Published Jun 20, 2008No, its not what youre thinking. This isnt the debut album by the veteran actor best known for 70s sitcom Barney Miller and his multitude of premature obituaries. Instead, its a relatively young band from Los Angeles via Chino who have enough pep and pop in them to resurrect any dead TV star. Just in time for the summer, this Los Angeles crew have prepped a warm and sunny first record for No Age drummer Dean Spunts PPM label. Tagged appropriately as "tropical pop punk, Abe Vigoda inject Caribbean vibes and worldly rhythms into the DIY punk ethics they grew up with. The result is Skeleton, a restless effort that sounds like a completely different band from the amateurish noise of their 2006 debut, Kid City. Though the jittery power is still very much present, the band have narrowed their focus and sharpened their skill, turning the Afro-leaning rhythms that Vampire Weekend recently popularised for the indie set upside down. These rhythmic left turns are aided by their frantic bursts of melodic dissonance, which play out like an arm wrestling match between sweetness and chaos. Skeleton is very much like the warm sounds youd hear radiating from Club Med. That is if it was overrun by kids freaking out on a laced Kool-Aid high.
So, I take it youre all Barney Miller fans?
Guitarist/vocalist Juan Velazquez: I think people need to know that when we thought of the band name we were only like, 15 or 16. I think its a terrible band name; its kinda cheesy. Theres no reason really. We thought he was kinda funny, seeing him on Conan all the time. At the time we thought it would be a funny joke to name the band Abe Vigoda. I think it looks good written on paper though.
Have you ever heard from his people?
No, but I have a feeling that we might soon because this record is a bigger deal, like its on Amazon, and were getting press for it. Maybe hell hear about it, and I dont know what to do if he freaks out. I guess wed have to change our name. I dont know how that works.
So I take it youre familiar with AbeVigoda.com and the song "Abe Vigodas Dead, which basically uses Bauhaus "Bela Lugosis Dead?
Yeah, I think somebody thought it was us and put it up on some blog, saying it was us.
You guys are from Chino. Do you feel The O.C. gave your town a bad name?
Yeah, its really funny because Chino doesnt look anything like how they portray it on The O.C. Its actually much more boring than that, it looks like suburbs, like nothing done in a Spanish style, like stucco. The show just made it look more interesting. Actually, on the L.A. news maybe on Fox, there was a report on a new strip mall saying people were up in arms about how Chino was being portrayed, and then they listed all the great things about living in Chino.
Skeleton has a lot of different flavours clashing together harmoniously. Was that difficult to achieve?
Not really. It wasnt like we were disagreeing. I know Im gonna make it sound lame, but it was pretty easy writing these new songs. It took us a while, but it wasnt like we couldnt fit everything together.
Your previous album, Kid City, was a lot noisier. What made you bring in all of the melodies?
Yeah, we used to be more no wave-y and punk than we sound like now, I guess. It was spontaneously aggressive music. Then we just wrote some new songs that had this poppy element to them. Its not that we were holding back the pop, but it just kinda came out. It was always sort of there, and then we learned how to play our instruments better and just let it happen more often.
And we wanted to have a different take on writing pop songs, like adding a world music influence But now that seems pretty popular. Im not gonna say anything other than it seems to be very popular right now. People are starting to say to us, "Oh, you guys are just jumping on the bandwagon. But not really, since we wrote all these songs a long time ago.
The tropical sound is pretty popular right now with Vampire Weekend and El Guincho. Do you think people are just looking for warmer vibes for the summer?
[Laughs] I guess. I mean, we recorded the album in the winter, but since it was in Los Angeles that doesnt really mean anything. I dunno, people seem to be really drawn to it. But we are too. High Places is one of the bands we all totally agree on. Weve talked with them about [this tropical] thing. We dont know Vampire Weekend or El Guincho, its just all managed to happen at the same time. People always want to find connections to make it a nicely rounded story. I feel that were not as minimal as them; the rhythm is similar, and a lot more pop-song-oriented. But theres an overlap for sure that I can hear.
How do you feel about the "tropical pop punk tag?
It makes sense. We got really into that vibe, so we started playing it more. It was a different take on pop music, but now it seems pretty popular! (Post Present Medium)