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Tomorrow Night! Free! VHS or Beta! Magic Stick

VHS or Beta (photo by Leslie Lyons)
There is a very cool show coming our way tomorrow and the best part is it's free! The brilliantly funky, indie dance band, VHS or Beta is coming to the Magic Stick on a free show brought to you courtesy of The Onion AV Club and Killian's Irish Stout.  To get in the show you just have to go the Onion AV website and sign up. I spoke to singer Craig Pfunder last night on how the tour was going, their latest album Diamonds and Death and more: 

MCB – Where are you playing tonight?
VoB –We’re playing a city across the river in Ohio called Covington. It’s by Cincinnati, we’ve been playing there for years. 
MCB – You’re originally from Kentucky, but made the move to New York a couple of years ago – how’s New York?
VoB – Well, I guess it’s what everyone says, probably one of the best cities in the world. It’s got everything you could possibly want all within a subway’s ride. Coming from Louisville, where you had to drive everywhere and there’s one museum. I love Louisville but it’s night and day from New York.
MCB – How do you think your home is fairing right now from Hurricane Sandy?
VoB – To be honest it’s not okay, it’s in shambles right now. I can tell from pictures I’ve seen. Every chance we get we’re checking out the storm. I think it’s going to be okay from what everyone is saying, but there’s a lot of people without power.
MCB – Tell me about these special shows your out on
VoB – We’re playing 10 dates, on a tour that we’ve been asked to do with Killians and the Onion AV Club. We were chosen for the shows through the Onion, so we're like “of course we’ll do it.” We’ll do anything for the Onion, well, unless they wanted to make fun of us, or maybe we would have done it in a very shameless way.
MCB – The last time I saw you play it was at a similar show like this for a vodka promotion.
VoB – We like doing these shows, everyone is happy because it’s free and they’re drinking. I’m dinking a Killians right now so it seemed like a good pairing.

MCB – VHS or Beta has been around for almost 15 years….
VoB – When you put it that way it makes me feel old! So let’s say 14 and half years. We’ve been around since  ’97, starting out as a punk band. Then, we got into house music and started making our music that way. We’ve toured all over the world and now we’re in New York trying to find our way in this dying music business. So it’s nice to have opportunities like this.
MCB – Was the funk and those deep basslines always a part of your sound?
VoB – Not always, but even in the early stages we were influenced by dance music, disco, hip hop or whatever. Mark is a phenomenal bass player.

MCB – On your latest album, "Diamonds and Death" you have a more electronic dance sound compared to your previous record which was a more rock oriented approach.
VoB – That’s a pretty fair assessment. The last record we made was just written by the two of us, the last two original members. Each record we’ve made a bit differently, with the emphasis in on who’s writing the material. On the new record we wanted to abandon the guitars and take more of a producer’s approach to making the album.
MCB – Diamond's and Death came out a year ago. Have you been working on new stuff?
VoB – We have but maybe not for VHS or Beta. I’ve been in the studio just writing whatever comes out of my head. Sometimes it’s acoustic, sometimes techno. It’s been a relief to be writing music that isn’t necessarily VHS material.

MCB – Are there tracks you like more now than when the first came out?
VoB – It’s weird, I hadn’t listened to it in a while. Then I listened to it the other day to go over some of the tunes by myself, and I realized how much I really like it. It took a couple years to make and you spend so much time listening to it as you make it. So now I have had some time to put some space between it. When I listen to it, I re-appreciate more from a distance.

MCB – It seems like you've spent a lot of time on the road
VoB – You know we’ve kind of backed down on the touring. We’re a little too old to do it like we use to. We used to do it 7 – 8 months out of the year and now we just tour for like 6 months – just kidding, we really just tour maybe 2 – 3 months a year.
MCB – Does it pay the bills for you?
VoB – Somehow I’m getting by not working a job, but that’s not going to last forever. I’m going to have to start robbing banks or something, because I refuse to wait tables like I use to. Maybe I’ll rob houses of really wealthy people in the Hamptons.

MCB – Did you consider moving to Los Angeles?
VoB – I love LA but I don’t like cars, so I can’t really move to LA. I like the LA life, you can have a backyard and cook outs and a dog door. You can’t really do that in New York. But I don’t want to spend 2 hours in a car every day and look at the halo of smog surrounding the city. I’m just much more of an east coast person.
MCB – Do you no longer consider yourself a Kentucky person?
VoB – I will always be a Kentucky person. When I get drunk my friends around me go “Man, you’re a redneck!” And, that’s something I’ll never lose. I’ve lived in the south my whole life except a couple of years.
MCB – Your music is almost the opposite of redneck...
VoB – It is the opposite of redneck. And if you look at me, well except for the red flannel, I look like the opposite of redneck. Living in Kentucky was shitty in a way. To be called Yoko Ono or Jackie Chan or whatever and I don’t get that in New York, it’s awesome. I’m actually a majority in New York.

MCB – You’re playing Detroit on Thursday, do you have a lot of Detroit memories?
VoB – I have a lot of Detroit memories, a lot of really good ones and some shitty ones. We have played Detroit with some of the best bands, Duran Duran, the Von Bondies, Electric 6, Radio 4 and more.  We’ve had so many great shows and then we’ll show up in Detroit and there’s like 32 people in the crowd. What is going on in Detroit? It’s a really tough town to crack. When you play a sold out show at the Palace, you think maybe more than 32 people would make it out to your next show. I have good friends there and there are places to go but I never know what to expect from Detroit.
MCB – How was it touring with Duran Duran?
VoB – They were the nicest guys! I was so nervous the first night we played. We were in this club in Louisville and everything was running late, so we have like 30 minutes to play and this is a hometown show so we want to be our best. And Simon LeBon comes in the dressing room and says “I just want to really thank you for accepting to play with us and the whole band really likes your record.” I was just like “my sister wants to have sex with you and if you do I’ll be the coolest brother.” No, I didn’t say that to him, but he’s Simon LeBon and they’re Duran Duran, super sweet guys.  I don’t think I’ve toured with more successful, sweeter guys than them.

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