Keeping It Lo-Fi With Times New Viking

Times New Viking: Fuzz and buzz.

Times New Viking is a Columbus, Ohio, trio that writes short, punchy, catchy rock songs with wonderful boy/girl ... well, not quite harmonies, but it sounds really great when they sing together. That these songs are slathered in noise, fuzz and tape hiss has become TNV's calling card, though. Last decade this lo-fi approach wouldn't have been too noteworthy. But now that any band can make a decent sounding recording thanks to Garage Band, Times New Viking stands out from the pack. Anyone who has any of the band's albums, including this year's excellent "Rip It Off," in their iTunes can attest to this. Listen on shuffle and if a TNV song comes on it will be a shock to the system. Not only because of the distortion and squealing feedback, but because the recording volume is so much higher than everything else. Times New Viking is also one of those rare bands that sounds more polished in a live setting than on record, and you can experience that for yourself when they play at the Rock and Roll Hotel Wednesday night.

Rather than do a regular "Six Questions With" with the band I thought I'd try something different. So I got guitarist Jared Phillips on the phone and asked him about a handful of bands that started out lo-fi and eventually made the jump to cleaner sounding records, and whether the results were positive or negative. Here's what transpired.

I think that was good, I think that was an all right move there. There are some songs on "Sebadoh III" that are adequate as far as fidelity, a couple tracks. I didn't really ever consider that one lo-fi, necessarily. I'd say pulled that one off pretty good.
They didn't lose any of their charm?
No, I don't think so. That "Sebadoh III" record, there's all different kinds of stuff on it. There's adequate fidelity. So I don't know how that jump really translates there. I guess it's a little more produced, yeah, but you got the idea all along.

The Replacements
That first one's all right, I never really cared for them too much. The first one I thought was pretty good, it's real gnarly, I kind of liked that. Their later stuff, meh, I don't really care too much for.

Guided By Voices
I guess that's kind of hit and miss, you know?
Which do we consider the big "jump" album?
"Under the Bushes Under the Stars" was the first big studio album. But that one still sounds cool. It doesn't sound like a Who album or anything like that.
But it still sounds pretty lo-fi compared to the stuff that came after it.
See, I don't consider that lo-fi. They did it in a studio but it's a weird sounding record. It was someone making it that wasn't trying to make it sound like a normal rock record. I think that record sounds more like a Wire album than it sounds like a King Crimson album.
Do you think on those later ones Bob (Pollard) just wanted to make an actual Who record and that's why he went that way?
I think he just liked having someone else doing all that [expletive] for him. Just show up, do your thing and let them take care of it. And I'm sure he wouldn't have done it if he didn't trust people. Some things just don't turn out right.

The Clean
I don't consider any of their stuff lo-fi at all.
The super early singles?
Like "Tally Ho?"
Like "Tally Ho" and "Platypus," yeah.
Yeah, I don't consider that lo-fi at all, I think it sounds great. Compared to what, "Vehicle"? I think maybe the songwriting wasn't as good but I don't think the way they recorded takes anything away from it. I think "Vehicle" and "Modern Rock," those records sound awesome. I think they're just older and they only put out a few things in the '80s. It was just a matter of them getting older.
So when you get to your late-30s can you still pull of doing 4-track records?
I don't know, I don't know. (Laughs.) People can, definitely. Well, Bob Pollard was always old, I don't remember him being young at all. You definitely can, it's just a little more rare. I try not to worry about that kind of thing.

The Velvet Underground
I guess we'll compare Cale to post-Cale here.
Well Cale's better. Obviously. The fidelity thing almost doesn't count there because it's a different band, in a way. They became a pop band. They always sort of were but it became more so. The last two are great but the first two are the best, obviously.
There are some people who don't actually think that.
Yeah, that's true. A lot of people who are borderline music fans say, "Well I like the Velvet Underground! "White Light/White Heat" is the best!" But then they'll be sitting around listening to "Sweet Jane" all day long.
Do you ever feel like - and I'm sorry if this contributes to it - that you're known as "the lo-fi" band? Does that annoy you at all?
Yeah. I guess it does. Just because if we want to do something that sounds different it's going to be a bigger deal than it really should be. Yeah, it's kind of annoying. It puts you in a little corner. No matter what you do people are going to hate it. I don't want to make the same sounding record over and over. I also don't want to do something just because I feel like it's time to do something different. People take it as being very uber-ultra-hipster, things like that. We never thought of ourselves as that. It's just the kind of stuff that we like. That's the way we like things to sound. It's not like we're trying to be cooler than anyone else. That just happens. (Laughs.)

But it is a choice. We could go and do something in a studio but we don't feel comfortable with someone producing things. Putting it in someone else's hands. We don't feel comfortable with that. Maybe one day after I pass the 30 mark I might.

By David Malitz |  June 24, 2008; 12:52 PM ET Interviews
Previous: Live Last Night: Pearl Jam, Song-By-Song | Next: Six Questions With ... Ricky Skaggs


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Posted by: Stan | June 24, 2008 2:46 PM

Sorry, but I have no use for anyone who speaks negatively of "Sweet Jane." While I agree that, overall, Cale-era VU is better than post-Cale, "Sweet Jane" is a great great great song. In fact, several other songs from the allegedly inferior Loaded ("Rock & Roll"; "Who Loves the Sun"; "Head Held High"; "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'";) are pretty damn good.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 24, 2008 4:02 PM

Yeah anyone who writes off Loaded as somehow inferior is just fooling themselves.

Posted by: Adam | June 25, 2008 10:52 AM

Can we subject the Pearl Jam fans in the previous post to TNV and Titus Andronicus please? At the loudest possible volume?

Posted by: MN | June 26, 2008 4:00 PM

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