Vegas DeMilo expose the tarnish beneath the Golden State‘s glitter in the lyric video for their disenchanted single California Let Me Down — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The latest preview of the power-pop outfit’s upcoming fourth LP Black Sheep Lodge — an album inspired by Liz Phair’s classic Exile In Guyville (no, really) — the shimmery, string-sweetened ballad voices the late-night lament of a young dreamer who headed west in search of a better life, only to find disillusionment and disappointment when the facts don’t fit with the fairy tale:
“Two A.M. driving through the outskirts of town
Looking for something that just can’t be found
There’s girls on the street treat you good for a reasonable price
All I want is to lose myself just for tonight
They say its beautiful in Hollywood back in Tennessee
There’s a star on every boulevard, gold lines the street
But I’ve never seen such ugliness since we hit town
Sad to say but California let me down.”
As a tourism jingle, the beautifully bruised number might leave something to be desired. But it makes a great appetizer for what could be one of the more intriguing indie albums arriving this spring. Serving both as a nod to the band’s ’90s roots and as a playful songwriting exercise, Black Sheep Lodge is a loose response to Chicago singer-songwriter Phair’s breakthrough 1993 classic — itself a song-by-song retort to The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street. For their musical reply, Vegas DeMilo cunningly inhabit the clueless, bro-anointed “Guy” that Phair was mocking. Black Sheep Lodge would most assuredly be the frat house hangout in Guyville.
Singer and band co-founder Foster Calhoun Johnson calls Guyville “one of my all-time favorite albums — and certainly one of the best albums of the 1990s… It’s an album of naked emotional honesty that captures the sexual politics of the time in one lo-fi classic after another. When we began writing songs again during the pandemic, I adopted that same concept as a conceit. Only rather than responding to The Rolling Stones’ druggy classic, I found myself writing a response to each of the 18 songs on Exile In Guyville — but from a very different perspective, typically that of the terrible boyfriend or incorrigible lothario inhabiting so many of Phair’s songs on her record: The Black Sheep referenced in the album title.
“We did write 18 songs, but several months into the project, it became clear we were never going to finish if we didn’t scale back our ambitions. So instead of a complete rebuttal, we made a song-by-song response to the first 12 songs but jumbled out of order, like couples at a ’70s key party. The album was always going to start with Charlie Watts, which is written from the perspective of the oblivious musician boyfriend in Phair’s 6’1”. Imaginary Blondes is written from the perspective of the (soon-to-be) ex in Phair’s Divorce Song. And Tuesday Night Fever is a kind of feverish mirror image to Fuck And Run.”
With a name inspired both by a misheard lyric in AC/DC’s Touch Too Much and the iconic armless statue thought to represent Aphrodite, Vegas DeMilo were founded in 1994 in San Francisco by brothers Foster Calhoun Johnson (lead vocals, guitars) and Alec Johnson (bass, keyboards, vocals). Blazing out of the gate with their self-titled debut in 1996, they released three widely praised LPs over the next six years, receiving airplay on more than 60 commercial rock stations across the U.S. Their songs have appeared in dozens of films and TV shows including Felicity, One Tree Hill, Skate, The Osbournes, Pasadena, Clubhouse, Just Deal and the motion picture Scorched.