Post-punk, electroclash, dance punk, new wave, no wave — call it what you will: VHS or Beta front man Craig Pfunder just wants to see you dance at his shows.
As vocalist and founding member of the Louisville, Kentucky, indie rock band, Pfunder is a refreshing presence in a music scene saturated with Asian Americans quietly lurking behind the keyboards, such as Ladytron’s Reuben Wu and Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem.
VHS or Beta’s 2007 EP Bring on the Comets is on the Astralwerks label, which is also responsible for dance sensations Fatboy Slim, Basement Jaxx and the Chemical Brothers. Their songs were featured in the 2006 movie Grandma’s Boy and the TV show The OC — both of which Pfunder vows to watch once the tour ends.
Tell me, how does a nice Korean boy get mixed up with an indie rock band in Louisville, Ky., of all places?
Craig Pfunder: [laughs] Who said I was nice? I’m just kidding. I moved out here 12 years ago in pursuit of a woman. I was about 18 years old, and pretty soon I met Mark [Palgy, the band’s bassist]. I used to play acoustic guitar in coffee shops when I was young. Mark needed a singer for his band — it was an emo kind of thing. I had never considered just being a singer in a band.
There’s this big discussion about what VHS or Beta is or isn’t. Does it even matter?
CP: As I grow older, I realize I have become less tolerant of labels of music. People need labels for music, art, food … We consider ourselves at times a rock band, at times a pop band. We don’t want to just waltz into any revivalist disco, post-punk thing. It’s the last thing I think about at the end of the day. I don’t see how we sound like Duran Duran. I see some parts that are similar, but I don’t hear it, personally.
How did you end up touring with them in 2005?
CP: They chose us! They got a hold of our record [2004’s Night on Fire], and they must have liked what they heard. We felt totally gracious to be given the chance. Hey, we’ve only got so many years to do this!
I saw both of your latest San Francisco tours at Popscene and then at Mezzanine, and I noticed that more than a quarter of the floor at Mezzanine was Asian that night. How does that make you feel?
CP: I had always grown up around white people, so I didn’t have a strong Asian identity. It was a strong Asian consciousness. When I feel Asian the most is when people remind me. I think it’s been positive for other Asians to have role models in the media, like actors and artists they can identify from pop culture. We’ve had a long run in San Francisco.
About the hair — you know, it kinda reminds me of Johnny Depp from 21 Jump Street.
CP: I just don’t cut my hair. I was forced to have bowl-cut Asian hair until about eighth grade.
Is there any evidence of this?
CP: Of course, but I assure you you won’t find any. But if I ever let them out, you’ll be the first person I send them out to.
VHS or Beta will perform with Foreign Born at Slim’s on Dec. 1.