"The kids are disco dancing, they're tired of rock 'n' roll."
So sings The Limousines frontman Eric Victorino with tongue firmly in cheek during "Internet Killed The Video Star," one of many deliriously catchy electro-pop songs on the group's debut album, Get Sharp.
Considering that Victorino left behind a loud rock band to concentrate on his keyboard-centric duo with Giovanni Giusti, the sentiment expressed during "Internet Killed The Video Star" could be misconstrued as a statement of purpose. But if you've ever caught the band live and seen Victorino giving his drum-machine-playing bandmate a knowing look while delivering the song's next line, "Don't bother telling them that drum machine ain't got no soul," it's obvious that The Limousines are working on a deeper level than your typical pop band. And they have a great sense of humor to boot.
"The last thing I would want us to be known as is a band that's coming out and saying, 'Hey everybody, rock 'n' roll is stupid and guitars suck,'" says Victorino. "The song is talking about how in culture, stuff just keeps going in a circle. What you think is relevant and cool now is going to be a joke later, and stuff you think is a joke now is going to be cool next year."
If anyone has his finger on the pulse of society at large, it's Victorino. His poignant lyrics examine the complexities of human nature, which means that in the world of The Limousines, a fatal car crash ends with dancing at a funeral ("Dancing At Her Funeral"), thoughts of death turn into a carpe-diem call to action ("Flaskaboozendancingshoes"), and, yes, a drum machine is used to make a song that pokes fun at drum machines. Juxtaposing the serious and smart with the fun and playful is at the heart of what this Bay Area duo does, most notably when fans find themselves shaking their tail feathers to lyrics like, "Just when you think you've got it all worked out, that's probably when they'll put you in the ground."
And the juxtaposition doesn't end with the music, which is made by a couple of guys who couldn't have come from different worlds. Victorino was still fronting post-grunge band Strata and producer Giusti was making beats for the Bay Area's hyphy hip-hop scene when they met over the Internet in late 2006 and began laying the groundwork for what has become one of the most exciting bands bubbling up from the underground. Victorino had been impressed by a Jay-Z remix album that Giusti had crafted in the spirit of Danger Mouse's Grey Album, and Giusti was drawn to Victorino's distinctively sweet yet earthy voice, which he'd found wasn't fitting in with the screamo scene that was booming at the time.
Though it didn't take long for the pair to realize that it had hit on something special, it took a while for The Limousines to go from being a fun diversion to a serious project. For starters, Victorino and Giusti had to meet in person, which didn't happen until they'd already completed two songs. Next came the MySpace page that started getting a lot of attention thanks to songs like "New Year's Resolution" and "Very Busy People," which eventually made their way onto local airwaves. The latter, an infectious slacker anthem that includes lines like, "We'll stay up late making mix tapes / Photoshopping pictures of ourselves / While we masturbate to these pixilated videos of strangers fucking themselves," also became a hit on satellite radio. Eventually Victorino left Strata, and in April 2008 The Limousines played their debut show opening for Dredg, the same band that had taken Strata out on its first tour. That's when everything changed.
"When people are jumping up and down to your music, when you don't even have an album out, that's when we realized we had something serious going on," says Giusti. "There was this moment when Eric looked back with this 'What the fuck?' kind of look, and here we are."
Things started moving incredibly fast for The Limousines throughout 2009, during which time the band opened for Duran Duran and played Bay Area festivals like Treasure Island and radio station Live 105's BFD, the latter of which found Giusti performing for 4,000 people at his seventh live gig ever. After flirting briefly with a major label and being wined and dined by everyone who saw the duo's bright future, Victorino and Giusti decided to take a step back and refocus on what got them all of the attention in the first place: making music on their own time, on their own terms.
With the help of engineer Todd Cooper at Street Symphony Studios outside of San Francisco, The Limousines completed Get Sharp and quietly released it in the summer of 2010 on Victorino's own Orchard City Books And Noise imprint, which had already issued two books of Victorino's poetry and short stories. Featuring huge hooks, bumping beats, and Victorino's insightful point of view, the album is packed with thinking-man's pop music. So even as he's singing about how "There's nothing we can do that matters, and that's okay" during "The Future," it's still easy to enjoy the music with your hands in the air, waving them around like you just don't care.
But keeping things on the down low is about to become a thing of the past for The Limousines, who recently inked a deal with Dangerbird Records, home to bands like Silversun Pickups, Minus The Bear, Fitz And The Tantrums, and Beady Eye. The duo, which has never toured and only played live about 50 times, is about to share its magic with the rest of the world. Dangerbird's re-release of Get Sharp hits stores on April 26, which is nearly three years to the day when the band played that first fateful show at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall.
Even though having Dredg drummer Dino Campanella assisting them at live shows means he has a little part of his past playing right behind him, Victorino considers The Limousines to be a completely new chapter in his life.
"I don't really feel like what I'm doing now is in any way related to my past stuff," he says. "I'm covered in really shitty tattoos, and I kind of feel like my past music history is sort of like the tattoos: One day I just woke up in the wrong body, and I can't remember my past."
As for Giusti, he's just enjoying the ride. "I had no idea it would go this far, and I'm extremely happy we've progressed this far in this short amount of time," says Giusti. "It's a total shock. I did not expect myself to be doing this type stuff. I was kind of thrown into it, and I like doing it."
Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, and it's anyone's guess what's going to be cool next year. But right now, the world is a better place with Get Sharp in it. As "Flaskaboozendancingshoes" says, "What's your hurry? Just focus on tonight."