Spotlight

TV Girl

“Champagne-sparkling drums and far-away piano drops that bring to mind Jens Lekman’s own follies.” – Pitchfork

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There are two kinds of love songs. There’s the kind that deal in absolutes, the giddy highs of being in love and the devastating lows of breaking up. And then there’s the much more rare variety that explore that tricky gray area where real-life relationships reside, where resentment, relief, exhaustion, and pleasure co-exist in a state of constant tension. San Diego’s TV Girl are practitioners of the latter, taking a “so stark it’s tender” approach similar to Elvis Costello or Harry Nilsson.

TV Girl is Trung Ngo and Brad Petering, long time friends who grew up skating the streets of San Diego and dissecting pop music in each other’s garages and bedrooms. Ngo threw himself into TV Girl when his previous band, party rock band Da Bears, disbanded. TV Girl’s unique sound comes from the combination of Ngo’s sweet voice and subtly twisted lyrics over Petering’s lushly arranged beats, built from samples of everything from Dylan to Tracy Chapman to, as Petering puts it, “some obscure 60’s garage rock song” downloaded haphazardly off the internet.

Of course with any band that relies heavily on samples, there is the inevitable, and inevitably boring, legal conversation. “We figure that if we get big enough to get sued, we’ll be in good shape,” says Petering. The band’s self-titled EP, available for free on their band camp page, consists of no less than 30 sampled elements, some more obvious than others. Would they care if someone sampled one of their songs? “Well, no, but they’d just be sampling samples,” says Ngo.

TV Girl is a quintessential post-modern pop band, gleefully appropriating the best parts of disparate genres but not beholden to the trappings of any of them. Somewhere in the TV Girl mix, you can hear the ear-candy of golden age pop, the word-play and driving back beat of hip-hop, and the sonic exploration of electronica, all spiked with the emotional kick of a singer-songwriter. This is reflected in the band’s stated influences, which range from the aforementioned Nilsson and Costello, to WHY?, J.Dilla, Leonard Cohen and Animal Collective. “Old pop songs, they’re about love, but really they’re about sex.” Nothing much has changed, and for TV Girl, it’s all about finding the best way to say what we all know is going on.