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On our playlist: Versa

Versa (clockwise from top left) Anthony Theocharis

When a group of University of Victoria students decided to enter the battle of the bands at the campus pub five years ago, it wasn’t because they thought they could win.

“I basically grabbed all of the musicians that I knew and said ‘Let’s go play battle of the bands and be the most inappropriate,’” said Matthew Dolmage, who founded Versa with three of his classmates in a music composition class. “Let’s put on a good show, but absolutely get the least number of votes possible.”

“We were doing it for kicks, really, we weren’t planning on going past that,” added Ben Rancourt, who accounts for one-third of the band’s core members.

But the original members of Versa, including Anthony Theocharis (and Hollas Longton, who has since moved on), attracted more than just one overzealous fan in the audience that night with their self-described ambient drones, crazy time signatures and instrumental fog. They were eliminated in the first round of the battle, but they’ve since recorded two albums and created a network of musicians interested in playing what Theocharis dubs their “instrumental progressive rock, with no wanky solos and a folk influence.”

Dolmage and Rancourt agree with the label.

When a band blends everything from guitars and piano, to flute, accordion, bouzouki, mandolin, violin, drums, trombone, cello and vocals, it’s not simple to categorize what they do. The core members usually play along another three to five musicians on stage during a show.

Trumpet player Michelle Edwards was drawn to their sound and became a regular member of the group.

Edwards, also the voice behind EhBSeasides, a Canadian music website, joined Versa earlier this year after the band caught wind of a positive review. Edwards’ initial introduction to the band came last summer during the release party for their latest disc, The Decline and Fall Of….

Their sound is a little more common in a city like Montreal than Victoria, and they endorse the idea of taking it on the road. When a tour may happen is yet to be determined. Edwards is enthused at the prospect of travel with the band, but first, they’d like to take advantage of Rancourt’s studio know-how.

Since their self-titled debut disc in 2008, they’ve refined their song-writing methods. Dolmage often brings song ideas to the group, leading to 15-minute jams that are then edited down into shorter songs.

“It’s a little looser, a little less-composed and a little less-dark,” Dolmage said. “It’s a little brighter.”

“It’s definitely going somewhere, but it’s not really intentional,” Rancourt added.

Listen yourself

• Stay tuned for the release of Versa’s latest music video for “Dusk,” to be released through the band’s website.

• The band will be stopping by The Backstage Lounge in Vancouver with Redrick Sultan on July 17, with  Victoria and Nanaimo shows still being confirmed for the same week.

• Show updates and video release available through