurred syllables together, and drunken crowds never knew the difference.
The worst Brazilian gig ever was a Harley-Davidson convention, where he practically screamed to be heard over 50 engine-revving motorcycles. For a year, Jasper even crooned bossa nova for an exclusively-Japanese imprint.
But with his childhood chum, guitarist Godfrey Thomson – whom he met in Rio while their missionary parents resided there – he formed Saints of Valory, naming it for drummer Gerard Labou’s mother Valerie.
After moving to Austin, Texas, Saints split when Labou’s father passed away. Yet a period of uncertainty before he rejoined the band inspired Jasper to compose most of “Possibilities.”
“I mean, look at Adele – you break up and you write a bunch of great songs,” he says.
Still, old habits die hard. His originals may be strong, but Jasper still delights in the occasional sendup. “We were doing Lorde’s ‘Royals’ before it got big. But lately, we’ve been doing this tripped-out version of Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church.’ We still throw some fun covers into the set.”
IF YOU GO
Saints of Valory
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 15
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com