Asked to recall an amusing anecdote or particularly memorable Miami memory, Brad Petering, the acerbic lyricist and frontman of the Los Angeles-based TV Girl, makes good on the promise offered by his band’s playfully cynical and self-deprecating lyrics.
“We only played Miami once before, and our old booking agent would book us these horrible shows,” Petering begins. “In Miami, we were on a bill with these really terrible cock-rock bands. Afterwards, we were talking with these real cliché rocker-type dudes in one of them.” So far, so good.
“We asked them what they were up to after the show, and they told us that they had found some girls to take them home, make them dinner, and give them massages. Sure enough, a car full of girls rolled up to them and whisked them away into a night of forbidden pleasures,” Petering continues, no doubt himself imagining just what these “forbidden pleasures” may have been. “It was strange. Even though they were in an unpopular terrible rock band, they just had the vibe of ‘rockers’ and could will that stuff into existence, I suppose.”
That Petering’s lone story about Miami would involve confusion and a decided lack of rock star-ian dick swinging should come as little surprise to readers already acquainted with TV Girl’s music. Carrying forth the grand and cherished tradition of contrasting humorously miserable lyrics with unabashedly poppy song structures and cheery melodies (here’s looking at you, Morrissey and Marr), TV Girl has steadily attracted a cult following since its first EP in 2010. In the ensuing years, the band has graduated from EPs and singles to full-fledged albums, beginning with 2014’s French Exit. The band’s tour in support of that record’s follow-up, February’s Who Really Cares, will bring them and supporting act Millionyoung to Sidebar this Thursday, April 14.
Depending on who’s listening to which record, TV Girl’s music has alternatively been labeled as “chillwave,” “bubblegum pop,” and oftentimes “lo-fi pop." Useful though these labels may be for the sake of curating Spotify playlists, these descriptors are made nebulous by the band’s strong emphasis on sampling and looped beats, characteristics more befitting of hip-hop and dance records than indie ones. Even without a firm genre to call his own, Petering feels comfortable referring to the band as a pop act.
“I just like catchy music, so that's what I try to make,” Petering says. “I think that J Dilla is pop music. After all, he did the beat for Janet Jackson's 'Got Til' It's Gone.'"
Coming from a man who has openly expressed his desire to put together a “Chillwave Blog Favorites of 2008-2012” DJ set (Petering tells us he’s already working on it and will select only the finest hits from “Twin Sister, Neon Indian, Washed Out, Nite Jewel,” and more), a healthy appreciation for any and all things catchy isn’t all that strange. But before Petering can continue with his treatise on what constitutes a pop song — and if his own band fits that criteria — that trademark self-effacement rears its head one last time.
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“I think my voice is too ugly for our songs to ever gain any kind of mainstream popularity,” Petering notes. “Deep singers rarely get any love on the charts.”
Regardless of whether TV Girl comes to dominate the Billboard Hot 100 anytime soon, Petering is just happy to play to roomfuls of fans.
“Honestly, the only thing that matters is whether the venue is packed. If there's lots of people there, it's good... Everything else is sort of just icing on the cake, so to speak."
TV Girl with Millionyoung. 9 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at Sidebar, 337 SW Eighth St., Miami; 786-703-6973; sidebarmiami.com. Admission is free.