Kind of a Drag

With Atomic Cafe defunct, Victims In Ecstacy try to establish a new base for their heavy camp

Okay, so here's a scenario for you: You're minding your own business, gamely trying to do your job, when two hostile skate punks come up and stick their stiff willies in your face. What do you do?

Well, if you're Jim Louvau, gamely trying to do your job entails working the stage in a polka-dot dress, with black fishnet stockings, white evening gloves, feather boa and black, made-for-walkin' boots. It means offsetting your spiky blond hair with strips of burgundy up front. It also means spitting out a whole bunch of wind-tunnel surliness, while your equally campy band, Victims In Ecstacy, pummels the senses with a kind of aggro-industrial, pre-millennial menace.

Victims In Ecstacy are used to generating extreme responses. They've encountered obsessive-fan phone calls, expressions of solidarity from local drag queens, and they've been asked to suck on fans' lollipops and autograph breasts and panties (which practically qualifies them to run for a national office).

So when the two aforementioned flashers challenged Louvau, he knew what to do. He jumped on a monitor, lifted his dress, grabbed one of the agitators by his spiked hair, and rubbed his face across Louvau's crotch, in full view of the band's pasty-faced, black-clad, pseudo-goth fans. The act fulfilled Louvau's desire to expose his hecklers to the most public of all humiliations. But what Louvau didn't do also said much about the way his band works. As confrontational as his response was, it was also carefully measured so as not to cost the band any future gigs.

"Danny Zelisko from Evening Star was there checking us out," Louvau recalls. "So I didn't want to do anything too irrational. I was trying to keep my professionalism, my composure, whatnot."

This combination of brazen calculation and outre freakishness tends to polarize local attitudes about VIE. The goth kids cling to this band with ferocious loyalty, even though VIE consider themselves far removed from the Bauhaus tradition. On the other hand, some locals snipe that this band is all dressed up with nowhere to go musically (or to borrow a phrase from Eleanor Roosevelt about John Kennedy, too much profile and not enough courage).

When the band was nominated for "Best Industrial Band" at this year's New Times Music Awards, some complained that the band's music wasn't deserving (in fairness, VIE don't consider themselves an industrial group). Also, shortly before the awards were announced, a member of a competing band accurately predicted that VIE would win the award, theorizing that the group would probably push its fans to stuff the ballot box.

Professional jealousy? Maybe, but it also suggests the price you pay when you opt for an attention-getting look. The members of VIE insist that they don't worry about image getting in the way of music.

"We've always been into it," says guitarist Andy Gerold of the band's penchant for cross-dressing. "We figured we might as well incorporate it into our music. A lot of the lyrics in the songs have themes that go along with how we dress."

"No one in Arizona is really doing anything like what we're doing. The closest thing you'll find to what we're doing is still people who are living in the '80s," says Louvau, who mimics a piercing heavy-metal wail for emphasis. "We're kind of doing a modern glam thing."

Like BLESSEDBETHYNAME, another local band heavily into makeup and theatrics, VIE have generated considerable interest in a short time, with relatively little gigging. The band, which formed a year and a half ago out of an angry teen collective called Verify 21, shrewdly pressed up 1,000 copies of a four-song demo CD, and gave them away to people a year ago when they opened for N17 on Halloween night. Four weeks later, when they opened for BLESSEDBETHYNAME, they saw a crowd of strangers enthusiastically singing along with every song.

Early this year, they established the Atomic Cafe as a kind of home base, but since that club closed, they've found few gig options for their particular brand of mascara-cum-aggression. This Friday, they play their first headlining show at Boston's. Initially, they were going to share the bill with techno-popsters Sipping Soma, but that band had to cancel out due to the serious vocal problems recently experienced by singer Diedre Radford.

"Diedre has some sort of throat virus," Louvau says. "They did a show in L.A. and she wasn't feeling too well, so she went to see a throat doctor. They told her she could either get some kind of throat surgery done--which would take her vocal tone away--or she can't talk for at least a month. Otherwise she won't get any better."

VIE's kinship with Sipping Soma has extended to the studio, where Soma's Mark Matson recently produced a song for the band, called "New Taste," also featuring Radford on backing vocals. The members of VIE say they spent three times as many hours on this track as they did on their entire four-song demo, and the effort shows. Though the group's sound still exactly can't be called original, on "New Taste" they reveal a power and aural depth that was lacking in the demo.

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