TV Girl 101 with Brad Petering

Pink - Logo“Men vs. woman is a rich topic. We’re drawn to each other, but mostly we don’t even like each other or at the very least don’t understand one another. That interests me. It’s Greek Tragedy.”

So says Brad Petering in his trademark style in email interviews. Something meaningful communicated in a half-serious way. Petering is talking about TV Girl, an indie pop project based out of Los Angeles that he fronts with regular collaborators Jason Wyman and Wyatt Harmon. And the Greek tragedy he’s referring to is the millennial romances and character assassinations that make up TV Girl’s memorable songs.

Navigating the power dynamics in casual relationships is what TV Girl does best. The 2013 collection, Our First Two EPs, begins with “It’s Not Something” and ends with “If You Want It”. These two songs form a pleasant symmetry in the shifts of dependencies. There’s the mating call of men deciphered better than any Elite Daily article could do when TV Girl sings, “It’s not nothing. But it’s not something. The closer that we get, the more it seems to bore me. You should probably just ignore me. You have to notice I only call at night.” The roles come full circle with a woman taking and not caring, addressed by a pathetic lover, “If you want it, you got it. You only want it when you’re drunk. My friends say you’re obnoxious. You’re not so bad when we’re alone.” The interior lives of these selfish and real characters distinguished TV Girl’s sound from the start.

“I love songs where women criticize men’s dating and sexual privilege. MC Lyte’s ‘I Cram to Understand U’ is one of my favourite songs of all time. And obviously the Shirelles’ ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ was the first hit song to explore a woman’s perspective of sexual politics,” Petering says. But on the subject of where he comes up with these stories? He’s vague, citing personal observations to a book, movie or song –”or I could just dream something up.”

Sampling, like fictitious personas, has been TV Girl’s way of doing things since sampling Todd Rundgren on their debut single, “If You Want It”. This culminated with The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle mixtape that included 86 samples. French Exit, their most recent LP, has none. (The music samples are either “mutilated beyond recognition, or they are in the public domain,” Petering explains.) A change in direction, Petering still believes samples are “a good way to write a song. You can work fast and intuitively because a lot of the work is already done for you. It might be the best way to write a song.” The use of sound clips from radio dramas also played an important role on French Exit from “The Getaway” to “Lovers Rock”.

“Radio plays are a lost art, and they have an unfamiliar feel. Because they had to tell stories with only their voices, they make for emotional and evocative sound clips. I won’t reveal exactly where the sampled clips come from but there’s this one series called ‘Dangerously Yours’ which is especially good.”

Homage and collage run throughout the work of TV Girl, with Petering annotating the lyrics to “Laura”, inspired by songwriter Laura Nyro, on Genius. Insightful and in line with Petering’s style, plans for similar stunts are in the not-so-distant future. “It’s not a very healthy thing for an artist to explain their songs. I’ll tell you what. I’ll do it for the five-year anniversary.” Pinky-swear included.

Hitting the road next week, TV Girl is coming to Vancouver on July 15 at the Media Club, mannequin manager in tow. “The TV Girl band will consist of me, Jason, and Novelty Daughter (who is also our opening act for the tour), and of course Charlyne will be joining us (she is our road manager after all). It’s a pretty satisfying mix of electronic music, theatrics, and visually pleasing stimuli. I think people will dig it.”