VUE – interview by thomas cooper
So as luck and Modern Fix would have it, I found myself at the always delightful Spaceland in Los Angeles on the 10th of December. It was here that I would meet buzz band Vue (yes, there is no “The” before Vue) and have a little chat with them. In our current musical timewarp, lo-fi rock seems to be making a mainstream comeback. The bluesy rawness and soulful attitude of Vue match pace with the best of the new wave of rock revivalists. Comparisons have been made that range from David Bowie to The Stooges and all the way across the rock spectrum. I certainly hear rock influences from bands of yore, but as is the case with talented musicians, it’s only an influence, not a rip-off. Of course comparisons are really just opinions, and the only opinion that really counts is yours.
To be honest, prior to the show I had only heard a few songs and seen their name scattered in a few unimportant places. It was not until I interviewed them and later kept my eyes open that I found out that they are everywhere. Magazines, multiple records, even an album cover that made it into the shopping bag of a popular music store chain. And, it was not until that night that I would understand why there was a buzz about them.
Years of extensive touring throughout Europe as well as the US has rained serious exposure on Vue and earned them Euro festival slots on the Leeds Festival as well as the infamous Reading Festival. Vue has also shared venues with mainstream megastars such as The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Donnas. So where in the hell have I been the last few years while Vue has been rocking? I’m the last person in the world to be able to answer that.
I had a candid talk with expressive Vue vocalist Rex Shelverton and droll guitar player Jonah Buffa. Our conversation would meander from subject to subject on topics ranging from food consumption to Friendster to the way they feel about the rock scene and it’s future. Some of the opinions shared seemed to be at times a little dark but the sense of humor was always present (as sections of this interview will prove). Vue are on the eve of releasing their new album on RCA produced by Nick Launay (Nick Cave, P.I.L.), and are undoubtedly about to receive some major hype.
With prior releases on Sub-Pop, one with GSL, a song on the Sopranos soundtrack and previous tour slots with bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Faint, Vue are set for success. So after a couple of drinks with some friends at the Red Lion, it was time to make our way to Spaceland. Vue’s set that night was raw and explosive and was quite a sight to see as all members of Vue never sat still. Shelverton was always drawing attention, leading the charge, and at one point even took out the drum set. Beautiful! Is there anyone that doesn’t like seeing debauchery at a rock show? Please say no. Here’s a piece of what Vue was thinking before they played Spaceland that night.
Where is Vue’s home base?
Jonah: 17th Ave. San Fransisco.
What’s on the agenda for Vue?
J: We just made a record (RCA) and we’re waiting for that to come out, and we’re touring somewhat right now.
Have you guys been on tour for a while?
Rex: No, since ten this morning.
Oh. How’s the tour been so far then?
J: I think I’ve consumed 3500 calories today so it’s been good. (Laughing) No! I’m serious I ate all that Thai food, I had a double cheeseburger, two sausage mcmuffins w/ egg, hash browns, a chicken sandwich, a side salad and some french fries.
Who are you on tour with right now?
R: We’re touring with The Fever for five shows. We played with them last night in San Francisco.
Super. Anything interesting happen to you on your drive down from San Francisco?
J: (Laughing) Well the chicken sandwich and there was an interesting article in Newsweek…
R: He wants to know about the hookers!
Yeah, there we go. Let’s hear about the hookers.
R: We dropped ’em off at the Waffle House or something.
What went down with them?
R: (Laughs and points) That’s our drummer, he likes ’em young and four feet tall. No, wait. Like three and a half feet, that’s a love bug! We picked them up in the Tenderloin (district in S.F.).
So Vue has been doing well with the females.
R: We’ve got our Friendster all set.
What about My Space? (new Friendster style site)
R: We’re a little dated.
J: I’m angry about My Space. I’m resistant to be a part of that because I’m not into breaking up the community. We’ve already formed a community on Friendster and everyone’s friends. Now everyone’s got to break it up to go to the new bar.
How does Vue feel about your hype and the current scene?
R: We wouldn’t be….(stops himself for a second) Well, we’re masochistic but not so masochistic that we wouldn’t be doing it unless we believed in it. We’re not sure (about the hype), I won’t know until we’re on the cover of National Enquirer or National Geographic.
Does Vue see themselves breaking into a mainstream audience?
R: Well, we’re not really trying to be the next big thing you know? If we were we wouldn’t be here playing Spaceland right now. I mean, what huge bands that are selling a million records are playing at Spaceland? We’re trying to get a McDonald’s sponsorship or endorsement, kind of like In Sync or something. We’ve played some really big shows before in front of a lot of people and we’ve played in front of like 10 people. It’s not really about one thing or another. The main thing that it’s about, the one thing in common, is us just all hanging out together. The band being a group of friends and our other close family; the bands that we’re playing with.
In your opinion has Vue been well received?
R: I don’t know. If you sit there and contemplate what is (Jonah interrupts)
J: It’s so hard to tell, we’ve been to so many places. All over the US and we’ve been all over Europe.
R: We try to isolate ourselves from that.
Is there a difference in the fan-base in Europe?
R: Well, over there (Europe) there’s no underground scene and the mainstream people listen to Blink-182.
What do you think about new mainstream groups like Jet or Kings of Leon, etc.?
R: It’s not big in the scheme of things, it’s super small and we’re all lucky. Whatever bands are about to sign and take whatever they can from the man is fuckin’ rad! But it’s not going to last.
It’s not going to last?
R: No. Not in a pop sense. I mean pop music sucks for the most part. If you’re into underground music, except for maybe Outkast and a few others, there isn’t really any good pop. Good music doesn’t sell anymore.
It seems like Vue is picking up momentum.
R: Well yeah, I mean we’ve already done a lot of stuff. We’ve played with The Rolling Stones in Europe and we’ve played with our friends’ bands that, on an indie level, are “big”. We love doing that, but we love playing places like Spaceland for like 150 people, doing our own thing and making it special. Think of the biggest band in this genre, say like, The White Stripes, The Strokes, or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They barely sell any records in a major sense. They sell like 200,000 records and that seems like a lot but in the scheme of things shitty metal bands will sell like 1.5 million records. That’s like seven times more fuckin’ records than The Strokes. The media is trying to make it work and everyone is trying to make this what pop music is, but pop in general is bad.
Is pop music what everyone wants?
R: Yeah pretty much, look at Billboard (magazine).
J: The White Stripes being in the Top 40 is such a bizarre thing. It’s a weird thing and it’s fuckin’ rad, but it’s an exception.
R: The rule is that pop music sucks, it has forever. Rock n’ roll was fighting pop music when it started.
Is current day rock popularity all about the image?
R: Most people don’t think it’s (the rock image) cool. I still get made fun of.