VYNYL is the rare Denver synth-pop band with major-label aspirations.
The group is irresistibly trendy. Its members, who preen and posture, are guided by modern radio-friendly pop-music aesthetics, in contrast to the no-frills, DIY ethos that defines so many local musicians.
Frontman Tyler Whiteley, guitarist Hunter Heurich, bassist/lyricist Andrew Ceronio and drummer Logan Hileman know they stand out in the local scene — and they sometimes feel alienated from it. With good looks, vibrant on-stage personalities and flashy, sometimes coordinated fashion, they're easy to mistake for members of a boy band.
Heurich recalls walking down the sidewalk after they played the Taste of Fort Collins last summer when someone yelled “Backstreet Boys” at them from a car.
“We’re not a boy band, but I can see why people get that impression,” Whiteley says.
“There’s an important visual and theatrical component to VYNYL, which has led to this comparison,” Ceronio says. “We all have a persona we embody on stage, and we want those to shine through. Off stage, we want to be personable, though. We don’t want to hide behind our performances."
With neon-lit, music-festival-friendly pop songs drawing influence from Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Tears for Fears and more modern bands like M83 and the 1975, VYNYL's in full swing on its debut EP, Pink, released in late 2019. The songs are infectious, fusing elements of EDM, alternative pop and the “happy-sad” duality of bands like the Cure.
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It took a long time for VYNYL to get to this point, on the cusp of local success. Whiteley and Ceronio founded the group in 2015 after moving to Denver from North Carolina, but they’ve undergone multiple lineup changes since then, which led the two founding members to believe the band wasn’t meant to be.
It wasn’t until Heurich and Hileman joined in early 2019 that the bandmates found a lineup they were confident with.
The past year has been a big one for VYNYL. It played the Taste of Fort Collins alongside lovelytheband last summer, and the group just won Hometown for the Holidays, a local competition in which three prominent local bands compete for a spot to play Channel 93.3’s Not So Silent Night the following year.
The group had competed with Holdfast — a pop-leaning alternative band from Fort Collins that won Crowd Favorite at the competition — and One Flew West, an eclectic pop-punk-inspired act that won the Westword Music Award in 2015 for Best Folk Band. Not So Silent Night will be held this November; the headliners have yet to be announced.
“Hometown for the Holidays was the first show I saw here when I moved to Denver in 2014," Whiteley says. "I remember seeing 888 and being incredibly inspired by how they fused synthesizers and electronic production into a band with live instruments. For me, that show was the beginning of VYNYL, and it’s surreal to not only have played, but won five years later."
VYNYL may make visual and textural nods to the ’80s, but nostalgia isn't a priority. The band's songs are squarely contemporary pop.
“Pop is one of the most interesting genres, because it allows you to take risks by using musical elements that may not make sense at first or are out of the ordinary into your songs and still have them rooted in something catchy and likable,” Whiteley says.
And the music is nothing if not likable. “Dancing With the Devil” sports EDM-driven production and a triumphant hook; “Insomniac” embodies the kind of heartbreak that keeps you up tossing and turning; and “Chemical Sun” is a windows-down, pop-rock anthem with a deep emotional undercurrent. Ceronio, who writes the band's lyrics, says the song was inspired by the end of a pivotal relationship and the introspection that followed.
“That was the hardest song I’ve had to write so far. It took me two or three months to fully understand that feeling and write about it," he says.
“Sleepless in LA” is the slowest offering on the EP, with lyrics documenting the band’s first trip to Los Angeles set to moody R&B.
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“R&B is really important to our sound," Heurich says. "We’re white boys, but we try."
Despite their success so far, the bandmates feel a distance between themselves and the Denver scene as a whole.
“[Stylistically], I don’t feel like we fit in here in Denver. We’ve been a band for a long time, and it [hasn't been] until now that people are starting to take notice. VYNYL isn't necessarily the Denver sound, but there are still people here who are really adamant about pop music, and that's who we're after," Whiteley says.
VYNYL, Nightlove, and Neon the Bishop play at 8 p.m. on January 23 at Globe Hall, 4843 Logan Street. Tickets are $10 to $12 and available at the Globe Hall website.
Listen to VYNYL, Nightlove and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.