Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Spotlight: Times New Viking

(editor's note: I finally caught up with Times New Viking after their return from Yo La Tengo land. Their interview was for my ongoing article on Noise Rock in the Midwest. Still working on that. But here is the full interview, since it doesn't look like I'll be done with that article in another few weeks.)

Times New Viking sprang up in Columbus a couple years back and started hitting it up in the city's east side. Word spread of their girl/boy duo pop vocals and the heavy rhythm created by the guitar/keyboard interlay. The trio is made up of drummer/vocalist Adam Elliot, keyboardist/vocalist Beth Murphy and guitar virtuoso Jared Phillips.
Fast forward this year and Times New Viking gets signed to heavyweight indie label Matador Records, made a splash at SXSW, toured with Yo La Tengo and did a show or two with Spoon.
Now they are back in Columbus and back to the monthly gamut of local bars again.
However, since they were gone, Columbus bands have had some discussions on what they think Times New Viking is up to. Some get oddly heated up about it - whether they are for or against their music.
As I told guitarist Jared, the point in including TNV in this article is because they are among the ONLY Midwest bands that fill the gap between Indie pop and the "noise" aesthetics. Most pure noise rock bands don't consider them "noise" at all, and seem to resent it. Most rock bands seem to think, TNV is more "noise." I suppose my take on it is that TNV are the perfect mix of both. That is why they are so interesting.

PWAH: Whether you know it or not, your music often brings up debate among rock nerds regarding recording techniques. Can a noisy recording be considered art? Can it be considered pop? It is not just about HAVING to record with tape hiss, it's about APPRECIATING the tape hiss. Any comments on this paragraph?

Jared: APPRECIATING the tape hiss - yes, that just about explains it. An old wizard friend of ours once said something to the extent of 'tape hiss is the sound of life' or, 'tape hiss is the sound of the comet's tail.' Something poetic like that. We just like to make records that evoke a unique atmosphere, putting our sound in a different place, perhaps one that's a little more intimate. Records, i think, are supposed to sound a little experimental - it's a completely separate art form than seeing a band play live. You know, people think distorted guitars on records are okay, but distorted drums or vocals are not. Who decided this? Hitler? The Shins? Who cares. Also with records you can listen to them over and over again and hear new things each time.

PWAH: Critics of lo-fi aesthetics often bring up how you can’t hear the words, you can’t hear the details, etc. What do you have to say to these people? Why do you think your music has raised such debates in modern recording and lo-fi? I think if we're going to turn more people onto deconstructing pop, it may be important to address that.

Jared: We have nothing to say to these people. You either like it or you dont. Maybe their ideas will change, but that's not why we make music, to change people. Most of the critics are people who think music is supposed to sound a certain way, or they are people who spent too much time and money at recording school - hence their panties getting all bunched up when groups like us just teach ourselves how to do it the way we want. I'm sure a lot of people who don't listen to anything remotely experimental are the same ones who believe that everyone owns protools - or SHOULD own protools. Really fucked up, in-the-red records are nothing new. (Velvet Underground's) 'White light/White heat' is forty fucking years old. Seriously.

PWAH: So my question now is what are your specific attempts at song writing? Are you coming at it from a “rock/pop” tradition or more of a deconstructionist way?

Jared: We come at it all ways. As long as it's a good song it dosent matter how we get it - really, none of us think about how we arrive at a song. I think of our angle as being mostly pretty traditional. We got singers, drums, guitar, keys. We like songs. We like to make records that flow well, nicely sequenced. We like the standard 1-3 minute pop format. We like writing songs in 15 minutes, just like 'louie, louie' was done.

PWAH: Could you describe the process of how you ended up on Matador? That's just great info for any Midwestern
band to know.

Jared: It was a heated battle of lawyer 'bro-downs', endless porterhouse steaks, cocaine, strip clubs, yacht cruises, contractual flim-flam, jargonized speed-talk, rivers of alcohol, more cocaine, a few fist-fights between major-label suits (at one point roland woodbe roundhouse-kicked 3 a&r men at the same time!) etc., etc., etc...
When it was all said and done, matador really just seemed to like our stuff the most. and they bought the most expensive steak, which i'm still digesting.

PWAH: Ultimately, my site is about the Midwest underground rock scenes. I want people to know about them. What does it mean to you to be Midwestern? Maybe more specific, how has Ohio influenced you, your life, and your music? What are some of your favorite current bands from the Midwest?

Jared: Being midwestern means being ten years out of the loop, at least in our case. When you're kind of an underdog (or hillbilly), you feel you can do whatever the fuck you want because people already have a preconceived notion of you. i think Robert Rauschenberg said that.

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