Sep. 23—After winning a battle of the bands in Spokane Valley two years ago, Olivia Vika accepted some tough advice from the second-place finisher.
"I told her she needed to play with better musicians," Johnny Curley said. She may have won the day's competition, he told her, but without a fresh group of bandmates, she would ultimately lose.
She took him seriously.
"I knew it was true," said Vika, whose song "70s Haze" caught fire on Spotify and now has nearly 1.5 million listens.
It wasn't long before Curley, 20, Vika, 19, and drummer Ayden Eyre, 20, formed Vika and the Velvets, an eclectic rock band that combines blues, psychedelia and rock with elements of pop.
The band was originally a three-piece.
"We all love trios," Curley said. "Ayden is a huge Nirvana fan. I love Cream and Rush and Motorhead."
The group had a change of heart, however, after catching the Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats concert in August 2021 at the U.S. Pavilion.
"We loved the show," Curley said. "Vika was excited about horns. I couldn't give her a horn section, but I could give her a horn player."
So Curley invited his friend and former bandmate, saxophonist Rogan Tinsley, 20, to play with their band — without consulting Vika.
"She hated us for having Rogan join our band just like that, but I knew he had the chops," Curley said.
Once she heard Tinsley play, Vika knew it was right.
"There's no doubt that he's the missing piece," Vika said. "It sets us apart. Most bands like ours have a lead guitarist. But we have a saxophonist."
Tinsley's sax complements Vika's voice.
"It's a great situation for me since I get to play with two close friends and we're in this band with a singer with this angelic voice," Tinsley said.
The band has a smooth bluesy sound that compliments Vika's voice, which has been described with high praise as raspy, Amy Winehouse-esque.
Vika and the Velvets, which opened for Peter Rivera at the Bing last December, has the same assignment Friday night, supporting the former leader of Rare Earth at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.
Life is often not easy for emerging rock bands. Curley recently earned a job as an audio tech with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. Curley also recently signed on as the bassist for Killers' touring guitarist Ted Sablay's side project.
"This is not a terminal thing with Vika and the Velvets," Curley said. "They have a sub bassist, Andrew Atkinson, who is a senior at Lewis and Clark. I fully intend to be back for shows. I love being in this band."