Denton death-synth duo Vulgar Fashion is about as enigmatic as it comes. If you're scouring their website or Facebook profile for a crisp, straightforward shot, you'll turn up empty-handed. The only real way to see and experience them--Julie Mckendrick and Andrew Michael, who fantastically go by the stage names Kubic Zirconia and Slush--is to see their live performances, complete with fog, fake blood, stone-dazed dancing and chiaroscuro lighting.
The band just joined the legion of a few other dark, operatic bands from DFW (Pinkish Black, Terminator 2, How I Quit Crack) on Handmade Birds Records, and just released their long-awaited self-titled debut album on March 19. Despite the fact that they haven't toured, the duo's "Krystal Tearz" track has stuck to the wall, getting them real estate on Pitchfork and even cropping up fans in Amsterdam.
Watch them perform "Krystal Tearz" for Violitionist Sessions, then read about their debut album, what inspires them and what they're all about in my Q&A with Kubic Zirconia below.
Give me a brief history of how you guys began Vulgar Fashion.
In the mid to late 2000s with a bunch of partying and noise shows and lots of dance parties. Lots of dark dreams and discovering sounds and one another, in a decadent yet culturally collapsing time.
Why create the music that you do? What inspires you?
No real reason for making this music in general, we just make things, including invisible, magic, psychological inventions. We are psychic which helps us collaborate. We are motivated and inspired by everything, including ice cream.
Tell me about your debut release. Why make this album?
Despite popular belief, this is a full-length album. Nothing else belongs with it. If you want it to play longer, adjust the speed. It sounds good either way. We made this album because we love the songs.
Is there a concept to your album? What are the songs about?
There is always a concept in our work. They are metaphorical stories. With a dance beat they can speak to anyone, despite the existential musings.
Describe the recording process.
It was a long, tedious process. For a while we were not sure if we would release it. It's so personal and if it didn't sound right to us no one should suffer. The recording process took about two years. We are slow and at that time our motivation was to play live and mostly for free.
Tell me about Colin Marston and why you decided to have him mix and master the album.
We like metal and so does he.
What was the road to releasing this album like for you two?
It was a back and forth process. Sometimes it felt like conjuring up the darkest places inside, like how you feel when you go shopping for clothes.
What can audiences expect from this release?
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Describe what you feel when you perform Vulgar Fashion's songs live.
KZ is controlled by the sounds. If the sound is lacking, then the performance lacks. Slush is always in the Neverending Story so it feels like that looks.
Is there anything you want audiences to walk away with after seeing your performance?
Inspired to dig deeper and make more ethically-based consumer purchases.
What specific sound equipment and gear do you use?
It's a revolving door. We love all objects and sounds. We use prepared tapes and synths and drum machines and TVs and reel to reels and record players, pedals and mixers. Some analog, some digital. We use what we have and what we can get when we can get it. We make the most out of what we have.
How do you feel about the local and national response that Vulgar Fashion has received?
Surprising, and it feels nice and scary.
Are you pleased with the following you guys have?
I am pleased with people giving us energy when we perform. We are ultimately doing this for us and hoping others join in the fun. Sometimes we give out party favors.
Tell me about Handmade Birds. Why did you decide to choose them for this release, and how did all of that go down? Are you officially on their record label?
Handmade Birds are wonderful! Our friend Andrew Haas mentioned us to Rich, we gave Rich a crude tape recording of our songs and he liked it, so he asked us if we would be interested in releasing the songs through him and we said yes. We liked the music Handmade Birds released, especially His Name is Alive, Merzbow, Black Boned Angel, Blut Aus Nord, Lycia, Pinkish Black, How I Quit Crack and Terminator 2. I mean, they release extreme and tasteful things, so it was a no-brainer. So excited to work with him.
Are you planning on having a release show?
No, but we will be playing at Good Records in Dallas on April 20.
Are you planning on touring?
Not sure yet about that.
Avant garde or experimental are two terms that have been tossed around in reference to your live shows. Would you agree, and why or why not?
Yes, agree, but I am almost positive that people will sometimes see us live and be confused. We are not trying to confuse people, but at the same time we live in our magical world and get lost sometimes in it.
How would you describe your music to people who have never heard it?
I tell them it's horrible.
In what all formats and places will your album be sold?
It is (or will be) available in lots of places like Amsterdam, Idaho, etc. Online, and in vinyl and compact disk. I really didn't want to do disks but it's just a limited amount.
Do you like living in Denton? What do you think of the music scene there and in Dallas/Fort Worth? Is it conducive for the type of music you guys create?
I like Denton. It's probably not that conducive for the art we make, but I guess that just means it needs to stay in order to change things. There are great things happening here, you just have to look for it. We have no plans on leaving Denton.
Who are some of your musical influences or favorite bands/sounds?
I like the B-52's and lots of metal. There was a band here back in the early 2000s called Faux Fox and they are/were my favorite local band. I really like His Name is Alive, but mostly their '90s stuff.
Slush: I like anything that moves me regardless of genre or time period. We really like DEATH (scream bloody gore-death, not the other one). Power Trip from Dallas is really cool too.
Where do you hope this release takes you?
I just hope more people out there enjoy it.
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What are some of Vulgar Fashion's goals, beyond this release?
Make more art.
What are each of your lives like outside of Vulgar Fashion?
Lets just say we are nonstop working, working, working...there is not enough time in the day.