Girls Against Boys
Girls Against Boys
Girls Against Boys originally formed as a studio project between members of two local Washington, D.C. punk bands. Brendan Canty, drummer from Fugazi, and Eli Janney, Soul Side’s soundman, laid down two “no rules” studio tracks and called up Scott McCloud, singer and guitarist from Soul Side, to provide the vocals for the studio project dubbed Skind. In 1988 Janney, Canty, and McCloud again hit the studio with the “no rules” philosophy and recorded three songs. The three decided to call their second studio project Girls Against Boys (GVSB). The name was a play on the aggressive ‘cock rock’ movement of the time. Their studio project influences included aggressive sampling of Wax Trax label bands like The Revolting Cocks, Ministry, and Pigface. After GVSB completed three songs, Canty returned to play with Fugazi, and Janney and McCloud returned to Soul Side.
McCloud and Janney called on their former Soul Side bandmates, bassist Johnny Temple and drummer Alexis Fleisig, to complete the Girls Against Boys studio lineup. Amy Pickering of Fire Party provided additional backing vocals for the studio project. The new GVSB lineup and guest vocalist Pickering added three more songs which were later released with the original three GVSB sessions as a six-song mini-album titled Nineties vs. Eighties on Jeff Nelson’s Adult Swim record label. After the studio project, McCloud, Janney, Temple, and Fleisig toured with Soul Side, but the group called it quits after a long European tour. GVSB was now ready to become a full-time band.
McCloud applied to New York University’s film school in 1988 and was accepted. McCloud was the first GVSB member to leave the supportive D.C. punk scene, and he enjoyed the anonymity of New York City. Later Fleisig and Temple would follow in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Janney, however, was busy producing in the studio. He worked as an assistant producer to Ted Nicely at D.C.’s Inner Ear Studios and would not claim New York City as his residence until 1992. In 1991, the band worked on their first full-length recording album, Tropic of Scorpio. The album was again released by Nelson’s Adult Swim label. According to McCloud, the songs all take place in an automobile in the year 2005. The dual bass guitars and McCloud’s edgy and suggestive vocals became the band’s signature. The combination provided a murky and tense coloring from which the furious attack of guitars, drums, and noise strike the listener. McCloud’s lyrics on Tropic of Scorpio describe a soulless city glamour and a narcotic need for pleasure and entertainment. GVSB embarked on a long tour that took them all over the United States and Europe to support the release in the summer of 1992.
By the fall of 1992, the band had caught the attention of Corey Rusk, the unconventional founder of the anti-corporate, Chicago-based punk record label Touch and Go. Girls Against Boys agreed to join Touch and Go
Members include Alexis Fleisig, drums; Eli Janney, keyboards, sampler, bass, vocals; Scott McCloud, guitar, sampler, vocals; Johnny Temple, bass.
Group formed from the Washington, D.C. band Soul Side; originally formed as a studio project with Janney, Canty, and McCloud; original members recorded first sessions, 1988; released first full-length album, Tropic of Scorpio, 1992; released Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby on Touch and Go Records, 1993; released third album, Cruise Yourself, 1994; released House of GVSB, 1996; released Freak*on*ica on Geffen Records, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —Geffen Records, 825 8th Ave., 29th Floor, New York, NY 10019, (212) 333-8000. Website—Girls Against Boys Official Website: http://www.gvsb.com. E-mail —Eli Janney: [email protected]
after a talk with Rusk. GVSB released the first single from the follow-up album, “Bullet Proof Cupid,” in the spring of 1993 on Touch and Go. The first Touch and Go album, Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby, was released in August of 1993. The band was living the old Rat Pack lifestyle of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr. The images of sleepy late night lounges, double martini lunches, and the 1950s modern man style of dress was coming into fashion at the time. The band was moving away from the “cock rock” mentality of sweaty mosh pits and stage diving and into a more cool and very decadent mood. “I think the real idea was that as poor and f***ed up as we were, we could be glamorous,” McCloud confided to Jonathan Valania of Magnet. “I remember around the time of Venus Lux, we asked ourselves, ‘Why was this considered hardcore noise sh** for guys only?’ Why don’t we say that it’s sexy?”
GVSB worked with Nicely on their first release with Touch and Go. The band developed a better grip on their rip-roaring energy and cut down on the sampling they used on their previous album. Fleisig’s rapid fire drums, Temple and Janney’s dual base, McCloud’s cutting guitar and slithery dark voice, and Nicely’s superior production moved GVSB into indie hyper-space. GVSB went on a long tour in support of Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby, playing with top indie bands like The Jesus Lizard, Tar, Jawbox, and Brainiac.
Girls Against Boys went back to the studio in May of 1994 to record their third album, Cruise Yourself. Nicely was again handling the production duties for the band and helping the band control and simplify their sound. Cruise Yourself was a sinister extension of Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby. As the song “Explicitly Yours” states: “When you want something in life you got to ask for it, you got to ask for it/just open up your mouth and say please, say please/we have all fallen down it’s never enough/it’s never enough but that is all right.” The driving force behind the album remained the dual base and noisy rock groove that pulled the listener into a hypnotic trance.
The “Nicely Trilogy” was completed with the release of the band’s third Touch and Go release, House of GVSB, in 1996. On the Southern Records web page, McCloud explains that the album title is “like a twist on the idea of a self-titled record. It’s like it is self-titled, but we’ve thrown something in that f***s up the process a bit. We like to do things like that.” After listening to the album, the title takes on a more creepy significance. The House of GVSB is haunted with menacing imagery, and McCloud takes the band further into the decadent sexuality of an urban underground. GVSB brought back the sampling tracks they had used on Tropic of Scorpio and their earlier work. The band joined the alternative all-star team when they signed to the 1996 Lollapalooza tour. In the tour van, GVSB listened to more of the new electrónica movement from bands like Wu-Tang Clan, Portishead, and Chemical Brothers. The band became hooked on the sonic attack that was created when electrónica is properly combined with hard driving rock. Janney took a weekly deejay gig at Bar 16 in New York City to experiment and develop some new sounds to blend into the band’s hard rocking groove for their next project. “When alternative bands were being signed to major labels and the whole thing got watered down to just pop music with loud guitars, it got pretty f***ing boring,” Janney told Valania. “And electrónica became the new underground—and there was this feeling that it was never in danger of catching on in a big way.”
The band’s fifth album, Freak*on*ica, was released on the Geffen label in 1998. With more money for production and top notch facilities at their disposal, the band went crazy. GVSB infused their aggressive rock groove with their new electronic sound. Production duties were handed to the band’s production idol, Australian producer Nick Launay whose credits include Killing Joke, Gang Of Four, Birthday Party, and Midnight Oil. They entered the studio with the same “no rules” philosophy, only this time they found the new electronic noise more difficult to orchestrate. They approached their songs from many different angles and experimented to the point of near burnout. The band’s production schedule extended from the original two months to five months. McCloud’s lyrics move into a nightmarish Orwellian imagery similar to Radiohead’s soulless machine-driven future.
McCloud and Temple’s work has extended beyond Girls Against Boys to a new project called New Wet Kojak. With the new group, McCloud and Temple explore some of the “sleaze rock” or “perverse jazz” sound that the “Nicely Trilogy” contained. McCloud and Temple are joined by Washington, D.C. friends Geoff Turner of 3, Gray Matter, and Charles Bennington.
Nineties vs. Eighties (EP), Adult Swim, 1992.
Tropic of Scorpio, Adult Swim, 1992.
Bullet Proof Cupid (EP), Touch and Go, 1993.
Venus Luxure No.1 Baby, Touch and Go, 1993.
Sexy Sam/I’m From France (EP), Touch and Go, 1994.
(I) Don’t Got a Place (EP), Touch and Go, 1994.
Cruise Yourself, Touch and Go, 1994.
Kill the Sexplayer (EP), Touch and Go, 1995.
Super-fire (EP), Touch and Go, 1996.
House of GVSB, Touch and Go, 1996.
Disco Six Six Six (EP), Touch and Go, 1996.
Freak*on*ica, Geffen, 1998.
Buckley, Jonathan, and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
Robbins, Ira. A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to ‘90s Rock, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Girls Against Boys Official Website, http://www.gvsb.com (November 22, 2000).
Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com (December 8, 2000).
Southern Records, http://www.southern.com (November 22, 2000).
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