Analogue Music | Video Age

Video Age

By Matt Conner

We could all use some healing power.

Given that we're all in the midst of a global pandemic, it's likely safe to assume that the days feel equally heavy for all of us. Margins are long gone. Finding positive mental or emotional health is a struggle. We could all use a little boost.

Enter Video Age, the playful, positive synth pop band from New Orleans with an optimistic goal for their music. Founding members Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli believe "positivity and optimism are essential." Music has healing power, as we all know, and Video Age aims to serve as its vehicle.

The good vibes flow from the opening moments of Pleasure Line, the band's third album (Winspear), and continue throughout on instant earworms like "Aerostar" and the title track. It's a by-product of experimentation aplenty with numerous new synth textures—and a handful of cheap cassettes found in record stores on tour.

It's not that Video Age knew ahead of time that we'd need music like this; it's just what they've been aiming for all along.

Analogue: The new album is certainly optimistic and positive. Was that an aim going into this or is that something that's surfaced given the context of the pandemic?

Ray: Music has always been a positive, healing force for us, I think.

Ross: It's therapy.

Ray: Yeah, it's just how a lot of our music comes out in an optimistic lens. I think there's always a lot of problems and trouble in the world and in life. It's especially tough right now for all of us, but I think our music often sits in that place of optimism.

Ross: But also, if we'd made some angsty album before the pandemic, I'd still hope people could enjoy it.

"Even when we're listening to a lot of music from a different era or if we're inspired by an instrument from a different era, we still strive to put it into a modern world."

Analogue: Does the music come out that way because of a calling of sorts or artistic responsibility? What makes it sit in that place?

Ray: Good question. We want it to fit in the world, but the world is changing all the time.

Ross: It's so rare that we would write something, record it, mix it, and put it out so quickly that it would be directly a response to what's happening when it comes out. I think we try to make things that express a feeling that can last.

Ray: Yeah, that spans over a course of time.

Analogue: I love that last statement about wanting the music to span a length of time—perhaps sound timeless—yet this new album has so many very specific '80s touchpoints.

Ross: As far as the musical direction and vibe of this album and the ones before it, too, that kind of just comes with what's exciting us at the time. Even when we're listening to a lot of music from a different era or if we're inspired by an instrument from a different era, we still strive to put it into a modern world.

Ray: It's always futurism. I think we're always striving for that but with a respect to the past or a nod to the past. When you put those together, with us doing it now, you get something that you might not expect.

Analogue: I'd love to get tangible examples of that. What was the inspiration or instrumentation that had you excited this time around?

Ross: We do a lot of cassette shopping on tour because the van plays tapes. We had a shoebox full of tapes by the end of the year touring that we were just buying cheap used tapes at record stores everywhere we stopped. A few that really were on repeat and definitely were exciting to us and inspirational during that time was a Janet Jackson album called Control, a B-52s album called Cosmic Thing, a few Prince records. I listened to Parade so much. Sade's Diamond Life.

As far as new sounds we were playing with for this album, the last one we made entirely with two synths and guitars, obviously, and a drum machine. But as far as synth textures, it's all just a Roland JX-3P and a DX7 [Yamaha]. Not to say you need more than that, but we were wanting to have some new textures to play with and we found this '90s rackmount synth that had, like, 1,000 sounds packed into it. That was really fun and kind of shinier-sounding than any of our previous synths. We were also contrasting that shiny digital vibe with a a Moog knock-off made by Behringer that we used for bass lines and stuff like that.

So I guess you could kind of say we were trying to get bigger in both directions, higher and lower.

Ray: Did the Rhodes end up on it? We also went old school Rhodes.

Ross: The Rhodes is on a couple tracks. A friend moved out of town and had a Rhodes he didn't want to move with, so the Rhodes made it on the album, too.

Analogue: For lack of a better word, that just sounds fun to have all of these new layers to experiment and play with.

Ray: Yeah, we just blocked out two weeks in Ross's living room, and we were there from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day. We were just going through sounds and surviving on coffee and nuts and stuff.

Ross: I guess we ate.

Ray: I don't remember what we ate, but it was a lot of sounds.

Analogue: This is the third album. What's the mindset there having the experience you have along with the expectations of the audience you've earned after Pop Therapy?

Ray: Yeah, it's so fun. Such a great feeling.

Ross: It was incredible doing all the touring we did for Pop Therapy, playing shows for people all over the place that knew the songs. More people listened to Pop Therapy than anything we made before, which we're just so thankful for that. I definitely think it was in the back of our minds to be playing for the people who liked Pop Therapy when we were writing and recording these new songs. We're not trying to make the same thing twice, but it's definitely not inhibiting but inspiring to know there are people out there who dig the music we've put out and are excited to hear more.

"We would definitely be doing this even if it was just for ourselves, so we're super thankful and appreciative for all of the people who enjoy it and support us in doing it."

Ray: Someone said that this album would be like us really being ourselves. It was backed up. The first album was really DIY. The second album, people were listening to it but this album allowed us to really do our thing. It's our first with a bigger record label. Inflated is amazing, but it's a smaller operation, so this is the first record where someone asked us to make a record.

Analogue: So you don't feel the pressure to live up to expectations but rather it's a joy to do so?

Ray: Yeah, we're lucky in that way. That's definitely how we feel.

Ross: We'd be doing this either way. We've been playing music our whole lives and we would definitely be doing this even if it was just for ourselves, so we're super thankful and appreciative for all of the people who enjoy it and support us in doing it.

VISIT: Video Age

Photo: Alex H. Payne