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Vue : Now We Get It

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: May 13, 2003

w/ Bright Calm Blue, Anonymous American
Thursday, May 22
The Ranch Bowl

1600 So. 72nd St.

People don't "get" San Francisco-based rockers Vue on first listen, and sometimes that even includes members of the band.

It's been an issue for the indie-born 5-piece that recently signed a big-label deal with RCA records after releasing two full-lengths on pioneer indie label Sub Pop (Nirvana, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sebadoh). Seems the suits at the new label didn't "get" what Vue was all about, at least not on first listen.

"We sent them some things we recorded, and it was difficult for a while," says Vue guitarist Jonah Buffa. "That's always been the case with us. When we recorded our first single as The Audience (Vue's former name) the producer didn't get it, not until the very end when it all came together. All along we've been telling the RCA guys to wait and see. After we played some of the final mixes of the new record, they dug it and said, 'Now we get it.'"



What they got on the band's new 5-song EP, Babies Are for Petting, was a lethal blend of good-time garage bash-punk and Bay-area psychedelica. For reference, see The Stooges, Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Warlocks.

Their sound has been compared to The White Stripes and The Strokes, two bands Vue has toured with in the past. Buffa doesn't see the similarity.

"I don't really care about terms like 'garage rock,'" he said. "They're useful for journalists to make sense of what's going on, but those genre distinctions will dissolve over the next year or two. I think the reason all those bands are grouped together is more about their attitude. Those bands really sound different from one another, and we don't sound anything like them. The exciting thing is that we're all peers and can push each other creatively."

Something else pushing the band these days is producer Nick Launay, who's worked with such acts as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party and PiL. It's Launay's perfectionist ways that Buffa says is pushing the band to new levels that they would have never reached on an indie label.

For example, what's been one of the biggest differences since they went from a major to an indie?

"Well, we recorded our very first full-length for about 50 times less money," Buffa said, laughing. "For our early records, we would do one or two takes and say 'That sounds good.' The whole thing would only take a couple weeks to record. On this new record, Nick pushed us to get more out of the performances. We did an average of 25 to 30 takes per song."

For one song, Buffa said, the band ran through 60 takes. "After the first 20 takes, the song changed," he said. "Then after 30 it changed again. I'd say, 'I can't believe we don't have it yet,' and Nick would say, with his British accent, 'It's getting pretty good.' After 45 takes it's just 'getting pretty good'? I thought the first 10 were great. But we did keep getting better."

Buffa said the endless studio time was exhausting to the point of physical distress. The band started working on their new full-length in February at legendary Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles and is only now finishing the final mixes.

"The last song of the session was something we wrote after we were supposed to be done," Buffa said. "We got so tired that (drummer) Rafael (Orlin) got up between takes and threw up. When Nick said 'One last take,' my vision went totally white and I thought I would fall over and pass out. But when we were through, he said, 'That's it. That's the take.' We still ended up doing five more weeks of overdubs."

"When Nick said 'One last take,' my vision went totally white and I thought I would fall over and pass out."




The final product, due out later this year, is "a total leap from our last LP," Buffa said. "When we first started this project even I didn't know where it was going. Now that I've heard the rough mixes, I get it. I guess I do the same thing that I say other people do."

In the end, Buffa said moving from a large indie like Sub Pop to RCA was an easy jump. He grew up listening to punk and indie music and was once in a band that only pressed its music on vinyl.

"I remember listening to Sub Pop and thinking that was really big time," he said. "It's all a matter of perspective, I guess. We got where we are now by touring and working. It didn't really matter what record label we were on. We signed with RCA for the opportunity to do what we want for our art. It gives us much more resources and the opportunity to tour all the time."

But all the studio time has kept the band off the road, something that Buffa says they all miss. "We played about 250 shows last year and became really accomplished as a live band. That's what we're about," he said. "The only time I actually feel right or can think straight is when I'm playing guitar. I can lose myself in it."

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Portions published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader May 14, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.