Not That Similar

Local electronic faves ... music video? prepare for their first tour

The secret ingredient in the live performances of Tucson electronic duo ... music video? is a common device that many of us carry in our pockets to the gym or on walks: the iPod, which keyboardist-singer Paul Jenkins and guitarist Wes McCanse use to play backing tracks during gigs.

"We run the iPod through an AirFX box, which allows us to make a bunch of sounds," Jenkins said during a recent interview.

"First, we had a laptop on stage with us, and we would play files of all our tracks from the recording studio," McCanse added. "But we started using the iPod. It's easier and less of an expensive item to have to move on and off stage than a PowerBook."

The Tucson Weekly spoke with McCanse and Jenkins, who are both 26, during a three-way conference call last week.

With two albums under its collective belt, ... music video? is one of the most promising (and one of the busiest) of Tucson's electronic acts.

The duo recently played the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, and that brought them to the attention of National Public Radio, which featured ... music video? in an article on its music Web site.

Now they are preparing for their first concert tour, planning a two-week jaunt through Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. They'll have to take vacation time from their jobs at Zip's Music and Video (Jenkins) and Starbucks (McCanse).

Although ... music video? often plays as an opening act for a diverse assortment of out-of-town bands, they will headline a gig on Friday night, July 11, at Plush. The duo is also scheduled to open the show for Tilly and the Wall on July 13 at Club Congress.

Included among the groups ... music video? has played with are pop, punk, electronic and alternative bands. "It's strange, the bands we get paired up with sometimes," Jenkins said.

McCanse figured that because ... music video? is unique, it gets billed with other unique acts.

"I don't think we're compared very often to the bands we play with. I mean, we're not that similar to most of them. I think we get put on bills with bands that sound different than most, because we sound different."

The pair does feel comfortable, however, playing with most other Tucson bands. They mentioned that they are friendly with most of the bands in the local music community.

"I don't think there are that many rivalries, or any unhealthy competitiveness. I think the scene tends to be very supportive, at least of us," Jenkins said.

McCanse was born in Tucson, and Jenkins has lived here since he was 8 years old. Both are products of the Tucson Unified School District, McCanse having gone to Sahuaro High School, and Jenkins to Rincon.

Jenkins grew up on a diet of gangsta rap, and McCanse was into grunge, but they bonded over progressive rock. That interest evolved into a mutual affection for artists such as Radiohead, Massive Attack, Sigur Rós and Portishead.

They started playing together as teenagers in the progressive rock band Swivelfish, which also counted as a member Ryan Green, now of the popular duo Ryanhood.

While Jenkins has played piano since he was 6, McCanse got his first guitar at 13 and began recording music a year later.

"It started out really simply by buying a four-track recorder," McCanse said. "It really surprised me that I already could put something together that sounded like a composed song."

After high school, and following a year studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, McCanse returned to Tucson, and ... music video? was formed. The two started playing in clubs together in 2003.

Through the release of Fireproof Your TV in 2004 and last year's Now That My TV Has Wings I'll Never Be Lonely, ... music video? has developed a surprisingly rich sound that combines elements of Radiohead, shoegaze, 4AD bands, glitchcore, IDM, 1980s synth-pop, drum-and-bass and classic-pop melodies.

The duo is a good three-quarters of the way through recording its third album, but they are debating whether to release it as a CD or simply as a digital download. The first albums are available on iTunes, and through other services.

"We've made way more money through digital sales than with CDs, and we've got boxes of them left," Jenkins said. "At the same time, I don't like the idea of people wanting to buy a CD and not being able to."

Like the first two CDs, the new one will be released independently. In the past, McCanse and Jenkins tried to drum up record-company interest, but received lukewarm reactions. "If we did get a response, it was always, 'Thanks, but no thanks,'" Jenkins said.

"After that, we didn't feel like there was much point to it," McCanse said. "I think we feel content releasing the albums ourselves."

Jenkins admitted that he and McCanse came up with the duo's performing name (at first, it was simply Music Video) before they began writing music.

Although the name of the duo implies an ironic commentary on the music business' primary focus on image, Jenkins said his lyrics are not always as cynical. Often, they depict an earnest, or even tortured, emotional landscape.

Now That My TV Has Wings includes such lines as, "I'm good at convincing you you're wrong," "Nothing stunts your growth like true romance," and, "Though I still can't get over myself, I'm gonna try."

Jenkins said he splits his writing time between autobiographical material and fictional third-person narratives.

"It can be about what's going on in my life at that moment. Or sometimes, I'll just try to come up with a random story."

He mentions "The Little Boy on Fire," a plaintive highlight on the second album, as an example. "Some people have asked if that song is about me. I have to say, no, my parents didn't force me to play piano. It was my decision. I just wanted to write a song about a boy that had to practice and couldn't go outside to play."

McCanse added, "When I read a lot of Paul's lyrics, he is such a really good storyteller that sometimes, I don't know where the autobiographical stuff stops and where the storytelling begins. That difference helps keep me


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