Even before finishing their sophomore album, ¡Traffico!, local band Via Satellite was joking about remixing the "hits" that emerged.
Manipulated by a handful of San Diego artists-Pilotram (Duane Pitre from Ilya), Jimmy Lavelle (Tristeza, The Album Leaf), Square Circle, Rotator, The Icons, The Incredible Moses Leroy and Imputor-Re:Public is the elaborate mix tape and punch line to the joke.
Each artist chose, or was given, a Via Satellite song to disfigure to their liking. Via Satellite's vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Andrew Andrews, vocalist-guitarist-keyboardist Scott Mercado and drummer Tim Reece then stacked the tracks into listenable form.
The results are radical transformations of the original Via Satellite material; listeners are transported from a lovelorn rave scene to a gravelly, gargle-toned electronica graveyard. Most deeply felt, however, are the reverberating talents of the remixing artists themselves. And that, says Mercado, was the point.
"We've always tried to get different art ideas into our music-to branch out," he says. "We always want to push San Diego artists to keep that hard-working musical aesthetic, and it really worked with this project."
"We kept asking ourselves, How the hell are we going to make an album out of all this stuff?"
Andrews chimes in: "For something that started as a joke, it worked pretty well. The whole idea of ¡Traffico! was a total joke that Tim and I were saying around the house. In a lot of ways, not much has changed even though our band has. We just have a joke, an idea-a funny, funny idea-and it slowly develops and turns into something that's super-hyper-intense."
When I first met Via Satellite a couple years ago, we talked about small things with small words-the doldrums of first-time interviews and small-time bands. When we met up again recently, we talked about big things with even bigger words. Via Satellite has changed.
Dismissing bassist James Trent about a month ago is the biggest alteration. Andrews says it's easy to compare Via Satellite's loss of bassists to the spontaneous combustion of Spinal Tap's drummers. They just seem to eventually disappear from the picture-for the good of both parties.
So for now, Mercado and Andrews will settle for a maze of cables, keyboards and microphones to simulate the bass thump they've grown so accustomed to. The band prepared for their first gig as a threesome, at The Casbah, with only three practices.
"The way that Re:Public turned out, it has turned into something more relevant for our band now, as a threesome, and for our sound," Andrews says.
He, Mercado and Reece are now left with the core of the band, and, as the primary architects of sound, they coddle it gently. Each member is sprawled out on patio chairs at Shakespeare's Pub on India Street this particular night.
Mercado is chain smoking in the corner.
Reece is playing the imaginary bass drum with his right foot under the table, with a shit-grin across his face.
Andrews leans back as the confident ringmaster, using his verbal strutting for conversational racquetball.
The three men begin shooting the shit about religion, dispensationalists, proper use of the word "ostensibly," George Bush as an evangelical Christian and the book of Revelation. All topics either directly or indirectly related to the apocalypse, which the three pub philosophers see as a rebirth. While some see the end of one existence, Andrews ponders the beginning of another.
"Limitations and freedoms have melted into the same thing for us lately. While limitations can be frustrating, they can often lead to the same creativity that freedom does," he says, sucking his cigarette down to the filter and watching the embers before putting it out in the ashtray.
Mercado snickers harder.
Before long, without looking up, Andrews is laughing, too-presumably at the next hardy Via Satellite joke.