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BNLX cover Lana Del Rey's "Video Games," release EP Saturday

The fiery local group BNLX have pulled off some interesting covers over the course of their seven different EPs, but their take on Lana Del Rey's "Video Games" has caused more raised eyebrows and nodding heads than anything they have tackled since their blistering, distortion-filled rendition of Prince's "When Doves Cry."

Ahead of their release show for EP #7, Gimme Noise was able to ask Ed and Ashley Ackerson some questions about if they've got any plans to ever release a full-length, their delightfully droll marketing campaign, and what went into making their new video for "See What I See." Check out their answers, the video, and exclusive access to their cover of "Video Games" below.

Gimme Noise: How do you think your sound and style has evolved over the course of all 7 of your EPs?

BNLX: We started BNLX out with a certain set of aesthetic "rules" in place, and we've been conscious of staying on target with the original idea. Sonically however I think the band has been getting a little more hi-fi, a bit less abrasive, a bit more melodic. At this point we've played over 100 live shows too, which has definitely influenced and sharpened the band's dynamic. The vibe is still psychedelic punk and post-punk, but it's been getting a bit more danceable and a bit less frenzied lately.

Do you have any plans to ever release a full-length, or does the immediacy of the EP suit your objectives?

We are indeed planning on putting a full-length out later in 2012. While the EP releases have given us a great platform for continuous communication/indoctrination of the public, we also recognize the appeal of presenting material in long-form context. Our releases to date have been really intense, short blasts of sound. A full-length will provide a different way of experiencing the music, and opportunities for sequencing songs in a more dynamic way.

Another appeal of the album to us is the archaic nature of the format. In 2012, it seems almost irrelevant to conform artistic output to an arbitrary and antiquated container. The container creates a space BNLX would like to play in, at least temporarily.

Even if we do an album this year, we will continue to release other stuff at regular intervals. I spent years on major labels waiting for records to come out, at this point we have complete autonomy and can do things 100 percent on our own timetable.

There is a real melodic appeal to this new batch of songs, especially on the New Order-like "Meet Me On The Barricades." Was that an intentional direction you wanted to take your sound, or just a matter of your influences finding their way into your songwriting?

The earliest material we released was selected to be as brash and angular as possible. We wanted to make a clear statement that this band was not a continuation of any of our previous projects, and that our goals were to agitate as much as entertain. As we have moved on, certain more conventional pop elements have infiltrated the mix a bit. The new EP is pretty melodic, and some of our forthcoming material is even more so. But at the same time, "Round the Dial" on the new EP is full of the most horrible and scary noises we've put in a song to date. I expect that we will evolve to be catchier but also more extreme as time goes on.

How has producing so many other albums by different artists affected your approach to your own songwriting and the sounds you are looking to inject within your own music?

I learn a ton from working with different people. I really enjoy seeing the things that inspire other artists, also seeing the way they solve problems within their art or interpersonally. I'm very fortunate in that my job is also a daily laboratory in which I can develop new techniques and see the results immediately. The perspective gained from working with a diverse range of awesome talented people is something I appreciate and am very grateful for.

How and when did you hook up with David Jarnstrom, and what caused you to want to add another rhythmic layer to your textured live sound?

David has actually been with us from day one, he's played drums on every release since EP #1. He comes from a punk rock background, which is very important because he understands high energy music and can keep up with our very fast and aggressive material. Not many drummers have the stamina or psychology necessary to work with drum machines and loops in the way we do, either. 

Although he has been recording with us since the beginning, he's only been playing live with us since our fall tour last year. We haven't payed too many local shows in the last few months, so a lot of people haven't seen BNLX with real drums. I hope they do -- we're a lot better with David! He's a great player and a huge part of what makes this band fun for me.

So, what drew you to cover Lana Del Rey's "Video Games?" What are your thoughts on her rapid ascension to the pop pinnacle and the following backlash?

I honestly don't know how I feel about the song, which is why it seemed like a good idea to cover it. There's a certain tone to the lyric that's really interesting, a combination of defiance, resignation, and sarcasm. It's really difficult to tell the true perspective of the protagonist, it's ambiguous. It's an extremely strange song to be a huge hit.



The drubbing she took for that SNL appearance was way over the top. But we live in an age of exaggerated gestures in pop culture and media. For good and ill, lots of things explode far beyond what actual circumstances or merit justify.

 

I've always gotten a kick out of your matter-of-fact, business-speak marketing campaign. How did the idea for that type of promotion originate?

I get a lot of press releases, and most contain incredibly banal and uncommunicative writing. The backstory of bands is often presented in a generic and meaningless way: "Bobby and Amanda met each other at some college, and after they made their demo in Garageband, they got a drummer and started playing gigs. After that, they borrowed money from Bobby's mom and moved to Brooklyn." Press materials like that are punishingly boring and convey little about the music.

We decided that we might as well take the uninformative and redundant form to its logical conclusion. We present the information we consider important (release dates, etc.) as highlights, amongst a crescendo PR background noise, hyperbole, and occasional outright disinformation. We consider our PR materials to be almost as important to the overall BNLX presentation as the music itself.

You were the only band that brought a light show along with them to the recent Mid West Music Fest -- how important is it to you to have a visual accompaniment to your music? And how do you see it adding to the live experience?

We really want the BNLX live experience to be immersive and memorable, so visuals are a big component. By bringing lights we can create a sort of instant environment, and that environment goes with us wherever we're playing. Our friend PD Larson is an integral part of the design and operation of the lighting rig. 

When I was first starting to play music, seeing lightshows and projections, used by bands like the Flaming Lips and Spiritualized, was very influential on me. Those bands were using fairly simple visual elements, but the overall effect was to make it all seem like a real happening. I like to feel a sense of elevation or transportation at a rock show.

BNLX is a 100 percent DIY operation. We record and manufacture our own music, do our own art and videos, run our own label. It's a total experience, and we hope that the lights, sound, and other elements add up to something that's unique and engaging to people. The whole thing is a 360 degree art project, and it's very fun to put it together.

You recently shot a video for "See What I See." How did that come about, and where was it filmed?

The most recent video was filmed in London last fall. We travel all around the US, Europe and Asia fairly frequently, and shoot tons of video everywhere we go.There was a very loose initial concept of contrasting black and white imagery of old establishment central London with the vibrant, colorful, messy street culture in Brick Lane and Shoreditch. But mostly it's us running around being silly. The last video we did for the song "Vaporize" off EP #6 was shot in Berlin and had a very sinister tone, so we wanted this one to be more fun.

BNLX EP #7 release party is on Saturday, April 28, at The Nicholas Edward Hall, a new concert venue located across the alley from Joe's Garage on Loring Park. Idle Hands, Prissy Clerks, and Launch Party will also be performing along with BNLX, with music starting at 9.


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