Chris & Gabe

The Venditos Interview & Gallery

The Interview

The Venditos Interview


This inter­view fea­tures strong lan­guage and dis­cus­sions of intox­i­ca­tion and human sex­u­al­ity. If you are not com­fort­able with these top­ics, per­haps you should skip to the gallery. Or you could look at some kit­tens, instead.

Featur­ing an ever-chang­ing lineup of local musi­cians (includ­ing more drum­mers than Spinal Tap), the Venditos have been rockin’ Oklahoma City for nearly a decade. Their sound is hard, heavy, and fast; their lyrics tend toward the funny and pro­fane. Frontman and founder Chris Sanders and bassist Gabriel “Gabe” Barham gra­ciously granted the Bureau an inter­view in .

During a break from the inter­view, they told me how the band name once almost got them killed. The band were play­ing at an Oklahoma City dive called Spinozi’s, which has since closed. The bar was a hang­out for mem­bers of a local motor­cy­cle club. When 1 of them asked Chris his band’s name, he replied, The Venditos. Unfortunately, the motor­cy­cle club was the Banditos, and, in the noisy bar, motor­cy­cle man mis­heard Chris. The Banditos? You can’t call your­selves that! As the motor­cy­cle gang men­aced the band, a ner­vous clar­i­fi­ca­tion was made, staving off disaster.

Mercury Photo BureauPlease intro­duce yourselves.

Chris SandersI’m Chris Sanders; I play gui­tar and I sing.

Gabe BarhamMy name’s Gabriel Barham, and I play bass and sing.

MPBAnd who’s not here tonight?

ChrisRichie Zenner is not here, and, for the show you saw at Kamps, Austin Barham was the drummer.

MPBDo you cur­rently have a drummer?

ChrisWe’re gonna be work­ing with sev­eral [drum­mers] on the album, and [I’ll prob­a­bly] lay some of the drum parts myself. I have a few peo­ple in mind and I have con­tacted them, but I don’t want to say their names just yet[, since nothing’s finalized].

Chris Jams with Austin (I)
Chris Jams with Austin (I) — Chloës CD Release Party, Kamp’s Bar, Oklahoma City

MPBAre you look­ing for a per­ma­nent drummer?

ChrisWe’ve pretty much been a revolv­ing door on drum­mers since we started.

MPBI actu­ally knew that; I did some research before­hand so I wouldn’t have my d*ck in my hands when you got here.

GabeChris is a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed by that. [laugh­ter]

ChrisWe might as well cover that. I have a hater. We don’t know who it is; usu­ally, every show we have, he emails 300 – 500 peo­ple, say­ing that I am lying to my fans — you know, all 5 of them — he says that I am gay, and that I will never admit to the num­ber of c*cks I’ve sucked, in his words. [Sidenote: Since pub­lish­ing this inter­view, we’ve received an exam­ple of this hate mail. Being upright cit­i­zens, we reported the abuse to Facebook and blocked the sender.]

And, he really seems mad that I claim I’m from Apache, Oklahoma. I was actu­ally born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but [I grew up] in Apache [and] I grad­u­ated from [Apache High School]. So I claim that as my home town […].

GabeI have seen pic­tures of [Chris] wear­ing an Apache [High School] foot­ball uniform.

ChrisAny publicity’s good pub­lic­ity, you know, like Marylin Manson, shock rock­ers, sh*t like that.

MPBThat goes back to Bertold Brecht, but if you’re going to invoke Manson, you’ve got to men­tion Alice Cooper, and, for that mat­ter, Zappa, whom I know you’ve cited as an influence.


MPBI under­stand the band has its ulti­mate ori­gins in the Oklahoma City open mic poetry scene. I know that you used to read at Galileo’s; did you also attend the Medina’s [Sidenote: Now defunct, Medina’s Coffee House in Oklahoma City’s his­toric Paseo District hosted poetry read­ings and open mic music begin­ning in the mid-1990s. Notable poets who got their start there include Scott Jonathan Nixon (“The [Czech] Presidential Poet”) and Beau Sia.] read­ings, prior to that?

ChrisI did, and Sandmans [Coffee Shop] as well.

MPBOkay, so I prob­a­bly heard you read.

ChrisI was on a break [from a] band called Closed, and we had our short-lived [time]. It was from high school, it was, like, a 7 year long bill. We got a lit­tle bit of good pub­lic­ity from it.

Richie (II)
Richie (II) — Chloës CD Release Party, Kamp’s Bar, Oklahoma City

MPBWhen did you graduate?

Chris2000. And then, after that band broke up, I really didn’t know what to do; I still wrote songs on acoustic [gui­tar], which most of them ended up being Venditos songs. I tried to go [to the open mic read­ings] at 1st and play acoustic gui­tar and sing […], and, I mean — I like my songs; they’re just not inter­est­ing with­out a full band. I’m not an acoustic singer-song­writer kinda guy.

And then I started doing poetry; I [wrote] 2 chap­books; I trav­elled around a bit with Jonathan Bryant and Nathan Steinman (the Venditos’s orig­i­nal bass player). It ended up being a [pretty seri­ous] 2 or 3 year deal. But I always just loved play­ing music, and I started get­ting back into it. And every once in a while, I’ll pop in [to the poetry read­ings at Sauced on Paseo] and read.

MPBOur mutual friend and fel­low poet, Larry Bierman, remarked, when we saw your recent show, that you had changed a lot from the Medina’s days, but I don’t know whether he meant phys­i­cally, or whether he meant your writing.

ChrisProbably both, because back [then], I did have hair […] to my shoul­ders, and I tried to grow a beard, which I still can­not do. But I just would not shave, and I can grow a goa­tee, so my goa­tee was, like, this long [ges­tures to indi­cate length], and then I had hor­ri­ble patches —

MPBSo, like a hill­billy goatee.

ChrisLike, Joe Dirt, ’cause I am just a queer from Kentucky. [laughs mani­a­cally] I had to throw that in there!

I’m not actu­ally gay; I’m gonna put that in there for the record.

MPB[quot­ing Seinfeld] Not that there’s any­thing wrong with that!

ChrisNot that there’s any­thing wrong with that!

MPBGabe, I know you came to the band later, because Chris is the only orig­i­nal mem­ber. How did you become their bass player?

GabeI played in a band in high school with Justin Hogan. We were in drama [class] together; 1 day we went to a Bye Bye Birdie rehearsal. He really wanted to be Conrad Birdie; he didn’t get [the part].

MPBI could see him as Conrad Birdie.

GabeBack then, he had hair down to his ass, and he was will­ing to cut it off [for the part]; that’s how much he wanted it. One day he brought his gui­tar up; we sat around play­ing on his acoustic, and he was like, We should start a band! Alright.

So I played in a band with him in high school; we were called The Other Side; we were hor­ri­ble. If I had record­ings to send you, I would, but he would stab me. [Sidenote: Because we love our read­ers more than we value human life, we present “Fade Away”, by The Other Side.]

The Other Side — “Fade Away”

And then after that, [Justin] went off to play with some­one else, and I joined a band called Spooky Fruit, and we were just kids: stu­pid, ’cause I lis­tened to stuff like Bad Religion, Angry Samoans, Vandals, Guttermouth, and a lit­tle bit of the Murder Junkies, and Gwar. Stuff like that. I played with Spooky Fruit for a long time, and, as angsty, drunk punk rock­ers do, we got in a fight and we quit play­ing together.

Then I was in a band called Old Major for about another 4 years; got to play with a lot of cool bands; got to play with the Subhumans and Guar and Reverend Horton Heat and all that kind of stuff. And we got in a fight, and [then] I was like, Screw music! I got back into school, […] started col­lege. [Around 2006,] Justin calls me and says, You still got all your stuff? and I was like, Yeah? Well, I know these guys; they need a bass player; you want to start play­ing again? Okay.

So I went and met Chris […]; we decided it was cool. I faked my way through [some of their songs]; they said it sounded nice, well, okay, Let’s do it; you’re in for now; we’ll see how it goes. Well, okay; when’s the 1st show? Oh, we go out of town Friday. And this was on a Wednesday.

MPBDid you have a day job then?

GabeWell, I deliv­ered piz­zas and went to school. I had no prob­lem with miss­ing a cou­ple days’ classes, ’cause I was on a pretty light schedule […].

I went and played with [the Venditos] out of town; I think we played in Kansas for about 3 hours. All “hip­pie jam band” style. [We played 3 dates on that tour.] Ever since then, I’ve been the other sta­ble [band] member.

MPBYou’re both self-described band whores. What other bands are you in?

ChrisI play drums for The Planets Align […]; me and Gabe [are in a] David Bowie cover band project.

MPBI think Justin Hogan and Tanya Felter are involved in that?

ChrisJustin’s asked Tanya to be in the project; I think he wants her on backup vocals. I think he wants her to sing the Freddie Mercury part on Under Pressure.

I’m also the backup drum­mer for the Chloës. They have a drummer —

MPBThey have a hot drum­mer! [Sidenote: Read an inter­view and see pix of all of the Chloës, includ­ing hot drum­mer Leila Wright, in our 3-part pro­file.]

ChrisYeah; peo­ple are dis­ap­pointed when I show up.

GabeBut, he’s never tried to do it in the tutu and skull + cross­bones tank top [like Leila Wright].

Chris (VII)
Chris (VII) — Chloës CD Release Party, Kamp’s Bar, Oklahoma City

MPBGabe, what other bands are you in?

GabeI’m also in the Bowie [project], and I also play in Spooky Fruit; we got back together a few months ago […]. And I play in a band called Star Cruisers. There’s a sci­ence fic­tion illus­tra­tor in Oklahoma City named David Lee Anderson; he’s been going to all of these [sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy] con­ven­tions […]. He’s illus­trated Magic[: the Gathering] cards, the 1st cou­ple of Elder Scrolls games; he’s [illus­trated the cov­ers for] all these books. So, he put together a lit­tle band, and we go to all of these cons and sing songs about uni­corns and space travel and Mork and Mindy and Star Wars and Star Trek.

Austin, our drum­mer — he’s my lit­tle brother — we’ve played off and on together for 20 years now, and he has a fam­ily now, so he doesn’t really have the time for it. He plays in Spooky Fruit, ’though. Richie plays with The Planets Align, and he records for Bly; [they’re not a live per­form­ing band].

Chris1 of the mem­bers is in California.

MPBChris, give me the short ver­sion of the band ori­gin story.

ChrisMe and William Stewart, back in high school, we had that band, Closed. We had sev­eral names: Closed, Dallas, D-Trip […]. Me and him […] wanted to start […] a project band, and that was the Venditos. William Stewart came up with the name […]. He thought that it meant the sell­out, and we were like, We’re not gonna do that; we’re gonna do weirdo music. [The name was sup­posed to be] ironic.

Me and him played with Rob White and sev­eral oth­ers and kind of made these record­ings, and 1 day we got asked to play live, just at ran­dom ’cause I went to the HiLo [Club] a lot.

[…] We were drunken-ass buf­foons; we some­times would knock [people’s socks off] and other times [we’d] chase them out of the club [with] crazy, loud, noisy jam sessions.

MPBI read that you would tell pro­mot­ers that you had 9 songs, and at song num­ber 3, they would ask you to get off the stage [because of the time].

ChrisYeah. And since then […], I [no longer] try to see how wasted I can get before a show […].

Will ended up leav­ing […]; he wanted it to be a [record­ing project], and he’s doing that to this day […]. He has no desire to be in a band.

Nathan Steinman was 1 of the orig­i­nal [mem­bers], and he stuck with it for a long time […]; then we had a mishap.

GabeTell him the story.

ChrisWe were on a mini-tour [to] Dallas, Austin, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, home. So, we make it all the way to New Orleans; he was there with his girl­friend at the time — I don’t remem­ber her name, but we called her Brother Clit. […] We went to a party after the 2nd night, after we played the show 1 night; […] we had played a show the night before, but we were gonna stay there, hang out with some friends, and leave that night.

Gabe (III)
Gabe (III) — Chloës CD Release Party, Kamp’s Bar, Oklahoma City

I did drink a lit­tle bit at the party; [then] I went to the bus and slept for about 2 hours [and] drove the bus through the French Quarter to get to […] where we were stay­ing […]. The drum­mer, Rob White at the time, saw [us arrive and] me open the bus door; I had barely got the park­ing brake on when he grabs me, throws me out of the seat, and throws me […] on the ground. And he’s wasted […] on whiskey, and he’s like You’re not leav­ing me in New Orleans, and I’m like, Dude, I’m just going to the house, where all our stuff is at, and that […] started the whole thing.

We go to leave; Nathan doesn’t want to go; his girl­friend is pres­sur­ing him to stay. She’s from New Orleans. We [have] a big fight […]. And I was like, I’m the cap­tain of this ship; either you’re com­ing with us, or you’re stay­ing here, and he got all pissed. And we took all his gear out of the bus, not in the nicest way, either. And, we f*ckin’ left him there. A lot of peo­ple call me The Captain to this day.

That’s how Gabe ended up in the band. When I called Justin, I was ask­ing if he could play bass, ’cause I knew he was a gui­tar player, and he said No. I can’t do it, but I know some­body who can.

[…] I still feel bad about leav­ing Nathan. [But,] we’re still good friends; he got over it […].

MPBTell me about the naked skateboarding.

GabeWe had a drum­mer, Cody Bass, for a while, before he exploded into lit­tle green glob­ules. Straight edge kid, I mean, he’d have a beer every now and then, but it was even less than I drink, which [isn’t very much]. I’ve played in bands where we puked off of build­ings onto peo­ple, and where we’ve almost been arrested, play­ing punk stuff with Spooky Fruit, [but] I’ve never been so afraid of being arrested because of 1 of my band mates as I was because of Cody.

Nice kid, but he is just off the wall. We were on our way down to 6th Street in Austin, and […] there’s a bridge, I can’t remem­ber the name of it, [Sidenote: It’s the Congress Street Bridge.] where peo­ple hang out, because at night, 1000s of bats fly out of it […]. And [Cody] was sit­ting in the bus […]; next thing [I knew], he’s got his pants down and his shirt up, and he’s skate­board­ing down the mid­dle of the bus, right where his crotch-ial region is perfect[ly vis­i­ble] on 1 side, and his ass is [vis­i­ble] on the other side. And he’s just going down, makin’ some kinda eagle noise —

ChrisWhat was that he called it, eagle bear or some­thing? [imi­tates eagle screech]

Chris Sanders Imitates the Eagle Bear

Gabe— you know, to make sure that peo­ple actu­ally looked […].

He was always get­ting into sit­u­a­tions like that. 1 day, he just showed up on the bus with […] a bookshelf —

ChrisWe were in Fayetteville […]. [Gabe and I] went out on [a uni­cy­cling] adven­ture, and [we] come back to the bus, and the next thing you know, [Cody] and Jabee[, a rap­per friend of ours], yeah, they show up with a book­case […]. And he’s like, This’ll look great on the bus!

GabeAnd all it did was conk us in the head when we were tryin’ to sleep.

Chris[laughs] Yeah; I ended up tearin’ it down and throwin’ it away.

MPBChris, you have sev­eral nick­names, includ­ing Skippy.

ChrisAt 1 point, I was called Captain Chip Skippy. I [had] so many nick­names through­out the years: Mighty Mouse, Captain, Skippy, [and] Wayne, because that’s my mid­dle name.

MPBWhat does the song title BTFBTN mean? [Sidenote: Chris and Gabe decline to go on record, but do reveal the title’s mean­ing to us.]

ChrisOn the record, Clark Deal[, the Chaotic Studios pro­ducer for the BTFBTN video,] hated it. We found that even fun­nier [than the actual mean­ing]. He begged us to change the title.

Venditos — BTFBTN

MPBYou wrote songs in pretty dis­parate styles for your first release, as opposed to the more cohe­sive sound of your cur­rent offering.

GabeIt just depends on who the main con­trib­u­tor to the song is. Most of them are Chris; I think the songs he writes are like, Mudhoney; there’s some punk-sound­ing stuff, just pretty much any­thing Seattle [grunge] era.

ChrisI’m [such] a 90s whore. That comes through in every­thing I write.

MPBI know you list grunge as an influ­ence, but you don’t sound like grunge to me.

ChrisI think we’re a lot cleaner.

GabeI think we said that because it’s some­thing we lis­tended to a lot […]. The 1st time I saw Chris, he was in a godaw­ful band that opened for NOFX […].

MPBYou’ve spo­ken else­where about how booze and drugs were a problem.

ChrisI don’t think they were so much of a prob­lem; we really loved it. But they were a prob­lem with our abil­ity to perform.

I’m 31 years old now […]; I love play­ing music; and I love get­tin’ f*cked up […]. But when I get on that stage these days, [even if you just] paid $2 at the door, I want to give you what you f*ckin’ paid for. I want to get up there and play a rock show […] and not be […] a drunken, f*ckin’ mess playin’ [9 minute songs].

We used to push [the drink­ing] way too far, every time; it was a [sta­tus thing. Now, I’ll only] have a beer or 2 before I go on.

Chris (I)
Chris (I) — Chloës CD Release Party, Kamp’s Bar, Oklahoma City

GabeFor me, it got to the point where I was telling the crowd that I was Jesus and yelling at them. I would fin­ish off a bot­tle of Bushmills on stage, and that stuff just can’t happen.

MPBYou’ve had 2 tour buses?

Chris[We bought the 1st bus] for $500. It was a 32′, 66 pas­sen­ger, International diesel school­bus. I spent 2 to 4 years [cus­tomiz­ing] it; it had Murphy beds, a makeshift bath­room, a kitchen, all our gear stored in the back. [It] got about 9 miles to the gal­lon; at that time, diesel was 79¢ [per gal­lon], so it wasn’t that big a deal[. Once you get a van and a trailer loaded down with gear and peo­ple, you’re get­ting sim­i­lar mileage, anyway].

The next bus was […] an upgrade […]. It’s a 1972 MCI Greyhound […]. It was an evangelist’s bus.

GabeShag [car­pet], floor to ceil­ing. It [still has] the Jesus [van­ity] license plate: there are a lot of lit­tle towns in Texas, which is where we mostly play, when we’re out of town, that if they see a band bus, then it’s auto­mat­i­cally pulled over […].

MPBWhen you played at Kamps, you played 4 songs you haven’t recorded yet:

  • Emo
  • Keeping Score
  • Happy Song

Plus a cover of Bowie’s Life on Mars.

GabeLike I said, the Vandals was a big [influ­ence], and if you’ve ever lis­tened to [them], they’re [only] about half seri­ous […]. They’ve got a song, for instance, called My Girlfriend’s Dead.

ChrisIs that the 1 that goes, [singing] I invented socks/​I invented gravy/​I invented the cot­ton gin/​but no one ever paid me?

GabeYeah […]. [Sidenote: The lyrics are actu­ally a para­phrase of Aging Orange] [The band] were talkin’ about emo kids 1 night, and I was like, Dude, it’s not hard to write [emo].

ChrisWe’d been mak­ing fun of, mainly, the vocals, you know, that Nyeeah, nyah nyah! [imi­tates whiney vocals]

Chris Sanders Imitates an Emo Singer

GabeI yelled some­thing in my “emo” voice, and, I think it was Kristine [Kamen Wendt], who’s our “band mom.” She [goes with us when we leave town, if she can, and makes sure] there’s healthy snacks on the bus; she really takes care of us. She’s a really sweet lady. And she was like, You do that way too well. […] So I just came up with a riff and put that on it.

[…] It was never meant to be a seri­ous song, but, every now and then, I’ll be walkin’ through a store, and I’ll hear [whis­tles the cho­rus from Emo]. [Chris] even said his mom started hum­ming it, 1 day, while they were dri­vin’ around.

Gabe Barham Whistles, Chris Sanders Sings, Sort Of.

Gabe[Regarding Happy Song,] basi­cally, I’m a nerd. […] a lot of my songs [have to do with] Things are gonna get bet­ter; if you’re havin’ a bad time, don’t worry about it, ’cause that’s what BTFBTN is about […]. I’ve got some friends who have a lot of really bad sh*t goin’ on, and those songs are my way of makin’ them feel better […].

ChrisKeeping Score is […] kind of a slower, pop-rock song. 

GabeYeah, all “Hootie.”

ChrisIt starts out all, If you want to know all the facts of life, you gotta stand up and give it a try. [It’s] part of some crazy […] con­cept album; it’s some­thing that I’m in the course of writ­ing. Gabe has some songs to con­tribute […]. We’ve talked […] about whether to release it as 2 EPs. It’s like a yin-yang thing[, with the 2 writ­ers], but it’s in the works. So we really don’t know what’s gonna hap­pen [with it].

MPBTell me about your cur­rent project.

ChrisSo far, there’s 13 tracks, all in var­i­ous [stages of com­ple­tion. They’re all still demos]. There’s no title yet.

I’m tryin’ to write some­thin’ that’s […] fol­low­ing this [rock star char­ac­ter]; it’s a story that’s been told over and over […], but it’s about how ya tell it. It’s like a rise and fall […] thing. The thing is, we just got done spend­ing a year doin’ [Pink Floyd’s] The Wall. [Sidenote: Chris is refer­ring to a fully pro­duced trib­ute show of The Wall per­formed by a col­lec­tive of Oklahoma City musi­cians in 2011.]

MPBWho writes most of the songs?

Gabe[Chris wrote] most of the Version 4.0 stuff before we came into the fold. And then Secrets was a lot more collaborative.

MPBTime to play “Redeem a Song.” What’s a musi­cal guilty plea­sure, a spe­cific song you like, and why should I like it?

Chris[thinks for a few sec­onds, then:] What’s that song, I wish that you would step back from that edge?

GabeThird Eye Blind. [Looks it up on smart phone] Jumper.

ChrisIt’s a great f*ckin’ pop song. The whole song’s a hook, from begin­ning to end. It’s shaped like a tri­an­gle; [it starts sim­ple and small] and it builds.

GabeI’ll just go with a whole band that I’m slightly embar­rased that I like: Dave Matthews [Band]. I used to date a gal [who] would only have sex […] to Dave Matthews’s dou­ble live [album], and that kind of endeared it to me. She was def­i­nitely the cutest girl that I’ve ever dated.

MPBThanks for com­ing down, and a shout out to your band­mates who couldn’t make it.

GabeThey’re gimps.

ChrisThe safe word is banana. [laugh­ter]


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About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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