VHS or Beta break their own mold with Bring on the Comets

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:: VHS or Beta :: Bluebird Theater :::: December 6 ::

VHS or BETA
By Tiffany Childs

VHS or Beta has long been a band ahead of its time. Since the group’s inception in 1997 they have been paving the way for bands such as The Killers, that mutate and infuse genres, crossing sounds like Kraftwerk and Gang of Four or club beats with ’80s style hookcraft. However, with their latest release, Bring on the Comets, VHS or Beta is trying to revive a genre rather than create a new one.

“‘Pop’ has become a bad word in music circles, especially indie circles,” bassist Mark Palgy told The Marquee in a recent interview. “It’s a genre that’s generally looked at as less than amazing and we wanted to transform the idea of pop as it is today.” Guitarist/vocalist Craig Pfunder agreed, “We’ve really focused on songwriting – on creating pop songs in a time when pop has been watered down. I wanted to write a record with huge catch and melody, but also something more. It’s the most profound statement we’ve done as a band.”

While it seems to be true that “pop” music of the past had a lot more substance than what we hear today, people may wonder if VHS or Beta – with their past DJ roots – has the ability to break out of their mold. Pfunder said that this record was about “making a statement as far as us freeing ourselves from any musical history we’ve had in the past.” Palgy added in,” We don’t want to be pigeonholed and we felt like writing songs that you can sing along with.” And to answer the question, yes, VHS or Beta has broken out of their mold.

VHS or Beta did indeed successfully release a pop record, albeit one that has their dance roots still showing all over the place. The songs remain short, sweet and to the point, with rhythms that are just as at home in a rock club or even in your car on your daily commute as they are on the dance floor, just as the rhythms in good pop songs should be. But, for those die-hard fans that hate when a group changes too much, VHS or Beta included some throwbacks such as “Burn It All Down,” which will remind listeners of the songs featured on Night on Fire. ^M

The album is a change in other ways for the group, too. Drummer Mark Guidry is now using a real kit versus the electronic one he’s played so often in the past. This makes the live show a hell of a lot more entertaining and, apparently, more “tiring” according to Guidry. Also, Pfunder spent a lot of time learning to use his voice in different ways, something that he says he has always admired in singers, to tell different stories on the album.^M

Besides the real drum kit on the album, VHS or Beta had some help in the studio from long-time friends in My Morning Jacket. “We are friends with the band and they happened to be nearby,” Palgys said of how the collaboration began. Initially, the band was looking for Jacket member Bo Koster to provide some piano work, but Jim James happened to be around, too, so he provided some backing vocals as well as guitar tracks on the album.^M

With the release of Bring on the Comets in August of this year, VHS or Beta, not surprisingly, began a supporting tour that hits most of their major stops at least twice in the latter half of the year. Palgy said of the multiple stops in such a short time frame, “When you’re a band at our level you have to go out there at least a couple of times to gain recognition. And with the amount of music out there, people just have shorter attention spans so it’s good to remind them.”^MThe album has drawn comparisons to a variety of influences. There are hooks reminiscent of The Beatles and dance beats that bring to mind the Clash’s London Calling mixed in with darker lyrics and disco grooves. Bring on the Comets is an album with bigger drums, bigger guitar and catchier hooks all rolled into a rock and roll attitude. It’s an album that adds a little bit of VHS or Beta’s past into their future and the result puts them where they want to be – in the right place at the right time, finally.

“‘Pop’ has become a bad word in music circles, especially indie circles,” bassist Mark Palgy told The Marquee in a recent interview. “It’s a genre that’s generally looked at as less than amazing and we wanted to transform the idea of pop as it is today.” Guitarist/vocalist Craig Pfunder agreed, “We’ve really focused on songwriting – on creating pop songs in a time when pop has been watered down. I wanted to write a record with huge catch and melody, but also something more. It’s the most profound statement we’ve done as a band.”

While it seems to be true that “pop” music of the past had a lot more substance than what we hear today, people may wonder if VHS or Beta – with their past DJ roots – has the ability to break out of their mold. Pfunder said that this record was about “making a statement as far as us freeing ourselves from any musical history we’ve had in the past.” Palgy added in,” We don’t want to be pigeonholed and we felt like writing songs that you can sing along with.” And to answer the question, yes, VHS or Beta has broken out of their mold.

VHS or Beta did indeed successfully release a pop record, albeit one that has their dance roots still showing all over the place. The songs remain short, sweet and to the point, with rhythms that are just as at home in a rock club or even in your car on your daily commute as they are on the dance floor, just as the rhythms in good pop songs should be. But, for those die-hard fans that hate when a group changes too much, VHS or Beta included some throwbacks such as “Burn It All Down,” which will remind listeners of the songs featured on Night on Fire. ^MThe album is a change in other ways for the group, too. Drummer Mark Guidry is now using a real kit versus the electronic one he’s played so often in the past. This makes the live show a hell of a lot more entertaining and, apparently, more “tiring” according to Guidry. Also, Pfunder spent a lot of time learning to use his voice in different ways, something that he says he has always admired in singers, to tell different stories on the album.

Besides the real drum kit on the album, VHS or Beta had some help in the studio from long-time friends in My Morning Jacket. “We are friends with the band and they happened to be nearby,” Palgys said of how the collaboration began. Initially, the band was looking for Jacket member Bo Koster to provide some piano work, but Jim James happened to be around, too, so he provided some backing vocals as well as guitar tracks on the album.^MWith the release of Bring on the Comets in August of this year, VHS or Beta, not surprisingly, began a supporting tour that hits most of their major stops at least twice in the latter half of the year. Palgy said of the multiple stops in such a short time frame, “When you’re a band at our level you have to go out there at least a couple of times to gain recognition. And with the amount of music out there, people just have shorter attention spans so it’s good to remind them.”

The album has drawn comparisons to a variety of influences. There are hooks reminiscent of The Beatles and dance beats that bring to mind the Clash’s London Calling mixed in with darker lyrics and disco grooves. Bring on the Comets is an album with bigger drums, bigger guitar and catchier hooks all rolled into a rock and roll attitude. It’s an album that adds a little bit of VHS or Beta’s past into their future and the result puts them where they want to be – in the right place at the right time, finally.

:: VHS or Beta :: Bluebird Theater :::: December 6 ::

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