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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at and a music writer for and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the WCHS TV show “207” to talk of course.

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Posted: May 1, 2017

Husband-and-wife band Scarlet Sails cruises into Portland

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Scarlet Sails Photo courtesy of the artist

Scarlet Sails
Photo courtesy of the artist

So there I was, last August in Boston at the outdoor venue Blue Hills Bank Pavilion seeing The Dresden Dolls of which I’m a huge fan.

It was the first Dolls show in several years, and it was upper level incredible with many stellar moments, including when Olya Viglione joined the Dolls on stage for “Delilah.” Dolls singer Amanda Palmer told us that Olya and her husband, Dolls drummer Brian Viglione, had started a “beautiful band” called Scarlet Sails. All I know is that Olya knocked my socks off with her vocals, and I filed the name Scarlet Sails away into the “bands to remember” part of my brain which is, as you can imagine, an overrun beehive.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when a press release arrived telling me that Scarlet Sails had released its first full-length album and is coming to Portland to play at Geno’s. It was early in the morning, so I was alone in shouting my “hell, yes” out loud. The album is called “Future from the Past,” and it came into the world on April 10 bursting with a dozen songs that I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.

Turns out, the band had previously released a single and an EP, but this one was my first taste, and I devoured every song, beginning with “As I Am.” The song starts with strings and piano and soon has steam coming off it with Olya Viglione’s smoldering vocals: “You told me not to write a love song/But I’ll still go on/Won’t take the blame for what I am.”

“Ready Or Not” comes thumping out of the gate with Jesse Krakow’s bass. Mark Kohut’s blazing electric guitar muscles its way into the song, and it’s all punctuated with exclamation points by Brian Viglione’s drums.

Here’s “I’ll Be There,” from the new album

This band rocks, but it does so much more than that. The members are moody devils on “Boy You’re Wrong,” which creeps along with Olya’s bitter declaration of “You say you don’t need me, but boy you’re wrong.” Then what’s this? A horn and an acoustic guitar? Indeed, it is, on “I Found a Boat.” It’s a song draped in longing that oozes along a thorny path and then goes deeper into the darkness in a flurry of crashing symbols and guitar only to come up for air with that horn again and become almost playful for a few moments. Then, I was all but snapping along with “Precious Times.”

Here’s “Boy You’re Wrong”

Don’t fence this band into one genre; it’s just not possible, especially when you hear the funkadelic “Spell My Name.” I dare say that if they perform this one live at Geno’s, it may result in dancing. I can just about guarantee it. The merriment continues with the groovealicious “One, Two (Fear).”

So here’s a little background on Scarlet Sails, based in New York. The name comes from the 1923 book “Scarlet Sails” by Russian author Alexander Grin. The book’s about true love and pursuing one’s dreams and Russian-born Olya read it as a young woman while living in Moscow. Little did she know, life would indeed imitate art several years later, although Olya’s love affair with music began when she was a child and studied piano at the Moscow Prokofiev School of Music, where she learned pieces by Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Grieg and Liszt. Trouble is, this school had a zero-tolerance policy for original music, and the songwriter in Olya could not be silenced.

At 18, Olya started with vocal lessons and this set her on a musical path from which she has yet to stray. She left Moscow when she was 21 and made her way to America via an exchange program. That was seven years ago, and after overcoming some unexpected stumbling blocks, Olya got a gig as a bartender at The Bowery Electric in New York City with punk rock deity Jesse Malin as her boss.

Olya hit the road with Malin and his band, D Generation, in 2014 and played a staggering nine SXSW shows, where she found an endless supply of inspiration and made key connections.

Brian and Olya Viglione of Scarlet Sails Photo courtesy of the artist

Brian and Olya Viglione of Scarlet Sails
Photo courtesy of the artist

Back the story up a year to 2013 and that was when Olya, then Fomina, met Brian Viglione at a book release party at Bowery Electric. The story on the Scarlet Sails website,, describes their meeting as “love at first sight” for Brian. It just doesn’t get any sweeter than this: “I suddenly caught sight of the most radiant smile I had ever encountered. Like warm rays of sunshine beaming out from behind the dark counter of the bar, parting the clouds, invigorating my spirit,” Brian described catching site of Olya.

A year or so later, the pair wed and formed Scarlet Sails, and you can’t really say the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history because these two are really just getting started. I for one can’t wait to rock out, jump for joy, snap my fingers and clink glasses with everyone in the room at Geno’s on Friday night. Sidenote, Krakow is no longer with the band and their new bassist is Edward Goldson. See you there!

Scarlet Sails with Radiator King, Pretty Sad and Cactus Rose

8 p.m. Friday. Geno’s Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland, $7 21-plus. On Facebook.


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