The art of rock
Times New Viking make Lo-Fi noise in Ohio’s dark basements
There is a reason Sub Pop and Matador, the two most enduring and influential indie-rock labels, were both vying for Columbus Ohio’s Times New Viking. The trio pillages the sweetest strains of underground rock’s scrappy DIY aesthetic and infuses it with its own noxious stamp of “screw subtlety for raw sugared infectiousness.” It’s enough to make one dizzy, and love it.
In the end the band went with Matador, and will release its debut Rip It Off in February 2008.
Consisting of guitarist Jared Phillips, drummer-vocalist Adam Elliott and Beth Murphy on keyboards and vocals, Times New Viking engages immediately in the same way Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted captivated, and Guided by Voices’ Alien Lanes enthralled. Times New Viking subsists in a late-night AM-radio limbo—an attention-deficit-addled offspring of rival phantom stations perpetually coasting the static and fuzz of V.U.'s “Sister Ray” and The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner.”
The CN&R caught up with Elliott in the midst of the band’s summer tour and discussed everything from art movements to unruly Ohio audiences.
CN&R: Times New Viking formed in 2003. As art students, what was your impetus to pick up instruments and communicate with this art form instead of another?
Adam Elliot: We formed while skipping class our senior year of college. Fine art had bored us to tears, and leaving class, getting high and writing pop songs seemed a lot more appealing. We figured all the Dadaists would be in punk bands by now.
Being in a band seems a natural progression from the art movements we were fond of. The Fluxists especially. [Composer George Maciunas, who in 1961 put nails through piano keys, termed his loosely organized movement Fluxus, where anything could be art, and anyone could make it.] Pop songs recorded in basements, putting your heart on your sleeve, singing louder than you ever sang before. With DIY, you leave the pretense behind and play off accidents. Everyone should be in a band.
Is there anything particular about Columbus, Ohio, that might have influenced you to do what you do as Times New Viking?
I will quote local guru Wil Foster from The Guinea Worms for this answer: “Cheap beer, cheap rent, Indian mounds.” Somehow in 2007 it looks more enticing to be from Ohio than Brooklyn. Either way we are stuck in a basement, below every city.
How do you see Times New Viking relative to the rich, storied history of Ohio punk rock (Rocket From the Tombs, Pere Ubu, Devo, Godz)?
Ohio is pretty mind-blowing as far as freaky, cultish, amazing bands. The one overriding aesthetic, I think, is the fact that the bands were isolated from each other and sounded nothing alike except they were weird. Our favorite Ohio bands would be Electric Eels, Guided by Voices, The Mice. For some reason a lot of people think we are from Cleveland, which would sort of be an insult if we were into that sort of local color.
Both Dig Yourself and The Paisley Reich have seen the band described as “Lo-Fi,” which is more raw and direct. Is it important that people find a kind of sincerity or honesty in your music?
I hope that people recognize the different type of energy we are putting into these records and songs. Like I said earlier, everyone should be in a band. It makes you think in ways you would never get to normally. I hope people listen to us and say, “I can do that.”
Practice, recording, live shows— how do these differ for the band?
Practices turn into recordings, and they are personal. Live shows are just amazing. What more could you ask for than to tour the country and be the party every night? Seeing one kid sing along makes everything seem all right.
What is the greatest compliment an audience can pay the band?
In Ohio they throw bottles. Don’t do that. Give us drugs or hugs.
Will anything change for the band with the move from Siltbreeze Records to the much larger Matador label?
Matador is well aware of our aesthetic and our determination to have complete artistic control. Our record is finished and it sounds as Lo-Fi as anything. They are going to let us grow and hopefully turn dirt into gold.