Quentin Smith ? vocals
Ryder Robison ? bass
Greg Daniels ? guitar
Chris Sorensen ? guitar
Adam Tymn - guitar
Joe McChan ? drums
Let?s face it, there really isn?t such a thing as ?catalog artists? anymore. While plenty of bands are seemingly thriving, one of the invisible casualties of today?s money and trend-driven music industry are the future Neil Young?s and Pink Floyd?s of the world ? the artists who make music because they need to, not to help market their clothing line. Not to sound too lofty, but Denver, Colorado?s VAUX are one of those bands and Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice is their masterwork.
However, this album almost didn?t ever see the light of day. After touring for nearly a decade and gaining a dedicated fan base, VAUX ? singer Quentin Smith, bassist Ryder Robison, drummer Joe McChan and guitarists Adam Tymn, Chris Sorensen and Greg Daniels ? got their big break when they were picked up by Atlantic Records in 2004. They flew to England and recorded for a month with Garrett ?Jacknife? Lee (U2, Snow Patrol) in the same manor where The Smiths and Radiohead laid down classic tracks. Finally, after a grueling year-long period, this very album you hold in your hands was completed and slated for release?or so they thought.
After two years of being shuffled between labels and having their release date shifted further and further back, the band was let go from their contract. And though the experience nearly tore them apart, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to them. ?I think that everything that ended up happening with Atlantic was a blessing in disguise,? says Robison. ?Because we got back the rights to our album and now we can do things the way we always have: On our own.?
True to this DIY ethic, the band decided if a major label wasn?t going to release this album, they would do it themselves. ?We did it full on guerilla style,? explains Robison. ?The first show we had was in Houston and we?d burn CDs on everyone?s laptops in the van, take them outside, spray paint the covers and print out the inserts at Kinko?s,? he continues. ?That?s what you need to do, go out and hustle.?
But none of this would matter if what was encoded on the disc wasn?t so incendiary. A huge leap for VAUX musically, Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice has the hardcore crunch fans are used to (?Burn The Bandwagon?), but it also has Coldplay-influenced balladry (?The Last Report From??), tinges of electronic experimentation (?The Rope, The Pistol, The Candlestick?) and, for the first time, songs that are actually catchy (the album?s first single, ?Are You With Me?).
Opener ?Identity Theft? explodes right out of the box, coupling the band?s triple-threat guitar attack with singer Smith?s spitfire vocal delivery, only to delve into haunted harmonics before rearing its ferocious head again. ?Are You with Me,? begins innocently enough but quickly erupts into an onslaught of hard-hitting drums, impassioned screaming and pummeling guitars. ?Cocaine James? is a visceral balls-to-the-wall rocker while album closer ?Van Fong,? ends with a twitchy, nervous energy paired with layered guitars and delicate keys.
However, these stylistic shifts don?t feel forced; they merely sound like the complete realization of what the band merely hinted at with 2004?s There Must Be Some Way To Stop Them.
?Lyrically, I?d say it?s a lot more thought out than anything I?ve done before,? expresses Smith about the thematic content of Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice. ?I think the problem with pop music is that you can listen to the songs and they?re catchy, but there?s nothing to digest,? he continues. ?I was hoping to do something where you can listen to it a bunch of times, and when you?re in a good mood it means one thing and when you?re in a bad mood it can be something completely different.? In fact, life, love, paranoia, self-doubt and ultimately redemption are all present in songs like ?The Last Report From??? yet at the same time, the song is ambiguous enough for the listener to assign his or her own meaning to the words.
But enough about all that. Ultimately, it doesn?t matter what huge bands VAUX has toured with, how long it took for the disc to come out and what label it?s on. What really matters is that Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice is finally here. ?The past couple years have been very telling in regards to what kind of band we are,? says Robison. ?I don?t know if it?s because we don?t give up or we don?t know any better ? but we just keep doing it.?
Whether you embrace them or not, VAUX aren?t going to give up their fight now. So you may as well surrender to Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice while you still can.