Even if you haven’t heard of VHS or Beta by name, you’ve probably heard their music. Most likely you heard their 2005 hit single “Night on Fire.” It was used in the 2006, Adam Sandler-crew stoner comedy, Grandma’s Boy; it was featured as the title song in MLB 06: The Show; it also appeared in The OC; and it was on an iTunes compilation from the Facebook Apple Student group. You may have even heard them at Lollapalooza in 2005 or at the Belgian alternative music festival, Pukkelpop (eh, probably not). Maybe you’ve danced to their beats while they were on tour with Duran Duran, or even when they visited Champaign.
For those of you who have had the misfortune of not having heard them, there’s a good chance you will soon (woo!). Rolling Stone named VHS or Beta an “Artist to Watch” and Blender called them one of rock’s best new bands. And now the buzz, the king of all counterculture and music magazines, is telling you that this band is pretty darn cool. Mark your calendars, their new album, Bring on the Comets, is set for release on August 28.
“We didn’t want to be part of some genre, or crowd or anything. We just wanted to write songs,” stated bassist Mark Palgy about the album.
Early in the band’s career, they didn’t break between songs during their sets as a way of creating a sort of dance club-meets-rock show atmosphere.
“We were really into DJ culture and having [a show] be a really huge experience,” Palgy said. And that’s the feel you get with their music, which can best be described as Morrissey with a house beat.
Yet, despite their breakless sets, the band needed a break and returned home to Louisville, Kentucky after a 17-month tour.
“We lost a member, and we were just trying to figure out who we were,” Palgy said.
The result: Bring on the Comets. For the first time, the band utilizes an acoustic drum set rather than electronic percussion, and, in a way, it seems as though the members are going back to their roots.
“We all grew up rock kids. Everything from Zeppelin to the Clash to the Ramones,” said Palgy.
Along with the percussion, other changes began to develop. The band now utilizes breaks in their set to allow for more crowd interaction. Lead singer, Craig Pfunder, has taken on primary songwriting duties. On their new album VHS or Beta collaborated with members of My Morning Jacket – fellow Louisville natives – and a new producer, Brandon Mason, who has worked with David Bowie and Secret Machines.
“We’re becoming more and more like a rock band,” Palgy said, “which is great.”
That’s not to say, however, that the band has lost its house-inspired fluidity or live-performance emphasis. Palgy says that the band has always kept in mind how the song will sound live when they were working on new material. This time, however, they approached songwriting in a new way: writing the lyrics while writing the music rather than afterwards.
“It sounds a little bit more natural this time,” Palgy said.
The album is also refreshingly catchy and enjoyable in a time when pop-rock can feel stale and worthless. PANIC! At the Disco? Even the Killer’s new album sucked (sorry Sean). So far, VHS or Beta has released two singles from Bring on the Comets (“Can’t Believe a Single Word” and “Burn it All Down”) on their MySpace page.
Right now they are at home in Louisville rehearsing new and old material and preparing for what will undoubtedly be another grueling tour (for You!).
“Yeah … Our vacation’s pretty much over,” laughed Palgy.
Don’t let their hard work go to waste! Come support VHS or Beta’s new album. Hell, they’re nice guys and they produce some damn good music. Fingers open, pick up a pen, now write: Canopy Club, Wednesday, July 18, at 11 p.m. (Coco Coca is opening), $10: VHS or Beta.