Interview: Times New Viking’s Adam Elliott
Before lo-fi was the only thing music blogs ever talked about, there was Times New Viking. The trio was doing its DIY-home-recording thing in Columbus, Ohio, back when the revivalist genre was still in its infancy. Pitchfork commended the band’s second album, 2007’s Present The Paisley Reich, and other critics followed suit with 2008’s Rip It Off (released on Matador Records). The next thing they knew, they were being asked if they were a precursor to a trend. If Times New Viking’s latest album, Dancer Equired!, is any indication, all that fuss really bugged them out.The band recorded in a studio for the first time, and the sound is notably more hi-fi. Dancer Equired! has received a wide range of critical reaction; some reviewers applaud the accessible sound, others pine for the old crappy recordings. Prior to Times New Viking’s performance at Johnny Brenda’s on Sunday night, The Key spoke briefly with drummer Adam Elliott about recording in an actual studio, the band’s connection with Guided By Voices, and plans for early retirement.
The Key: This is the first album that the band recorded entirely in the studio. Was it awkward?
Adam Elliott: Not really. We didn’t, like, go into a studio in New York City with some famous producer. We went to the studio that was pretty much untouched since the ’50s. They use all analogue equipment and mics that we love to use. Our local producer guy and our sound guy came in there with us, so we pretty much had complete control over the record. It was just a matter of it not being in our basement and just being down the road a little bit. We had more control and more tracks to be able to use, more control over how it mixed.
TK: You’ve said before that, regardless of how much noise you put on top of a song, you still focus on quality song writing. The songwriting aspect is definitely more evident on the new album due to the increased recording quality. Do you ever listen to some of your older stuff and feel like you wasted some well-crafted songs by covering them with noise?
AE: I don’t know. I don’t think so. There are times where I think “I wish that song could have been done differently,” or “I wish the vocal track could have been better,” or something like that. But we’re more into recording as much as possible, and then just keep going. You can’t really be an artist and be dwelling on something you made when you were 23, and wishing you could change it. I think songs, especially when you record them yourself, are kind of like photographs or capture a moment. You just keep writing.
TK: The band members have a deep respect for Guided By Voices, and you’re regularly compared to them. Now you’re “going hi-fi” just like they did. Is that coincidental, or is this your Do The Collapse?
AE: This is our Propeller. [Laughs] Not really. The thing with Guided By Voices that’s funny and that no one really mentions: their first five albums, that nobody ever heard, were studio albums. Then they ran out of money to keep going into the studio because no one was listening to the band, and they started recording at home. For us it was kind of the opposite. We weren’t really expecting too much out of the band but we really like the craftsmanship and the challenge of recording ourselves. I think our four records before this one all have different sound and different techniques that we try to use. We’re a very hands-on band. This one, it was just a natural progression to go in the studio. It was a lot easier for us to do; a lot less stress, plus we didn’t have any microphones left and we didn’t know where our four-track was. But we still recorded on the cheap. We didn’t go like “We’re gonna go hang out with Steve Albini!” or anything like that.
TK: The band’s been going hard for a while now. Any plans for retirement?
AE: We’re definitely figuring that out. We’ve played so many tours in the United States. We’ve done Europe. We have dedicated fans that come out and it’s amazing. But if we ever start second-guessing ourselves when we get on stage, we don’t it anymore. I think there’s a good chance that we might slow down—we’re getting a little older—and maybe find some other stuff to do. We’re still going to record, though. There’s a lot of bands that still record and don’t tour all the time.
Times New Viking performs with The Babies and Far-Out Fangtooth at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 29th, at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $12. —Dave Simpson