Times New Viking: Let It Rip

As immortalized by Guided By Voices on “Dayton, Ohio 19-Something And 5,” the Buckeye State has inspired some of the greatest lo-fi and bedroom rock of the past two decades. But the members of Columbus’ Times New Viking—vocalist/drummer Adam Elliot, vocalist/keyboardist Beth Murphy and guitarist Jared Phillips—are getting a little bored with all the GBV comparisons. Despite the fact that his brother Kevin played in 84 Nash (a band on Robert Pollard’s Rockathon label in the ’90s), Elliot doesn’t cite GBV as an influence.

“Guided By Voices is definitely a reference, but musically I don’t think we’re influenced by them,” he says. “The way we create songs is similar to the way they create songs, just spending Saturday night sitting in your house, making songs with your friends. A lot of people mistake it as we’re trying to sound bad on purpose, but it’s more about recording the song three times after you learned it, so there’s still that freshness to it.”

Elliot, Murphy and Phillips met as freshmen at Columbus College of Art & Design, where they studied printmaking, an antiquated art form that has little practical modern application. Times New Viking formed in 2004, and the trio subsequently four-tracked two energetic and shambling records for the Siltbreeze label over the next three years. Although the band could’ve afforded a professional studio after signing to Matador, Times New Viking chose to self-produce its third album in a basement. Rip It Off, mixed at extra-high volume by the band, is driven by noise, enthusiasm and spontaneous pop sensibilities.

“When we started, we thought about getting a bass player,” says Phillips. “But [now] I just make sure I’m really loud, and that’s partly how we ended up sounding the way we did. The three of us had to fill up as much sound as we could to make it full and to make up for a bit of blank air. And we EQ everything to the point where you can hear things that aren’t really there.”

Between deliberately lo-fi recording methods and printmaking (the band members’ work graces their three album covers), Times New Viking embodies both impulsiveness and an attention to detail, without all the modern expertise to get in the way.

“We’re kind of neophytes with [laptop culture and current recording processes],” says Murphy. “We’re more enamored by analog and archaic kinds of technologies. Our music is simple. As much as we think about concepts and what we’re trying to convey and the kind of music we like and want to bring back—really raw stuff, like the older ’90s music or stuff from the ’60s—when it comes down to it, the show is really just about having fun. It’s about having a party.”

There’s a sense of purity, freedom and innovation within Times New Viking’s thick, messy noise. Lo-fi is practical and can seem easy to create (anyone can buy a four-track and some cheap microphones), but it takes a certain awareness and passion to make it worthwhile. As Murphy puts it, “Conceptually, we like the immediacy and the urgency of lo-fi. It sounds honest and sincere, which I think are the best qualities in music.”

—Jessica Parker