We had the good fortune of connecting with Virgil Simpelo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Virgil, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Initially, I didn’t think about the business end of things because I just wanted to perform and represent San Diego in the best possible way when the music of the Smiths or Morrissey was concerned. Being a business had neve crossed my mind, since most artists or musicians take a humanistic approach to what they do because it’s their guts on the line.
However, as the band started to get approached more about shows, I got good advice from a band member to register a business license. The paperwork for the business license and the fictitious business name seemed like a formulaic process that everyday people do all the time, so it was a good feeling once I got it all completed.
The work and investment to keep things flowing and consistent can be taxing (my, was that a pun?) But it is a rewarding experience when the thing that you’re “selling,” is a natural love of what you do.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I sing for one of the many bands in the world that do a tribute to the Smiths and Morrissey, called Still ill. We are mainly based in San Diego and I hope to represent my city with the class and the multicultural rich backgrounds of what makes San Diego home.
Although the music we perform is not original, we believe that we are doing a service for the fans, whose love is true to a band that broke up over 30 years ago. We hope to create the mutual excitement of hearing these deep songs that soldiered the lonely, shy, and awkward human beings not able to see the Smiths in their heyday by doing live performances, At our shows, we see a mix of original fans and new, younger fans. It’s amazing how this music transcends generations!
I would have to say personally, that performing is easy because I love what I do. I don’t consider myself a professional singer, just someone who is inspired to share the soul-healing effects of this music with our audiences.
I had started performing in front of people since 3rd grade in band in the South Bay Union district, in southern San Diego. I continued doing performing arts in music and drama, along with art, throughout secondary school in the Sweetwater Union High School District, so I became accustomed to being on the spot and not fearing big crowds. I do get the occasional butterflies before walking on stage, but they go away once the music starts.
As far as business in entertainment is concerned, I learned primarily from my past experience as a professional wrestler. The independent pro wrestling world is very much like the independent music world. With the exception of getting a concussion from a leg drop off the top rope or being hit with a metal folding chair. However, the similarities are that they are both performance-based art forms that require you to connect to your audience. I applied what I learned in the ring to what I do on stage.
My business model is built on the honor of keeping your word, delivering at the best quality possible and negotiating for the benefit of all. My experience with most wrestling promoters and bookers are less than glowing and I was determined to not repeat those practices in my own business, even at my own cost.
If you are running a business to make a quick buck and knowingly do underhanded things rather than forge long-lasting, trusting relationships, you will not succeed. At the very least, your reputation as being professional will be highly under scrutiny.
In the entertainment world, many try to stick out to be discovered and unfortunately sacrifice dignity for a moment of fame and I’ve seen the damage it does to friends and family. I am one who is not willing to hurt others when “it’s just business.”
I feel my business approach has worked well for Still ill all these years, although there is still much to learn and I’m in for the journey of the right path for us.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Wow, that’s like my modus operandi. Whenever I have friends or relatives who come to San Diego the first time, I want to be their personal tour guide. First off is food. I have to bring them to my “Go to” places. If they can eat Mexican food, Hermanos Taco Shop in Chula Vista is a staple. Rumor has it, that they were the first to do carne asada fries. I’m not sure if that’s true, but what a good rumor to have.
My favorite Thai place out of all my favorite Thai restaurants is Lai Thai in National City. The owner does frequent trips to her motherland and brings home new recipes. I was fortunate to eat there when they first opened and it’s well deserved that they are doing very well last time I was there.
The closest flavor of Tokyo ramen I’ve had here in San Diego is at Yamadaya Ramen in Clairemont Mesa Blvd. I was quite floored on how it brought back good memories when I lived in Japan. I have to say I converted a few skeptics of the ramen culture when I brought them to Yamadaya.’
Also proud to say that San Diego’s Vegan food culture is vastly improving. In the 90’s, I think there was only Faque Burger at the time and it wasn’t overly tasty, but it did the job.
Now, there’s so many more options to choose. I frequent Veg’n Out, Sipz, Ranchos Cocina, Loving Hut, Native Foods, Plumeria and newer places that pop up. It’s very encouraging.
The usual touristy spots in San Diego are obviously Balboa Park, Old Towne, Hotel Del Coronado, La Jolla Shores, the Gaslamp District in Downtown, etc.. But as a band, we get to perform at historical places like reinvigorated Barrio Logan, home of Chicano Park and 3rd Ave in Downtown Chula Vista.
And in the last 6 years, San Diego has become a brewery captial. Almost 90% of our shows happen at breweries now. So if you are into the bar/brewery hopping, pick a town and you’ll find some interesting breweries for sure.
If you also are in town for Comic-Con week, that is the world’s spotlight on San Diego. Comic culture, Anime, movies and entertainment related all converge in downtown in a span of 4 days. If you are unlucky to score a Comic-Con badge, there are many industry-related events outside of the convention center that doesn’t require a badge. Cosplayers walking around feels like 2nd Halloween!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Fans of the music of the Smiths, Morrissey and the city of San Diego are my motivation, support and my chance to give back to my community. My emotional stability and outlook on life is fueled from the influence of artists who speak to us through their unique lenses and language. I feel a kinship with fans who were deeply affected by the lyrics and altered their course of life, for better or for worse.
Fans, family, and friends who have stuck with us throughout the last 16 years deserve the most credit and I don’t mind embarrassing them on the mic to show how much I appreciate them. It’s all done out of love and respect.
His Mater’s Voice Paul Slattery