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Girls Against Boys – Fighting the Good Fight

Alexis Fleisig – Drums
Eli Janney –
Scott McCloud –
Johnny Temple –

If you’ve ever been to SXSW, the annual music conference in Austin, you’ve experienced the brain overload of trying to figure which of the 1,000 bands playing you’ll be able to see. You’ll also realize why cloning is being researched. My cohort and I were anal about making sure we scanned the schedule thoroughly, plotting our attack and synchronizing our watches to ensure we didn’t miss any band or musician that was near and dear to our hearts. One band that was circled and highlighted was Girls Against Boys (or as some of us lazy people call them, GVSB). They’re brand of sensual yet brazen noise rock pulled me in the first time I heard House of GVSB back in 1996, and since 1990, they had steadily released new music and grown their fan base.

Since it had been four years since their last release, Freak*on*ica, I had wondered what happened to them. They had been busy, but in the wrong way.

The boys had first hand knowledge of the mess the music industry has been in for the last five years or so. Between the fight over digital rights and the record executive’s resistance to technology, and bigger labels swallowing up smaller labels, bands got caught in the cross fire. This included Girls Against Boys. Four months after that last release, Freak*on*ica, Universal had a merger and the band’s label, Geffen, went into limbo for a number of months. This put the band into limbo as well, and their calls about what was going on and attempts at submitting new music were met by deaf ears for a long period of time. But thankfully, stipulations within a record contract were finally used for the good of a band, and GVSB were released from custody.

Girls Against Boys are now back calling a smaller, independent label, Jade Tree, their new home. They’re also in the midst of a nationwide tour to promote their eighth release, You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See, a not so subtle testament to what they’ve endeared over the past few years. They will take their new music to the Bluebird stage when they perform with Radio 4 and our own Against Tomorrow Sky on Tuesday, September 10.

Drummer Alexis Fleisig called me from a terrace in New York City to provide some insight on their new lease on life,” It’s nice to be back with a company you can get on the phone with right away, and not get a lot of promises that were never said.” Alexis states that after looking at a number of labels, “Jade Tree seemed to be most on par for where we wanted to be. They were really exited about it, and we wanted to be with a label that was excited about us.” If you look at Jade Tree’s roster, which includes a number of bands that have quite a following – The Promise Ring, Jets To Brazil, Pedro The Lion – this direct connection of ‘label to band’ seems to be working. And now GVSB can actually do what they do – make new music, put it out on a CD, and tour.

Prior to heading out on the US roads, they toured for the first time in Australia. “It was really great, including the bands we played with called Magic Dirt and Nation Blue,” Alexis says of the local Australian talent. They also partook in the country’s extracurricular activities, “I went waveboarding, but it’s winter over there. So we also went snowboarding. Normally I ski,” he says, confessing that he felt he needed to at least try snowboarding since skiing is not, “the cool thing to do anymore. I was surprised at how well I did considering it was my first day.”

In 1996 they also had quit an experience playing the first Mt. Fuji Festival in 1996, “We got to play that Friday, but it was [eventually] canceled because of the Typhoon. But the people were amazing…tons of people and they were all, really, really patient. Just bizarre things happened that you would never see at a concert,” such as asking everyone to pass their backpacks to the front stage because people were getting crushed by them, “and everyone did. Can you imagine? There’s like, 20 thousand backpacks in a big pile.” And because of the rain, people were starting to feel the effects, some getting carried off in stretchers. The show was finally shut down when the Red Hot Chili Peppers hit the stage and, “the rain got so insane and the wind was going so badly, that it started to get on the stage, so they canceled the rest of the show.”

In addition to supporting GVSB’s new release through touring, Jade Tree seems to also be embracing technology, but with new developments that definitely lean in the label’s favor, including a data encrypted CD they’ve presented to the band, “Have you heard of that? It’s smaller than a mini-CD and has 500 mg of storage, so it’s not quite as big as a regular CD. They’re going to try to start marketing that. But it’s data encrypted, so you can’t copy it. So just when you had updated your entire record collection to CDs, now you can do it all over again.” I still don’t have a DVD player, so think I’ll pass on that one. Plus, my “data encrypted CD player” could end up on the shelf next to my Betamax.

After hearing GVSB’s new material at SXSW and on the new CD, it was evident that they had gone back to basics. Moving away from the electronic twists and rhythms on their last album, You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See is a return to their roots of stripped down but heavy guitars, charged bass lines, and a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” approach to their enticing rock energy.

“Having been through a long ordeal with making this record and touring on Freak*on*ica, we were more interested in getting the stuff that we had written out,” Alexis says, explaining that after too many months working on their last record, they now wanted to “get it done faster and have it be more immediate, raw, and sort of rough. In a way, go back to the Venus Lux, a Touch N Go record, and get more in touch with that. With our first record, Tropic of Scorpio, it was really experimental. When we went on tour, we found that a lot of it just didn’t work live. In a way that’s what we found with Freak*on*ica, playing a song that doesn’t have the same thing that we were going for on the record. In some ways they were better live, and in other ways not. I think we were pretty burned out with tweaking stuff so much. Wanted something that when we listened to it, was rougher and less polished.”

They did take less time this time around, and since time is money, especially when you’re recording a record. Alexis explains that working with an indie label’s smaller budget was actually a good thing, “We had some limitations that we didn’t have on the last record. We found that having limitations is a really good thing. You don’t spend a lot of time making decisions that could be bad decisions.” He even reflects on the days gone by where they used to just record on “little handset recorders. You get this compression and dirty sound that sounds really cool. You can never really tell what’s going on, so you just use your imagination to make it sound good in your own head,” but he explains that when the high-end recording equipment is thrown into the mix, “it doesn’t have that same sound because you can tell what’s going on. So I think we should just go back to using cassette recorders,” Alexis says, half jokingly.

Although the new release is filled a rough and ready persona, it still carries plenty of melodic hooks and harmonies on tracks BFF, and Kicking the Lights, which seems to have a hint of female background vocals on it. But in talking with Alexis, that wasn’t the case, “It was Scott’s guitar ’cause it’s a two bass song. And that vocal line – Eli probably put some effect on his voice. The last record we had some people working with us, but not on this one.”

Who they have kept in their corner is Ted Nicely, who also produced all three GVSB records on Touch N Go,”We’ve had a long relationship with Ted, which goes back to DC He just fit right into that idea of doing something more immediate and quick.”

Picking up the lyric sheet, you can’t help but notice the defiant mood on Basstation, “I wont’ listen to reason, I won’t listen to you,” then an obvious jab at the past on 300 Looks, “I don’t like Hollywood but I keep pushing…pushing is like an obsession” and in the same realm, Tweaker, “let us space our days away in NY vs LA.” But on the last track, they believe you may be able to achieve optimism after a few beers and a nice ride on Let It Breathe, “it’s a new world, come inside, you can always force a smile..get yourself happy…how can you say no to that, we limo to booze heaven.”

So who is responsible for crafting their frustration and aggression into words? “Mostly it’s just Scott doing it. We used to be more collaborative,” Alexis says, explaining that after a 12-year marriage with all the original band members, they’ve worked out a way to making it all work, “we’re very entrenched in our roles now. I’m the drummer. He’s the lyricist. Having done so many records we have certain relationships that we fall into. Scott doesn’t particularly like to be critiqued on his lyrics. Sometimes if we hate ’em, we’ll say we hate the lyrics,” but in a cautionary way, since Scott is the sensitive artist type, “but aren’t we all,” he says, laughing.

When I last spoke with Alexis, I asked them if they ever did a tour diary. They hadn’t, and he wondered, “Who would read it?” I told him plenty of people, from fans wanting to have a direct connection to the band by reading excerpts of their experiences, to a journalist looking for stories of what happens on the road. Now I’m not saying I had ANYTHING to do with this, and there is a thing called coincidence, but if you go to their web site at, you’ll never guess what’s up on their site as of September 5th – A Tour Diary. Let’s just say I felt no guilt in grabbing some of their tour pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s a bit of what’s gone on:

“Today is our first day of the tour-everything went smoothly, alexis and scott were late as hell, we got stuck in a lot of traffic leaving new york… we played a bunch of old songs we never play including wilmington, crash 17 (x-rated car) and sexy sam. it was nice to get the dust off. eli hit himself in the face with his bass like a dumbass. alexis broke his bass pedal-nice going on the first day. johnny and scott just looked damn sexy.”

So there ya go. Be there Tuesday night at the Bluebird or be square like a two-planker.

WIN FREE TICKETS TO SEE GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, radio 4, and against tomorrow sky performing September 10- click here to enter!


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