by Quinn Voss, on-air personality, WXRK-LP Rock Hits 92.3, Charlottesville, VA

Concept music is tricky. In order for it to work, the music has to stand on its own separate from the concept, but also be your gateway to it. In this way, The Vailix are a rock concept band done right. More Charlottesville's answer to Coheed and Cambria, and less an example of when a concept can go horribly wrong (see: Styx "Kilroy Was Here"). I will admit, I don't know anything about the sci-fi story they're telling, but the music works without it, which is what matters.

Concept aside, the music of The Vailix combines chugging rock riffs, soaring vocals and hook-laden verses and choruses. The songs on their debut EP "Aeronaut" are anthemic and even downright poppy, but smarter than "pop rock" has any business being (who knew you could make a chorus with a big word like "Perihelion" catchy!). That's about the time you remember there's a sci-fi story attached to this music, which is there to be discovered when and if you care to. But if you don't, it's not distracting.

In that way, they are Charlottesville's answer to Coheed and Cambria. Catchy enough to get regular rotation on radio, but with a complex backstory for future fans and devotees to obsess over. If they stick with that balance, it's a recipe for success.

The Vailix links card game and comic books to musical narrative

by Erin O'Hare, C-Ville Weekly, Charlottesville, VA

Rob Richmond grew up reading comic books, playing card games and listening to music—all three activities afforded him the opportunity to explore. Sometimes, he’d discover that there was more to explore—like more comic books, television shows, movies, etc.—and the excitement he felt over exploring an even wider imagined world, he says, was unmatched.

A few years ago, Richmond decided to create a fantasy world of his own. He began with a card game, one that had its own mythology, and in order to figure out what that world might feel like, Richmond—a professional musician who’s played in a number of local bands (including Superunknown) and owns Bay 1 Studios—turned to music.

Song ideas became narrative elements to a wider story for the card game and allowed Richmond to work through relationships happening in the story. He put together a band of seasoned local musicians to help him navigate further—Brianna “Bri” Litman on lead vocals, Cory Teitelbaum on lead guitar, Jamie Booth on drums and Bruce Stocking on bass. Together, they make up the hard rock band The Vailix, making the music that orbits the story told through Richmond’s card game, The Forevergone, and comic book series, The Tales of the Cloud Ocean.

The story is this: After a catastrophe, planet Atla is covered in a toxic fog and survivors take to the skies, living in towers high above the fog and traveling via airship. A young woman, who is estranged from her father, has an overprotective mother. But because of where the young woman comes from, because of who she is, she wants more from her life than what’s been laid out for her—she wants to own her own destiny. In order to do so, she needs allies and she needs a ship. The ship is called The Vailix, and it comes equipped with a crew… the band members.

The card game and one set of songs—the Aeronaut EP—were released in 2016, and this week, The Vailix will release its second EP, Architect, at The Ante Room. The first book in the comic series comes out this fall. All of the parts work together, but you don’t need to know the comic book or the card game to understand the songs, and vice versa. Each piece is “interlocking, but not integral to the others,” says Richmond, and the themes are universal.

Where Aeronaut explored the question “How do we fit into our own story?,” the Architect EP is about confronting and embracing destiny and learning to deal with the consequences of what follows—narratively, it fits with the comic book, but it’s a story in itself.

Richmond writes most of the songs, but it’s up to the rest of the band to breathe life into them. “We’re here to make what’s in Rob’s head come out of big speakers in a club,” says Teitelbaum.

It’s an unusual thing for Charlottesville (or anyplace, for that matter), but it’s perfect for the con crowd—The Vailix will be the musical guest of honor at RavenCon in April in Williamsburg, where they hope to reach a larger fan base.

This is more than just a card game, comic books and songs, says Richmond. “Our fans are part of the crew. The crew serves the ship. The ship is The Vailix. The band serves the fans…the fans are The Vailix.