While art school is praised for offering creative minds a refuge from the confines of traditional academia, there are those who, like Adam Elliott, will gladly argue “the complete uselessness” of such studies, claiming the experience is about as exhilarating as memorizing the periodic table.
The drummer and vocalist for Columbus, Ohio’s discordant trio Times New Viking realized early on in his studies that regimented lectures in art history and brush-stroke fundamentals weren’t going to satisfy his creative impulses. So Elliott did what disillusioned students do best—he dropped out. As luck would have it, so did his Columbus College of Art and Design classmates Beth Murphy and Jared Phillips, providing the perfect opportunity to do something “more worthwhile” with their time.
“The things we were learning in school didn’t really seem to apply to what being an artist should be about, so we choose to skip class and start a band,” Elliott recounts, barrelling down the interstate near the Ohio-Kentucky border while being interviewed on a cellphone.
Since forming in 2005, Times New Viking has been at the forefront of the recent lo-fi resurgence in indie music. With its clamorous blend of snarling feedback and piercing tape-hiss-laden pop, the act has helped to forge a scene that includes other reverb-heavy bands like No Age, Sic Alps, and Vivian Girls. With three albums under their belt—not to mention the Stay Awake EP released last month—Elliott and his Buckeye bandmates have already shared the stage with legends like Wire, not to mention their personal idols, the Clean. While such accomplishments are celebrated, the drummer makes it clear that he is skeptical of the attention the band receives simply because of its affiliation with the burgeoning noise scene in North America.
“I wish the media would focus on anything but the fact that we sound awful and lo-fi—that’s kind of like the easiest thing to talk about,” he grumbles upon the first mention of the L word. “I feel [with] a lot of bands like us—lo-fi bands—there’s a lot more under the surface than just the fact that the records sound awful. There’s ideas and stuff.”
Elliott is alluding to the core sensibilities of the lo-fi aesthetic: DIY and immediacy. While these concepts have become little more than catchphrases in mainstream publications, to the members of Times New Viking they remain the driving force behind the trio’s squealing, atonal racket.
“The idea of three people coming together, the minimalism and the music and the energy there”¦” the 26-year-old musician reflects. “Our music is recorded so easily at home—it’s immediate, and that helps to keeps us fresh.”
While touring involves more planning than an impromptu recording session on a four-track back home, Elliott insists the outfit enjoys its time on the road. “No matter how annoying certain things are, every single time we show up to a new city to play, we’re real excited,” he says. “It’s not a bad job.”
Times New Viking plays Richard’s on Richards tonight (November 20).