His & Her Vanities began in Ricky and Terrin Riemer's Wisconsin basement in late 1999. Writing Post-Punk/Pop/Art Rock-type songs together, the couple decided to branch out into a band. In 2001, drummer Sara Winkelman joined the Riemers, and after playing several live shows together, the trio retreated to the basement to record a full-length which was released in June of 2002. With the addition of Matt Abplanalp on guitar, His & Her Vanities became a four-piece for live shows. This second full-length was released in September of 2004.
by Al Ritchie
A Thought Process
(Science of Sound)
When last we heard from the Vanities, the Madison now-wavers were warming up the Barrymore Theatre for the red-hot Yeah Yeah Yeahs (and let me tell ya, the kids up front were diggin' 'em). They've been pretty quiet in the six months since, though, with Ricky and Terrin Riemer (the eponymous power-couple at the core of HHV) taking time off to add both another tiny Riemer to their household and a second CD to their discography.
This 10-song disc marks a confident step forward for HHV, as the band's driving, danceable rhythms and angular, Devo-esque melodies are brought into even sharper focus. In particular, Ricky's guitar leads chime, clang and roar like a symphony of metal-stamping tools, while the whole band infuse the catchy "Notapartablurb" with an extra steroid boost. And for a welcome twist, splashes of early-Pink Floyd psychedelia color the soft-toned "Field Fire".
More so than on their debut, there's a discernible sense of warmth coursing through this album. It's a subtle, largely indefinable quality, but one that strongly suggests the Vanities have come into their own.
“…A Thought Process, marks a new His and Her Vanities; a less experimental, more comfortable song-writing entity, one that’s begun to place the raw power of guitar, bass, and drums at the foreground, and glitchy electronics at the back. Every arrangement is so creative, every song a work of surprising ingenuity…” – Jared Harvey
by Patrick Stutz
The release of His & Her Vanities' second CD, A Thought Process, should indicate to critics that the title given to them at the Madison Area Music Awards as "Best Punk Band" last March was not taken for granted.
The musical team of Ricky and Terrin Riemer returned to their basement recording studio, Science of Sound, two years ago to begin toying around with the new project. With the help of Mike Zirkel at Smart Studios and musicians Matt Abplanalp and Sara Winkelman, the couple emerged with a CD that sounds as impressive as their first release, but with more of an edge.
A Thought Process still has Vanities' post-punk feel and the quirkiness of an indie band, but the drumming and bass on this disc are much more dominant than on their previous release. From the beginning of the album, it is not difficult to hear the band's musical influences, such as vintage Devo and the Pixies, come through.
"Moving Forward", the first song on the disc, is driven by heavy drumming. The guitar is simple and extemely repetitive, and Ricky's vocal paralleling of the melody at first seems a bit annoying, but then the song really comes together. Towards the end, as the drums' intensity increases, it actually drowns out the majority of the repetition. This annoyance does not occur on any other track of the CD. From the first song, the new wave sound governs the rest of the disc, but the Vanities bring an unexpected treat missing from their first album. Beginning mid-disc, the band starts to incorporate a strong '60s psychedelic tone.
"Field Fire", for example, is the slowest song on the disc and lacks the drumming that is consistent throughout the rest of the tracks. This song maintains a very mellow vibe reminiscent of the Beatles during their drug-infused, Eastern culture phase.
The song "Auto Pilot", while not as soothing as "Field Fire", remains truer to the Vanties' sound and incorporates vocal reverbs that perpetuate the psychedelic tone. This track is actually one of the best songs on the recording and combines most of the elements the band has to offer. The weighty drumming is still present and the guitar retains its quirky patterning enough to be considered new wave.
The band's lyrics are another story. Althoguh Ricky's vocals nicely accompany the band's style, it is challenging to find anything in the lyrics that could be construed as deep or meaningful. Terrin describes the lyric-writing process as a collage of images that are written out line by line. But the lyrics are almost too puzzling to produce any underlying message. The band's real strength lies in their music-writing ability and the sense they convey that they are truly having fun producing an album together.
Even though A Thought Process is a bit hard to take the first time through, it has nothing to do with the band's talent or ability. Mainstream radio so rarely airs anything different these days that when a band that is willing to experiment and try new things does appear, it takes awhile to recognize the brilliance behind their work.
His and Her Vantiies will probably never make mainstream radio, but receive support only from independent or college stations-outlets that are usually more willing to take risks with innovative music.