The Chicago four-piece have an uncanny knack for constructing gleaming, crystalline, compact pop gems ... and then going after them with an axe like Jack Nicholson. They build the museum-worthy sculpture, and then dash it to the ground, manically laughing their heads off the whole time. It's the musical equivalent of a Pollock painting – a vibrant, technicolor, utterly uninhibited work devised by either a genius or a madman. It's hard to discern which, and it doesn't much matter anyway.
The poet laureates of Chicago's skid row, VICTORIAN HALLS are the rare type of band that exist in the little space where art and punk meet - the type of band that can blend unadulterated pop songwriting with wailing Banshee-like vocals to create a strangely magical, vaudevillian wonder like their new seven song EP, Springteen.
"We write pop songs," singer/guitarist Sean Lenart plainly states, "but they're really noisy and lyrically overt, and kind of jarring. It's not simply generalized feelings over familiar chord progressions... Basically, your mother wouldn't like this band." Then again, nobody's mother liked THE BEATLES when they first landed either.
Springteen, the result of a two-year collaboration that began with Lenart and pianist/ vocalist/ bottlerocket Carlos Luna, is representative of its creators - too intellectual to be punk and too grating and fierce to be art-rock or pop. "Carlos and I met in school over solitaire, listening to many of our 'pop influences' and ignoring writing papers," Lenart recalls. "Talking music was much more interesting. Needless to say, I didn't pass."
The result speaks for itself. In the Spin Magazine-sponsored Music Nation contest, the band made quite the impression, finishing second out of thousands of entries, and in doing so garnered praise from some big names - Perry Farrell of JANE'S ADDICTION called VICTORIAN HALLS' music a "high-strung theatrical sound ... punchy and tight, the sound of Saturday night." CURSIVE'S Tim Kasher praised the band's "theatrical style," while Spin editor Doug Brod noted a "twisted carnivalesque quality." The band also nabbed second prize on MTV2's "On The Rise" contest, despite receiving over 126,000 votes – both amazing accomplishments for a band that makes TRL-worthy songs and then burns them to the ground.
In a city that spawned FALL OUT BOY, THE PLAIN WHITE T'S, and THE ACADEMY IS…, VICTORIAN HALLS have learned that making art for art's sake doesn't always earn you a date with Ashlee Simpson, but does get you a boatload of critical acclaim and a rabid fan base that sticks by you for all the right reasons. And frankly, when you're in a band that sounds way more like THE BLOOD BROTHERS than THE JONAS BROTHERS, you define success in entirely different terms. Terms like, in Lenart's words, "Being able to piss people of by not wearing eye liner, playing a packed venue and being the only unsigned band there and then having people lining up to take pictures and sign autographs, convincing people that if white pants worked in 'A Clockwork Orange,' they can work for anyone ..."
Appropriately enough, "A Clockwork Orange" may just be the best metaphor for VICTORIAN HALLS – a bunch of musical droogs wandering the streets of America, committing acts of musical ultraviolence for their own pleasure (not to mention the pleasure of their ever-increasing fanbase). Of course, sometimes the ultraviolence takes on a more literal definition.
"I once had to hit this 250-pound militant Pantera-loving sound guy over the head with a 1960s steel folding chair," Lenart recalls nonchalantly. "When we walk in a club, there is an air of tension around us. For the most part, people who are seeing us for the first time watch with their mouths open – literally. We have it on video."
As was the case with "Clockwork's" infamous "aversion technique," it's damn near impossible to take your eyes of VICTORIAN HALLS for one second. Nor would you want to, because if they don't bludgeon you, their music surely will.