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Le VICE Bring ‘Boys And Girls’ To Art Boutiki

In Music
VICE SQUAD: Bay Area genre-benders Le VICE are getting ambitious with their forthcoming visual EP. Photo by Hailley Howard.

VICE SQUAD: Bay Area genre-benders Le VICE are getting ambitious with their forthcoming visual EP. Photo by Hailley Howard.

Visual albums can be unforgiving. They generally take an exponential amount of time and effort to create compared with their audio-only counterparts. And with the exception of Prince’s Purple Rain and Beyonce’s Lemonade, few such efforts have succeeded in pulling in viewers beyond an artist’s core fanbase.

Even Endless, Frank Ocean’s masterful visual album that materialized from a series of mysterious streams last summer, had fans downloading illegal rips of the album to separate it from the video component.

San Francisco hip-hop and pop outfit Le VICE aren’t concerned with all that. According to producer and bassist Sean Stillinger, their upcoming five-track project Boys and Girls began taking shape as a visual album early on.

“There was a little songwriting stint we had where we wrote about 25 songs and there were these five that we thought were strongest and worked best together,” Stillinger says over the phone.

Currently in the mixing and color-correction stage, the album is almost done. Boys and Girls should be out by the end of 2017, according to Le VICE. The project itself is made up of live performance footage in combination with an original narrative.

Founding member and front woman Alex Lee says it’s been a long time coming. “We’ve been working on the visual aspect for almost a year,” she says. “It’s partially a real-live performance we filmed, and then we made a story around that moment.” All of the video production for Boys and Girls is being handled by Berkeley-based The Clock Factory.

Le Vice: Boys & Girls (Teaser) from The Clock Factory on Vimeo.

The visuals aren’t the only thing that set this EP apart from the group’s last album, 2013’s The Payoff. Stillinger says this time he and Lee put together every part of the music in tandem.

”The process is always evolving, but with The Payoff it was me doing the production with the band and Alex writing the melodies and lyrics,” Stillinger says. “But for the stuff we have now, me and Alex wrote the songs together on the guitar first. Words, melody and everything were created together.” 

This synergistic creative process is apparent when watching the trailer for Boys and Girls’ title track; all the pieces blend and work together seamlessly.

A synthesized organ melody sets the stage before Lee’s vocals come in. The melodic thread of synths starts to fray and fan out before snapping back into their original form with Lee in the middle of it all.

Although she’s singing here, Lee’s vocals usually split the difference between rapping and singing, and she’s pretty good at both.

“Find You,” the second track from their last album, has Lee rapping over a backdrop of tightly picked guitar riffs, then shifting into double time before slowing everything down to sing the chorus. The bridge comes in about halfway through and sees Lee easing into a spoken-word delivery before the song ramps up to its climax.

Asked about what influenced them most when writing this new album, Lee answered Yeezus by Kanye West and Stillinger came back with Rumours from Fleetwood Mac. It makes sense that the two answers would be so disparate considering all of the genre-bending going on in Le VICE’s music. 

Though they are now based in San Francisco, the two founding members actually got their start back in Monterey when Stillinger was playing with bands in the area and Lee was putting out her first solo project.

Lee says Le VICE have always been influenced by the Bay Area’s diverse music scene. Their first EP, Neverland, even had a feature from the hyphy movement’s own Mistah F.A.B.

“This is our home,” Lee says of the Bay Area. “I live in S.F. and Sean lives in Oakland. And even back then this was always the closest metropolitan area, this is where we got a lot of our inspiration.”

San Jose fans will likely get the chance to hear the upcoming project in full when the group comes to Art Boutiki this Saturday. The bill will be rounded out by veteran South Bay alt rockers Picture Atlantic and Oakland singer-songwriter Emily Brown.

Le VICE
Aug 5, 7:30pm, $12
Art Boutiki, San Jose
artboutiki.com

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