The long-running Madison band recently released its first album in nearly a decade.
There's a slanted, high-wire energy that runs through all of Madison band His & Her Vanities' music, but the emotional ends it serves have changed since the project started in 2001. Guitarist/vocalist Ricky Riemer and bassist/vocalist Terrin Riemer wrote much of His & Her Vanities' 2002 self-titled debut album in nighttime basement jams after putting their infant son to sleep, giving tracks like "Magnetic Material" an air of giddy experimentation.
The songs hold up well, but Ricky Riemer finds the album's layers of synth, sampler, and playfully processed vocals a bit cluttered now. "You can tell I just got a new keyboard on that record," he says. As the live version of the band coalesced, with the addition of guitarist Matt Abplanalp and drummer Sara Quigle, everyone became more interested in paring things down.
"When we started to play live we were trying to see how we could do all that live, and it was lugging a lot of equipment around," Terrin Riemer says. "I remember we blew the fuse at Glass Nickel's basement when we played there."
Over the course of 2004's A Thought Process and 2009's The Mighty Lunge, the band's sound became more focused, more driven by wiry guitars and powerfully off-center rhythms. And especially on Mighty Lunge, they managed to open up something more vulnerable without slowing down the tempos. The band's fragmentary, sparse lyrics leave a lot of room for different listeners to hear different things, but for me the standout tracks "Wait It Out" and "Fuses" capture the feeling of persevering through times of doubt and turbulence.
The band took a long break starting in 2009, but never officially broke up. They began playing live together again in 2016, with a show at Mickey's that just felt right—His & Her Vanities' balance of twisty post-punk and melodic tenderness was intact. Around this time the band also began writing new songs, and revisiting some unreleased ones recorded during the Mighty Lunge sessions. These tracks became the band's fourth album, Parts On Display, which dropped unceremoniously in early January.
Terrin Riemer and Ricky Riemer joined me recently to discuss the band's latest chapter and the new album. His & Her Vanities' next show will be on April 14 at the Crystal Corner Bar.
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