Analise Rahn ’10 graduated from Knox with a degree in theater and soon kicked off her current career after received a bid via Craigslist for a costuming job making a Victorian stage costume.
“I sent her sketches of these bustle gowns and historically accurate things, because for all I knew she was an older woman … and then she wrote me back and was like ‘Actually, this is for a steam punk band,’” Rahn said.
That was for keyboardist Carrie Hegenderfer, who plays the character Veronica Jade for V is for Villains. From there, Rahn was commissioned to make a costume for guitarist John Santiago, who plays the villain Fallon Flynn.
“When I went to do measurements with John, he took me back to his house and I met Nick and his father, and we all got started talking about costuming stuff and I was really on board from there,” she explained.
Nick Santiago plays Mr. Agitator and is the band leader of V is for Villains. His father, Carlos Santiago, is the band’s manager.
Drummer Richard Nash’s persona is “The Pulse.” He only plays live so drums on all Villains’ recordings are synthesized.
Alumnae Katy Sutcliffe ’12 and Caitlin Sahm ‘11 do marketing, social media and public relations for V is for Villains. They met Rahn at Vitalist Theatre’s “pool (no water)” a few months ago and expressed interest in working for marketing. Sutcliffe specifically expressed interest in working for bands.
“They [Sutcliffe and Sahm] are coming up with characters, too, actually. Everyone involved has their own Villain character. We’re trying to give everyone a backstory. All of the performers have backstories and they have trading cards that have their backstory on the back,” Rahn said.
Other merchandise includes costume pieces made by Rahn, who has adopted “Seams of Steam” as her Villains persona. She takes commissions for work via her Facebook page “Seams of Steam.”
“I take commissions for Villains fans pretty often, and I do the merchandise and I make the masks. I make leather wrist bands. I make little mini top hats … people really like the personalized stuff,” Rahn said. “We really try to make a connection with our fans.”
Rahn also belly dances on stage during the band’s opening number.
Villains is often described under the steam punk genre, but Santiago feels that the band’s sound is not so easy to categorize.
“I like to say that the genre is electronic rock … but it does have a rock pop structure. Visually, I would say we have a very strong steam punk aesthetic, but I wouldn’t limit ourselves to steam punk,” he said.
Rahn echoes these sentiments.
“The thing about steam punk is it hasn’t really been defined musically yet. … We’re tapping in to all sorts of areas,” she explained. “The steam punk community, the anime community, the comic book community, fantasy literature, sci-fi. We’re trying to bring everybody together to unify them around the ideas of the costumes and just the fun of it.”
These fan communities have formed a large following for the band. Other traction has come from Nick and John Santiago’s previous band, Digital Mindy, which in its prime held licensing deals with movies, video games and MTV.
Common venues for V is for Villains include House of Blues and the Metro in Chicago. They usually headline and played at the Hard Rock Café this past weekend.
“I like to be close enough to see and interact with the crowd. We like to jump off stage and go crazy and get the crowd really involved so it is a little bit jolting for us when we have to be a far distance away from it [at some venues],” Santiago said.
Their next show is at the Memphis! Comic and Fantasy Convention from Nov. 9-11. For more about the band and a comic book featuring the characters, see visforvillains.com.
“We already have the first half of next year booked,” Santiago said. “We’ve been playing a lot of conventions this past year … anime conventions, comic book conventions, steam punk conventions. We find that it’s actually a great market and we really love the crowds there. They’re really great people and true enthusiasts to good music … we’re really willing to go anywhere there’s a good show.”