IfIHadAHiFi Takes On California’s Mount Vicious

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Words by Erin Wolf

No. Mount Vicious is not a Milwaukee band. Yet, the reason for the Californians’ edging into Fan-belt’s copy is credible. Paired with local insane-o rockers IfIHadAHiFi for a weekend touring stint, the two bands have a long shared-bill history through Mount Vicious’ previous incarnation in Replicator. With a similar bravado and unabashed capability for making a full-on rock assault fun, Mount Vicious and IfIHadAHiFi will be freaking audiences out with a string of shows this weekend: point A. being Chicago (last night) and destination point B. at Milwaukee’s Cactus Club, tonight,  before they head onto Madison and Dubuque. Fan-belt talks to Mount Vicious front man Conan Neutron about the nebulous pairing of unicorns and steroids, the magic of John Congleton and why Queen’s anthemic rock will never go out of style.

Mount Vicious, “Steroid Unicorn”
Mount Vicious, “Princess of the Brodeo”

You’re on tour right now — how’s that been going?

Ups and downs. Some shows are fantastic; some aren’t quite as fantastic. San Diego was great! Arkansas? I’d never been to Arkansas, but it’s surround by beautiful wilderness, with people just as beautiful, inside and out. Savannah was great, too.

We’re on tour with Jucifer right now, and some of the bands we’re playing with are more on the metal side, and people at the shows are like, ‘who the hell are these assholes?’ I guess it makes it more exciting. Some of the best shows we have are coming up, though. I’m really looking forward to playing Milwaukee. We’re definitely excited to have brats.

How’d you get hooked up with ifIHadAHiFi?

Chris and I played in a band called Replicator and we got hooked up that way, and became really good friends and did a bunch of shows together. It’s like-minded people and bands that would never have gotten together if it hadn’t been for rock and roll. Either way, it was around 2001, 2002. I think we played with IfIHadAHiFi in Milwaukee, first, and then I think it was a few months later that they came and played the Bay area. After that, for every Midwest tour, we’d come play with them.

It’s just one of those things where it’s nice to have a band play with that challenges you when you play together. With this whole touring and rock band stuff, you start to get a trench mentality sometimes, and you’re out there, and you’re fighting the good fight. It’s nice when you meet good people and you can trade battle stories. It’s a good thing for bands to feel like that; that oh, man, they have to at least match something. 

You’ve got some similarities to IfIHadAHiFi: noisy, lots of attitude and stage names. Sounds like dual forces to be reckoned with.

Sometimes, if you aren’t serious about everything, people think you’re a joke band, but nope. It’s not that. You can throw one hundred percent of yourself into something, but still have fun. We’re writing about subjects that are just more interesting than the usual subjects. 

Take “Steroid Unicorn” for instance: [we take the story of how] the Unicorn gets left behind in the Ark and add the whole baseball steroid controversy. It’s a fun song. Usually how it works, is I come up with the groundwork for the song and then I get together with Dre (guitar/vox) and Alli (guitar). Dre is the master arranger — he cuts the fat. We bring in the rest, and then it’s a full-on Mt. Vicious song.

It’s the whole thing of playing to the crowd, not for the crowd. There’s nothing wrong with having a band like Black Flag, for example, being like ‘we’re going to do what we’re going to do and play right through you’, but this is a conscious decision that we are going to take the things that we like best about punk, classic and post-rock. With Replicator, it was more of an AC/DC thing…more Alice Cooper, but I also liked stuff like Wire and Fugazi. It seemed like a good thing to put them together.

So with this playing ‘to the crowd, not for the crowd’ mentality, what’s the draw in it for you? Why write anthemic music that involves longer songs and audience participation?

You gotta look at your rock and roll shows as being an event. There’s a group of people making music, and then, there’s a group of people watching it. You’re sharing an experience. It’s nice to have something that inspires you to soar to greater heights. 

As much as I live and breathe the DIY indie rock world, there’s a small amount of self-effacement going on in it, because people think that that idea [of being bombastic] is pretentious or arrogant. Well, it’s not. There are hair metal bands that people still listen to today — they’ve stood the test of time. Am I a hair metal fan? Not really, but it’s a Queen-like, epic sing-a-long kind of thing. Clap along! Participate in that. By playing to the audience, you build up the energy to something greater than it would’ve been. It’s a matter of presentation, not context.

Speaking of presentation, how’d you get connected with John Congleton? What did he add to your album, as a producer, that made you especially happy?

Let me say this first off: I’m a gigantic fan of the pAper chAse. They own exactly what they do. John has a great attention to detail, and with a band like us, there’s a lot going on, even though it doesn’t sound like there is. Having someone like John record us was imperative, because he hears everything that goes on. There was stuff that he did, that made me feel flabbergasted, but he knows exactly what’s going on. He did a fantastic job — it just seems as though it’s born into him to be a producer. We’re happy we got to work with him.

Mount Vicious and IfIHadAHiFi play a four-day weekend with a stop in Milwaukee tonight at the Cactus Club (2496 S. Wentworth). Also playing: Year of the Scavenger & Elusive Parallelograms. 10 p.m. 21+

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One Response to “IfIHadAHiFi Takes On California’s Mount Vicious”

  1. Yale Says:

    Man MV were amazing last night…

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