Is it possible to weep with your tongue planted firmly in your cheek? TV Girl seems to think so. The duo’s biggest hit to date, the Todd Rundgren-sampling “If You Want It” is a breakup anthem, but a playful one. With sonic architecture firmly grounded in the refrain that opens Rundgren’s 1968 Billboard monster “Hello It’s Me,” band members Trung Ngo and Brad Petering reappraise the somber ’60s hit for the dance floor. The narrator, reliably modern and perhaps a bit too jaded, knows how to chuckle at himself despite heartbreak: “When the weekend rolls around / you’ll want it, and you’ll get it,” he sighs.
As TV Girl, Ngo and Petering saddle the blurred line between sadness and nostalgia, irony and true humor. “Our friends tried to start a rival band called Radio Boy,” Petering says, laughing. “I don’t think they ever made it. They’re too underground.” For their latest release, The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle mixtape, the two drew literal lines—including a download of a coloring book to accompany the new music. “I haven’t [colored it], but a lot of people have,” Petering notes with pause. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
We’re pleased to debut the video for “Misery,” the latest single from The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle, below. Our conversation with the band follows, in which we discuss strategies for impressing Parks & Recreation star Aubrey Plaza, video games, a missed opportunity with the Beastie Boys, mixtapes, and military food.
AGE: 24 and 24. Collectively 48 years old.
HOMETOWN: San Diego
LOCATION AT TIME OF INTERVIEW: Trung Ngo: Los Angeles. We wanted to be where the beautiful people are.
LIFE GOALS: Brad Petering: My goal is to end up at a party with Aubrey Plaza. Do you know Aubrey Plaza? I just want to be at the same party and have a shot at normal conversation [with her]. I’m not asking to like, sleep with her or anything. I just want a shot. An opportunity. That’s all I’m asking for. I mean, I don’t know what parties she’ll be at, or if we’ll ever be at the same party. But, that’s my goal. Maybe we’ll hit it off.
EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: Petering: Video game music, probably. That was what I listened to before I bought CDs, which is pretty funny to think about. I remember playing Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember vividly that it had a cool soundtrack that I really liked. I remember getting songs from that game stuck in my head. I beat the game. There’s this really hard level with air jets that spray you and fuck you up.
WORST DESCRIPTION OF YOUR MUSIC: Ngo: “Sundrenched California pop.” I think someone read it in a bio, and then everyone picked it up in every single description of us. The California waves, sun rays… it’s horrible! It’s weird that people pick up on that, because there’s absolutely no lyrical allusions to it.
DESCRIBING YOUR MUSIC TO A FIVE-YEAR-OLD: Ngo: I would describe [our music] as, “You can sing along to it, but I wouldn’t sing around your parents.”
MISSING OUT ON THE BEASTIE BOYS: Petering: My sister was a Beastie Boys fanatic when I was in the fifth grade and she was in the eighth grade. And I didn’t like the Beastie Boys [at the time] because I didn’t like whatever my sister liked. I made it a point not to like it. But she was obsessed, and convinced my dad to go to a Beastie Boys concert [with her]. My dad used to be in the military, so he brought these bulletproof headphones—sound-dampening headphones. He wore those the whole time, and said [the concert] was the loudest thing he had ever heard in his life. And that his ears were ringing for three days afterwards. [sighs] My dad has been to a Beastie Boys concert, and I never will.
SURVIVAL KIT: Ngo: Beef jerky, mostly.
Petering: I have MREs in my closet. “Meals ready to eat.” It’s what the military uses to feed their soldiers; rationed food. My dad was very into survival kits. People always laugh at me, but if you really think about it, it is a smart thing to have. I have two boxes full. They’re supposed to last a couple of months. [MREs] are super compacted and calorie-rich, but don’t taste as good as normal food. My dad once told me the history of MREs. He told me that when he was in the military, they were pure protein bars with a horrible, disgusting taste. [Then the military] did a bunch of studies and found that morale in those kinds of situations… people need actual food to keep their sanity. So it’s like real food. Parmesan chicken dinner, pasta… it’s normal food, but really nasty versions of normal food.
THE THING ABOUT MIXTAPES: Petering: What makes a rap album a mixtape and not an album? A mixtape is sort of meant to be less official. We didn’t want to call this our debut album, because it’s more… it didn’t just feel that way. We didn’t record it the way most people would record a debut album. But other than that, it’s pretty subjective. We gave it away for free, which is another characteristic of mixtapes in general. But you’re right. It is a pretty silly distinction. I mean, it pretty much is an album for all intents and purposes. Although, there’s less rapping.
NO COLLABS, NO PROBLEMS: Petering: I’m rarely, rarely thrilled by news of a collaboration. I mean, look at the Gorillaz and LCD Soundsystem and André 3000 collaboration. All those people are great, but that song was just horrible. There was no reason to do that. They just did it because they were famous, basically. A remix I would do, though. I’m down. [pauses] Sorry…. things just got a little real.
THE FUTURE: Ngo: We’re working on our debut record right now. Just got back from the first sessions in a cabin in Tahoe, Bon Iver style. We’re working on coming up with a non-boring live show for a big ol’ tour. Most importantly, we’re working on finding some good day jobs to help us prop up this indie-rock dream that seems to be perpetually on the verge of collapse. Got any good leads? I know Photoshop.
DOWNLOAD TV GIRL’S LATEST RELEASE THE WILD, THE INNOCENT, THE TV SHUFFLE ON THEIR BANDCAMP.