By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Vibrolux, at last
Kim Pendleton is pondering the question of why she and Paul Quigg moved back to Dallas last February, waving farewell to Los Angeles and the corpse of a record deal. "Why? Why?" she repeats, giggling in a high, hoarse voice. For a moment, she seems to be avoiding the question. Then, she stops herself and begins again: "Bad jobs and lack of a car," she offers by way of explanation. "I just figured I had been there for a while after the deal fell apart and figured I'd come home for a while, and Paul had work here. It sounded like a good time to come back."
Pendleton and Quigg came back to town earlier this year very quietly, almost like a rumor. Perhaps that was because their band, Vibrolux, left Dallas for Los Angeles in the summer of 1996 ready to conquer the world, a million-dollar (or so) record deal in hand, only to return three years later without a single note of music to show for their efforts. Better to slink back into town unnoticed than remind the locals you didn't live up to your, and their, expectations.
Then again, Vibrolux must be Swedish for frustration: Six years since the band's formation (only Quigg and Pendleton remain), and still Vibrolux hasn't released a proper full-length album. The band was supposed to release an EP in October 1995 on Atlas/Polydor; they even recorded a five-song disc in August 1995 at Crystal Clear Sound with producer Robbie Adams. But the record (which included a cover of the Jam's "Butterfly Collector") never got released, much to Quigg's chagrin; in November 1995, he told the Observer: "I'd like to get those songs out there and play again and get reacquainted with what we like to do, which is play live...I'd rather move ahead."
But moving ahead meant plowing head-first into quicksand: The subsequent full-length record for Polydor never materialized either, even though Quigg and Pendleton moved to Los Angeles and actually recorded more than a dozen songs before parting ways with the label. Pendleton says those songs likely will never be released, even though she and Quigg managed to obtain the tapes before leaving the label in the fall of 1997. (One song, "Soldier," did appear on last year's Dallas Observer Scene Heard, Vol. 3 compilation.)
"I think there's pros and cons to a record deal," Pendleton says two years after having had one. "But the good thing about not having one is you don't have to please anybody else."
The duo has spent the last two years flirting with other labels (RCA and Sony expressed interest in the wake of the failed Polydor deal) and working what Pendleton calls "crap jobs." Mostly, they hung out on the beach (they lived in Venice), and Pendleton worked at a taco stand, for a catering company, and at Legal Grounds, a coffee-and-counsel kind of deal. "I had some interesting experience in the crap job area," she deadpans. "Otherwise, it was a great three-year holiday."
The band performed sporadically in Los Angeles, most recently at the Mint, opening for actor-turned-sorta-singer Harry Dean Stanton. Their Dallas gig July 30 at the Liquid Lounge will be the first time they've played Dallas in almost three years -- long enough to be missed, and long enough to be forgotten. Perhaps it's just as well: The band will likely play under a new name this week, and none of the old, familiar songs remain on the set list. Pendleton and Quigg and the drummer known only as Curtis -- there will be no bassist since Pendleton, as she puts it, has a "bad history with bass players" -- will perform only songs from the unreleased record or more recent material.
Pendleton does expect to record with Quigg sometime in the near future -- "Can't let a record deal get you down," she insists -- and release something, either on a label or on their own. But believe it only when you hold the plastic in your hands. Vibrolux might be the only band in the world that can make the Toadies look prolific. Until then, there is the show next week, which Pendleton insists is only the coming-out party; there will be more to follow. But the first one will surely be the hardest.
She is asked whether she's nervous about playing Deep Ellum again. Pendleton laughs. "I probably will be that day," she says, pausing. "But screw it."