The song remains the same 

GoGoGo Airheart finds progress in going back to the basics

Wearing your heart on your sleeve is a double-edged sword that can slice and dice the credibility of the most ardent underground artists as quickly as it can carve out a niche for success. From the beginning, San Diego art-punk funk experimentalists GoGoGo Airheart have grappled with this axiom, keeping the music close to their hearts, with a fluctuating lineup and a distinct artistic vision.

Throughout GoGoGo Airheart's career, it has been wildly apparent the group holds an affinity for everything from Kraut rockers such as Can and Faust to post-punk go-getters Public Image Ltd. and Gang of Four. But in a musical climate where nouveau New York scenesters the Strokes, Liars and Yeah Yeah Yeahs have exhausted the art of influence peddling via fashionably ripped T-shirts and trucker caps, GoGoGo Airheart stays vital by surviving on its own bombastic personality. The group takes to heart, not just takes, aspects of its influences in an effort to reshape rather than retread.

Getting to the heart of the matter, bassist Ashish Vyas and fellow progenitors Michael Vermillion (vocals) and Andy Robillard (drummer) have stripped down the group's lineup to draw out a sense of simple rhythmic experimentation and impulsive energy, shedding the confines and formulaic regurgitation of so many distressed "dance-punk" mimics.

Even before GoGoGo Airheart released its first proper full-length, Vyas and Vermillion established a signature sound via several homemade cassettes of songs and practice sessions. Dub-infected bass and drum excursions and spontaneous shifts in direction gave an improvisational element to its psychedelic angularities and Vermillion's sickly John Lydon-esque wail. The foundations of each song were built around unwavering rhythms that avoided the masturbatory trappings of "jamming," focusing less on a linear, weaving journey and more on creating a frayed, off-kilter environment through abrupt undulations.

After releasing its 1997 self-titled debut on San Diego's Vinyl Communications, GoGoGo Airheart underwent a series of personnel changes. Several releases followed, finding homes everywhere from Chicago's Overcoat Records to San Diego's own Gold Standard Laboratories.

Over time, the group began relying less on spontaneity and more on traditional song structures, peaking with its most accessible outing, 2002's Exitheuxa. With a lineup of Vermillion and Vyas (in Rolling Stones terms, the Mick and Keith at the center of a revolving support cast of convenience), rounded out with percussionist J. Hough and guitarist Ben White, GoGoGo Airheart existed in its most polished state, though only temporarily. Hough and White soon departed, while the band played on.

After releasing Exitheuxa, Vermillion relocated to Long Beach, Calif., making band practices fewer and farther between. Efficiently working in the time they had together was a priority.

"When Ben and J. were in the band, we were spending too much time honing songs that were already very simple when we should have been doing more important things like improvising and experimenting like we did in the early days," says Vyas. "We trimmed the lineup and when Andy rejoined the group, he already knew what we were going for and the ideas really started flowing. Before, it felt like we were showcasing songs and now we're just going with it. Not to say it's a jam fest, but our shows are more like organic dance parties that are interspersed with some tunes."

GoGoGo Airheart has yet to offer any recordings in its current configuration, but instead has placed importance on live shows. "People who come to the shows will see that night's special engagement, which we won't do the same way ever again," says Vyas.

Recalling the working methods of many of GoGoGo's influences, the group freely roams and thrives on its own character without tripping over its inspirations. "For us, the whole idea to be spontaneous has always been justified by Can. If anything, that group proved that if you have a tight-as-fuck rhythm section, you can take a piss on the mic, eat a sandwich on the mic or do anything you want, as long as the groove is killer."

And the group continues to play from the heart.

chad.radford@creativeloafing.com

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