“You know, sometimes capturing the cleanness of how everything sounds is a futile attempt,” says Times New Viking vocalist and keyboard slapper Beth Murphy when I ask about the alleged “lo-fi” thing that her band have going on. Three albums into their discography, capturing “cleanness” is a futile attempt that this Columbus trio have not been bothering themselves too much with.
Dial up track seven on their new Rip It Off (Matador) and you’ll be assaulted with a blast of cymbal washes, guitar scuzz, and the following line of verse, delivered far beyond the safe confines of the digital distortion threshold: “Faces on fire and your hair is a mess/Let’s do something that hasn’t been done yet!” Within a fraction of a second, it’s all there: the abandon of the moment alongside the desperate hope of snaring something elusive. So, will Times New Viking — who come to Great Scott on Sunday — ever clean up their act?
“We just go on an album-by-album basis, but we tend to like to capture a take in the first couple of times that we play the song, and we like to record everything ourselves. This record was very cohesive with how it was recorded.”
Murphy isn’t kidding: Rip It Off is off-the-cuff and violent but also passionate and desperate, and with 10 of its 16 tracks lasting less than two minutes, it’s over before you know it. Like TNV’s previous two releases, it was recorded quickly, and it will likely be a jarring addition to any randomized playlists, by virtue of its recording style and also the music’s off-kilter combination of oddly familiar harmonies with caterwauling dissonance and raw shards of distorted sound. “With our æsthetic, with our style, we think that it’s a taste thing — you don’t have to like it. Most of us in the band don’t listen to a lot of newer music — we come from a tradition of lo-fi music. In some ways, it has to do with our musical heritage, [our] coming from Ohio: the people we were around when we started didn’t necessarily strive to be amazingly huge outside of Ohio. In a sense, our music is made first for our peers.”
But TNV have made waves outside their peer group, in no small part because of the enduring appeal — the “tradition” — of lo-fi music Murphy speaks of: in a world where creating slickly produced dreamworlds of beats and grooves becomes easier and easier for the budding musician, it’s a bolder move than ever to release records that substitute pure frenzy for airtight perfection. Do TNV ever think that they’re setting themselves up for criticism with their warts-and-all presentation? “Not at all. Anyone who would think that — well, sorry to be art-dorky, but that would be like saying, you know, ‘I’d like this Yves Klein painting if it were, you know, a bit more red.’ ”
Hmm, casual name dropping of French neo-dadaist painter — do I detect art-school damage? “Well, we did all meet at Columbus College of Art & Design, and we all kind of had the same ‘art heroes’: dada, Fluxus, conceptual art, that sort of thing. But once we started making music, we just wanted to make pop songs and not overthink what we’re doing.”