Do You know something about a musical group from Los Angeles Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ)? Or maybe You found the stunning covers of contemporary music, didn’t You? You can be the hater Kanye West’s compositions but after the listening to the VSQ perfomance (their West’s cover, “Flashing Lights”), You exactly “fall in love” with our herors.
Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ) is a top-selling collective of classical musicians who create cutting-edge string renditions of modern and classic rock songs. VSQ has fused virtuoso technique with the hits of contemporary artists such as Metallica, Radiohead, Adele and more.
Vitamin String Quartet, or VSQ, is not a string quartet in the traditional sense. Rather, VSQ is a series of string quartet projects developed and produced by CMH Label Group, an independent record company based in Los Angeles. The CMH team works with an ever-evolving cast of arrangers, producers, string players and other creatives to bring each project to life.
The series began unofficially in 1999, when CMH began releasing string quartet tribute albums on affiliate Vitamin Records. A few years down the road, this successful album set became known as Vitamin String Quartet or VSQ. Since its inception, the series has amassed sales of over 3.8 million downloads and 1 million CDs, while maintaining almost half a million monthly listeners on Spotify. It has garnered multiple Billboard chartings and has been regularly featured in numerous hit TV shows.
VSQ has a devoted following and growing audience. Radio station WWHK in Concord, N.H. played their music 24 hours a day during the spring and summer of 2012. Instead of playing live concerts, the band prefers to perform behind the scenes. VSQ contributed to Danny Elfman’s reprisal of the Nightmare Before Christmas score in 2008. The band’s songs have also been used in television, on So You Think You Can Dance, Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl and others. In 2011, the band was featured on MTV Unplugged, playing “Kings and Queens” in tribute to 30 Seconds to Mars.
Vitamin String Quartet has proven itself to be as adaptable as it is innovative. One of the band’s greatest strengths is its ability to capture the essence of songs. VSQ’s arrangements are not simple distillations of other band’s songs; they deserve to be enjoyed in their own right. The musicians shape the pre-existing music into something wholly recognizable yet entirely fresh. They refocus the song, substituting melody and harmony for lyrics, and using strings to mimic other instruments and the result is sublime.
Though VSQ did not formally announce all of its songs, it was not difficult to recognize popular tunes, such as “Hallelujah” by Paramore and “Dream On” by Aerosmith. This informal aspect could be seen as an annoyance to people who are unfamiliar with the string quartet but the audience seemed to consist of fervent VSQ fans, so this was not an issue. In the future, however, it could be helpful for the band to post or announce a setlist so that audience members can follow along more easily.
VSQ maintained a casual atmosphere; the musicians moved to the music and encouraged the audience to sway and clap along. The strings provided a colorful soundscape that made lyrics unnecessary. Only after repeated prompting did concert-goers sing along to VSQ’s cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. This song was one of the most dynamic of the night and used strobe lights to emphasize abrupt changes in mood. “Bohemian Rhapsody” also featured an extended viola solo and sweeping violin scales.
Another standout was “Sweater Weather” from VSQ Performs the Hits of 2013 Vol. 1. This laid-back tune incorporated a bubbly sounding pizzicato section and enchanting harmonies. VSQ’s reinvention of The Neighborhood’s popular song made listeners consider the melodic undercurrent of this tune and appreciate the versatility of the original. “Sweater Weather” proved to be one of the night’s most well-received songs, and when the audience demanded an encore, VSQ gave a second performance.
The show highlighted the band’s versatility; they deftly switched from a sultry rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” to the more introspective “Across the Universe” by The Beatles. The concert was a stellar introduction, or re-introduction, to the Vitamin String Quartet’s unique flair and leaves listeners eagerly anticipating the quartet’s next album.
Their albums honor a wide variety of genres, including pop and rock, metal, emo, punk, techno, country, and hip-hop. Their discography includes (!) 261 albums. Tom Tally, a violist and arranger, said,“Vitamin String Quartet is about applying rock n’ roll attitude to classical technique”.