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by David Hanrahan

VHS or Beta pic #3 So, you've probably noticed that dancing is in again. And not in the likely locations either, mind you. Nope, kids are dancing at rock shows once again. We haven't been having this much fun since New Order and Duran Duran were jamming in the early to mid-'80s. I personally don't think it's so much due to a "scene" but more to do with the times. Skinny white kids were dancing in the early to mid '70s as the Vietnam War was hitting it's peak. Skinny white kids were dancing in the early to mid '80s as Reagan was preparing us for nuclear attacks from the Russkies. And now skinny white kids are dancing again as we wait out the next terrorist attacks.
I think people like to dance when times are tough. Everybody else is always up for a dance (if you catch my drift) but for skinny white kids, it takes a massive national bummer to get them on the dancefloor.
Times are ripe, then, for bands like The Killers, The Rapture, Moving Units, etc. Enter VHS or Beta, from Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is not necessarily home to a lot of great new bands (except for maybe My Morning Jacket), so the noise these guys are making is all the more newsworthy. Speaking of newsworthy, I should mention that the day after I was asked to interview this band, I opened up the recent issue of Rolling Stone (with Eminem on the front) and lo and behold, it contains a feature on VHS or Beta. "Holy shit," I thought.
The laziest, easiest description for VHS or Beta would be to say they sound like a dance version of The Cure; you'll read that shit in virtually every article mentioning this band. You'll also see references to the '80s bands named earlier, but personally, I would think that that sort of thing would drive these guys crazy, just because of how gimmicky all that sounds...oh, but wait, it even says that in their own press release. First order of business, then, is to ask about the press (I'm also curious how they feel about the Rolling Stone bit). I sat down with Mark Palgy (bassist) and Zeke Buck (guitarist) to shoot the shit.

SCR: What's up guys? So, what do you think about this [holds up the Rolling Stone bit]?
Mark: Yeah, we've seen it. It's cool.

You're starting to get a lot of press. Has there been anything that ticked you off?
M: The press has been pretty good. We expected a lot of criticism for adding vocals because there was an expectation for a record without vocals. But, you always take the good with the bad.

You're on a bigger label (Astralwerks) -- has that helped?
M: We took a lot of time to pick the label. Astralwerks has a lot of really good bands on it -- they've been one of our favorite labels.


VHS or Beta -- http://www.vhsorbeta.com/

Astralwerks Records -- http://www.astralwerks.com/

How did you guys come together as a band?
Zeke: We've been a band for about 8 years and friends for even longer than that. I feel like we've sort of come full-circle. First we played a sort of post-punk thing. A lot of people wonder now why we play this sort of music. We don't want people to think we found dance music. Le Funk (the prior record) was a kind of statement -- we made a record that was close to our musical interests at that time, which was basically French House like Craig & The DJ. Now our next tour is with the Scissor Sisters. It's pretty crazy.

Speaking of tours -- what would be your dream tour?
M: there's not really any specific bands that I would hope to tour with. There's a ton of bands that we like though. Maybe like Hot Hot Heat, Interpol...
Z: The Rapture... [pauses to think] The Von Bondies tour was awesome.
M: Tonight's show is all ages -- we'd like to do more of that. There's certain line-ups that are gonna be more dance shows. But we can mix it up.

You recorded Night on Fire in NYC, right? How was that?
M: New York has an electricity to it. I think it's probably subsided a bit, though. I don't really know what's going on there now. The recording process was pretty wild, though. We did all the songs in 14 days. We had a five-day break at one point, which I used to catch up on sleep. During that 14-day span, we were getting like two to three hours of sleep a night.

What sort of bands are you guys listening to nowadays?
M: Hmmm. Probably My Morning Jacket, Iron & Wine, The Rapture.

VHS or Beta pic #2 You mention MMJ, also from Louisville -- how is the Louisville rock scene?
Z: We have a good following in Louisville. It's a scene in transition, though. MMJ are obviously from there. They are good friends of ours. Omaha has The Faint and Bright Eyes. Louisville gets MMJ and us.
M: You can always expect good bands to come out of Louisville. Ear Ecstasy [a record store in Louisville] has been real good to us. They're responsible for a lot of our success.

You guys plan to stay in Louisville?
Mark: We'll probably keep our base there for the time being.

How is the current tour going so far?
Mark: The first few shows were okay. They are real good now, though. Our best shows come in places like NYC, Texas -- Houston, of course. Chicago has been pretty good to us. We've played like 12 times there. It's a hard town to break into. Detroit, too -- it's been a hard town to make it in.
Zeke: I feel sorry for new bands in Louisville. It's hard to play there as a new band. You depend a lot on word of mouth.
Mark: We've had our share of tough times there. We played some early shows for, like, five people, who were probably our friends.

How does the songwriting process work for your band? I mean, do songs come to you on the road?
M: When we know we have to write, we write. As soon as we've blocked off some time, the songs usually just start hitting us. We're always hitting on songs, but we don't write so much on the road. When we know we have to record, we like to record soon. We all have a nice chemistry, so we feed off that. The "Irreversible" demo was in one take. The record track was two takes.

Do you guys have any songs that are favorites of yours to play live?
Z: Probably no particular songs we like to play more than others. There are definitely some songs we haven't busted out in a while, though.

So, what's next for you guys?
M: After this tour, we have the Scissor Sisters tour. Between that we have about a week and a half off. That's not much time. I'll probably use it to sleep and play some Halo 2. END


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