Times New Viking Makes No Demands
TIMES NEW VIKING. PHOTO COURTESY OF JO MCCAUGHEY
Of all the genre terms that music critics come up with—this “-hop” and that “-wave”—”shit gaze” is, hands down, the best. Times New Viking, with their loud, don’t-care-about-font-name attitude, was once “shit gaze”; but their new album, Dancer Equired, has placed them under a broader term, lo-fi. The Columbus, Ohio trio still retains its fair share of feedback and distortion, but nowhere near the amount that fuzzed lyrics to the point of unintelligibility on past records. Dancer Equired highlights the pop, rather than the punk, sensibilities of Adam Elliott and Beth Murphy’s girl-on-guy vocals. Not that they’ve gone to Moldy Peaches extremes—but songs like “Ever Falling in Love” and “Want to Exist” do have a certain Magnetic Fields ring to them. Most of the 14 songs don’t break the three-minute mark and are filled with more heart and feeling than attitude and angst.
Last night, Interview spoke with the band before its show about the album’s name, how its sound came about, and how, contrary to popular belief, working with different record labels has not changed the way they make music.
MICHAEL POLLOCK: What does “equired” mean?
BETH MURPHY: It’s a word fragment, actually. The title came from “attendance required” and then the A-T-T-E-N dropped off and the R got shifted over. So it became “Dancer Equired.” We like the idea of our titles being non-existent prior to our releasing them. You can’t Google it before it comes out.
ADAM ELLIOTTT: We took it from an old Electric Eels flyer. We put it on our own flyers and over time, with collaging and photocopying, somehow it got broken up, then we had a title.
POLLOCK: So it just manifested itself?
ELLIOTT: We’ve always had it—the cover art—and were searching around for a title for this one. Usually we have a title first.
MURPHY: Yeah, the letters didn’t just rearrange themselves in our sleep or anything.
JARED PHILLIPS: It’s also a good way to like test the laziness of journalists, because I’ve seen “inquired,” and bunch of different spellings.
MURPHY: Because “equired” almost sounds like a word.
PHILLIPS: It was on the box that our records came in.
ELLIOTT: They spelled it wrong.
POLLOCK: It wasn’t until I listened two or three times that I realized it wasn’t “Dance Required.”
ELLIOTT: [Dancing’s] an option.
PHILLIPS: I don’t give a shit if you dance, as long as you pay.
MURPHY: We aren’t going to demand that you clap or dance.
POLLOCK: Do you usually have titles before you write?
MURPHY: That’s pretty much been the case in the past, but this record was the opposite.
ELLIOTT: We have lists upon lists of song titles and album titles, but for this one none of them fit. A lot of the time, the title will spark the song itself.
POLLOCK: Did anything spark this album?
MURPHY: The music came first for this album. That’s one of the ways it was different.
ELLIOTT: We knew we wanted a song called “It’s a Culture,” a song called “Fuck Her Tears.”
MURPHY: “Don’t Go to Liverpool.” Then we wrote songs based on those titles.
POLLOCK: Was most of the album based off a certain sound you wanted?
ELLIOTT: We spent a lot more time with the songs and actually demo’d them before we went into the studio. A lot of the other songs on other albums were instant songs that we arranged right then and there. Here, we arranged the songs before we recorded them. It’s a little change. But a lot of the lyrics and vocals and extra stuff were spontaneous, I guess.
POLLOCK: Do you think the prep work produced the cleaner sound on this album?
ELLIOTT: We actually had time constraints. We could only afford three days in the studio. We had to get it all done so we had to get a lot of the “studying” done before we went in there. We also didn’t know if it was going to work or not. We still ended up doing three or four songs off the cuff.
PHILLIPS: We still had time to spare to fuck around.
MURPHY: Yeah, we did a little EP after that album. And the prep work kinda gave us more confidence to go in a cleaner direction.
POLLOCK: Can you talk about that confidence? I don’t want to say that you were hiding behind the dissonance…
ELLIOTT: [laughs] We kind of were.
ELLIOTT: I mean the first time we listened to it, it was kind of scary for us, because we were used to all the extra noise, but we were confident with ourselves. It’s not like hearing back clean vocals… It wasn’t the first time I realized that I couldn’t sing very well. I knew that from day one. You should hear those first practices [laughs]. People think I can’t sing on this record…
POLLOCK: Can you talk about your past record label experiences? You’ve hopped around from Siltbreeze to Matador to Merge. How has working with the different labels affected the albums?
MURPHY: I wouldn’t say it has affected the albums.
PHILLIPS: Very little.
ELLIOTT: We are one of the luckiest bands in the world, I think. We pretty much recorded stuff, then they have approached us because of that. We’ve never had to shop out our goods to anyone.
MURPHY: Yeah, all the labels that we’ve been on have always given us 100% creative control and never told us to change a thing, even down to the song titles. I think we would have made those records regardless of what labels we were on. We never catered our sound to a particular label, and they never tried to change us in any way.
ELLIOTT: A lot of people say that we have cleaned up our sound for Merge on this record, but we actually recorded the record before we were on Merge. Merge signed us because of the record.
POLLOCK: So have you guys done sound check yet?
ELLIOTT: We actually beat the sound guy here today. Our sound check usually takes about five minutes. It’s not going to sound the same when there are people in here.
POLLOCK: Sound checks are kind of worthless because the acoustics are going to be different when the room is filled with people versus just the cement floor?
PHILLIPS: They are good to have, but in dire straits we don’t really need them.
ELLIOTT: Dire Straits need them, though.
PHILLIPS: Dire Straits definitely need them.
TIMES NEW VIKING PLAYS THE KNITTING FACTORY TONIGHT WITH THE BABIES AND THE PHANTOM HALO FAMILY.