Henry Allen and Preston Walker of Virtual Boy are two modest guys, mild-mannered to the point of shyness. They are prompt and polite; their hair isn't shaved ridiculously. Their music isn't the product of drug-fueled benders or nightclub culture. They are the opposite of what you'd expect from a rising electro-pop duo.
So is their eponymous debut, out tomorrow, February 7, on Alpha Pup records. It's more OK Computer than Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites; a haunting concept album described by the band as an “intergalactic love story” and recorded entirely on a ranch in New Mexico.
They set up shop with no internet or TV in a rural town called Corrales. In the middle of the desert with no distractions, they banged out track after track in marathon recording sessions. For fun, they rode horses and watched the sun set behind the hills. At dusk they would sit and listen to the coyotes holler at each other, “like they were having strange conversations.”
“When we first tried to record our debut in a studio in California, we couldn't get anything done,” says Allen. “It was a mess. We really needed this sense of escape. We needed not to have a reference point.” The isolation of the landscape helped them focus; it's beautiful desolation inspired their melancholy sounds.
Listening to Virtual Boy, you can almost hear the sinewy rhythms echoing off of canyon walls, as if members of another world were landing, un-welcomed, in the desert dark. There is a sense of unrest, as if something is coming down the pike and coming fast — either doom or salvation.
It's a wonderfully filmic piece, which makes sense because Allen and Walker plan to score films together. They certainly have the technical prowess (both are classically trained musicians) and seem mature beyond their 22 years, more interested in collecting vintage synths than the dark spoils of notoriety.
That type of perspective pays dividends in story-telling ability, and you can hear echoes of Trent Reznor's excellent Social Network arrangements in their work. “Our dream project would be to score a
post-apolatipic post-apocalyptic Western directed by Clint Eastwood,” says Walker.
But in a way, they've already made one. Virtual Boy is everything a good western should be: escapist, pining, and lonely as hell.
Virtual Boy's album release party will be held Wednesday, February 8th at Low End Theory.