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Craig Pfunder of VHS or Beta

From Disco to Duran Duran

After guitarist Zeke Buck left the band in 2006, VHS or Beta modified its approach to recording, opting for a more calculated songwriting processes before entering the studio to record 2007ís Bring on the Comets. The result is an album that continues to stray from the groupís early dance music and French house influences for songs based more in the 80s synth-pop sheen of Durran Duran and others. The band returns to San Francisco for an April 29th show at Mezzanine. Singer/guitarist Craig Pfunder spoke with SF Station en route to a Boston tour stop.

SF Station (SFS): You have had time for dust to settle on your latest album Bring on the Comets. Are you happy with the way it turned out?

Craig Pfunder (CP): Yes, totally. It took so long for the album to come out because we were being really particular with what we were writing. We knew what we wanted by the time we started recording and getting into the studio. It helps to do that instead of taking three months to write material and then going into the studio to knock it out.

SFS: Why were you so particular with this album?

CP: Part of it was a change in the way we were writing. We basically became a new band when we parted ways with Zeke. It was a shift in the general makeup in the band and we changed how we approach songs and create new material.

We felt relieved in that process. We sort of shed off complacency and happiness with our newfound state as a three-piece band. We didnít want to lose who we are but we wanted to challenge ourselves with something new.

SFS: You did a lot of the songwriting without the band. How did that affect the approach to new material?

CP: It was different for the band. We were accustomed to writing a certain way, but we wanted to write apart from each other so we didnít have the feeling of being edited at the moment the material was being written. That fact that we were able to write in our own environment and then bring it to the band was crucial to the way this record came out.

I enjoy writing by myself and I enjoy writing with the band, but for this particular record the process was more about writing apart from each other and then bringing it to the group and approaching it as group. The meat of the songs were done away from the band and then everyone got together to fine-tune them.

SFS: Each VHS or Beta album features significant changes with the bandís sound. Do you think that will continue on future releases, or does if feel like you are getting into a groove?

CP: I think this band makes decisions based on a very natural progression. We donít worry too much about what people say. Our decision to make a pop record this time was very thought out and natural for us. The difference between this record and Night on Fire is more about mode than the true sound. When I listen to the records back-to-back, I can hear how it is the same band, but with Bring on the Comets the feeling is dark. The atmosphere is the biggest difference with those two records. Le Funk was a disco record, of course, that was more about tracks than actual songs.

SFS: Do you ever look back at old recordings and cringe?

CP: No, even when I go back and listen to stuff from my punk days, it makes me smile. Itís not like looking at a sixth grade picture and saying, ďOh my god, my haircut looks funny.Ē When you make a record itís something that you have for the rest of your life, albeit not everything is the way you would do it now. Itís awesome to have those snapshots of things you have done over the years.

VHS or Beta performs April 29th at Mezzanine. Tickets are $13 and doors open at 9pm.