[q&a] Times New Viking keyboardist Beth Murphy on the rapture, lazy "lo-fi," and genre labels
Columbus, Ohio trio TIMES NEW VIKING started making distortion-heavy, home-recorded noise pop in 2005, later releasing records with Siltbreeze, Matador, Wichita, and, last month, Merge. Their new album, Dancer Equired!, is their first studio recording -- it loses much of the gritty, lo-fi hiss previously pinned as the band’s defining quality (Editor's note: we gave it 2.5 stars, out of 4, in our April 29 edition). In support of the new jams, Times New Viking are touring nationally with The Babies, a.k.a. the twangy punk project of Cassie Ramone (Vivian Girls) and Kevin Morby (Woods), stopping at Great Scott tomorrow night, May 26, with an opening turn by local favorites Earthquake Party. In advance of the US tour, and having just returned from touring Europe, Times New Viking keyboarist Beth Murphy spoke with the Phoenix last week via telephone regarding the then-forthcoming rapture, their new record, the laziness of “lo-fi” as a label, and music writers force-forming genres.
Apparently “the rapture” is coming this weekend. If you guys could only play one show before “the rapture,” where would it be and who would you play with?
It would probably be in Columbus, Ohio and we’d probably just play with all of the local bands that we’ve known for a long time. We’d probably just try to play with Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Psychelic Horeshit, Cheater Slicks, that kinda thing. Mike Rep, definitely, Tommy J. I’d like to be next to Mike Rep at the time of the apocalypse.
What inspired TNV to go towards a cleaner pop sound on the new record?
It was part of a natural progression. We always try to record a little bit differently every time we make an album. This time, our fifth album, we definitely felt the effects of getting a little bit older … we wanted to see if we could flesh out a pop album rather than doing it as off-the-cuff as we used to. Just try to have a little more patience with it.
Have the sonic adjustments towards poppier sounds changed the experience of playing live?
No, I wouldn’t say our shows have changed. Our record’s only been out a month so I haven’t noticed any change like that. And I think live, we play the songs just like we play our old songs. We still play as loud as we can, pretty fast.
How is being on Merge been different from Matador or Siltbreeze?
The thing that’s nice about Merge is it’s run by practicing musicians, so there’s kind of an understanding more of that aspect of what musicians are dealing with on a regular basis. I think it’s a lot more laid back. It’s in North Carolina, not New York.
How did you get hooked up with your first label Siltbreeze?
We played a couple of shows live, and had made a CD-Rs of our recordings just for us and our friends. Mike Rep got a hold of it, he liked it and he told his friend who runs Siltbreeze, and he came down to visit, because he’s from Ohio, and he played it for him. So we didn’t ask them or send it to them. He just sort of accidentally heard it and liked it and wanted to put it out.
How long were you a band before putting out the first record with Siltbreeze? Was it home recorded?
Yes. We started in late 2003 and Dig Yourself came out in 2005.
That scuzzy, home-recorded sounded that you guys have always maintained has become super popular over the past few years. Do you have any feelings about that?
I don’t know. I think people have always made music like that. I think it might have gained a little attention because of the recession. And then also, once certain avenues latch on to a sound like that, it can make it seem like it is way bigger or more prevalent than it really is. Like Pitchfork will all of a sudden pay attention to those kinds of bands and so then it will kind of like force form a genre of sorts even if the bands have nothing to do with each other.
Do you think that’s a bad thing for music/culture in a more general sense?
I think it doesn’t do the individual bands justice, to lump them into something …to say “these bands are the same genre because of a certain recording process or sound.” And then sometimes the sound is completely off the mark, too. Sometimes bands don’t even sound lo-fi and they call them lo-fi. It’s a little bit lazy.
Has that been happening to you guys? Have you seen outlets pinning you guys to bands that you don’t really have anything to do with other than sounding “lo-fi”?
Yeah absolutely. Yeah that’s definitely happened. When I think of a genre I think of bands that have something more in common than that. Its just a shame because there’s probably a lot more going on in individual bands and it doesn’t feel right to put them under that umbrella.
Do you think that has something to do with why a lot of bands who were putting out home-recorded stuff have been driven to put out tighter, more expansive records -- to not just be defined by their production? I feel like in the past six months there’s been a handful of new releases by bands that were previously home-recorded, putting out tighter stuff?
Yeah well, it makes sense that when a band first starts, in its early years, to be home-recorded, and then go in that direction. That just seems natural to me. Also to see, if you can get extra money if you can go to a studio, you want to challenge yourself you go to the studio, you get more confidence if you go to a studio… all of those things are at play there.
Does Times New Viking have any funny Boston stories?
Boston… we were super late to one of our Boston shows. And we had to show up and load on to the stage. And Boston is not the place to show up late to a show. The guy was really upset like, “What the FUCK is your problem? You came from New York? What the fuck’s wrong with you?”
Times New Viking play Great Scott tomorrow with the Babies and Earthquake Party. 9pm, 18+, $12 for advanced tickets or $14 at the door.