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By Kyra Scrimgeour
VS, which stands for Vibration Sequence (originally EVS, the "E" standing for "Eternal"), was formed in 2009 by Cole Hopfenspirger and Tom Moore, who met while working at the Cheesecake Factory. Both started in the hardcore scene but had left that world before meeting each other. They were familiar with improvisation-minded bands like the Mars Volta and shared an appreciation for the electronic and rock fusion explored by acts like Sound Tribe Sector 9 and, to a lesser degree, TV on the Radio and Radiohead.
Combining their fatefully complementary pieces of electronic gear to create a studio in which they could explore an electro-organic sound that blended tangible musical elements with the purely electronic, the duo has developed a richly detailed and inventive sound that's got one leg in EDM and the other in improvisational rock, without properly sounding like either. You can hear the results on the latest VS album, the fascinatingly eclectic Somewhere. Overthere. We spoke with the guys about the components of their aesthetic and more.
Westword: When you play live, are all sounds generated electronically?
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Cole Hopfenspirger: We do lots of live percussion over the top of our stuff. Usually, we record the songs without guitar and then add guitar over the top live just to give it a little boost.
Why do you like to have that kind of live element for the type of music that you do?
Tom Moore: A lot of our music is improv. We set up a basic idea of what we want to do for a song, and we feel it out. It's so fun that way, and to have that element of freedom. Most people won't notice, but you know. That's where the joy of playing music comes from.
Do you do a lot of processing with your guitar, Cole?
CH: I have it going through a Vox pedal into Ableton, and then I have this program called Stutter, so I can strum a chord and it rings out a certain way. You can add crazy effects to it and you can reverse sounds on the fly. It's like you're deejaying guitar or something. It's cool knowing everything is right on BPM.
One of your earliest shows was very high-profile. Tell us about that.
TM: The fifth show we ever played was at Red Rocks, for the Global Dance Festival on July 14, 2011. We lucked out and won [the Battle of the Bands competition for] that. We played the main stage. Having that experience as your fifth show ever was absurd. We even talked about that before: "We'll know we've made it when we get to Red Rocks." Then, obviously, after that happened, we were like, "All right, well, that doesn't actually count, even if that was fucking awesome."
The whole idea of that and why it happened just confirmed the fact that we could do that and that we can get to the place that we want to and to the place we dreamed of if we keep going at it.