Le Vice debuts its first CD at Alternative Café in Seaside.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Alex Lee, MC for the local band Le Vice, doesn’t think its self-titled debut LP – which will be showcased at the Alternative Café on Saturday night – should be labeled as a hip-hop album.
“It’s is not a hip-hop record; it has an ’80s tinge to it,” Lee says. “It’s not an Alex Lee record or an A. Lee record; it’s a Le Vice record. I’m just the front woman in a band with really good musicians.”
Though there are some hip-hop elements on the album, it’s really a Technicolor mash-up of everything from Blondie to David Bowie to dance-pop.
Lee says it’s a product of dynamic and differing tastes among her and her fellow bandmembers, bassist Sean Stillinger, guitarist Renzo Staiano and drummer Darrin Thomas. “We all have different favorite bands,” she says.
“[The music] begins with hip-hop,” Stillinger adds, “but really has roots in funk and electro-pop, like Rick James, so it’s pretty eclectic.”
The Euro synth-heavy “Say A” teeters somewhere between Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” and Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam,” with an added touch of smooth jazz guitar hovering in the distant background.
For four musicians, all with completely different musical backgrounds, rehearsals are where it all comes together and songs are churned out, quick like.
“We’ll have rehearsal and everybody will just jam,” Lee says. “Something always comes about; usually while [the band] is doing that, I’ll try to work something out in my head and come up with a hook.”
“She Wanna” is definitely in the spirit of Virginian tough-gal rapper, Missy Elliott. Through thick synthetic clouds of grinding MGMT keys, a club drumbeat and cosmic sound effects, Lee sings flirtatiously: “Watcha lookin fo’? Why don’t we hit the flo’?”
“It’s not at all about me,” Lee says with a chuckle. “It’s about party girls.”
Having the opportunity to record a studio album was thrilling for the quartet, but Le Vice really shines on a stage, grooving in front of a dancing crowd.
“Live performances are huge because before there’s a record you could put on a show,” Lee says. “The reason I started playing with the band was for the live performance.”
Le Vice spent most of the past summer on the road playing everywhere from The Starry Plough in Berkeley to the West Beach Music and Arts Festival in Santa Barbara. Lee says the most memorable show for the band was in Big Sur.
“The Esalen Festival was so wild,” she says. “The crowd was so down.”
But it was time for an album, so Le Vice set up shop at John Flores’ Studio SQ in San Francisco. NOFX and the Melvins have recorded albums at the same studio.
“The recording experience was fantastic,” Lee says. “We used every piece of gear they had in that studio – all the old synths, all the guitars. It was great.”
Le Vice will use the money raised from the show at Alternative Café to launch a nationwide, college radio campaign. Admission includes food and wine and a copy of Le Vice’s forthcoming CD.