Times New Viking got the best of me. When I was a young lad “exploring” the Columbus, Ohio, scene (as much as a young lad could in a city where 18+ venues were scarce) I spent a lot of time watching jazz bands perform at the artists’ community and hanging out at Skully’s for acts like RJD2 and A Silver Mt. Zion. My friends were at least ten years my senior, and they were snobs. So I never got to see Times New Viking play a show. And that has since become my biggest regret in the category entitled “My Time in Columbus.” So, naturally, I had to do a lot of reminiscing and remembering my old stomping grounds when I first got my mitts on this gem.
Once I got over myself, a menial task when compared to some of the other hurdles I’ve had to jump through when I listen to an album, I found myself standing in front of my mirror dancing in a pair of powder blue American Apparel underwear. I was listening to “Fuck Her Tears” by Times New Viking. I was eighteen again. This isn’t to say that TNV’s upcoming album on Merge Records, Dancer Equired, made me feel younger, so much so that I admit to you now what I was wearing when I was listening to the album, or lack thereof. It is to say that somewhere within thirty-two minutes, four years flashed before me and I was dancing like the crazy kid I shushed away.
Dancer Equired gave me a free pass to be myself; I forgot to listen to it as a critic. I didn’t review it. I just lost my damn mind. Maybe it’s the subtle and sometimes blatant imperfections that tore down my guard. It’s riddled with pop ambiguity and a not-so-timid urgency to communicate some sort of message throughout each passing minute. The simplistic recording approach seemed like a bad idea to me when I first heard about TNV. I realize now that it was the antithesis of that. The vessel they have chosen got me thinking, and almost got me naked. Tracks like “Try Harder” and “Ever Falling in Love” made me wonder how they did it, why they did it, and most importantly, what could be done to ensure they wouldn’t making another Roofie of a record like Dancer Equired. But Adam Elliott turned out to be just as charming as the record he sang and played drums on, and I just have to share the conversation with you.
You guys have had quite a history with trying out different recording methods. Can you explain the VHS method on Born Again Revisited and its role in getting you to where you are now with Dancer Equired being your first in-studio record?
We are a very hands on type of band, and people in general. VHS was literally just a regular cassette tape on steroids, so it was thicker. We actually didn’t record it only on VHS – it was just a step. We decided on the studio out of necessity just the same. We had lost our 4 track and our 8 track was busted. Musicol in Columbus still has all analog equipment and we actually used tape that hadn’t been opened from the 1970s. We were even able to mix the record onto tape and thus cut and splice the final reel. All tape. Someone needs to keep this tradition alive. I mean, do you ever listen to music from the 60s and just get blown away by the warmth of the sound?
It definitely is disarming and, really, it can’t be beaten. I have a distinct feeling Times New Viking has a lot of fun creating music based on how each record has a distinct “live” feeling, and bravo for that! Do you feel more at home playing shows than in the studio, hence the apparent effort to recreate that live experience for the at-home listener?
We absolutely thrive on playing live. Whenever we record we do it live…keep it feral, leave the mistakes. We are merely humans.
At what point did the band decide, or was it even a conscious decision, to record a quasi-pop, lo-fi record? It almost seems like a satirical endeavor…
Our first record was literally just our practices – we never intended for an audience beyond our small group of friends. Where we come from you start a band, go down to the basement and hash it out. “Lo-fi” is just the norm in Ohio, and always has been. We didn’t really know that studios existed or why bands would pay a bunch of money to have someone else record them, and it never made sense when you can just do it yourself. Spend the rest of the money on a bottle of whiskey.
You’re speaking my language, Adam. Dancer Equired gave me an impression, and it’s a little off-topic, so please excuse me. But, um, did you guys have really great birthday parties as kids?
Nice question. I always did; I am a super bowl baby, so it’s a double party.
Ok. So now I’m going to be my own devil’s advocate. There are so many catchy riffs and melodies, and the vocals are, well, fun. But the lyrics have a witty and charming wisdom. It feels like there is a mentoring social commentary going on throughout the album, i.e. “every now and then you are somebody’s slave.” Do you feel like your music is ironic in how it could catch a listener off guard?
We definitely put a lot of thought into our lyrics. We like simple slogans, repeated words and imagery. We are into social politics and wordplay. We never try to let on it’s one singular individual getting his/her emotions out. Songs should be about something, big ideas should be alright even in simple pop songs. You still have to have a sense of humor though.
I think “Fuck Her Tears” is that song for me. It has all the sincerity and humor you’re talking about. This question’s for those of us who have spent a considerable amount of time in Columbus, Ohio…what’s your favorite venue to play locally?
Cafe Bourbon Street. It’s our home. Only bar I go to. Endless whiskey. Closest thing to Stache’s. What’s yours?
The best shows I saw were at Skully’s. But when Milo Arts was having the Silver Jews and Xiu Xiu, there was nothing like it. I could talk about Columbus all day with you, Adam. Sheesh. But for everyone else, what has been your collectively favorite experience playing live anywhere in the universe?
Big Ten country. Those kids get it. 3 yards and a cloud of dust, as they say.
Dancer Equired is definitely a significant change for the overall tone compared to the other albums. Do you see yourselves ever going back to the more rudimentary recording techniques?
This album is just another album, a logical step. We are up for exploring anything and everything. Have you heard about this Garage Band? Maybe we will try that. Merge, if you’re reading this, can we get a computer?