September 10th, 2014

Photo by Angela Ratzlaff

(Photo by Angela Ratzlaff)

After a year of consistently playing shows (including a month-long residency at The Echo) in support 2013’s fantastic Psychotropic Jukebox, LA pop-noir group VUM finally retreated back to their secluded Topanga Canyon home this summer to start working on their third full length. As quickly as I’d resigned myself to going through a VUM drought, they suddenly dropped a new track; a haunting contribution to Manimal Vinyl’s Duran Duran tribute album, Making Patterns Rhyme. The record is the fourth installment in the bi-annual tribute series, and also features Warpaint, Austra, plus many more to benefit Amnesty International. I caught up with Jennifer Pearl to get the backstory on their cover of “Winter Marches On” and find out what the future holds for VUM.

Give us a little bit of background on Making Patterns Rhyme. How did you get involved with Manimal and the tribute project?

Paul Beahan, the owner of all things Manimal, was the mastermind behind the project, which believe I stems from both his admiration of the band and a friendship he has with some of its members. Paul asked VUM to contribute a track, and specifically asked if we would cover “Winter Marches On.”

The dark, minimalistic vibe of “Winter Marches On” seems like a perfect fit for VUM— before this project did you consider Duran Duran to be one of your musical influences?

The track happened to be great fit. Neither Chris nor myself would cite Duran Duran as an influence on VUM’s output, but in part, that is what made covering the track so interesting for us. The original song is so spacious it felt like a wide open plain for us to interject.

The album is (intentionally) mostly B-sides and lesser-known tracks, but you do you have a favorite Duran Duran hit?

Who hasn’t pogoed to “Girls on Film?”

Making Patterns Rhyme features a ton of great artists, is there a track or two that especially stands out to you on the album?

Warpaint’s take on “The Chauffeur” is minty fresh.

Who are some of your favorite bands from the 80s?

OMD, P.I.L. The Creatures, The Human League, Soft Cell, New Order, The Cramps, The Birthday Party, Echo and the Bunnymen, Spacemen 3, Black Flag, Crime and the City Solution, Butthole Surfers, Depeche Mode, The Scientists, Tears for Fears, Visage…

And then, of course, there is the one and only Madonna.

You’ve been very busy the last few years with two full lengths, Night Sun in 2011 and last year’s Psychotropic Jukebox, and well as 2012’s 7-inch Laura Palmer/Are You Animal?. Are you taking a breather, or are you already at work on your next release?

To take a breather would be tantamount to not breathing. We won’t always be able to work at this pace, but for the moment, we are rabidly recording our third full length, due out summer 2015.

What can we expect from the next album? What has been influencing you lately?

The new album is a mosaic of brand new tracks, and tracks we began during the writing periods of Strange Attractor, Night Sun, and Psychotropic Jukebox, but weren’t ready to finish until now. It will include the very first track Christopher Badger and I wrote together on the first day of the band’s formation, for now entitled “Semuc Champey.”

As for influences, we are always straddling the line between pretty disparate genres- guitar heavy psych/prog, post and proto-punk, early synth-pop, etc. Nico’s Desert Shore, New Order’s Movement, OMD’s s/t, and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors are in constant rotation on our record player. We aren’t interested in replicating a particular era verbatim, or meeting the prereqs to be the poster children for a given genre and I think our somewhat schizophrenic output is evidence of this.

I saw your interview in W Magazine where you talk about your home (with fellow band member Christopher Badger) in Topanga Canyon. How does living out there inspire your music?

Living in Topanga Canyon has been the best possible thing for VUM. Christopher and I moved out here seeking the mental and physical space we needed to create. We were interested in its former smattering of sub-cultural art and pop music residents like Wallace Berman, Chris Burden, Neil Young, and members of the Doors. It allows for a very sealed, hermit-style existence, which is perfect for composing and recording music.

What band old or new would you most like to collaborate with?

There are tons of great bands out there right now, but as for collaboration, I think it would be most interesting for us to collaborate with a producer- Geoff Barrow, John Cale, Brian Eno….

I can only assume from your single “Laura Palmer” that you are a David Lynch fan. I think VUM could make a great musical score—have you ever had an interest in working in film?

Yes, Christopher and I have written and recorded tons of ambient and instrumental tracks meant specifically for film. We expect to see some of this catalog turn up in films and on soundtracks over the next couple years.

In my opinion, LA has one of the strongest scenes for female musicians right now. Who are some of your favorite local female artists?

Laena Geronimo- Feels

Ashleigh Allard- Hott MT

Sera Timms- Black Mare, Ides of Gemini

Camella Lobo- Tropic of Cancer

Chelsey Rae Holland- Intimatchine

Are there any shows you’re looking forward to this fall in LA?

Well, I hate festivals so I am glad to see the summer festival season ending. To be honest, the show I am most looking forward to seeing is a film- Rosemary’s Baby at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. As for music, any upcoming shows by Drab Majesty, The Vivids, or Net Shaker are sure to be great. Off topic, the best show I saw in 2014, and maybe ever, was Spiritualized at the Ace in Downtown LA.

And lastly, if you could only pick one: sushi, burritos, or pizza?

SUSHI! Please refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s annual guide/app for sustainability ratings:

The digital release of Making Patterns Rhyme is available now with proceeds supporting Amnesty International, and the vinyl release is slated for October.