I’ve always been slightly wary of bands who name the keytar as one of their key instruments. The fusion between regular keyboard and guitar is an unlikely one and a quirky, kitschy, gimmicky one at that. Flock of Seagulls, anyone? In fact, any ’80s band, anyone? Don’t get me wrong, I really do have a fond place in my heart for many ’80s and new wave bands. The new new wave trend (Franz Ferdinand, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, The Futureheads, The Ordinary Boys), as well as the real one, does send delightful little shivers up my spine; it really does. It’s just when I heard the words “keytar” and “L.A. band,” my brain worked into overdrive, thought that Vagenius was another one of those Los Angeles scenester bands.
You know the kind. Spiky black hair, plugs, deconstructed As I Lay Dying t-shirts, girl jeans, either Vans or Converse, the sweat, and the sweet, sweet smell of arrogant music pretension. Sometimes, I am so wrong.
Vagenius happens to be an L.A. band but an L.A. band that only slightly conforms to the indie-electro-rock scene, at least in their clothes and some sonic stylings. The rest is all Vagenius, which is impressive, considering that they consist solely of guitar, synth and drums. Vagenius is electro-futuristic, dancepop, dancerock-it doesn’t really matter what you call it because they’re really, really talented. This statement proves to be true simply by the sheer amount of followers they have, considering they have yet to let out an LP. Yet, their EP is strong enough on its own; it doesn’t even need followers. Why? Just the buzz surrounding the release of the EP was enough to get people listening. Since the release, Vagenius has been all over the Internet and Los Angeles: www.thecobrasnake.com (the new Polaroid Scene, a.k.a. hipster party photos of pretty people from all over Los Angeles), and Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again (one of the premier internet music blogs).
After all, it’s hard to resist the bouncy, catchy hooks of the majority of their songs when Juliette Commagere, the stunning lead singer, is practically inviting you to come live in their word of shiny, shiny ’80s spacesuits and mohawks. My issues with the keytar practically dissolved upon the second track on the EP, “Everyone Comes Here.” The song buzzes with a smooth, synth-y feeling, and it’s clear that all three musicians are incredibly talented because none of it is sounding kitschy at all. “Everyone Comes Here” leads into a slower, rock-tinged, flirtatious song, “Educated Fool,” which sounds more like something from the past than anything else on the album. “Here We Go Again” starts off with a punchy drum beat, and then different textures of sound are pieced together as Commagere (appropriately) sings “Here we go again/It’s unraveling,” which fits together against the contrasting (and also unraveling) soundscapes. The first track, “After All,” is almost delicate in the beginning, Commagere’s voice seductively meandering around the bounce of keytar … really. The clear favorite, however, is “Magazines,” which sounds like something that Madonna might have done had she more musical ingenuity and a better voice. All and all, Vagenius’ second EP is most definitely a commendable effort and a good one at that. They’ll even give it to you for free if you sign their guestbook on totallyvagenius.com.
Vagenius is currently touring with the Kings of Leon, and will gracing Chicago with their presence at the Beat Kitchen on March 10 (time and cost to be announced on www.beatkitchen.com).