When Paul Jenkins and longtime friend and fellow musician Wes McCanse began recording as ...music video? in Tucson, AZ the original idea was to make an album worthy of attention, something that would be, as songwriter/keyboardist Paul Jenkins described, "some kind of a big deal."
The truth is, ...music video? has been recording music that's been a big deal ever since McCanse and Jenkins started emailing ideas back and forth to each other eight years ago. Their first album, Fireproof Your TV (self-released, 2004), won the Tucson Weekly's Tucson Area Music Award for best electronic act that year, and the band has continued to win that distinction every year since. Their blend of electronic noise, artful production, pop song structure, and soulful vocals means that ... music video? is not your average electronic act. ...music video? has been compared to Air, The Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, M83, and Hot Chip; the similarities lie in an aesthetic tension that is both polished and rough, both expansive and focused.
2007's Now That My TV Has Wings I'll Never Be Lonely brought ...music video? even more critical acclaim. The band traveled to SXSW in 2008 as an unofficial act, and at an NPR day party, they asked who they could give a CD to. "They pointed at the Brian Eno-looking fellow who goes by the name of Robin Hilton," said Jenkins. "We told him we were a duo from Tucson, AZ, and he responded, 'Stop right there... you had me at duo.'"
Hilton featured "Tonight," off of Now That My TV Has Wings I'll Never Be Lonely, on his NPR blog, writing that ...music video? "stands out in a crowded field of electro-pop groups with their strong sense of melody, flawless production and surprisingly fresh use of synths and samples."
Riding on that recognition, Jenkins and McCanse added longtime friend J Lugo Miller to the lineup in 2009, and visited SXSW as an official act. They toured the eastern US in September of 2009, and then were invited to open for Amusement Parks on Fire at Spaceland in Los Angeles that October. And if that weren't enough to fill their schedules, ...music video? continued work on a new album, one that they're hoping will be an even bigger deal than their two previous efforts.
"As we were recording this new album I really wanted to build on the things that have worked for us in the past while creating a sound that was new and different for us," said McCanse. "Adding Justin to the mix was exactly what we needed. While it's more obvious at our live shows, I think it's also apparent on the recordings that ...music video? has now grown from a 'project' to a 'band.'"
The new album, said Jenkins, draws from "Brian Wilson, Yoni Wolf, Panda Bear & Michael Jackson. As far as non-musical influences, I'd just say pining after girls and wondering if I can ever really believe in love. Maybe the idea of being romantic without ever feeling it (love) for sure."
About the new album, "we've really stripped back the instrumentation so the listener could focus on, say, Wes's guitar playing, or, the texture of that synth pad—you know, the less is more thing. Of course, the interesting thing that happened by stripping back a little, and using more drum samples with built-in swing, was that Paul became more confident in indulging his love for R&B. In fact, I think our next record is gonna be all slow jams for the ladies," explained Miller.
"I consciously went in a new direction, on some tracks, of R&B," Jenkins admitted.
The album was recorded in Tucson over the last few years. Jenkins, McCanse and Miller each have their own home recording studios, and the second-hand-smoke highs Miller gets from his neighbors at his "funky artist community/house" and the hot Tucson desert air, or the comfort of McCanse's dedicated studio where he doesn't have to worry about "the awful sound of cement floors or noisy neighbors or simply being uncomfortable in my surroundings" are almost audible.
The first taste of the new material can be found as a 7" on Tucson vinyl-only label Fort Lowell Records. The A-side, "I'm Afraid of Everything," has Jenkins showing a dark, romantic side: disco-style guitars contrast with a thick sampled beat and haunting synths. It's warm with a cool edge, and strangely familiar, like an old R&B song you're sure you've heard before but couldn't possibly have, beckoning you to sit down and stay a while. It's not everyday a 7" single emits such feelings of permanence, but as their previous work has shown ...music video? are expert at creating songs and sounds that resonate.
So is the new record also going to be a big deal? Jenkins says it will be, but that does not mean ...music video? will ever stop working towards the goal. "I'd say we still have that, and have at least started to accomplish it, years later." Jenkins added, "The big deal part, that is."