Lost Vuarnets Find Success Without Even Practicing

Music preview

The Lost Vuarnets, at Seattle Style Seafood Restaurant & Bar, 190 W. Dayton Way, Edmonds. Tonight and tomorrow, 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Cover $3. -------------------------------------------------------------------

Edmonds - Gary Smith, founder and leader of The Lost Vuarnets, has a quick and simple explanation for the band's successful 10-year run.

"We've only ever rehearsed twice," he explains. "And to keep things fresh for our audience, we try never to play in front of the same house two nights in a row. That way they never find out we don't have any new songs." It's that kind of attitude that keeps the Vuarnets constantly working.

Smith got started in music as a bass player when he was in high school. "I was following the lead of my big brother Dave. But I discovered I liked to sing, and you can't wander off into the woods with a bass to sing songs to the animals, so I switched to guitar." He eventually teamed up with his brother to form The Smith Brothers Band. When that unit dissolved, he started The Lost Vuarnets.

The band was named after the expensive designer sunglasses that had just come into fashion. It occurred to Smith that everyone he knew who bought a pair lost them almost immediately. Of course, it wasn't a name everyone understood immediatley.

"They still don't," says Smith. "You can't believe some of the pronunciations people come up with, or the spellings. Most people think it's Los Vuarnets, like we're a mariachi band. Recently KIRO radio had an ad they were running twice a day in which the called us the Lost Var-netts. It really is a pretty stupid name, but after 10 years, we're stuck with it. If I'd known we were going to last this long, I'd have come up with something better."

For Smith, who owns a restaurant and a coffee-roasting business in Mukilteo, the band is mostly for fun. "We just play what we want, we don't have any huge aspirations. We're just a fun loving band that plays just about everything. Everything but country. We won't play country . . . unless we're out of tune."

Along with Smith, the group includes drummer and vocalist Leroy Bell, guitarist Al Katz, horn man Craig Flory and bassist Keith Bakke. Bell was the Bell in Bell & James, the Seattle duo that had a hit with the song "Living It Up (Friday Night)" in the late '70s. He's also written for Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and Elton John. Smith shares vocals with Bell and Katz. "We do a lot of three-part harmony," he says. "It sounds pretty good."

The Lost Vuarnets' appearance at Edmonds' Seattle Style marks that room's beginning as a bonafide night spot. Although the room has had live music in the past, it was usually of the listening variety, not for dancing. Owner Bill Shanks says that a reunion gig the band Rhythmn Cafe played in the lounge a few months ago went so well he decided to try music on a regular basis.

"We figured that if we were going to do the bar right, this was the way to go," says Shanks. Live music at the Style will become a Friday and Saturday night staple.

As for the Vuarnets, it's another gig in a schedule that reaches far into 1994.

"We're playing all the time," says Smith, "we're booked almost a year in advance. I really never thought this would last this long. Now we can't even break up. We have too many jobs."