- Sophie Doss
- Local musician Timmy Vilgiate has made a name for himself organizing local music showcases, releasing four albums, and launching a new radio drama series.
For example, one can imagine how thrilling it must have been to catch Prince playing in Minneapolis before he hit it big, or catching ZZ Top when they were just another Texas bar band. Aside from the excitement of seeing such a tremendous talent developing, you can tell everyone, however dubious the claim, that you “knew them when.”
Of course, those with exceptional talent may not necessarily become household names over time, but the sense of discovering a cult artist or a “hidden treasure” can supply an equally visceral thrill. Heck, T Bone Burnett, who has 13 Grammy awards to his name, is mostly a cult artist, in terms of his solo records.
Everyone should certainly hope that local musician Timmy Vilgiate finds an abundance of success, though his charming lo-fi songs pulse with the energy that you’re hearing something unique, something hidden from the world at large.
Even if you’re familiar with the local music scene, you might not be familiar with Vilgiate, although he definitely keeps busy. He’s released four solo LPs and six EPs since 2013, organized the Redheaded Zombie Show live music series, and written a variety of poetry and radio programs. His most recent project, Rivers of the Mind, is an ongoing radio drama that airs Thursday nights at 8 on UCCS Radio and chronicles the adventures of a homeless man who develops superpowers while taking LSD in a hole under the universe.
Yes, it’s as psychedelic as it sounds, and infinitely more affecting than you’d probably think.
Vilgiate started writing poetry in middle school and grew up around music, with his father playing bass and guitar for various bands and releasing music under the moniker Chainsaw Weasel.
“He was the one who introduced me to Joy Division, the Arcade Fire and The Doors, which are some of my favorite bands,” says Vilgiate.
In high school, he began writing music to accompany his poetry, eventually starting the band Cliff Letters and choosing to adopt the viola as his instrument.
“For me, writing has almost always been a necessary act, something I can’t live without for too long.” click to tweet“I decided too many people were playing guitar,” Vilgiate jokes. “[Teaching myself] didn’t quite work out, but when I finally got a mandolin, it had given me a good start with learning to play an instrument and a good foundation in music theory. I tune my mandolin now like a mandola, and string it with viola strings.”
Eventually putting together a live backing band of “mostly just whoever [he] can get to show up” and taking the stage name “Timmy and the Vigilantes,” a sly nod to the frequent butchering of his surname, Vilgiate has released an impressive quantity of music, tackling topics such as the Waldo Canyon Fire, consumerism and suicide. His latest effort, Nice French Desserts, takes on a much happier glow, thanks in large part to meeting the woman who’s now his fiancée.
“I’d met a girl at a Research Fair at UCCS, and, after forgetting her name three times, I finally told her I had a crush on her,” recalls Vilgiate. “As we started to fall in love, I had music just explode out of my heart for her in all sorts of ways.”
While Vilgiate wears many proverbial hats in his projects, he feels most comfortable being called a writer, someone who cares about things and people who are overlooked or stereotyped.
“For me, writing has almost always been a necessary act, something I can’t live without for too long. I think of the world as a poem — an infinite, continuously evolving and unwinding network of poems. Some of them are outside the bounds of language, but writing, letting the text of the world unfold before you, is a spiritual act. An act of watching, witnessing and being present.”
Vilgiate’s next album is tentatively titled Songs to Panic on Dramamine To, but for the moment, his attention is focused on the run of Rivers of the Mind, and unpacking the latent compassion in the adventures of its protagonist John — a former geologist who, as mentioned earlier, takes LSD and develops telepathic abilities — and exploring the possibilities of the medium itself.
“Radio drama is a form where the character’s appearance doesn’t necessarily matter,’ says Vilgiate. “Their race, weight and aesthetic qualities are all bypassed. I can describe things that are almost impossible to picture, and they become things the audience must imagine however they can. The audience becomes implicated in the act of creation.”
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