I’ve been one with La Lus and Death My Bride in the 21st level of New York, the level reserved for “broke ass how could I need more when I just got it and paid so much fuck delivery cute cubes and no Mexican food starvaters drag your shit more than you play it” and I have been one, an outsider musician, in LA and most wonderfully East LA affordable beautiful best food in the country best variety in the world but wait, forget I said that, be afraid far side o’ the ’sippi you don’t even know what a Cholo is and they are going to hang you up in the dome down on Hazard in the same park they dumped the guts of Chavez Ravine into, your ghosts will howl.
-Tim Goodwillie, (VxPxC)
When proud Los Angeles residents defend their oft-maligned city, they frequently mention the weather and the Mexican food. But there’s more ‘there’ there than that, if you’re looking. Justin McInteer, a member of the experimental trio (VxPxC), insists that his odd little project could not have come about in the same way anywhere else.
“Los Angeles usually conjures a world of highways and suburban sprawl,” McInteer acknowledges. “But as Angelinos, living in the hills around downtown, our LA has shrunk to several neighboring communities and the areas between. Ours is an LA of cultural diversity and beautiful lush hills densely packed with urban desert dwellers. I live and breathe Los Angeles, and I feel it has everything to do with the music we make. I acknowledge that it is just one of many factors that determine the eventual sound of our music. But I have a feeling that if we were playing in a cold basement in New England, our sound would be noticeably different.”
Indeed. There’s no use hustling all of (VxPxC)’s music under one umbrella (imagine Brian Eno’s dreamy, dislocated aesthetic rendered with the sloppy, organic lushness of Bugskull, and you’re getting there), but as much as New Day Rising channels the brutal Minnesotan winter, (VxPxC) captures the yawning, edge-of-the-world, make-it-up-en-route weirdness of Southern California.
McInteer and Tim Goodwillie met at the Kansas City Art Institute in the early ’90s. When they reconvened in LA years later, they were interested mainly in visual art, installations and such. McInteer worked at a museum, where he met Grant E. Capes. “Once we learned of our similar passion for discovering music, we became fast friends. Somehow or other, these three devoted listeners came together one afternoon in March of 2005 with a variety of instruments and played three hours of improvised sounds. The process of playing was exhilarating, and the results were far beyond our anticipation. We became immediately hooked. Decades of avid listening had somehow given us the ability to communicate in a language in which all of us, technically at least, were amateurs.”
“Those early sessions would usually be a trip to Tim’s mountain villa in East Los Angeles in the early morning,” recalls Capes, “and involved drinking lots of spiked coffee and playing a lot of thickly growing drone loops and strange rhythms… We came up with the Time Fold idea,” the band’s official creation myth, “which involves the 33 tapes and the hidden box in the closet and the ‘rule’ that all the music from a particular day would be bunched together and labeled under a holiday of that day. I think we were finding ways of attacking the music from a non-musician standpoint, and making it more from a music lover’s point of view. In the end, it did give us a pretty unique way of dividing and categorizing our music, which I think helped a lot.”
The name is a musical equation, pronounced as it’s spelled. Like every other aspect of the band’s m.o., it’s not there to grab attention or to facilitate clear understanding. It’s supposed to be fun, and it’s easily joked about. “It is not necessary to pronounce (VxPxC),” claims Goodwillie, “only to believe!”
(VxPxC)’s studio recordings are laid down in one take, into one mic. Goodwillie describes it thusly: “We get in a way and when the creatures come, we follow them… one mic, one tape, one very long song.” Later, the band edits its large audio files into more manageable pieces, most of which run not much longer than a typical pop tune.
“In the beginning,” says Capes, “we had to loop some of the more passable musical parts, but as we played together more and more, the editing became more of a choice of where to start the piece and where to end it.”
Like many similarly minded and contentedly subterranean musicians, the members of (VxPxC) distribute their recordings in limited runs. “Our first release was a triple CD-R collection of our music from 2005,” says Capes. “That was a monster to make, so we had to stop after 75 of them. All of that music will be available now through our website in its original session form… and we intend to just keep making those available whenever anybody wants them. Our other releases on other labels, like Foxglove and Music Your Mind Will Love You, all follow their release guidelines. We understand that it takes time to make these CD-Rs and their packaging, and that it is much more important to reach 100 really dedicated and discerning listeners than it is to make 100,000 copies of an album that ends up on the floors of people’s cars and in the dollar bin at Amoeba Records.”
However, unlike a few noise buffs I could name, these fellows do not make a fetish of scarcity. Quite the opposite; the (VxPxC) website provides oodles of tracks, free for the right-clicking. “It’s not only a good promotional tool,” explains McInteer, “but it also lessens the whole idea of music as a commodity. We create music to share it with others and connect with like-minded individuals, not for financial gains. It makes me feel just as good when someone downloads a track as when they buy a release.
“We are ridiculously prolific in our recorded output,” he continues. “That makes some people quiver and others wince, but we love what we do. Although we’ve only put about a fifth of our output on the Internet, that’s still around eight hours of edited music.”
Capes believes that, when (VxPxC) performs live, its improvisation skews a bit more “reserved” than it does in the studio. McInteer concurs. “During the recording sessions, we continually explore and experiment with the new. This happens during live shows, but to a lesser degree. But sometimes we’ll play a live show that captures that moment in time and space so incredibly that it’s easily as strong as anything we’ve released as an edited track.”
“Usually,” says Capes, “at the end, we get some homeless guy telling us we sound like Tangerine Dream, we drink our free coffee, pack up our shit and go home.”
In his town, Capes sees no shortage of venues. “We have the Smell and the Il Corral, as well as growing artspaces like the Hive and the Echo Curio. It isn’t as heavy as San Francisco, but it has its moments. In May 2007, we are going to help host a festival of experimental music with the Digitalis label, bringing musicians from as far as Australia to gather together and celebrate this movement of releasing music quickly and beautifully with CD-Rs. That kind of stuff would be harder to pull off in a city like Cleveland (no offense to Cleveland), so in that regard, I love LA.”
The band’s self-released CD-Rs can be had through its website, although it's hard to say what will be available when. The band just wrapped a series of releases, including Hotel Chelsea, the eerie and sublime Strange On Hind Legs and a selection of collaborations. In 2007, (VxPxC) plans to release a split LP on Closet Trekkie, “an actual CD” on Digitalis, and myriad other gewgaws through a host of labels, including Capes’ Phantom Limb Recordings and Goodwillie’s Hongoitos. And don’t sleep on the frequent compilation appearances. These guys are a three-man scene, and a joy to follow.
By Emerson Dameron