To prove to you what I mean, here are some sounds you can find in just their last two albums alone: Mexican mariachi trumpet, Christmas sleigh bells, Trinidadian steel drum, bright 70’s disco key tones, guy at a party acoustic guitar, 90’s rap DJ scratches & scats and smooth jazz piano.
Now take all of this and add lead singer Brad Petering’s gravelly vocals that spit out lovelorn lyrics laced with gallows humor and sexual innuendos.
They have a song on their 2014 album French Exit called “Lovers Rock” which I think was put on the album without them realizing it’s probably the best description of their sound.
With their biggest fan “Charlyne.” Photo by Ryan Baker
While I’m not usually a huge electronic fan, TV Girl’s jangly yet lackadaisical sound was too revolutionary for me to ignore.
Between Petering’s ironic vocals that sit low on high, poppy beats and their use of obscure, un-Googleable samples pieced together like found art, they’re doing something I’ve never heard before and for that alone they deserve to be talked about.
The funny front man was nice enough to chat with me as penance for them coming to Chicago on the one weekend I won’t be in town to catch their show.
SP: Your album art over the years has been really spectacular and vibrant. Who creates the concepts? Who physically creates it?
BP: Hey thanks. I create all the art work but don’t give me too much credit because usually I borrow designs from old photos. I try to make sure that the photos are old enough that the photographers are either dead or too old and decrepit to care.
SP: I’ve read you don’t necessarily agree when people say you make “California” sounding music. How would you label your sound?
BP: You’re right. I wouldn’t agree with that. Then again, it’s not like people say that a lot about my music anyways. Mostly people don’t even review our music which is fine by me. If I’m talking to a Lyft driver and he asks what kind of music I make I usually just say electronic pop music or that it’s kind of like hip-hop with singing instead of rapping.
SP: A lot of your songs either mention girl’s names or have them as the title. What inspires that? Is there a connection between this and the generic-ness of the band name “TV Girl?”
BP: The name of the band comes from a song by one of my favorite bands called Beat Happening. There was nothing more to it than that. As for the girls. Well I like the sound of girls names. They’re a lot better most times than guys names.
SP: Same sort of question but concerning the vocal samples you use which tend to be lines from vintage radio plays/films. What do you want listeners to take away from them?
BP: I don’t know. I don’t think about it too much. It’s just one of those things. If you have a cool beat and play some old spoken word recordings over it it will almost always sound pretty cool. Plus there’s the fact that most people don’t know where these voices originated which adds a degree of mystical vibes.
SP: Speaking of film, it seems like you really enjoy directing and/or starring in your music videos. What do you like about film?
BP: I wouldn’t say I even really like making films that much. It’s so hard and they never turn out the way you envision in your head. I make them out of necessity. Like I’m not gonna pay someone five grand to make a music video because no one really cares about music videos and half of the time they turn out horrible anyways. I’d rather just goof around with my friends on the cheap.
SP: You’ve got some great comedic chops on Twitter (@TVGirlz) and in many of your song lyrics. Who did you get your funny from?
BP: Sometimes I wonder what makes some people funny and others not. Like do you get it from your parents or are you just born with it? My parents are both pretty funny. But not as funny as me.
SP: In the past, you’ve sited Lou Reed (of The Velvet Underground) as an influence or at least someone you admire. What do you dig about him?
BP: I think the thing that I admire most about him was that he truly deeply didn’t seem to care what other people thought. He had total confidence that what he was doing was good even when other people thought it was shit. And you know what, history has pretty much vindicated him every time. He always defended himself, that he was just trying to make a beautiful piece of music. And he did.
SP: Any new music coming soon or just focusing on the upcoming tour?
BP: We just got done recording a large part of a new album which should be coming out early next year.
SP: Who are some of your favorite independent artists right now?
BP: Mostly I’m into studying old chess games right now. My favorite players are Adolf Anderssen, Bent Larsen, Judit Polgar and a new young player right now named Richard Rapport whose games are pretty wild.
SP: Have you ever gotten in trouble with the law?
BP: Yes. I had to go to court for not wearing a helmet at a skatepark once. To court! I got there and the room was full of other kids who had done all this bad stuff. Drunk driving and fighting and stuff like that. And the first thing the judge says is, “to all the skateboarders in here, you’re free to go, just don’t do it again.” So I got to skip a day of school and I didn’t get in any trouble. Sometimes life just works out.
If you haven’t gotten the hint by now, go listen to TV Girl.
Their happily overcast vibes and whacked out music videos are enough to make you become their biggest fan.
Their song “Taking What’s Not Yours” is a hilarious (and catchy) ode to the material shit that gets left behind at your ex’s house after a messy breakup. A song that truly needed to be sung.
My favorite song is “Cigarettes Out The Window” but my favorite video is “The Getaway.” Not only does the “The Getaway” allude to the Bob Dylan story song “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” the music video is a shot by shot recreation of Carly Simon’s music video for “Why.” Pure. Fucking. Brilliance.