There are great bands, and then there’s this really mega and cool band called Viet Cong. Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I started listening to this Candadian band’s self-titled debut. The group’s music stunningly encapsulates so many wondrous sounds from 20th-century sounds – ’60s through ’80s. Very few bands make me hold my breath so tightly, and if Viet Cong does nothing else, they’ve trounced any doubts that music cannot be a bit familiar, but new. And tormentingly hot.
Bandleader Matthew Flegel took some time out of Viet Cong’s current tour to answer some questions via email. Thank you!!!! Oh, and although this evening’s show at Barboza sold out ages ago, they return on June 16th as openers for Purity Ring.
Q: How did you choose bass as your instrument? Who’s your favorite bassist these days?
Matthew Flegel: I didn’t really ‘choose’ the bass guitar as much as I just ended up playing it out of necessity. I started playing guitar in the seventh grade, and so did everyone else. So when it came to starting a band, I think I was the only one willing to switch to bass. My dad had an old fender precision in our basement that we had access to also. It’s still the bass I play today.
Scarlett from Crosss, James Twiddy from Freak Heat Waves are two of my favourite bass players these days.
Q: How has Chad VanGaalen been important in Viet Cong’s formation and development?
MF: Chad’s always been super supportive in everything we do. As far as the formation of this band, he helped in that he had me and Monty in his touring band at the same time, and that led to us wanting to do something other than play in the Chad Van Gaalen band.
Q: Viet Cong songs often combine several songs (movements) in one. I am thinking of “Throw It Away” and “March of Progress” especially. You can even do this with your voice – is this something you feel is unique to Viet Cong, and something you set out to do?
MF: Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes not. I like music that ends up somewhere completely different than where it started.
Q: You’ve said you’re a fan of ’70s & ‘80s music? Such as Yes? Experimental music?
MF: Yes the band? Yeah, I’ve got a soft spot for cheesy 70’s prog. I listen to everything though, all genres, all over the place.
I also hear a lot of ’60s influence in your music. From each decade, could you tell me two artists you particularly like, and why?
MF: Let’s start from the 50’s: I listen to a lot of 50’s doo-wop, but I’d have to say Elvis and Chuck Berry. Not a very original answer, but they more or less started the ‘Rock and Roll’ thing as we know it.
60’s: lollipop shoppe and the zombies because they’re amazing, what else can you say? I’d put James Brown in there too, though he spans the decades. So do the Stones. I’d give different answers for these questions tomorrow if you asked again.
70’s: Sabbath, Can, Neu!, The Damned, Television, ? Most things from Germany, and the U.K., and the NYC scene.
80’s: The Cure, because I’m a closet goth.
90’s: I guess I first started really getting into music as a 90’s kid listening to my yellow Sony sports Walkmen. I still love Nirvana, I can still listen to a few Smashing Pumpkins songs without wanting to Cobain myself. I have a nostalgic soft spot for the Chris Cornell wail. Whatever, the 90’s were definitely about the Seattle scene for me. No shame. Oh yeah, Hairy Pussy!
2000’s: Radiohead even though they’re kind of 90’s, Liars, Deerhoof, The Hunches, Sonic youth span the decades, but never put out a bad record even in the 2000’s
Q: What made you select Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck to produce your debut (with you) & how was recording in a barn?
MF: He’s a good friend and he’s also an extremely skilled engineer. Kind of a no brainer. The clincher was that last Metz record probably. The barn was amazing. Full isolation in a pro-equipped studio. Also, a loft for sleeping and a kitchen, so we didn’t really have to leave.
Q: So far the band has not appeared in your own videos. What would you do in one, and which one do you think you’d like to be in now?
MF: The only way I’ll be in a music video is if we’re playing live to a room filled with dogs, like 300 dogs.
Q: How do you think the band has changed since its beginning. Do you think you’ve moved away from some of the more ‘60s-sounding material?
MF: It’s a real band of 4 people now. It started off as more of a recording project for me and Monty. It’s much more of a collaboration now, writing-wise.
Q: You did a great cover of Bauhaus’ “Dark Entries.” What made you choose that one?
MF: we just started playing the riff at a practise one night, and it didn’t sound terrible, so I learned the thousand-lyrics and we just started playing it.
Q: What happened to Michael Wallace’s hand? (Viet Cong’s drummer has a pretty nasty looking hand injury).
MF: Helicopter accident.
Q: What are some of your hobbies?
MF: Music is still always going to be a hobby, as professional as we get with it. I love to read, I love to camp. I love to drink beer and stare at a fire and laugh. Cooking! I miss the kitchen more than anything when I’m stuck in a van for months at a time.
~interview by Dagmar