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Basically, the name is a combination of our influences. Charles [Perales, lead singer at the time of the interview] is really into the late 70’s/early 80’s sleek Roxy Music, David Bowie, and John Barry albums, and I really love 60’s pop a la the Kinks. VCF stands for voltage control filter from a synth. Imagine the mono records of Phil Spector put through a Moog synth, kind of a collision between two eras.
While the band may have replaced the lead singer since then—a decision they’re the better band for—the description is nonetheless accurate. Mono in VCF wear their influences on their sleeves, but manage to do so without coming off like assholes (think of Coldplay, still trying to make another OK Computer).
This self-titled debut will seem entirely recognizable to even the most naïve audiophile, but these 11 tracks don’t mimic the band’s influences, they simply allude to them. It’s what could be called a prime example of Picasso’s “Good artists borrow, great artists steal outright” mantra. Lead singer Kim Miller treads a sultry line between PJ Harvey and Massive Attack (see every track, but particularly “Escape City Scrapers” and the Terry Jacks-penned “There’s No Blood In Bone). Meanwhile, behind the smooth control of her melodies, Jordan Luckman (bass), Hunter Lea (guitars, synth, keys, etc) and Jason Falk (drums) do their best to make good on the Bowie-meets-Wall-of-Sound promise in the band’s name.
They do it well, as should be expected of a band obsessed with the Kinks and Lee Hazlewood, Mono in VCF is best listened to in its entirety, pausing after “In Los Angeles” to symbolically rotate the CD or iPod in a tribute to vinyl. That doesn’t stop “Masha,” however, from standing out as the record’s best song. (It was NPR’s Song of the Day a few months ago, in fact). But while opener “Escape City Scrapers” has a vocal melody Jarvis Cocker would kill for, and closer instrumental “We Could’ve Owned the World” is just flat out beautiful, it’s the waltzing “Chanteuse” that really shows this band’s strengths.
At the time of the above interview, Mono in VCF had only one release, The Voltage Control EP, and in my review on this same website in January of last year, I summed up the promise of that EP as “indicative of [a future] LP that…could be as irrelevant and ephemeral as a lost Brian Jonestown Massacre demo.” I ended the piece hopeful that wouldn’t be the case.