Times New Viking
et’s get the conflict of interest out of the way. Fuck the conflict of interest; I’m the brother of Times New Viking’s drummer. Hear that tiny buzz coming from afar? That’s supposed to be the hype train on its way to pick them up. With two heralded releases on the newly resurrected Siltbreeze label, Dig Yourself and Presents the Paisley Reich, and a recent signing to Matador, their star is starting to rise out of the basements and studio lofts where they have turned pop inside out, revealing the stitches and loose threads that keep it together, with succinct and paint-splattered post-modern tactics.
Hovering somewhere below the radar the past twelve months has been good for their egos. I assure you, I’ve watched them grow from irritatingly passable to increasingly vital in the short time this whirlwind has taken shape. But now it’s high time for explanation, or time to get high (depending on their mood). Here to explain are vocalist/keyboardist Beth Murphy, guitarist Jared Phillips, and my once varsity basketball playing, Dylan quoting, younger brother, drummer, Adam Elliott.
Coming out of art-school, and lesser bands, when you guys started in 2003, was Times New Viking more about aesthetics rather than songs? You know, the art-rock trio, with no musical backgrounds?
Beth Murphy: I was listening to Lilliput and the Raincoats, so that’s the only reason I thought, “I can do this. I can sing,” and gradually we started being less post-punk sounding.
Adam Elliott: Less about high-art.
Now is the resonance of the songs, more important than the art?
AE: I think the good thing that we’ve done, is that we have grown enough, that our art that we did as individuals, comes out in the songs, somehow.
BM: So were making an aesthetic that in of itself not one of us.
AE: The faults that we have as musicians, I think we have learned, not exactly what our jobs are, but we’ve acknowledged our separate places and we understand the performance we put on. Artists posed as musicians.
Beth, you didn’t play any instruments at first. Initially, was your role in the group, just to be the chick up front?
BM: They probably had that conversation without me (laughs). No, I didn’t really care I just wanted to contribute. I used to hardly play the keyboard, and just sing along with Adam. I do much more now, and on early songs like “Statue Part II” and “Fuck Books” I wrote the vocal melodies. Just gaining more confidence has given me more to do.
Any creepy guys there to just see you when you go out of town?
BM: Maybe, but it’s not like a problem.
AE: The only creepy guys that come to see us are creepy record nerds. And I think their creepier towards Jared and I, than Beth. We get creepy guys who have only hung out with men who love records, all their life.
What do you make of the art-damaged tag, when applied to Times New Viking? Explain this to me.
Jared Phillips: Well they always say that in relation to Harry Pussy too.
(The trio go on to argue over what is an art-damaged art-movement; fauvism, dada, abstract-expressionism?)
AE: The artist’s that we’ve connected to outside of music are people that understand fine art, but they don’t rebel against it, but they let stuff go that’s not pretty. We’re playing music that could be pretty, and could be artistic and stylistic, but we choose to be..
BM: Some people that can listen to stuff that is a little bit more abrasive to the ears, because they’re used to having to search for something beautiful or something that has meaning. And some people just get it handed to them.
As a band that has survived the rigors of no-frills touring (not much money, sometimes no crowds, sleeping on floors), and not much more than street cred to show for it, what do you say to your parent’s when they ask the inevitable question, “What are you doing with your expensive art degree?”
BM: I have a part-time job teaching kids art. So that covers that.
AE: I tell them I got to California on it.
BM: Just being a straight up artist that shows in galleries, there’s something lacking in that, I don’t know if that would be fulfilling.
JP: It’s just not fun.
BM: There’s a lot of fashion involved.
AE: Sixteen year old kids don’t go to art galleries.
BM: You can infect more people this way. When you’re doing something that’s coated in a pop band, anyone can like this, but when you get in there’s more to it.
Jared, what do you say to your parents?
JP: They just want me to be happy. They pretty much just ask me about drugs. Drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs.
AE: (in the voice of Neva, Jared’s mother) Jared, do you have a coke habit? Do you not have any money because you spent it on coke? (in the voice of Jared) No mom, if I had money I’d have a coke habit.
JP: Have you seen the price of coke mom? Have you bought a gram of coke lately? It’s not the German 70’s.
So there was a bit of a war between Sub Pop and Matador as to whom you would sign with, right?
JP: It was like Custer vs. the Indians. And you know who Custer was. It was apples vs. steaks. Here’s one whole apple you can split three ways. It was the most awkward apple I’ve ever eaten. I kept telling them they were out of Tad records. They were nice though, and I did get to meet Mark Arm.
What was the tipping point that made you side with Matador?
BM: Matador’s the best.
JP: Alien Lanes. Gerard Cosloy has, since the 80’s, put out nothing but awesome shit. That Homestead compilation I have, just the fucking people on that, the Clean, G.G. Allin.
AE: Matador’s East Coast and we aren’t West Coast kids. Plus my mom likes more people on Matador than Sub Pop. The guy who signed Wolf Eyes was the guy who was trying to sign us, and we were going to be one of their little niche bands, where Matador, right away, let us know that they signed us because we represented what their label has been about for a long time.
Were there any hard feelings leaving Siltbreeze?
JP: He got Matador to come see us in Philadelphia.
AE: He’s our daddy. He’s our Albert Grossman.
JP: He was like “you guys are young; you should go ahead and do it.”
You’ve been touring with a wide range of bands, noisy stuff and stuff that would be considered punk, but somehow you manage to fit with all of it. What is it that you share with bands like Mission of Burma, Clockcleaner, and the Country Teasers, that unifies you?
AE: Most of the people that we play with, if you put down their political blueprint, their philosophies, the books they read, they pretty much match up. There’s a concurrent aesthetic that overrides all that.
BM: And it’s fun to play a noise fest and be the only band that’s considered playing songs. We are lucky that we are in a position to do things like that, because of a whole noise scene going on.
AE: We’ve meant so many kids that claim Dig Yourself is their only pop record. John Olson (of Wolf Eyes) just discovered the Clean.
With the new album, you’ve latched onto the whole Paisley Reich idea, is there some higher conceptual hand at work? Is there a deeper meaning to your music that you hope develops the more people listen to it?
AE: I guess it’s just a play on words. The Reich just has such a negative connotation, and paisley has a sort of frou-frou feeling.
BM: It’s the idea of being rigorous in your joy; Being able to have fun if nothing else.
AE: People spreading love are usually pretty lofty. This is taking the concept of giving a shit and caring about things and shoving it down people’s throats in a gang type of effort. There’s no word on there or song on there that wasn’t meant to be there. We are a gang and we all have this agreement that we are all fighting for something, because we have nothing else to do. Mike Rep said it best when he compared us to the pits of hell, only instead of shoveling coal, we are throwing flower petals. Sexy Satanism.
JP: Or being the only band at a noise festival. Naked and realizing it.
Times New Viking
Times New Viking @ MySpace
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