Times New Viking has had a remarkable ascent to the upper echelon of the indie-rock universe, especially considering the trio formed on a whim after graduating from CCAD in 2004. Now the band has an album coming out April 26 on Merge Records-home to Arcade Fire, winner of Album of the Year at this year's Grammy Awards.
But no matter the venerable label or critical plaudits, Times New Viking has kept its DIY aesthetic intact. While most bands use computer programs to record, TNV has stuck to old four-track recorders, only recently graduating to Musicol, a local studio known for its vintage equipment.
Likewise, the band's album covers have made heavy use of photocopied material. And for music videos, the group found kindred spirits in Columbus artists Brandon Reichard and Pelham Johnston, both 25-year-old former Ohio State students. The pair has directed five TNV videos using antiquated techniques, such as shooting on 8mm film and developing it by hand.
Times New Viking's latest video is the pair's most ambitious undertaking. The video for the song "No Room to Live" starts normally enough with the three band members exiting guitarist Jared Phillips's north campus apartment en route to Cafe Bourbon Street. But after a few seconds, the video is anything but normal. Keyboardist/vocalist Beth Murphy grows horns and red hair, and the scene becomes an animation that changes so fast, if you blink, you've missed an entirely new drawing.
Those drawings came from about 40 artists, most of them local, including some visual-art novices, even a 9-year-old girl. It came together like this: Reichard and Johnston put a simple "coloring book" computer effect over the original video to make it look like a black-and-white line drawing. Then, after adjusting the video's speed to 12 frames per second, every single frame (about 3,000) was printed out on 8.5-by-11-inch paper.
"We had a stack about three-and-a-half-feet high of computer paper," Reichard says.
Johnston and Reichard gave the artists a paper-clipped packet of printed frames to color or decorate however they desired over two months; most artists received 12 frames (one second), but some did more.
Times New Viking loved the communal approach to the video. "Our band has always been into collaborative art," says drummer/vocalist Adam Elliott.
Reichard says the video "really struck a chord with people. We just found out it's going to be shown in a gallery in Naples, Italy. That's pretty mind-blowing." (See the video at columbusmonthly.com.)
These days, Reichard's place is littered with cardboard and spray paint as he and Johnston finish the video for the next song, "Ever Falling in Love," which will feature costumed actors and a miniature set.
"It's just as much, if not more, ambitious than the last one, and I think the reward could be just as good," Reichard says.